Los Angeles Times

Hit the road

Don't get us wrong: We love a Chicago summer. But in the sticky August heat, our love affair starts to falter. That's when we know it's time for a break. If you're feeling the heat these days too, consider one of these easy, Chicago-adjacent trips. After a little time on the open road, you'll be refreshed and ready to soak up the last weeks of summer back in the city.

Sip and swirl in Fennville, Mich.
Michigan's lake shore is quickly gaining a rep as the Midwest's answer to Napa Valley. The area around this little burg with a population of about 1,500 is the epicenter of the state's wine revolution, and eating and drinking options abound.

• Get there: I-90 east to I-94 east to I-196 north to M-89. Travel time: two hours, 30 minutes.
• Eat: Housed in an old barn, Crane's Pie Pantry (6054 124th Ave. 269-561-2297) offers country cooking with an emphasis on desserts.
• Stay: A jacuzzi suite at Kingsley House (626 W. Main St. 866-561-6425) is a romantic spot to sample the day's vino purchases.
• Don't miss: Get the full wine experience at Fenn Valley Winery (6130 122nd Ave. 800-432-6265). Besides dozens of reds, whites and specialty sips, the vineyard hosts regular music and dining events.

Sample Wisconsin's finest in Monroe, Wis.
When most Illinoisans reflect on our neighbor to the north, they think beer and cheese--and Monroe has plenty of both. This quintessential Wisconsin town is home to multiple cheese factories as well as the Joseph Huber Brewery (1208 W. 14th St. 608-325-3191), home of the formerly Chicago-produced Berghoff beer line. Guided tours available.

• Get there: I-90 west to US-20 west to a series of county roads. Travel time: two hours, 30 minutes.
• Eat: Baumgartner's Cheese Store and Tavern (1023 16th Ave. 608-325-6157) serves local beers alongside soups and hot sandwiches.
• Stay: Earth Rider Cycling (929 Exchange St. 608-897-8300) in nearby Brodhead, Wis., houses a five-room hotel and easy access to the area's multiple bicycle trails. You can rent bikes and gear up at the attached bike shop.
• Don't miss: Learn more than you need to know about Wisconsin's most famous export at the Historic Cheesemaking Center (2108 7th Ave. 608-325-4636).

Cultivate your artistic side in Spring Green, Wis.
This artsy enclave is home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin estate (5607 Cty. Rd. C. 877-588-7900), the Shakespeare-slanted American Players Theatre (5950 Golf Course Rd. 608-588-7085) and numerous downtown galleries.

• Get there: I-90 west to US-14 west. Travel time: three hours.Eat: The chili at The General Store (137 S. Albany St. 608-588-7070) is legendary, and the live music lineup is eclectically engaging.
• Stay: Lodging at The House on the Rock Inn (3951 State Rd. 23. 888-935-3960) in nearby Dodgeville comes with easy access to the hotel's namesake, one of the Midwest's oddest collections of kitsch.
• Don't miss: The massive scrap metal sculptures at Dr. Evermor's Forevertron, just up Hwy. 12 outside of Sauk City, must be seen to be believed.

Commune with nature in Linton, Ind.
Most people don't think of scenic beauty when they think of Indiana, but a trip to the 400 acres of fishing, camping and hiking grounds of Shakamak State Park (6265 W. St. Rd. 48. 812-665-2158), just north of Linton, should convince any outdoors aficionado.

• Get there: I-90 east to I-65 south to I-465 south to I-70 west to IN-59 south. Travel time: four hours, 15 minutes
• Eat: For all of Chicago's cosmopolitanism, the city lacks a restaurant serving Amish and Mennonite cuisine. You'll have to stop in at Stoll's Country Inn (345 Hwy. 54 West. 812-847-2477) for that.
• Stay: Shakamak offers cabins and campsites for rent. Just be sure to make reservations.
• Don't miss: If the Shakamak scene is too intimate for you, press on west to the 9,000 acres of Greene-Sullivan State Forest (2551 S. State Road 159. 812- 648-2810) or one of the many other protected woodlands in the vicinity.

Brush up on history in Nauvoo, Ill.
Illinois lays claim to one of the world's first Mormon settlements, home to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Daily shows of old-fashioned entertainment include historic reenactments and covered wagon rides.

• Get there: I-55 south to I-80 west to I-74 east to US-34 west to US-61 south. Travel time: four hours, 30 minutes.
• Eat: Family dining is the name of the game in Nauvoo. Hit Grandpa John's Cafe (1255 Mulholland St. 217-453-2310) for basic sandwiches, salads and soups.
• Stay: The 150-year-old Hotel Nauvoo (1290 Mulholland St. 217-453-2211) is a tradition rich as the town surrounding it.
• Don't miss: Don't let the religious history fool you--Nauvoo knows how to party. Start with a trip to the oldest vineyards in Illinois, Baxter's Vineyards and Winery (210 E. Parley St. 800-854-1396).

Ira Brooker is a Metromix special contributor. metromix@tribune.com

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