By Randy McDaniels, President
Spending time with your closest friends and family are moments to be cherished.
To do just that, months ago my wife, Kendra, and I (and another couple) planned a St. Patrick’s Day weekend getaway. We had so much fun at McHenry’s Shamrock the Fox (River) last year that we decided this was the year to finally take in the world-famous Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade. In the world of #cancelled, our plans were obviously derailed. After talking to our friends, Amy and Greg (famously known as Sparky), we decided to do a staycation before the virus hit the Peoria area. (Obviously, we’re now in hunker down mode out of respect of CDC warnings and our fellow human beings – that means you!)
Staycation Stage I: Weekend Planning at Maquet’s Railhouse in Pekin
If you need to throw together an itinerary, what better place to start than in your own hometown? If you haven’t experienced the Railhouse in good ole Pekin, Illinois, you have been missing out on some of the best food, drink and atmosphere that can be found just off the tracks. Dustin Maquet outdid himself by nearly doubling the size of this restored gem of a building, while adding Italian pizza ovens and an equally delicious seating area. I had the killer Juicy Lucy Burger, my wife had a tasty chicken wrap, and Greg and Amy ordered individual pizzas. We tried to make this a private pow-wow for four, but that didn’t work so well. We ran into so many friends that night we adjourned back to our house to map out the rest of the weekend.
Staycation Stage II: Saturday Lunch at Cyd’s in the Park
I had heard that Cyd’s relocated from Junction City Shopping Center to the old (now closed) Donovan Golf Course across the street. As the lead tour guide for the day, I certainly scored some points on this choice. Wow. Cyd’s in the Park gives the Peoria area a unique + delicious food experience. This modern day, multi-option gourmet storefront meets full-service restaurant + bar and caters to the Central Illinois community with fast, fresh food.
Their Star Bar is a lovely way to spend some time with a delicious beer, crafted cocktail, and bar snacks. (Our group did partake in all three, including some killer sunrise tomato veggie and chip dip.) Their Beer Garden invites you to settle in under the pine trees in the park. It’s a place meant for relaxing gatherings and casual fun, perfect for savoring a cold one after enjoying the open spaces and walking and biking trails at Donovan Park. Since it was a cold day, we simply dined inside and watched as they prepared and executed a private party outside. Note: The shrimp corn chowder soup was amazing as was the mushroom, pine nut and goat cheese quiche that I had.
Staycation Stage III: Gone Axe Throwing
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of trying axe throwing for the very first time in Des Moines during the Iowa Tourism Conference. As most people know, I am pretty good at throwing things. Sometimes in celebration and sometimes in frustration (sorry to my golf clubs!), but I try to be safe when doing so. Gone Axe Throwing in downtown Peoria didn’t disappoint. Albeit a much more structured affair than I expected, they place you into mixed teams. This basically forces social interaction which one would think is questionable when people are trying to hit targets a few feet away with an axe. But it works, and it’s fun too! They have beer, wine and mixed drinks handy… so that was nice. However, we mainly focused on throwing and competing. Check out the video where my wife, Kendra, gleefully beats me down. Both teams won and lost. A good time was had by all. $30 per person for 1.5 hours. Another great Peoria-value.
Staycation Stage IV: Taking the Day to New Heights
I am talking Peoria Heights. There really is no more efficient way to find unbelievable food, drink and a variety of eclectic atmospheres than the dining district of Peoria Heights, Illinois. We started out at The Publik House. (One of the last bars designed by the late Mike “Sully” Sullivan.)
Martinis and beer and a little whiskey was consumed along with blue cheese and bacon fries that were almost sinfully delicious. After a while, we trotted down the street to W.E. Sullivans for a bit of Irish fare. (Afterall, we were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day early!) Always up for trying new things, we sampled the Irish Corn Beef Rolls. Definition: corned beef encased in an egg roll wrapper with cabbage and herbed cream cheese, then fried until golden brown and garnished with Thai peanut sauce. Yes, Thai. Bam! We texted in some more friends and finished off a wonderful evening.
Staycation Stage V: Sunday Reflection
The four of us reflected the next day that this was a 1.5-day Staycation that visitors from far and wide would love. Sometimes you have got to keep it simple. The Peoria area is just that. Simple and affordable but not without experiences that last a lifetime.
None of us will ever forget March 2020, and we all pray the spread of COVID-19 will be stopped in its tracks. Here’s to better days of spending time together at fairs, fund raisers, ballgames and the like. Once the CDC O.K.s us all to start mingling again, please get out and visit our clients in the travel and tourism industry. In the meantime, we truly appreciate the hard work of our government and the many healthcare workers who are trying to quell this calamity (including our many healthcare clients). Remember that marketing even in toughest times is still a good investment. People are going to be taking in media messages now… more than perhaps any time in our history.
Have faith. Be safe.