ResourcesGrizzly Jack's Grand Bear Lodge& Indoor Water Park(866) 399-FUNN (3866)
Information on state parks
Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge& Indoor Water Park in Utica has tried to bring some Wisconsin Dells to Illinois. The north woodsy-looking resort offers entertainment for kids of many ages: an indoor water park, an arcade, miniature golf and an indoor amusement park–set to open in late February.
On busy weekends, the lodge staff leads kids’ crafts and other activities. The water park has separate slides and splashing areas for toddlers. Older kids can enjoy the four-story tube slide that flashes your choice of friendly or scary images at you as you zip through the mist to the pool below.
The rooms were comfortable, and the food at the full-service restaurant was good (adult entrees cost $15 to $20). Room rates range from $139 to $389. Two-story villas range from $259 to $429.
Starved Rock State Park is about a mile from Grand Bear. (There is a wonderful old lodge there, which I love-—but I think it might be better for the adults only weekend.)
Visit the nature center before you hike through the 2,630 acres of forests with 18 canyons and waterfalls—or icefalls, as they become in the cold winter months. Dress warmly and bring cross country skis (they can be rented on weekends through March at nearby Matthiessen State Park) or snow shoes if there is enough snow on the ground. And look up. Eagles soar over the park.
Matthiessen State Park is breathtaking—both for the views and the injuries you might sustain if you’re not careful on the hundreds of wooden stairs that line the paths. Neither park is stroller friendly. Plan to carry small children.
Paige Fumo Fox