Explore Three Gardens near Champaign, Ill.

Explore Three Gardens near Champaign, Ill.

It was a perfect summer weekend, sunshine with a few puffy clouds dotting the azure sky, a slight breeze and low humidity, ideal for a summer stroll through gardens of colorful flowers, hedge-lined pathways, cascading waterfalls, and arbors with benches for relaxing and taking in the beauty. We visited three gardens in and near Champaign County, Illinois, on that weekend, all only 15 to 30 miles apart. Two of the gardens, Allerton Park and the UI Arboretum, are owned by the University of Illinois, and the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden is part of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

Don’t miss a Midwest Wanderer post.  For a FREE subscription, enter your e-mail address in the Subscribe2 box to the left and click Subscribe.

Allerton Park & Retreat Center
Allerton 4
Once the estate of Robert Henry Allerton, the property was donated to the University of Illinois, along with the income from the 1946 farm crops to establish operating funds. Today the 1500 acre park, one of the seven wonders of Illinois, includes the Georgian Manor house used for events, seven natural setting trails totaling 14 miles, and 14 formal gardens that include extensive plantings and over 100 sculptures and ornaments. Walk down paved pathways lined with Chinese musicians, stroll through the walled garden, or climb the spiral staircase in the House of the Golden Buddahs for a view of the gardens from above.

Allerton Park & Retreat Center is located at 515 Old Timber Road, Monticello, Illinois.

University of Illinois Arboretum
UofI Arboretum 4
Considered a living laboratory, the UI Arboretum includes plant collections and facilities for teaching, research and public service programs. However, as a non-student, you can simply visit to enjoy the beauty, much of it made possible through donations by generous alumni. Bursts of color in the Idea Garden’s border annuals and the Children’s Garden create a cheerful atmosphere, while the calm serenity of the gardens surrounding the Japan House will leave you feeling tranquil . Development of the 160 acre arboretum property began in the early 1980s. Today 57 acres are developed, leaving plenty of room for further growth.

The University of Illinois Arboretum is located on Lincoln Avenue in Urbana, Illinois. Check the web site for detailed directions.

Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden
Botanical Gardens 6
This gem of a small eight-acre garden is tucked behind the Museum of the Grand Prairie in the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet, Illinois. The garden includes a one-room schoolhouse and a Japanese garden with a waterfall backdrop and a bright red bridge crossing a pond filled with water lilies. Lots of flowers indigenous to Illinois, like the purple coneflower and the yellow daylily are displayed throughout the garden.

While you are there, be sure to visit the museum and the rest of the forest preserve. Our time was limited, but I would have loved to have rented a paddle boat to pedal around the lake. The Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden is located at 650 N Lombard Street, Mahomet, Illinois.

See more photos of the gardens in the video slideshow:

You can easily visit all three gardens in one day, although we broke it into two days and visited area wineries, too. There is no admission fee for any of the three gardens.

Disclosure:  Our visit to the Champaign area was hosted by the Champaign County CVB, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own. Our accommodations were at the Hyatt Place Champaign Hotel.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer.  If you enjoyed this post and would like an e-mail notification when other posts are published, enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe.  Be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. 


 

Q Smokehouse, Champaign IL: Authentic Smoky Barbecue

Q Smokehouse, Champaign IL: Authentic Smoky Barbecue

I love good barbecue, the kind with deep smoky flavor, the kind that’s everywhere in the south but rare in Illinois.  I tend to gravitate to barbecue restaurants even in Illinois regardless, on the off-chance I’ll find a winner.  So when I was in Champaign looking for a quick lunch, I was drawn to Q Smokehouse.  Walking through the door, I drew in the aroma of an authentic smokehouse.

At the walk-up counter, order your choice of sandwich: pulled pork, pulled chicken, sliced brisket, smoked sausage, or burnt end.  Burnt end—it jumped out at me.  I’d only had a burnt end sandwich once before and I had instantly decided that was my favorite of all barbecue sandwiches.  What are burnt ends? According to Wikipedia, “Burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket…considered a delicacy in barbecue cooking.”  Burnt ends have some char, but they’re also quite tender.

Sandwiches come with two toppings from a choice of ten, including items like bourbon apples and Carolina slaw.  I chose caramelized onions and bacon.  Several different sauces were available in pump dispensers.  I like to do taste tests with different sauces, but unfortunately only two of the dispensers were working properly.

As it turned out, the sandwich didn’t even need sauce, it was that flavorful, and the house cut fries, with enough in the order to feed two, were a tasty addition.  A muffin shaped cookie was a nice finish to the meal.

Sandwich

In addition to sandwiches, Q Smokehouse offers appetizers like barbecue eggrolls and entrees like pulled pork burritos and baby back ribs.

Q Smokehouse, located at 617 E. Green Street in Champaign, is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.  Check the web site for the full menu.

What’s your favorite barbecue restaurant?  Answer in the Comments below.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer.  If you enjoyed this post and would like an e-mail notification when other posts are published, enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe.  Be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. 


 

Other blog posts you may enjoy:

University of Illinois Museums: Complementary Themes

The Art Party Studio, Champaign IL: Discover Your Inner Artist

Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch, Rantoul, Ill.

Big Grove Tavern

I Hotel

Museum of the Grand Prairie: Lincoln and Life in Central Illinois

Museum of the Grand Prairie: Lincoln and Life in Central Illinois

Museum of the Grand Prairie: Lincoln and Life in Central Illinois

Abraham Lincoln is most often associated with Springfield, but he spent time in nine counties throughout Central Illinois as he traveled the 8th Judicial Circuit practicing law.  The Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet captures Lincoln’s travels through the area, as well as life on the prairie in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sit in a wagon much the same as Lincoln did.  The video in front of you gives the illusion that you are riding through the prairie.

Lincoln_buggy

Learn humorous stories about Lincoln, like the time he hid the meal gong from the American House proprietor because it would wake up Lincoln and the other lawyers who stayed there.

When Lincoln was having his photograph taken, he was wearing his travel clothes, which were inappropriate for a formal photograph.  The photographer, Samuel Alschuler, gave Lincoln his jacket to wear.  The sleeves came almost up to the elbows of tall Lincoln.

Photographer

See a replica of the Goose Pond Church where Lincoln spoke to a packed house, campaigning for John C. Fremont, the first Republican Party presidential nominee.

Church

Other exhibits in the museum include artifacts like the Mitchell Wagon, used to cart corn to the local elevator.

Mitchell_Wagon

The Chesebro Blacksmith shop that stood untouched from the 1930s until 1993 in Saunemin, Illinois, has been partially reconstructed with the contents in the exact place as they were originally.

Blacksmith_shop

Learn about typical families who lived in the area.  This intricate gate was at the home of the local blacksmith.

Gate

A temporary exhibit titled, “Home Grown: Gardening Yesterday and Today,” opened in March, begins with the cultivation ways of Native Americans, moves to 19th century orchards and pollinators, into the mid-20th century Victory Gardens and canning, and onto sustainable gardening techniques of today.

Gardens

The next time you’re traveling to or through Champaign County, make a little jog to visit the delightful Museum of the Grand Prairie.  The museum is located at 950 N Lombard, Mahomet, Illinois, in the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve.  Check the web site for hours and directions.  Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer.  If you enjoyed this post and would like an e-mail notification when other posts are published, enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe.  Be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. 


 

Other blog posts you may enjoy:

University of Illinois Museums: Complementary Themes

The Art Party Studio, Champaign IL: Discover Your Inner Artist

Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch, Rantoul, Ill.

Big Grove Tavern

I Hotel