Affordable and Fun Vacations
By: Sandy Katz - Jan 23, 2016
Just minutes from downtown Chicago, Chicago Southland is one of the most popular-and affordable-corporate destinations in America.
If affordability and accessibility are what you’re looking for in a vacation, Chicago Southland fits the bill. With the Metro area’s quick connection to downtown Chicago, the Southland boasts plentiful commuter rail and interstate connections to make travel throughout the region quick and easy for big city proximity.
There is something for everyone in the Southland, with some of the region’s finest festivals and events, concerts, sporting events and outdoor activities offering four seasons of fun for all ages
Chicago Southland hotels offer the names and services you know and trust, and a variety of restaurants and specialty shops which provide exceptional choices or travelers.
With a name like Pullman, Chicago Southland’s destiny is being a train area. Pullman Historic District was modeled after one of 1880s industrial town and provides guided tours May thru Oct. Their annual house walk is always scheduled for second weekend in October.
From the “World’s Most Perfect Town” in 1906 to near demolition in mid-20th century, to a neighborhood revitalized in the present day, the saga of the Pullman Palace Car Company and neighborhood known as Pullman is on display at the Pullman Historic Society Visitors Center. The Center sits on site of the arcade building and includes exhibits that features historic pictures, Pullman related items and a short video that summarizes the town’s history.
Next we visited Homewood Rail Fan Park where there is a Homewood Railroad Spanish Revival style Platform (built in 1926) which allows viewing of Mainline/commuter rails with live switching audio, an underground walkway leading to the park, and 11 murals from famed artist Richard Haas depicting railway history painted near-by. Haas uses forced perception to create three-dimensional images on downtown buildings.
The handicap accessible railroad viewing platform gives an elevated view of the three types of tracks that cross Homewood: regional commuter (Metra) intercity rail(Amtrak), and freight. Visitors enjoy hearing the live audio feed from the switchyard.
The park features a retired and restored locomotive and caboose.
The Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery located in an historic train station also claims being a railroad museum. This station was built in 1906 and sits on the site of the original Illinois Central (IC) railroad. From the bar area you can get the thrill of watching the speeding trains go by after they have made a stop at Flossmoor Station for passengers. A fully restored IC caboose sits on the restaurant’s patio where it serves gelato and soft frozen yogurt seasonally.
Great beers which are made on the Brewery premises, area’s oldest brewery, was named Best Small Brew-Pub in America in 2006 at Great American Beer Festival. The salad I ordered could have fed me for a week!
Fortified with salad and beer, Park Forest Rail Fan Park was my next platform to experience, which also was a work in progress. When completed, it will include a 35-foot elevated platform that looks down onto a “highway clover leaf interchange” for trains. This is only place you can see this type of interchange in the country. Thirty plus trains pass this platform.
The restored Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad Caboose #531 was donated as a centerpiece for the park. This #531 was used from 1950-1990
Touring Historic Downtown Frankfort with their honorable Mayor was special. Since 1855, Frankfort has been a gathering place. The Grainery once held the yield from local crops. Today it towers over Breider Green Town center and home to year-round community events.
Walking around Frankfort you discover the charm as you shop at upscale, eclectic specialty boutiques which offer unique selections and personal service that caters to your every need. This town satisfied my retail therapy needs.
While enjoying the old-fashioned streetscapes and streetlights of Frankfort, it wasn’t hard to believe they were recently ranked 36th in nation’s fastest growing suburbs by Forbes magazine. Frankfort is known as the “Jewel of the South Suburbs.”
It was in Frankfort that I refreshed myself with a tea break at cottage-style Pickwick Society tea Room. Besides the delectable tea and bakery products, the place is so charming with one-of-a-kind items too adorable to resist. The theme resembled Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” with menu items named for the characters.
Congratulations on recently being named in top 5% of tearooms in United States and number one in Illinois by www.teamap.com
After a few hours of R & R at Comfort Inn & Suites, at Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café is where I dined and got entertained by the conversation with the most-talented owner.
This restaurant specializes in BBQ and Gourmet Mexican & Cajun. It is the slow-cooking and specialty of super slow smoking and then cooked for hours that makes for an extraordinary BBQ that entices patrons to come from near and far to a over-flowing restaurant so deserving of all its business. They also have valet parking!
Next morning, we went to Brookfield Zoo on the way to Midway Airport. This zoo is one of the country’s largest zoos housing 3,000 plus animals in award-winning exhibits comprising some 425 different species. Situated on 216 beautifully landscaped acres , it features Italian provincial buildings. Plenty of opportunities to shop and dine.
Special attractions include the dolphin shows in the Seven Seas exhibit, Tropic World, Children’s Zoo and a vast enclosed exhibit of mixed species from the three main rainforest habitats of the world (South America, Asian and African).
Brookfield Zoo’s claim to fame was sparked by the breeding of the world’s first captive black rhinoceros in 1941. It also has a collection of hoofed stock, kangaroos, ibex and baboons.
Chicago Southland with all its special treats was a most enjoyable vacation destination. There is always plenty to do, great places to eat and enjoyable hospitality at affordable sleeping accommodations
IF YOU GO
Visitor Information Chicago Southland: toll free 888-895-8233 708-895-8200 www.visitchicagosouthland.com
Accommodations: Comfort Inn & Suites- Tinley Park just completed a $750,000 renovation to modernize and update facilities. After spending 3 times the price of this room in Chicago for 1/3 the size room, I was so impressed with this accommodation. All rooms included microwave and refrigerator; complimentary Deluxe breakfast; Fitness center and Indoor pool; Business Center; free WI-FI ; complimentary Wall Street Journal and enjoyment of smoke-free environment.708-342-1425 www.choicehotels.com
Pullman Historic District 773-785-8901 (Tours) www.pullmanil.org
Tour Homewood Rail Fan Park 708-798-3000 www.blackhawknrhs.org/homewood.htm
Tour Park Forest Rail Fan Park www.villageofforestpark.com
Tour Historic Downtown Frankfort 818-469-2177 www.frankfortdowntown.com
Brookfield Zoo 708-688-8000 www.brookfieldzoo.org
Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery 708-957-2739 www.flossmoorstation.com
Pickwick Society Tea Room 815-806-8140 www.pickwicktearoom.com
Chucks Southern Comforts Café 708-229-8700 www.chuckscafe.com