The team at Heritage Harbor resort and marina frequently help visitors and homeowners pinpoint the best winter activities in Starved Rock Country and Ottawa, Ill. With visitors heading to the resort year-round for a rented stay in a cozy cottage and homeowners who routinely plan weekend vacations, the Heritage Harbor crew is well-equipped to keep you informed on local events. Situated just 90 minutes from downtown Chicago, Starved Rock Country is a Midwest oasis with outdoor fun, exceptional dining and shopping, and a community full of unique activities providing fun for people of all ages.
“There’s a common misconception that northern Illinois shuts down during the winter and there’s no fun to be had,” says Tammy Barry of Heritage Harbor. “Nothing could be farther from the truth here in Starved Rock Country. The changing of the seasons, especially winter, opens a whole new realm of places to explore. Many visitors of Heritage Harbor say winter is actually a favorite season to explore the area.”
There’s so much to see in in Starved Rock Country that it’s impossible to explore it all in one afternoon; there’s always something happening in the area. This year, Ottawa’s third annual Chris Kringle Market will be held in early December featuring artisan gift vendors, tasty holiday treats, traditional German-style beer, live music, and memorable activities for the whole family to enjoy. This year’s special activities include complementary carriage rides, festive carolers, ornament crafting, an ice carving demonstration, and even a visit from a live reindeer!
Before the Christmas holiday, visitors can experience a Victorian Christmas at Ottawa’s historic Reddick Mansion with Holiday Candlelight Tours or a Christmas Tea.
There is plenty of adult fun to be had as well, as local wineries in Utica, Ill., keep uncorking bottles throughout the season. Stop in for a tasting and tour at downtown Ottawa’s Tangled Roots Brewing Company. Enjoy a hearty waterfront dining experience at Heritage Harbor’s Red Dog Grill. The wood-burning fireplace creates a cozy atmosphere to gather around with friends and family. Downtown Ottawa offers a variety of dining experiences for those wishing to grab a bite after some shopping.
Starved Rock Country has some of the most beautiful scenery around due to the proximity to several state parks. Starved Rock State Park has been voted the #1 attraction in the state of Illinois. Winter has played a big part in Starved Rock’s popularity.
Last year, Starved Rock State Park welcomed millions of visitors. The park’s proximity to Chicago, free admission and free parking are factors in its continued popularity. The freezing and melting that happens during the winter months creates spectacular ice sculptures that draw viewers from near and far. The canyon ice falls are a must see this winter! The new year is ushered in with Winter Wilderness Weekend in January, in which guided hikes are provided to showcase the ice falls and nature’s winter wonderland.
The Illinois River is a notorious winter eagle nesting ground, bringing visitors from all over the U.S. This year, Eagle Watch Weekend is Jan. 26-27, with guided tours, hands-on and make-and-take activities for kids, and other connected activities at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Spotting scopes are also available to get an up-close view of these magnificent birds.
Barry says Heritage Harbor is convenient for winter visitors because many want to stay in the area longer than a few hours—there’s just too much to do to simply cruise through. Cottage Rentals by Heritage Harbor’s Harbor Inn offers visitors the option to rent a cottage on the Illinois River waterfront for a weekend. The variety of cottages offered are perfect for a family as well as a couple looking for a weekend getaway.
To learn about more hidden winter gems in Starved Rock Country and Heritage Harbor Ottawa, contact Tammy Barry at 815-433-5000.