Friday, January 30, 2015

Summer Runaway: Woodstock, Illinois

Groundhog Day is just a train ride away


Things people like: getting out of town, Bill Murray.

Things people don't like: traffic, paying for gas.
How to get one without the other? Hop the Metra to Woodstock, where a 1.5-hour train ride drops you in another world of Victorian mansions and serene farmland, 50 miles northwest of the city. It’s the perfect setting to see an indie rock festival. And Bill Murray’s ghost.
As the town where the majority of Groundhog Day was filmed, a simple stroll through the compact cobblestone streets of the historic downtown district plays out like…well, Groundhog Day…as you wander past the movie theatre, opera house, and restaurant from the movie. The town was also named one of the nation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Start at Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St. (815-338-4212).
Did you hear us say something about an indie rock festival? We weren’t kidding. On August 17, a dozen of the top indie acts from Chicago and the Midwest touch down outside of VFW Post 5040 to uncork an all-day outdoor rager called Wasted Plains complete with a beer truck, food vendors, and a bags tossing tournament that proves this ain’t your parents' Woodstock.
Sat Aug 17 2p-1a. VFW Post 5040, 240 N. Throop St. Tickets $18-$25 here.
After the festival, keep the party going at the locals late-night hang Liquid Blues, a deliciously offbeat psychedelic dive complete with live bands and $2 PBR tall boys on Wednesdays. Or if you stop in on a Friday, the Friday fish fry is a must. As is drinking with locals at this place till close at 2a.
126 N. Benton St. (815-337-7254).
Last night you drank like a local. Now it’s time to eat like one at Woodstock Public House, where their house specialty Bloody Marys will have you refreshed and ready to tackle a farmer’s feast of southwest steak risotto with chorizo sausage and pico de gallo paired with slow roasted bbq pork carnitas and Spanish rice.
201 N. Main St. (815-337-6060).
After all this consumption, you’ll need a place to relax and regroup. That’s where Royal Victorian Manor comes in. A renovated 1894 Victorian home overlooking a garden sanctuary, you’ll know it as the site of your Whirpool tub, oversize lounger, and HDTV — where you can watch Groundhog Day and start the experience all over again.
$125-175 per night. 344 Fremont St. (815-308-5432).

photo courtesy Annamaria Masi Finzel

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