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Northern Illinois

Illinois' world famous adolescent dinosaur, an award-winning Japanese Garden and a train lover's paradise: The Road Trip unearths the treasures of Northern Illinois

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You may know Sue the dinosaur in Chicago, but here's a chance to meet her juvenile counterpart, Jane, at Rockford's Burpee Museum of Natural History.  She's the most completely constructed adolescent T-Rex in the world.  Ben digs deep to find out how the leggy beast wound up in Rockford.  Then it's on to Anderson Japanese Gardens, also in Rockford.  Where else can you find the deep peace and tranquility your soul requires?  Truly a glorious refuge from the madness.  And where to stay the night?  How about a hotel that doubles as a veritable museum of antiquities - Jimmy Vitale's Cliffbreakers' on the Rock River.  Sleep in the Sultan Suite (purchased by the Sultan of Morocco at the World Paris Exhibition of 1899) and feed your dreams of grandiosity.  Finally, we head south along I-39 to Rochelle's Railroad Park where rail enthusiasts come 24/7, 365 days a year to watch the choo-choos go by.  East and West bound tracks cross at the park where the nation's freight flies by on 100 trains a day.

Jane the Dinosaur
Burpee Museum of Natural History
737 N Main Street
Rockford, IL 61103

Why the blood-curdling scream?  Is the young T-Rex on the loose?  These and other mysteries are laid bare as Ben and his crew explore one of Illinois' best kept secrets.  Plus a visit to where they clean the bones!  Bring your floss.  And keep away from the water cooler. Click here to read Ben's first hand account of his Jurassic encounter.

Anderson Japanese Gardens
18 Spring Creek Road
Rockford, IL  61107

No matter what is ailing you or weighing heavy on your mind, these gardens offer peace. 
No picnics, no boom boxes, no inline skaters.  Just breathtaking beauty and a feeling of loving respect for nature.  And would you believe this all started as a backyard gardening project of local businessman John Anderson himself?  Now it's 14 acres.  How will this magical place affect you? Read more in Ben's Blog

Cliffbreakers River Suites Hotel and Museum
700 West Riverside Boulevard
Rockford, IL 61103

Again, an utterly surprising destination for the whole family.  Who knew a Comfort Inn would also be housing a world class collection of antiques and architectural artifacts from the The Astor Mansion, Vanderbilt Estate, Claridge Hotel in Paris, Granada Theatre and many more.  Owner Jimmy Vitale has a story for every single piece. 
Read more in Ben's Blog

Rochelle Railroad Park
124 N. Ninth Street
Rochelle, IL

It's another "build it and they will come" story.  Train lovers have been frequenting this strategic "diamond" of crossing tracks for years, so local business and government decided to make them more comfortable with a covered gazebo-like structure and a parking lot.  Now they're coming in greater numbers than ever, staying the night and shopping too.  It's quite a phenomenon.  We got to meet some hobos too, including "Sunrise" who serenaded us with the "Hobo's Lullaby."
Read more in Ben's Blog

Anderson Creek

Jane the Dinosaur

Cliffbreakers Hotel

Rochelle Railroad Park

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