Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

Fall Foliage in Chicagoland

By Marcia Frost

Travel is much more difficult than it used to be, but the thought of the beautiful fall foliage out there had me getting a little creative and planning a trip to DuPage County in Chicagoland I think everyone will enjoy.

The foliage is reaching its peak at the Morton Arboretum and there is plenty of outdoor space. Social distancing is encouraged with reservations needed in advance for timed-entry. This way there aren’t too many people on the grounds at once, though there are so many trails it would be hard to find a crowded area. Passes start at only $10.

For fall, there is a Scarecrow Trail around Meadow Lake. Scarecrows were created by local school and scout troops. You can vote for your favorite online. I loved the scenery and checking out these projects and the trail, like most of the ones at Morton Arboretum, was accessible for my scooter and the many strollers out there.

Another fun trail to follow is the Troll Hunt, which will continue until 2021. It includes sculptures as tall as 30 feet by Danish artist Thoms Dambo.

Before leaving we took a drive on the main road for more of the land’s beauty. There are plenty of places to park along the way and hike if you’d like.

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited Lynfred Winery and I couldn’t resist since I was in the area. This is one of my favorite Midwest wineries and they have done a great job in keeping it safe for visitors.

Although the bed & breakfast remains temporarily closed, they are still keeping up with their large wine selection and wine club. They expanded outdoor patio areas and have flights served in plastic cups, with a souvenir glass you can pour it in and then take home.

All wines are made on the premises, but the Lynfred winemaker travels around the world to get the best grapes from the places where they’ve done best that harvest. For this season, that includes the Syrah and the Chenin Blanc. It’s also worth a trip to pick up their cranberry wine for your Thanksgiving table, even if it will be a bit smaller this year.

We ate at two completely different restaurants, but both did well with safe practices.

Lunch at The Table at The Crate was filled with farm-fresh, local ingredients on the patio at Oak Brook Center. You can enter from the store or the outside patio.

It was a little cool out, but they brought warming lamps at the tables for anyone who asked for one. They have an interesting cocktail list using some of these fruits and herbs, but we decided to stay warm with vanilla lattes.

For an appetizer, we shared the Crispy Edamame Dumplings. It sounded a little strange, but they were absolutely delicious and we finished every bite.

I tried the Tomato Tartine, a flavor-filled and healthy open-faced sandwich with asparagus, feta cheese, basil puree, and cooked cherry tomatoes. My friend, Joan, loved the Chopped Salad, which she got with chicken breast. We had a side of the Waffle Fries with aioli and they were great.

The Pots de Crème was not at all what we expected, but full of flavor as it had a rich chocolate pudding and was filled with fruit and nuts, and topped with macadamia milk at the table. I took home the Phat Cookie, filled with chocolate, M&Ms, and pecans.

Perry’s Steakhouse, also at the Oak Brook Center, is a meat lovers dream in an upscale atmosphere, perfect for a romantic evening or a quiet one enjoying good food and wine with friends.

It was a bit cool and they had the tables spaced very far apart, so we chose to eat indoors by the entrance. Contactless menus are available by scanning a barcode on the table.

The service was impeccable as we enjoyed their Autumn Tasting Menu. It’s a great way to enjoy some of the best of Perry’s for a bit less ($45 a person for three courses).

For our first course, I chose the French Onion Soup, which was filled with deep broth and covered in cheese, while my friend had the Iceberg Salad at the recommendation of the waiter. She agreed it was a wonderful house dressing and very filling.

When it comes to filling, the Signature Pork Chop cannot be beat. It was tender and tasty, but I didn’t even make a dent in the huge portion! Joan was equally impressed with her filet, which was done nicely.

The third course in the menu is a side dish or dessert. We decided to get one of each and share. There was more than enough of the rich and creamy Scalloped Potatoes to bring home with the leftover pork chop. The Dessert Trio of Chocolate Crunch, Cheesecake, and Crème Brule was big enough that we didn’t even finish it.

Perry’s Steakhouse is about to open another Chicagoland location in Schaumburg so there’s a second place in the area to enjoy it.

I had found out about Sonesta ES Suites a few months ago when I needed to go to Ohio to pick up my puppy. I’m not quite ready to go inside hotels with big lobbies and elevators. I discovered this all-suite hotel has outside entrances from the parking lot and walkways.

When I discovered there was one in Lombard, Illinois, near Oak Brook, I made arrangements for us to stay there. I was very impressed with the way this one was too. It looks more like an apartment complex than a hotel.

Our suite was cleaned, everything was put in the dishwasher to sterilize, and the door was sealed until we went inside. As for the check-in desk, there is plexiglass separating you and the clerk. Hand sanitizer is available and there are news pens clearly marked for use and a place to put ones you have touched.

The suites at this Sonesta ES (ES stands for Extended Stay) are studios and two-bedroom lofts, which have stairs inside and out. All of them have nice-sized kitchens, living room areas, and a separate sleeping alcove.

Do you have any specific questions about where to go or how to plan? Follow Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost for more travel ideas.

Also, be sure to check out my travel stories at my Wine And Spirits Travel blog.