Join Ben as he boards the Spirit of Peoria for a daylong paddle wheel riverboat cruise from Peoria to Starved Rock along the surprisingly beautiful Illinois River. There's plenty of food, song and bird watching along the way. Just look out when Ben takes the wheel. Back in Peoria, we find a place right up our alley: Wildlife Prairie State Park, where we meet and greet all kinds of creatures including bison, bear, cougar, elk, owl and more. Plus you can sleep overnight in a caboose or silo, comfortably appointed with shower, coffee machine and TV. The caboose even has a switch you can flip to make the car "move" and give you that riding-the-rails feeling. Then it's on to Princeton, IL, and Hoffman's Patterns of the Past, a treasure trove of discontinued china and crystal patterns, plus lots of fun gifts and collectibles. We're lucky we only broke one little teacup. When you see how narrow the aisles are you'll know it could've been worse. Restraint, Ben, restraint.
Spirit of Peoria Riverboat Cruises
Leave your cell phone behind, friend. It's time to relax, get fed, join a sing-a-long, fall asleep with a book on your lap, or whatever you dang well please. Captain Alex and his crew of professional entertainers and super chef know how to make you feel at home on the river. But please, no singing "Proud Mary."
Wildlife Prairie State Park
Near Hanna City, IL
"Discover the animals that called Illinois home during the pioneer days," it says on their website. We're talking bison, elk, cougars, otters, bears, wolves and more. All in their natural habitat. We think our guide Jennifer was a little embarrassed while describing the mating rituals of the bossy elk bull. Especially when Ben asked her about her love life. Whoops. Oh, and you can go fishing too. Plan on staying late and book a caboose or silo for a one of a kind sleepover. The kids'll love it. (Ben did.)
Hoffman's Patterns of the Past
513 S. Main Street
Princeton, IL 61356
So you broke a bunch of Grandma's china when you were a kid and now you want to make amends. This is the place, friend. Not to mention an educational experience. Each pattern has a story and Jyl and her staff can fill you in plenty. Be sure to ask if you don't see what you're looking for - they have two warehouses close by with more than double the capacity of the store. And even if you don't find your pattern, you can always start collecting a new one. By the way, Princeton is a neat town, so do yourself a favor and sniff around a little bit. Not Ivy League snooty at all. Read more in Ben's Blog