Day Trip Delights

Find the fun and unique close to home

Near Albany, Indiana, photography by Michael Huddleston

Near Albany, Indiana, photography by Michael Huddleston

Just because the calendar says it’s September doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling. Indeed, the following five locations shine in the cooler weather. From gentle lake breezes to stunning architecture and powerful history, these day or weekend trips locations offer fun and learning for everyone in the family. So get out there and enjoy these Day Trip Destinations.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
What is it? Ann Arbor, Michigan, the only city in the entire world with that name.
What’s new? Itzhak Perlman, the virtuoso violinist, 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Hill Auditorium
Be sure to: Visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
How far? 155 miles northeast of Fort Wayne

Fall in a college town like Ann Arbor, Mich., means one thing: football. And at the “Big House” you can watch the University of Michigan’s Wolverines demolish their opponents while munching on a hot dog and popcorn. Take a tour of the recently renovated Schembechler Hall’s Towsley Museum, where you can learn everything about the university’s storied athletic teams.

Not up for football? Weekends in a college town also thrum with music, parties and live entertainment. Check out the beautifully renovated State Theatre, 233 S. State St., (734) 761-8667, where you can catch both first-run and classic movies. While you are wandering on State Street, check out the eclectic shops on the 1918-era Nickels Arcade, 328 S. State St. The arcade features a tobacconist, a florist and coffee shop, antiques and even a barbershop. The arcade links the central University of Michigan campus with the retailers of downtown Ann Arbor. Stop by the Dawn Treader Book Shop, where you’ll find more than 70,000 rare and used books, 514 E. Liberty St., (734) 995-1008. People-watching is also great all along State Street and the central campus area. The Kerrytown Market, a few blocks away at 407 N. 5th Ave., (734) 662-5008, offers fresh fish and seafood, meats, produce, spices, wines, dining options and children’s toys, plus a farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Ann Arbor offers dozens of restaurants, ranging from greasy-spoon diners to four-star fine dining spots. Zingerman’s Delicatessen, 422 Detroit St., (734) 663-3354, offers a classic Reuben that was named to Food & Wine magazine’s list of best sandwiches in America (Zingerman’s also offers a “tour de food,” during which you can visit its bakehouse and creamery). Or you can check out the offerings at the Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery, 311 S. Main St., (734) 913-2730, where the staff works to accommodate gluten-free and vegan diners with entrees like red chili tofu or yummy mushroom torta. Meat eaters will love the Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery, 207 E. Washington St., (734) 222-4095, with its fresh new twists on traditional barbecue.

Ann Arbor is home to the July Ann Arbor Art Fairs (yes, that’s “fairs” with an “s”) where a half-million people crowd downtown to shop the artistic offerings of hundreds of artisans and craftspeople. But in the fall, there’s still plenty of art to savor. The city is abuzz with dozens of galleries and live music and theater. The Ark, 316 S. Main St., (734) 761-1800, is a top tour spot for acoustic music in an intimate setting and offers more than 300 shows each year. The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (Ann Arbor’s version of Science Central) recently expanded its offerings for children of all ages, 220 E. Ann St. (734) 995-5439.

COLUMBUS, INDIANA
What is it? Columbus, Indiana, a Modernist Mecca
What’s new? Vision 20/20, a community effort to preserve Columbus’ downtown
Be sure to: Hit YESFest, a showcase of independent film, Nov. 1-2, at YES Cinema
How far? 165 miles south of Fort Wayne

How did a small town in southern Indiana end up as one of the most architecturally stunning communities in the nation? Thank the late industrialist J. Irwin Miller, CEO of Cummins Inc., who had a lifelong love of and fascination with architecture. The Cummins Foundation has sponsored more than 50 public projects in Columbus and surrounding Bartholomew County. Some of the world’s top architects have designed everything from public schools to Columbus’ city hall. Even a parking garage got the top-tier treatment. Miller once said, “(e)very one of us lives and moves all his life within the limitations, sight and influence of architecture – at home, at school, at church and at work. The influence of architecture with which we are surrounded in our youth affects our lives, our standards, our tastes when we are grown, just as the influence of the parents and teachers with which we are surrounded in our youth affects us as adults.” Miller’s home and gardens, designed by Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley, were named to the National Historic Landmark list in 2000, the first to receive the designation while an original designer (Kiley) was still living. The Miller House and Gardens are open for tours led by the Columbus Visitors Center.

Columbus, about 40 miles south of Indianapolis, has been dubbed a “Modernist Mecca,” and a simple stroll around its visually stunning downtown will discover buildings designed by Saarinen and I.M. Pei. But the loveliness of this town of 44,000 isn’t limited to buildings. Public art is also a key component, and works by glass master Dale Chihuly, painter Robert Indiana, photographer Bruce Baumann, muralist M. K. Ziegner, sculpturist Peter Lundberg and more delight residents and visitors alike. Even alleys get the artistic treatment: Wander down Friendship Way, the brick-lined alley in the 400 block between Washington and Jackson streets, where an untitled neon mural covers one wall. Chihuly’s stunning “Yellow Neon Chandelier & Persians” hangs inside the Columbus Area Visitors Center, 506 Fifth St. (800) 468-6564. Or stop by The Commons, where in addition to shops and restaurants you’ll find “Chaos I,” a kinetic (moving) sculpture by Jean Tinguely. The Commons is at 300 Washington St. and features a giant indoor playground that’s open year-round.

The city was named one of seven “bike friendly” Indiana communities by The League of American Bicyclists, and 20 miles of “People Trails” provide scenic walkways throughout the community. Moving around the city, you’ll find The Bartholomew County Historical Center, 524 3rd St., (812) 372-3541, which is located in a restored Italianate home and features beautiful gardens along with its rotating exhibits of local history. Just a few minutes east of town is Simmons Winery, where its award-winning wines can be found at 8111 E. 450 N., (812) 546-0091. The winery offers tours and a full-service restaurant with 10 beers on tap.

Columbus is a family-friendly town, especially when it comes to kidscommons, a community children’s museum located at 309 Washington St., (812) 378-3046. The museum features everything for kids, from a “design your own city” exhibit to a laser-driven giant harp to ExploraHouse, which offers kids a chance to get “flushed” down a giant toilet.

Diners will enjoy Zaharako’s, an ice cream parlor that’s been scooping out dishes, floats, sodas and more since 1900. Smith’s Row, 418 4th St., (812) 373-9382, offers fine dining, while Tre Bicchieri, 425 Washington St., (812) 372-1962, features classic Italian dishes with a twist. Farmers markets run through September at 501 Brown St. and in the FairOaks Mall parking lot on 25th Street. Shoppers will want to hit the Edinburgh Premium Outlets, 11622 N.E. Executive Drive just north of town, with nearly 90 shops offering discounted name-brand items. Those looking for a piece of the past should hit the Exit 76 Antique Mall, (812) 526-7676, where 330 dealers share 600 booths at one of the country’s largest antique malls. It’s near the outlet mall at 12595 N. Executive Drive in Edinburgh.

KANKAKEE, ILLINOIS
What’s new? Fall Art Stroll on Sept. 21 at the Kankakee Railroad Depot
Be sure to: Try scuba diving in the Haigh Scuba Diving Quarry
How far? 160 miles due west of Fort Wayne

Kankakee County, Illinois, probably got its name from the Miami Illinois tribe of Native Americans who lived, loved and built a huge community in this area that straddles the Illinois-Indiana state line an hour south of Chicago. Their word, teeyaahkiki, means open land, and probably honors the vast marsh that once was home to millions of migrating birds.

But as happened with so much of the Midwest, the Native Americans were driven off the land and the marsh was (largely) drained, but those migratory patterns are hard to shift, so each year, flocks of sandhill cranes, orioles, sandpipers, barred owls and more use the remaining waterways and the Kankakee River State Park and the Momence Wetlands as rest stops on their long journeys.

These days, birdwatching is a major draw to the region, but there’s a lot more to the area than winged creatures. It’s packed with history, with museums, art galleries and parks celebrating the rich history of the people who made the area their own. But it’s not just people who are commemorated in the area: the Bronte History of Printing Museum, 6712 N. 4180W Road, Bourbonnais, (815) 932-5192, covers 550 years of printing history, showcasing materials used in wood-engraving, etching and typesetting. Exploration Station … a children’s museum, located at 1095 W. Perry Drive in Bourbonnais, (815) 933-9905, lets kids pretend to fly a jet plane or defend a medieval castle. The Kankakee Railroad Museum, 197 S. East Ave., Kankakee, (815) 929-9320, is housed in Kankakee’s restored train depot and features operating model trains and railroad memorabilia, plus a scale model of the city of Kankakee in the 1950s. And the Little Red School House on Fifth Street in Kankakee, (815) 472-2924, is a 1850s-era schoolhouse that has been restored and contains period artifacts.

The arts are flourishing in Kankakee County, with several art galleries and museums open to the public. Feed Arts & Cultural Center, 259 S. Schuyler Ave., Kankakee, nurtures visual and performing artists of all levels, while the Community Arts Council’s Art Center, located in Northfield Square Mall, 1600 Route 50, Bourbonnais, features an art gallery and art classes, plus information on upcoming arts events. Call (815) 933-ARTS for more information.

The B. Harley Bradley House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1900, marks the beginning of the famed architect’s Prairie School period. The house was extensively renovated and is now open to the public Fridays through Sundays. It’s at 701 S. Harrison Ave.

Shoppers will find unique items at the stores in Kankakee and Bourbonnais. Check out Fancy Pants Vintage & Resale, 163 S. Schuyler Ave., Kankakee, (815) 295-7318, for an ever-changing lineup of clothing and items for the home. Indian Oaks Antique Mall, 1300 Larry Power Road in Bourbonnais, (815) 933-9998, has been described as a great “treasure hunt” where you can find 180 dealers offering primitives, collectibles, furniture and more. For those seeking more modern treasures, the county has several shopping centers, including Northfield Square Mall, 1600 State Route 50N, Bourbonnais, (815) 937-4241. There you’ll find more than 75 stores, including Carson’s, J.C. Penney and Victoria’s Secret.

YELLOW SPRINGS, OHIO
What’s new? The Art & Soul Art Fair Nov. 15, Mills Lawn School gym
Be sure to: Visit the Yellow Springs Street Fair Oct. 11.
How far? 140 miles southeast of Fort Wayne

Quirky, eclectic, slightly off the beaten path – this is how the people who live here describe Yellow Springs, Ohio. The home of Antioch College and a famous station on the Underground Railroad, Yellow Springs remains a proudly independent and liberal community. It’s also one of the most beautiful towns in Ohio, with bike trails, state and town parks and covered bridges to complement the fall foliage.

Downtown Yellow Springs is where the action – such as it is – can be found. Laid-back Yellow Springs residents support a unique assortment of shops, restaurants and galleries, such as Dark Star Bookstore, 237 Xenia Ave., (937) 767-9400, where you can find all sorts of comics, collectibles and a wide assortment of rare and used books. Then there’s the Dirty Fabulous Boutique, 134 Dayton St., (937) 631-1369, featuring an assortment of “fabulously fun and funky finds,” for the body and the home. Street musicians entertain those in the downtown area, which centers on Xenia Avenue, and tipping is appreciated.

Emporium Wines and the Underdog Café, 233 Xenia Ave., (937) 767-7077, bills itself as “Yellow Springs’ living room,” and it’s a great place to taste regional wines, hear live music and check out art by local artisans. Right across the street, at 232 Xenia St., is IONA Boutique, featuring punk, modern, pinup and goth looks. Miami Valley Pottery, 145 E. Hyde Road, (937) 767-7517, focuses on handmade, functional, wood-fired pottery. And Toxic Beauty Records and Poster Gallery, 220 Xenia Ave., (second floor), (937) 767-0300, specializes in rare and collectible vinyl records and concert posters.

Those seeking to commune with nature should make Glen Helen Nature Preserve their first stop. Located at 405 Corry St., the 1,000-acre preserve features a pine forest, a raptor center, waterfalls, Yellow Springs Creek and more than 20 miles of trails. It borders Antioch College, the private, liberal arts college whose first president was politician and education reformer Horace Mann. Trails lead from Glen Helen to neighboring John Bryan State Park, another beautiful natural facet of Yellow Springs. John Bryan State Park, 3790 State Route 370, (937) 767-1274, features a remarkable limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami Scenic River, plus hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling, fishing and canoeing. Just three miles east of Yellow Springs is the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, with another limestone gorge and an outstanding example of interglacial and post-glacial canyon cutting.

The Clifton Mill, at 75 Water Street in Clifton, just a short drive east of Yellow Springs, is one of the largest water-powered gristmills still in existence. Built in 1802, the gristmill supplied troops during the War of 1812 and today features a museum, gift shop and restaurant. You can reach the mill at (937) 767-5501.

Dining options focus on fresh, organic and local offerings. Try Aleta’s Café, 309 Xenia Ave., (937) 319-0066, whose steak naan pizza has to be tried to be believed (mint pesto, anyone?). Or give Peach’s Grill a shot. Located at 104 Xenia Ave., (937) 767-4850, Peach’s Grill hosts open mic nights where you can enjoy local performers while sampling one (or more) of the rotating 21 beers on tap and chowing down on a burger or a wrap.

The arts play a big role in Yellow Springs’ life, with live music available most days and any number of art galleries featuring everything from stained glass to pottery to photography. The Antioch Writers’ Workshop, 900 Dayton St., (937) 769-1803, offers writers’ retreats, a salon and Sunday writers seminar. And the all-volunteer Chamber Music Yellow Springs group performs at the First Presbyterian Church, 314 Xenia Ave.

LAKE ERIE, OHIO
What’s new: The Volstead Bar offers speakeasy cocktails with a water view.
Be sure to: Get spooked at Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends in September and October.
How far: 150 miles northeast from Fort Wayne

The temperatures may be falling, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do on the Lake Erie shoreline in western Ohio. The college students are largely gone now, meaning there’s less noise and a more family-friendly atmosphere. Plus, the roller coasters are still operating at Cedar Point!

But there’s far more to the lakeshore than roller coasters. Of course, fishing is a main pull, and swimming is still good into September. Walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and white bass are plentiful on the western basin of Lake Erie. Fishing charters are mainly available in Port Clinton and Marblehead. Swimming is available at East Harbor State Park, 1169 N. Buck Road in Lakeside-Marblehead, (419) 734-5857 (but make camping reservations through the second week of October by calling (866) 644-6727). Swimming is also available at Cedar Point.

And of course there are the islands. Put-In-Bay, a Victorian-era village on South Bass Island, is the more visited, more populated and more rowdy. Put-In-Bay has been used as a way-point since Native American days (when they would “put” their boats “in the bay”). Now it’s home to quaint shops and charming cottages and features a lively nightlife during the high season. As the summer wanes, there’s still action. The weekend of Sept. 6 honors the 201st anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie with a celebration of history, art and music, plus a recognition of the two-centuries-long peace shared by the United States, Great Britain and Canada.

The Put-In-Bay Tour Train, 154 Delaware Ave., Put-In-Bay, (419) 285-4855 takes visitors on a tour of this popular island with stops at the Put-In-Bay Winery as well as Heineman’s Winery and Crystal Cave (featuring the world’s largest geode), the 1800-era Doller Estate, the Lake Erie Islands Nature Museum and Perry’s Monument Visitor Center.

But don’t miss out on Kelleys Island’s abundant natural resources. As Ohio’s largest island, Kelleys features 900 acres of state parklands, 17 miles of coastline, a fossil-filled quarry and a beautiful sandy beach. As a place for hiking, kayaking, biking and swimming, Kelleys Island was rightly named one of Health magazine’s top 10 healthiest beaches in the country. The Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line whisks visitors to the island from Marblehead. Call (419) 798-9763 for tickets and times.

For another view of island life, head to Middle Bass Island, which features glacial grooves embedded with fossils, a quaint historic district and a wildlife refuge. A stopping point for migratory birds, shore islands are perfect for fall birdwatching.

First appeared in the September 2014 Fort Wayne Monthly.

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