Ideas: Day Trip
Story: Bridget Broihahn
Photos: Bridget Broihahn
Welcome to our first Day Trip around Central Illinois! We decided we needed to dust ourselves off and get out into the fresh air, enjoy some ice cream and gaze at the stars!
Our first stop is the Mansfield General Store. Get on Interstate-74. From Champaign, you would head west. Believe it or not, it’s only about 20 minutes to get to this wonderful, old-fashioned store and cafe. Take Exit 166, and turn left toward Mansfield. Go south into town, turn right onto Route 150 and turn left on Washington Street, and then the next left, again to State Street. Turn right and stop at 107 N. Jefferson St., to visit this historic general store serving the community since 1895.
Mansfield General Store offers groceries, and incidentals. However, on our Day Trip, we’re going to eat one of their delicious sandwiches — burgers, deli sandwiches, chicken strips and many more — and maybe their wonderful breadsticks or famous french fries served up right in the Shivers and Jitters Historic Cafe that’s part of the store. They also feature 24 and more flavors of soft-serve ice cream, coffee and homemade baked goods by owner Sue Thomas.
Sue and Terry Thomas bought the store 36 years ago. “We have a little bit of everything,” Sue Thomas said. “We’re like a big-box store.
It’s just begun! Let’s get back on the road!
Next stop is the Museum of the Grand Prairie and Mabery Gelvin Gardens.
If you’ve never been to this wonderful place, you need to get out there soon. There’s something for everybody. It’s interactive and the kids can play to their hearts’ content in the museum, visit the authentic one-room schoolhouse, stroll in the gardens, run in the grass, see the koi, view the waterfall and cross the beautiful red bridge.
And get this: it’s FREE!!
Plus there’s a wonderful gift shop with excellent gifts and old-fashioned candy treats, like toffee, rock candy and candy sticks. From I-74, get off on Exit 172, going north on Route 47. You will see a sign telling you to get off at Exit 174, but trust me, get off at Exit 172. It takes you to the back of the park, where the museum is located. You will see the museum on the right.
This museum is now featuring “The Grand Prairie Story” and a special exhibit titled, “Hidden Underfoot: Historical Archaeology in Illinois,” plus the regular features like Lincoln, Native Americans, early Champaign County history, and cool interactive features like the wigwam, the mill, the canoe, Lincoln’s carriage, a camp scene from the Civil War, an old church scene and costumes to play dress up.
If that’s not enough, you can go to Lake of the Woods, which the museum is part of, and hike, climb the bell tower, fish in the lake and play a round of golf at one of the most beautiful courses in Illinois. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, go to museumofthegrandprairie.org or call 217-586-3360.
End the evening with the stars
Now, let’s go to a 7 or 9 p.m. show at William M. Staerkel Planetarium at 2400 W. Bradley Ave., Parkland College in Champaign. At Home in Central Illinois magazine staff saw “Dawn of the Space Age,” which took us from the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, to the magnificent lunar landings and privately operated space flights, an accurate historic reconstruction of man’s first steps into space. It was breathtaking, to say the least, to witness the men and women who took part on these death-defying endeavors into space. It made us appreciate their drive, passion and perseverance to explore.
Other shows that are playing right now are: “Flight Adventures” — discover the science of flight as a bird, kite, plane and model and see the plans NASA has for safer flight in the future; “Spring Prairie Skies” — take a live-narrated tour of the wonders of that evening’s sky, accompanied by some of the legendary stories of the ancient sky, and find out what constellations and planets are visible from your backyard. This show is updated seasonally and is intended for all ages. Tickets for all shows are $6 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and children under 12. All tickets are sold at the door. They have a great site, too, where you can look at star charts and figure out a little star adventure on your own at www2.parkland.edu/planetarium.
We hope you enjoyed our first Day Trip! Please let me know what you thought of the trip and what discoveries you made along the way.