Recharge Your Senses with These Inspiring Places!

Spring is a time of renewal and it can be hard to find beautiful places that help bring your spirits back to life.  If you’re looking for interesting locations to explore, Lake County has everything from breathtaking views of natural spaces to rare and beautiful spiritual places where you can spend a peaceful day.  So whether you’re bringing your yoga mat, a camera, a new book… or choosing to leave it all behind… here are some of Lake County’s most inspiring and peaceful places.

…Let’s start with Natural Spaces (for Spiritual Spaces, scroll down!)

Sunrise over Lake Michigan
There’s really no better way to start a day than to welcome the sun!  See a stunning sunrise over the shores of Lake Michigan at Illinois State Beach State Park, and then just try not to be in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Chicago Botanic Gardens
Open 365 Days a year, the Chicago Botanic Garden is FREE!  (Small sidenote… parking is $25.  But riding your bike there is always a good idea!)  Let the serenity of their Japanese Garden transport you with its peaceful scenery and get lost in thought as a graceful heron glides over the crystal waters that surround you.  Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Ravinia Festival
Music can boost anyone’s spirits!  Especially when you’re surrounded by friendly people, and enjoying live performances while lying on a blanket under the stars, with your favorite bottle of wine you brought home you from one of our Vineyards or Wineries (Ravinia is BYOB!)

Whether you’re looking for today’s most popular music, or the impressive talents of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival has a variety of music, that’ll suit everyone’s musical needs. See a list 2014 concerts

Lake Forest College’s Shooting Star Savannah
Tucked away on the beautiful campus of Lake Forest College is a conservation area called the Shooting Star Savannah.  The campus itself is full of inspirational people and beautiful views of Lake Michigan, but the garden is a little piece of green heaven, with a bench that’s just waiting for you!  Take a moment to enjoy this deep oak and prairie ecosystem.

Insider Tip:  Enter Lake Forest College from the main entrance off of Sheridan Rd., and drive to the back, behind the science buildings.  There’s a parking lot back there that is nearby the Shooting Star Savannah.

Lake County Forest Preserves
There’s really no way to go wrong with any of the more than 30,000 acres of Lake County Forest Preserves.  But when we’re looking for peaceful retreats (even if just for the only 20 minutes of our week that we have free!), it’s all about our Forest Preserves.

I’m going to focus on a few in specific, and the reasons why:

  • Ryerson Conservation Area:  (pictured) A portion of this trail runs along a scenic portion of the Des Plaines River that has a little speed, so it makes a lovely waterfall sound that adds to the calming effect of the peaceful nature around you.
  • Grant Woods:  Explore open prairies, quiet woodlands, and beautiful scenery.
  • Lakewood Forest Preserve:  Take a quiet, early morning walk through a lush forest path that opens up to a large prairie where deer like to graze.  Between Nov. and March, this trail is also lined with small solar lights.

Volo Bog
This is a popular destination for families and kids, so if you’re looking for a peaceful and insightful moment, your best bet is early morning when you can see rare birds and even migrating Sandhill Cranes in the spring.  If you find peace in smiling faces and friendly neighbors then bring a picnic, and enjoy the day at this family friendly location!  Then take a hike along their popular floating boardwalk and learn about local restoration in the Volo Bog Visitor Center.

Lake Forest Open Lands
Although privately funded, the Lake Forest Open Lands’ 800 acres of open space, woodlands, wetlands, prairies, ravines and savannas are open to the public.  Enjoy a peaceful walk on any one of their 12 miles of walking trails, and don’t forget to bring a book!  You’re going to want to stop along the way and enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds you.

Insider Tip:  Check out the Skokie River Nature Preserve.  Within this preserve is another area named “Shaw Prairie”.  This place is so special because it’s an area that has NEVER been developed, and the walk to get there is magical.  Enjoy scnes of the Skokie River, the McLauchlin Meadow, the Stevenson Savanna, and even explore the Bennett Meadow. See Map


Interesting Spiritually Inspired Locations

Home to the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Marytown includes a Franciscan Friary, a contemporary Retreat and Conference Center, the Marytown Press that sells Catholic Books and Gifts, historic Chapels for liturgical life, and numerous outdoor shrines and rosary gardens.

Visitor information according to their website: While these are private grounds, they are open to visitors during certain hours, generally 10 AM to 5 PM daily.   In order to keep a sense of sacredness on the grounds, and keep an atmosphere conducive to prayer, study, retreats, peacefulness, and safety for our students and guests, we have a number of rules which must be observed.  These are listed generally on signage around the campus.  Above all, visitors must follow the directions of Security Officers, or USML Administrators when they are present on the campus.  Some activities which are open to our students, faculty, and Conference Center guests, are also occasionally granted by individual PERMITS to our visitors when they are requested in advance. More information on these activities can be obtained by contacting the Office of the Provost at 847.970.4860.

Their Main Phone number is 847.566.5401

New Gracanica Monastery and Serbian Orthodox Church in Third Lake
If you get the chance to visit this beautiful gem, you’ll feel like you’ve actually traveled to Serbia.  It. Is. Gorgeous.  It is a fully functioning Monastery, and as such, there are some restrictions on visiting the inside of the church, but the grounds themselves are absolutely beautiful, and even have a lake where an afternoon can disappear in an instant.  If you’d like to see this stunning example of religious art, they host major picnics full of music, dancing, (and so… so much laughter!) when more than 12,000 people from across the nation attend.  This is your best bet to witness the awe inspiring church, that includes richly painted religious scenes and took 3 years to complete by hand.  For more information call 847.223.4300

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