Weekend Getaway at the Shawnee National Forest & Wine Trails
For our anniversary, I wanted to plan a quick weekend getaway trip that encompassed things both my boyfriend and I would enjoy. For him, I wanted something secluded. He hates living in a city sometimes, and I knew it’d be a nice treat to get away from Nashville’s traffic and noise. For me, I wanted to see a new state and have an adventure!
We considered renting a cabin out in the Smokey Mountains, but it was a bit of a drive for something we’ve seen before. We considered finding a cabin in the woods somewhere no more than an hour away to save ourselves time and gas. In the end, though, I found a little something called the Shawnee National Forest and the Shawnee Wine Trails.
I realized that we could get what we both wanted. I rented a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. It was private, in a new state (28th), we could bring our cat with us, and there was good hiking and good wine nearby. It seemed perfect, and it was.
The House – Galatia, IL
The house we stayed in was a cozy and romantic little getaway spot. We rented this Airbnb home. It was a little difficult to find because it was so far out in the middle of nowhere. We drove past farms, cabins, and mobile homes for miles before we found the dead end road where Carlos’ house sits at the end. It’s a small, two bedroom house with a home gym and a beautiful back porch where you can see what seems like every star in the sky at night.
The Forest – Garden Of The Gods (50 min. east of our Airbnb)
The Shawnee National Forest is loaded with great trails, observation points, and things to see! We had to pick one thing to really enjoy so that we could make it a relaxing weekend getaway instead of a rushed adventure. Garden Of The Gods turned out to be a great pick. After having already experienced the Colorado Springs red rocks version of Garden Of The Gods, I was skeptical.
Though nothing like Colorado, Shawnee’s Garden was spectacular. We parked and then hiked an easy, quarter mile trail through natural rock formations. We climbed a bit on the rocks, taking pictures as we went and enjoying the amazing view. As it was mid-October, we looked out at the forest and saw a beautiful mix of colorful leaves. There is a rock that looks like a resting camel, but we were too focused on the view from the top of the rocks to look at any camel shapes.
We accidentally came across the gift shop as we were leaving and found surprisingly good milkshakes and quirky souvenir t-shirts. They also have other fun, woodsy merchandise. I recommend stopping in.
The Wine – Starview Vineyards (50 min. west of our Airbnb)
There are 11 vineyards along the Shawnee Wine Trail, and there are more outside of it. With more time, we probably would’ve done more winery-hopping, but Starview was a good choice to land on. It was crowded, but not so much that we couldn’t find a table and we didn’t have to wait long for our wine.
We tasted 5 wines for $5 and got to keep the glasses. I’m a big wine fan and I don’t often find a wine I don’t like, but I genuinely loved the five that I tasted and I’m sure I would have liked the rest as well. If you like dry whites, the Syval is very satisfying and has a delicious grapefruit finish. (we left with a bottle). If you like dry pinks, the Dry Rosé is unique and wonderful. If you prefer red, the Supernova will leave you wanting a juicy steak. The vineyard also offers sangria and wine slushies.
One of the reasons we picked Starview was that we could also have our dinner there. The menu is small but satisfactory. I had a pulled pork sandwich – it wasn’t Nashville BBQ, but it was good. I recommend the side of pasta salad. The BBQ taste was strong. Corey had nachos, which were good but nothing special. Hey, it’s a winery, you don’t go for the food!
The best part of the winery wasn’t even the wine. The property was absolutely gorgeous. We wandered around the lake and fed the koi (they have a fish food dispenser) while a country band played in the background.
I still want to get to Chicago one day, but seeing the Shawnee area was a great first Illinois experience. I would love to go back one day and see more of the forest and taste more wines!