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September 13, 2016 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for a low-key weekend trip on Metra from Chicago?

I want to get away for a weekend, by myself. I want to go somewhere quiet and pretty and read, nap, stroll around, have a glass of wine, just sit.

Ideally I'd like to take Metra so it's easy and cheap. I don't drive. I'm open to any sort of lodging situation other than straight camping because I don't want to worry about all that gear. I probably won't be able to go until October or November so weather is a bit of a concern.

Ideas? Top of my list is Geneva, which I've never been to, but I'm very new to Chicago and this whole area in general so I could easily be missing something cool.

Thank you.
posted by ohsnapdragon to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I used to love to go to Harvard, IL (end of the UP-NW line) with my bike because it is super quick (by bike) to get out of town and into the countryside—there's very little sprawl, especially to the north. I think it's one of the most rural-feeling places accessible by Metra. I don't know what kind of lodging is available, though (mine were either day- or camping trips). If you go, the taco counter at the back of La Loncherita is delicious.

There are some places accessible by Amtrak that are close enough that they're not much more expensive or time-consuming to get to than Metra destinations. My now-wife and I once took a lovely weekend trip by Amtrak to a bed-and-breakfast in Galesburg, which is a cute small town with some railroad history. There is a bike-on-Amtrak guide for Illinois that has some useful information for anyone who is traveling without a car, even if you're not a cyclist (like giving the distances of things from the train station).
posted by enn at 2:49 PM on September 13, 2016

You can take the South Shore line all the way to South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame. Granted, I've never done this, but I do love wandering around college towns. Similarly, if you want to take the Amtrak, that will head down to the University of Illinois in Champaign, which also will give you a nice weekend. (Avoid both towns on home football game weekends, because you probably won't find a hotel room.)
posted by hydra77 at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2016

Best answer: Harvard is the most rural - it's zone M which makes it even farther than Kenosha, Wisconsin.

There isn't much in Harvard at all in the way of accomodations, though. But there are a lot of resorts in Lake Geneva Wisconsin that will pick you up at the Harvard (UP-W) station and shuttle you to their property. And Lake Geneva can be really scenic and peaceful after the summer tourists have gone.

Runner up would be Geneva IL (not to confuse with the above), but only to visit the Herrington Inn and Spa followed by dinner at Bien Trucha, which tied with Frontera Grill for the top of Zagat's list for mexican restaurants in the Chicago area. There's a nice walking trail along the Fox river that can be a good quiet day in the fall scenery.

You could also spend a day at the Morton Arboretum and stay in nearby Lisle or Naperville. It's about a 15 minute cab ride from the Naperville Metra (BNSF) or Wheaton (UP-West) stations.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

If the South Shore and Amtrak are on the menu, try Amtrak to Springfield, where you can easily walk to a hotel and then walk to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Old State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the Lincoln Homesite, and several other historic sites and museums within about a 1 mile radius. The Amtrak station is in the historic downtown, and the historic downtown is still a downtown between half of it being protected Lincoln historic sites and the other half being state government. Probably the most walkable tourist area in the state outside the lakefront!

The South Shore is an awesome way to get to South Bend, but you really have to take a cab to the Notre Dame campus. Which is easy and cheap! But it's not very walkable from the station to much of tourist interest.

The South Shore also serves the Indiana Dunes, which is about a 1 mile walk on foot from the Dune Park station to interesting duney things.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:09 PM on September 13, 2016

Woodstock Illinois, where they filmed Groundhog Day!
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2016

Antioch is the northernmost stop on Metra's Central Service Line. It's close to the Wisconsin border. While not "historic" it's Main Street is certainly picturesque and walkable.

Things to do:

- Antioch's generally unknown claim to fame is the Pickard China Factory. They make the place settings for Air Force One, the State Department and, most recently, the "Kailua Blue" White House china ordered by Michelle Obama in 2015. Examples of all these and more are on display in the gift shop.

- The Las Vegas Cafe is fun for people watching, especially after church on Sundays. The food's pretty good if nothing special. For "better-if-not-fine dining" there's David's Bistro.

- There are several small coffee and pastry places for hanging out

- It's easy to kill an hour in Best Pets if you like looking at cats/kittens, birds, fish, reptiles and occasionally rescue puppies.

- JJ Blinkers has a surprisingly extensive array of costumes and related prosthetics/makeup/wigs, etc. if that interests you. They're next door to a large bike shop that's also fun to browse.

- There's a nice park/nature walk behind Main Street.

- You can take in a movie or two at the newly refurbished cinema. There's also a live theater, though I've never been to a performance there.

- A number of small clothing boutiques. One boasts on its sign, charmingly if inaccurately, " where fashion exceeds cost."

- A decent if small library

- Most of the fast food chains you'd expect.

There's really only one place to stay: The Best Western Plus. It's an easy walk from Main Street, but part of that is along a highway with not sidewalks, so you'll either have to cut through the strip mall or call a taxi. (DO NOT be tempted by the other two motels in town, which are REALLY run down. Trust me on this.)
posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:43 AM on September 14, 2016

I have quite enjoyed time in Geneva and think that's a perfectly good choice, especially since some nice, central lodging is available. I'm fond of both Woodstock and Kenosha. But reviewing lodging choices, it's kind of slim pickings for places from which you can really take walks. In Kenosha, the Best Western Harborside Inn is at the island park which would probably be the best place for you to stay. The harbor at Kenosha has become a huge Pokemon Go place, which you may find amusing, or not.

Galesburg is fun and the train ride is enjoyable in itself. But don't count on getting back promptly; the Amtrack schedule can be thrown off badly in that direction. I lived there, and cancelled some weekends in Chicago when the train didn't come by a certain time.
posted by BibiRose at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2016

If the South Shore and Amtrak are on the menu, try Amtrak to Springfield.

I second this. In addition to what Eyebrows mentioned, There are two really nice hotels and a theater/arts center within walking distance of the Amtrak station.

I lived downtown for close to 15 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lincoln Museum is aces.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2016

Best answer: For a day trip, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a ~15-20 minute walk from the Braeside stop on the UP-North line. Admission is free, the cafe serves wine and beer (including a seasonal saison series by Begyle Brewing), and it's expansive enough that you could easily find a quiet corner to sit down with a book.
posted by me3dia at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

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