My friends at Mindy Bianca Public Relations tell me they love representing Bowling Green, Kentucky for many reasons, but at the top of their list is the fact it’s the hometown of Duncan Hines. Most of us know his name from boxed cake mixes sitting on the grocery shelves, but that’s just part of his story as Mindy would say. Here’s a big wedge of American pop culture for you … perhaps best served with a tall glass of milk.
Duncan Hines was a traveling salesman who didn’t know much about cooking but knew a lot about good food and he kept notes during his travels and made recommendations for fellow travelers. His notes became books and his books became best sellers with names like “Adventures in Good Eating” and Adventures In Good Cooking And The Art Of Carving In The Home Tested Recipes Of Unusual Dishes From America’s Favorite Eating Places. Mindy and her team selected these cakes in homage to Hines who was born on March 26, 1880. And these aren’ts any old cakes, they’re confectionary marvels that will make you want to hit the road!
Let’s start close to where Duncan Hines himself did … right near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Boyce’s General Store is a foodie heaven, serving as the kitchen and retail shop for two phenomenal dessert bakers, The Pie Queen and The Cake Shop. Though the dynamic duo who bake the cakes create all sorts of flavors – the display case simply makes your mouth water – we’re most intrigued by the bundt cakes. No matter which flavor you get, you can expect a cake that’s moist and rich and covered in a cream cheese glaze. If you don’t need to serve 10 to 12 of your closest friends, go for the mini sampler, which features one each of chocolate, apple spice, snickerdoodle and red velvet.
For years, Caroline’s Cakes has been sending its delicacies out through their successful mail-order service. Last year, though, the bakers finally opened a storefront along Beaumont Avenue in Spartanburg, meaning that visitors to this town along the northern border of South Carolina can finally walk into a shop for an immediate taste of one of the city’s most delicious exports. The 7-Layer Caramel Cake features – surprise! – seven layers of moist yellow cake crowned by melt-in-your-mouth caramel icing. It’s a Southern classic that has achieved ultimate success: making it to Oprah’s list of favorite things! (It’s on our list of favorite things, too, but we know that doesn’t carry nearly as much prestige as Oprah’s.)
Hummingbird Cake from Lola
Historic downtown Covington, Louisiana Northshore
When Hurricane Katrina blew through Louisiana in 2005, Keith and Nealy Frentz, who were both sous chefs at the world-famous Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans, found themselves out of work. They evacuated to Keith’s hometown of Covington and opened their own restaurant just a year later. It’s hard to decide on the very best meal at Lola – we can confirm that everything on the menu is delicious – but one thing is certain: You must end that meal with a piece of hummingbird cake. Nealy uses her grandma’s recipe to craft this moist banana cake that’s filled with chunks of juicy pineapple and a dash of cinnamon. It’s all topped off with a decadent cream cheese icing, ensuring that both the fruit and dairy food groups are beautifully represented. Hooray for Nealy’s take on the food pyramid!
Lane Cake from The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar
Lane Cake was invented by Emma Rylander Lane more than 100 years ago as an entry in Alabama’s state fair, with its recipe being officially published in a cookbook in 1898. It entered popular culture through multiple mentions in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and it ultimately bumped hummingbird cake (sorry, Nealy!) out of the way to become Alabama’s official state dessert. The cake gets its incredible flavor from its rich icing, which is made with chopped pecans, golden raisins, coconut and Alabama whiskey and then spread between layers and layers of moist cake. Chef Jim Smith, proprietor of The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar, one of Mobile’s favorite restaurants, is the former executive chef for the State of Alabama … so we can confirm he knows his way around the state’s favorite dessert.
Italian Cream Cake from Cajun Pecan House
The MBPR team is proud to represent an array of Southern destinations, and you’ll see a running theme among them when it comes to their baked goods: moist cake, some sort of fruit or nut, cream cheese icing. Our favorite selection in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, aka “Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou,” is the Italian Cream Cake from the charming Cajun Pecan House. The place lives up to its name and tosses pecans on and in pretty much everything. Lots of folks come here looking for a pecan pie or a praline – both of which are delicious – but the bakers also put plenty of their namesake nut into a yellow cake batter that’s made extra-moist by the addition of coconut. Then they slather it in a rich cream cheese icing that’s topped with additional coconut and – you guessed it – more pecans! It feels more Southern than Italian to us, but we are NOT complaining!
Caramel Cake from Deep South Cake Company
Your sweet tooth will get quite a workout at the Deep South Cake Company, which is home to a dazzling array of cakes and cupcakes. But the winner by a landslide – the bakery sells at least 1,400 of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone – is the legendary caramel cake. Shannon Rumley and her team put a lot of time and energy into this cake, which features a burnt sugar icing that Shannon’s mother and grandmother taught her how to make when she was just a kid. Achieving the proper consistency for the icing requires constant stirring, so this cake truly is a labor of love. If you’re not into caramel – or if you’re loyal to Caroline’s Cakes (see above) and feel guilty eating a caramel cake from anywhere else – don’t fear: Shannon’s second-best seller is a strawberry cake that cuts the sweet with a little zip from the berries.
Pink Champagne Cake from Spark’d Creative Pastry
The bake shop at the historic HOTEL DU PONT in Wilmington, Delaware
Speaking of strawberries, how about that classic romantic combo of berries and champagne? There’s a lot to love about a stay in the historic HOTEL DU PONT in downtown Wilmington, but we think that being just a few paces away from the offerings at Spark’d, the hotel’s bake shop, is one of the strongest motivators for booking a room here. The Pink Champagne Cake is the delightful merger of strawberry cake, strawberry jam and Champagne buttercream icing. With a little advance notice, the hotel’s pastry team is also happy to create a custom design to ensure that the cake you order is perfectly suited to its recipient.
Gingerbread Cake from Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House
A Louisiana bakery that proves that so-called seasonal cakes are amazing all year round is Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House. Locals know – and visitors are finally discovering – that gingerbread is appropriate for every season, not just Christmastime. This low-key shop, which is easily mistaken for a neighborhood home, is hidden in plain sight. But those in the know (many of whom learned about the Gingerbread House thanks to a viral TikTok video last year) can tell you that this popular establishment offers a special cake that throws one heck of a Christmas party in your mouth. Leona Guillory Johnnie, the original owner of the bakery, spent 40 years perfecting the recipe. Today her son, Kevin Ames, continues her legacy, also serving traditional tea cakes and an array of pies.
Pinch Me Round from Jamaica
Look for the “Cake Man” on the beaches of Negril during a stay at Sunset at the Palms
It’s not gingerbread, but some people swear that ginger is the magic ingredient in a dessert that our client resort in Jamaica turned us on to. It’s called “gizzada,” but it also goes by the nickname “Pinch Me Round.” Though it’s technically more of a tart than a cake, the fact that a guy called the “Cake Man” sells gizzadas during his rounds on the beaches of Negril convinced us that the dessert warrants a spot on our list. Each islander has their own spin on this classic Jamaican dessert, which features a pinched pastry shell filled with plenty of sweet, grated coconut. Some bakers like to add a touch of ginger to give it a little kick. The dessert is said to have originated among Portuguese Jews who came to Jamaica to escape persecution, but over the years the Jamaicans have made the dessert truly their own. In fact, they say that the shape of the treat will remind you of the shining sun you’ll see on your trip to the island.
Tricia’s Jamaican Rum Cake from Market Wego
Westwego, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish
If you can’t get to Jamaica right now, you may be able to live vicariously with a visit to Market Wego, a proper Cajun market in southeastern Louisiana. Its owner, River Shay, says her grandmother, Tricia, simply loved visiting Jamaica. On each of her trips, Tricia liked to sample the island’s rum cakes. Over the years, she took what she loved about each variation to create her very own recipe. Her cake truly pays homage to Duncan Hines, because Tricia swore by using only a Duncan Hines cake mix as the base … and then adding an extra splash of rum at the end. Her recipe is still used to this day, and patrons order the cake at all hours – breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Flower Cupcakes from Dollywood
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Dolly Parton’s theme park is known for its delicious meal offerings – around here, “park food” means way more than hot dogs and funnel cakes – but during Dollywood’s annual Flower & Food Festival (this year held April 21 through June 11), the culinary team really steps up its game to make foods that are as attractive as they are tasty. One of our favorites is the collection of “flower cupcakes” available at Spotlight Bakery near the park’s entrance. Each flower cupcake is a beautiful work of art that celebrates the natural beauty of the park, which is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. And to bring it full circle, Parton recently collaborated with Duncan Hines’ namesake company, resulting in her very own line of cake, muffin and biscuit mixes.
6 Unique Restaurants Were Just Named America’s Classics By James Beard — See The List Here https://flip.it/zB4zPd
Inspired by the amazing win of Strike Rich, the second biggest upset in the Kentucky Derby’s history, I decided to delve into Kentucky food history by reading and cooking from a new book on the subject, it’s title compelling asking Which Fork Do I use with My Bourbon?: Setting the Table for Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinners, and Cocktail Parties from University Press of Kentucky.
Wondering what fork to use when serving bourbon isn’t a question we commonly ask, but authors Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler are entertainment and bourbon experts who travel frequently conducting seminars and tastings. The impetus for their book stems from being constantly asked how to go about hosting the perfect cocktail or dinner party starting from table setting to pairing the best foods and bourbons.
Their bourbon credentials are impeccable. Stevens is an inductee into the Bourbon Hall of Fame, the first female master bourbon taster, founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and one of the originators of the Kentucky Bourbon Trails. Reigler is the author of several bourbon and travel books including Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide and The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, a former restaurant critic and beverage columnist, and past president of the Bourbon Women Association as well as a certified bourbon steward.
Now Stevens and Reigler are the type of Kentucky women who if they were going to tailgate at the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t bring a cooler filled will take-out from the deli counter of the local grocery store to be served on paper plates and eaten with plastic dinnerware. This type of Kentucky woman brings great grandmother’s silver serving dishes and great great Aunt Mabel’s fine China. And, of course, the food would be equally well turned out though not necessarily fussy or hard to make.
Despite the elegance of it all, Stevens and Reigler don’t want anyone “to work their fingers to the bone planning and executing.”
After all, they say, “the best form of bourbon etiquette is simple to make people feel comfortable.”
The following recipes are from Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon.
Dark and Bloody Mary:
- 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika mix
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 2 large lemon wedges
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato juice
To prepare the seasoning mix, combine in a mortar (or spice grinder) one part each smoked sea salt, smoked black pepper, and smoked paprika (the authors suggest these should all come from Bourbon Barrel Foods– bourbonbarrelfoods.com). Finely crush with a pestle and shake together in a jar.
To a pint glass or a large mason jar filled with ice, add the bourbon, squeeze and drop in the lemon wedges, and add 1teaspoon of the seasoning mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Shake. Add more ice and the tomato juice. Shake again.
Garnish with a long straw and baby corn, large pitted black olive, and cherry pepper, all on a stick.
- 1 ounce Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion Blend #1
- ¾ ounce carrot juice
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce date syrup (see below)
- 3 drops Crude Bitters—Sycophant
- Sage leaf for garnish
Combine all the cocktail ingredients in a shaker. Shake on ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sage leaf.
Macerate 1 pint of dates with rich syrup (1 pound of “sugar in the raw” and ½ pound of water, heated and stirred until the sugar dissolves).
Susan’s Tuna Spread:
Author Susan Reigler came across this recipe forty years ago in a small spiral-bound book of recipes by James Beard that was included with her purchase of a Cuisinart food processor. She always gets raves when she serves it. Spicy and tangy, this is not your bachelor uncle’s bland tuna fish salad.
- 2 5-ounce cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1½ tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend briefly.
Bourbon Pineapple Poundcake:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 1 to 2 fresh pineapples, quartered and sliced
- in thick strips
- 1 pound cake
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Mix the brown sugar and bourbon until it forms a thin paste. Lay the pineapple strips side by side in a baking dish.
Brush the brown sugar mixture thickly on the pineapple strips. Put the dish in the oven and allow the mixture to melt over the pineapple until warm.
Lay the pineapple strips over slices of pound cake and ladle any extra juice over each slice. Serve immediately.
Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bread Pudding:
- 12 cups stale French bread, diced in 1-inch cubes
- 1 quart whole milk
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped in large chunks
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with the milk until the
bread is moistened. Soak for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar,
vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread-milk mixture. Fold
together until well mixed.
Fold in the chocolate chunks and mix until evenly distributed. Pour
into a greased, deep 13- by 9-inch pan. Drizzle the melted butter over
the batter and cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes covered and then for another 10 to 15 minutes
uncovered, until the pudding is set and firm in the middle and golden
brown on top. Serve warm with Bourbon Butter Sauce.
Bourbon Butter Sauce
- 8 ounces butter
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon
- 2 eggs
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
Whisk in the sugar and bourbon and bring to a simmer. Crack the eggs
in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Add a little warm bourbon
mixture to the eggs and whisk. Continue to add the bourbon mixture
a little at a time until the eggs have been tempered. Pour all the liquid
back into the pan and return it to medium heat. Bring to a light simmer
and cook for several minutes, until thickened. Keep warm and serve over bread pudding.
Photography by Pam Spaulding.
“Bourbon is a legacy of blue grass, water and Kentucky limestone,” Carol Peachee tells me when I ask what makes Kentucky bourbon so prized.
Limestone? Water? Bluegrass? What’s that have to do with fine bourbon?
Turns out it’s quite simple. According to Peachee, the limestone filters the iron out of the water as it flows through the rock, producing a sweet-tasting mineral water perfect for making the greatest tasting liquor. Limestone, with its heavy calcium deposits, also is credited with the lush blue grass the state’s prize-winning horses gaze upon — making their bones strong.
It’s been a long time since I took geology in college, but I do like the taste of good bourbon and the sight of stately horses grazing in beautiful pastures and the more I can learn about it all, the better. Which is why I love Peachee’s entrancing photographs.
I first met Peachee, an award-winning professional photographer, when she was autographing copies of her latest book, Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage (Indiana University Press 2017; $28). Creating beauty as well as a sense of yearning, her books, including The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, take us on a wanderlust journey of lost distilleries and those now re-emerging from the wreckage of Prohibition. At one time, Kentucky had over two hundred commercial distilleries, but only sixty-one reopened after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Now, as Kentucky bourbon becomes a driving force throughout the world, once barely remembered and long closed distilleries are being restored and revamped and are opening again for business.
Using a photographic technique known as high-dynamic-range imaging ― a process that produces rich saturation, intensely clarified details, and a full spectrum of light ― Peachee hauntingly showcases the vibrancy still lingering in artifacts such as antique tools, worn cypress fermenting tubs, ornate copper stills some turning slightly green with oxidation and age, gears and levers —things we would never typically think of as lovely and compelling.
Traveling with the Book
Keeping copies of her books in my car when I travel to Kentucky, I love visiting some of the places and sites she’s photographed.
Her passion for bourbon may also have come about, in part, because she lives in Lexington, Kentucky which is rich in the history of bourbon making (and, we should say, sipping).
To get a taste of how bourbon connects to the land, when in Lexington, Peachee suggests a stop at the Barrel House Distilling Co. including the Elkhorn Tavern located in the old James B. Pepper barrel plant. It’s part of Lexington’s happening Distillery District. But fine bourbon doesn’t just stop in Lexington.
“There are so many bourbon distilleries now,” she says, noting that the heritage of good bourbon making is more than the equipment and the water.
“The cultural heritage of distilling also lays in the human culture,” she writes in the Acknowledgements section of her latest book, “the people who learned the crafts of milling, copper welding and design, barrel making and warehouse construction and then passed them on through the generations down to today’s workers and owners.”
And now Peachee has passed them down to us so we can fully appreciate the art of distilling
Town Branch Bourbon Bramble
- 2oz Bourbon
- 3/4oz Fresh squeeze lemons
- 3/4oz Simple syrup
- 5 Fresh blackberries muddled
Shake with ice, strain and pour over fresh ice in rock glass with blackberry garnish.
Town Branch Bourbon Mint Julep
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 8 mint leaves
- 1/4oz simple syrup
- Dash of bitters
Add crushed ice with mint garnish and straw.
The above recipes are courtesy of the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company.
Weltenburg Abbey was more than four centuries old before the monks first began brewing ale—or at least ale worth noting–in 1050. Now vying for the title of the oldest monastic brewery in the world (Weihenstephan Abbey also claims the honor), they set their claim on maintaining the original brewing process. Like the beer, much is as it was remains at the Abbey, the somewhat plain exterior of the cathedral opens onto an elaborately ornate and gilded interior. Services are still held regularly, and monks still live and work on the premises. And just as abbeys were places for gatherings for a millennium and more, Weltenburg also remains a destination. Located 25 miles west of the charming Bavarian city of Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage City and just three miles from Kelheim, it is accessible by car. But I totally like immersing myself in history and my goal today is to replicate—as much as I can—the 1050 experience.
Long Wall and St. Nepomuk
On the ferry from Kelheim, I watch as the boat’s wake cuts through waters reflecting the dark greens of dense woods and whites of limestone rocks of the Fränkische Alb mountains, some rising 300-feet high. Winds, water and time have carved caves and nooks in the limestone and in one of these crannies on an expansive stretch of stone called the Long Wall someone has tucked a statue of St. Nepomuk, the patron saint of water and bridges who was drowned when he refused to reveal the confessions made to him by the Queen of Bavaria. Her husband must have really wanted to know what she was up to.
The Danube Narrows
Today it will take 40 minutes to travel the Danube Narrows, an ancient waterway to and from Weltenburg Abbey or if you want to be really German about it, Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, a sprawling complex of Baroque stone buildings surrounded by the lush rural beauty of Southern Bavaria.
There are times when the river is a lively place with small boats passing by and bicyclists and hikers making their way along the riverbank. Then suddenly, navigating a bend, it’s all calm waters and quiet. I imagine this is how it was when pilgrims and tradesmen (and hopefully tradeswomen as well) came to the abbey to retreat from the world, rest or conduct business. It was a time when travel was mainly by water as roads barely existed and their trip would have taken much longer without our gas powered engines. But the sight they saw when making the final curve is much the same as today—Weltenburg’s blue tower roof and the washed pink walls.
The abbey sits on a bend of the river and in front is a small sandy beach and shallow waters where people play. It’s hot today—a heat wave is moving across Europe—and I envy them as the water looks cool and refreshing. But history calls and instead I move up the walk leading from the dock to the entrance already awed by the size and beauty of the place.
There are always hard choices and today I need to decide whether to tour first (there are self-guided and guided tours available) or take a seat in the sun at the biergarten, It appears that most people have chosen the latter and rather than wait for a table or sit inside the restaurant, I enter the church.
St. Georg Church
We’re talking seriously rococo inside, an overdrive of theatrical flourishes mixed with more Gothic elements. Paintings date back to the 1300s, a statue of the church’s namesake St. George or St. Georg as its spelled here, sculpted in smooth, sleek marble, rides his horse most likely on his way to slay the dragon. The main room, its ceiling 65-feet high, has alcoves off to the sides, each one just as ornate. It’s hard to take in everything at once, the artistry, pageantry and craftsmanship are so amazing. Standing near a group tour, I hear phrases like “eight ionic columns, Weltenburg marble and gold fresco” and hurriedly write the words down as it helps sort out this wonderment of riches.
Back outside, I spot an empty table and grab it. Addicted to German fare (yes, really), I order pigs’ knuckle known as schweinshaxe, schnitzel and even though I’m in Bavarian and not the Black Forest (hey, it’s nearby) the famous cake from that region. Of course, I need a glass of their Kloster Barock Dunkel—an almost black in color ale which is still made on site in a rock cave and then sent by pipeline to the monastery taps. Also available—to drink or take home, there is a gift store of course–are other brews and such medicinal spirits as their Weltenburg monastery bitters and liqueurs. And if you want to go full abbey, there’s their klosterkas and monastery sausage both based on ancient Weltenburg recipes.
Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last schnitzel and definitely not the cake. To assuage my conscience, I climb the mountain path as it winds past the Stations of the Cross. It’s steep but the gaps in the woods offer commanding views of the valley, abbey and gorge below. I briefly contemplate spending the night at the St. Georg Guest House to be able to walk the abbey grounds late at night when all the visitors are gone but I don’t have a reservation. Next time for sure.
The Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery in Bavaria
Returning to Kelheim isn’t exactly like entering the 21st century. In the old town I wander the narrow streets snapping photos of perfectly maintained Medieval-era buildings just a short walk from the docks and on the way to where I parked my car, I let my friends talk me into stopping at Weisses Bauhaus Kelheim.
It’s a beautiful place, all wood, vaulted ceilings and archways leading from room to room. Outside we sit in, yes another beer garden, this one next to a small stream, and order a round of their wheat beer. Really, I had to since they’ve been brewing beer here since 1607, making the Weisses Brauhaus the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.
I’m not typically a beer lover but both the Kloster Barock Dunkel at the abbey and the TAP7 here, made from the original 1872 recipe, are robust and flavorful without bitterness or an overly hoppy taste. I’m driving so instead of more beer, I listen to the live music, enjoy the myriad of colorful blooms cascading from window boxes, baskets and containers and contemplate how I’ve spent the day moving through history and only now have reached the 17th century.
The Guardian: The farmers restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests that once fed an island | Hawaii. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/17/hawaii-traditional-farming-methods-ancient-food-forests
Our community has been using their skills and creativity to pivot, fill food system gaps, and serve Hawaiʻi’s nutritional needs during this unprecedented time.
Through thoughtful interviews and photographic portraiture, we spotlight the necessity of a collective commitment needed to sustain our emerging system of resiliency, of a self-sufficient Hawaiʻi. From Feeding Hawai’i.
With many eager to use those unused vacation days and ready to travel again, travelers are turning towards trip stacking: booking several trips and experiences over a set of vacation days. And one of the best ways to do this? With a classic American road trip, of course.
With major cities such as Indianapolis and Chicago topping the lists of places to visit in the Midwest, there are several other stop-worthy, under-the-radar cities and destinations that pack a full punch of culture, arts, outdoor experiences, and culinary offerings. Among them, Bloomington, Indiana (3.5 hours from Chicago & 1 hour from Indianapolis) and and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, WI (1.5 hours from Chicago & 45 minutes from Milwaukee).
While the city of Bloomington and a stop at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, WI are perfect side trips on any Midwest trip, they also warrant their own getaway. But for those trip stacking and making stops, here are a few of the many reasons to add these destinations to your Midwest road trip itinerary:
That Lake Life.
For those looking for a lake vacation, Bloomington is home to the 10,750-acre Monroe Lake, Indiana’s largest land-bound body of water. Monroe Lake offers visitors everything from boating, beaching, biking, fishing, hiking, campgrounds, and more. It’s one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets for lake getaways.
Bloomington is a foodie-destination worth getting in the car for. This small Midwest city has a global dining scene and is home to over 350+ restaurants. Check out Bloomington’s most iconic restaurants here.
And during the summer, one of the best ways to experience Bloomington’s eclectic atmosphere is dining al fresco on the patio of a local restaurant. With over 100 eateries offering outdoor dining during the warmer months, there are an abundance of choices.
Some of the Midwest’s best art & cultural attractions can be found in Bloomington. From renowned museums, A-list comedy clubs, to historic artwork and artifacts, Bloomington is rich in culture. Check out some of the top attractions here.
For fireworks: Bloomington is one of the best Midwest spots for fireworks and Fourth of July festivities. The city offers several free, public firework displays.
Bloomington has a nightlife scene. The bars and restaurants stay open later in Bloomington than most Midwest cities! Check out underground vibes such as The Root Cellar Lounge, one of Bloomington’s best hidden gems, located in the basement of FARMbloomington.
Under the radar wine destination
In addition to being a cool foodie town it’s great for winos as well. It’s home to the award-winning Oliver Winery, Indiana’s largest and oldest winery, which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Bloomington is also home to five breweries, all of which are located in the downtown area. Grab a beer at Function Brewing, The Tap, Switchyard Brewing, Upland Brewpub, or Bloomington Brewing Company (BBC) — for your own beer tasting experience, The Tap, Function, and BBC are all located within a five-block stretch of one-another.
WHY GRAND GENEVA?
Situated on 1,300 acres in the woodlands of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Grand Geneva is an award-winning AAA Four-Diamond resort located 90 minutes from Chicago and 50 minutes from Milwaukee. The hotel has been welcoming guests for more than 25 years, offering some of the finest facilities, accommodations, and dining experiences in the Midwest. The iconic resort has always offered dynamic recreation for guests looking for an escape (or the perfect pit stop), including outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and scooter excursions — in addition to the resort’s two championship 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor pools. Guests also enjoy the resort’s acclaimed restaurants, award-winning Well Spa + Salon, and expansive fitness center.
Every Sunday through Labor Day weekend, resort guests enjoy a dazzling Sunday fireworks display. But for those looking to celebrate July 4, Grand Geneva also offers one of the grandest fireworks shows. Guests who stay in a Lake View room can enjoy the fireworks show from their private balcony or patio, while all resort guests can view the show from the resort’s hillside.
This Lake Geneva golf destination is especially known for its two championship golf courses. At over 7,000 yards featuring massive sand traps and prominent water features, the magnificent Brute course is one of the most challenging layouts in the Midwest is considered one of Wisconsin’s best golf courses.
The Highlands is a Scottish-inspired, links-style course, complete with a beautiful landscape of scenic hills, wide open fairways, trickling creeks and lush foliage. This Lake Geneva golf course was originally designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus and transformed in 1996 by Bob Cupp. Need to brush up on skills? The resort launched new weekly clinics this year.
Privacy with the perks of a hotel.
For guests seeking a more private getaway, The Villas at Grand Geneva offer luxury vacation rentals with spacious living areas, separate bedrooms, and kitchens. Guests have access to additional resort amenities, including a pool and an outdoor fire pit area reserved for the exclusive use of Villa guests.
A culinary hotspot
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is home to several award-winning restaurants and cafes. Guests enjoy several different dining experiences including Wisconsin steak dinners, seafood boils, over the top brunches, and more.
And there’s a waterpark
Nestled within the sprawling resort campus, is Grand Geneva’s sister-property, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark – an all-suite family resort featuring one of the Midwest’s top waterparks.
While in Lake Geneva
Grand Geneva’s concierge can help arrange some of the city’s best experiences such as Lake Geneva Cruise Line, Lake Geneva Balloon Company, Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures and more. The resort also offers discounts for guests on select local attractions.