FARM TO FARM TABLE
Locavore brings the table to the farm in peaceful rural Kankakee County.
Eager to check out endless bike trails? Searching for a kayaking destination that promises the undisturbed company of Mother Nature? Well, your search ends with Kankakee County! Just an hour(ish) drive south from downtown Chicago, you can trade in the brick buildings and bustling city life for a weekend of serenity and solace in the great open outdoors of Kankakee.
“People who come from Chicago to visit Kankakee are really surprised by how open it is out here, with it not being that far from [Chicago]. And even when you’re in downtown Kankakee, all you have to do is take a 5 minute bike ride and you’re riding along the river into wide open spaces. It’s really beautiful.” -Marty Linneman, Manager of Tern of the Wheel bicycle shop
Get your weekend rolling (literally) with the Slow Roll bike ride that kicks off Kankakee’s Sunset Stroll, a quaint but lively street festival filled with friendly locals, food trucks, and live music. With a regular Friday night concert series in Downtown Kankakee, you can enjoy all the festival perks but without having to squeeze your way through a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.
The Slow Roll is led by welcoming locals who are proud and eager to show off parts of their town. Depending on the route they take you on, you’ll get a taste of everything Kankakee has to offer by bike. Smooth river trails, rustic gravel paths, and clearly marked green bicycle lanes weaving through city streets mean you never have to worry about finding your way as you explore Kankakee by bicycle.
After working up an appetite from the community bike ride, don’t forget to reward yourself with some good eats from Martinez Tacos or Mac’s BBQ food trucks at the Sunset Stroll. Oh, and trust us, you’ll want to save room for dessert because Rebel Ice Cream has unique, homemade flavors you will be thinking about for days, we promise!
Settle in for a good nights’ sleep at the Holiday Inn Express, a newer hotel located just minutes from downtown Kankakee. You’ll need your energy for the endless bike trails you’ll want to explore the next day.
Before you embark on your day of adventure, grab a fresh breakfast at the Kankakee Farmers Market, held every Saturday morning from May through October. While sipping on an iced coffee from LoveALatte, awaken your senses with the smell of freshly baked bread from Good Morning Bakery. If sweets are more your style, try the latest “Gourmet Dozen” from the Mini-Doughnut Shoppe. And if you see someone offering to draw you as a vegetable…do it! Because…why not?
While you’re there, be on the lookout for Kankakee’s downtown murals. Get an Instagram-worthy shot of yourself in front of a local favorite, the interactive living room.
Stock up on a few snacks before you set off to explore the scenic trails by bike alongside the Kankakee River. The Kankakee River Trail is a 10.5 mile point-to-point route that’ll have you racking up 20+ miles if you choose. Stray a little off the beaten path to the Kankakee River Trading Post to scope out for a future fishing trip or to simply cool off from the hot summer sun.
“The Kankakee bike trails are well kept and clearly marked. Whether you’re a casual cyclist or an avid one, you can enjoy the scenic bicycle paths and fresh air without worrying about the crowds you experience in the city.” -Rachael Johnson, outdoor adventurer
A little-known and overlooked spot on your ride back into town is the Indian Caves, a captivating nature preserve area nestled within Perry Farm Park. (You can easily ride right past it if you don’t know it’s there!) If you’ve got the time and the correct footwear (hint: sturdy, non-slip sandals or water shoes), venture into the cave openings to explore what lies beyond.
After a day of exploring you’re bound to have worked up an appetite (and thirst)! Quench it by stopping at the Brickstone Brewery for some local brews and eats. Their bruschetta and burrata plate is a sure-fire hit, but their appetizer menu has something for all palate varieties.
Head back to the hotel to freshen up then get ready to sink some holes at Shamrock Golf Course, an 18-hole course open to the public. This is a great spot for beginners and experts alike.
While we’re not regular golfers, we found ourselves completely at ease in this laid-back ambiance, set next to the river. For $64, we had full access to the course, a full set of golf clubs for each of us, and a golf cart to drive around in. Balls and tees were a tad extra, so if you’ve already got some, don’t forget to bring ‘em!
Wrap up your day at the Hoppy Pig, a spot recommended to us by not one, not two, but three Kankakee locals! Known for their expansive draft list and mac & cheese, we knew we had to check it out. There’s plenty of options for vegetarians, too! We found the roasted veggie tacos really hit the spot.
Next door to the Hoppy Pig is their sister location, The Barrel Room. If you don’t want the night to end just yet, hop on over there (pun intended) to scope out this vintage industrial warehouse that has been turned into a unique setting as a cocktail lounge, liquor store, and tasting room.
There is no better place to start your last day than at Berry and Butter, where their homemade crepes & signature cinnamon French toast will get your taste buds dancing with delight.
If you’d rather work up to an appetite first, then enjoy a quiet morning bike ride around Perry Farm. There is a 2.5 mile paved loop where you can breathe in the fresh morning air, get your blood flowing, and if you’re lucky, see some deer grazing near the path.
No weekend in Kankakee is truly complete without indulging in some river sports on the Kankakee River. So, head on over to Reed’s Canoes Rental for your choice of paddle. They make kayaking (or canoeing) easy and straightforward with 3 trips to choose from, depending on how long you want to be on the river.
Pro tip: Book a reservation at Reed’s ahead of time to guarantee an afternoon of paddling.
Reed’s provides you with a ride to the drop-off spot, where your kayak or canoe will be waiting for you. This paddle down the Kankakee River is nothing but serene. Bask in those moments where you feel the river is your private playground. With the gentle current and breeze pushing you along, you can turn your paddle into a lazy river ride if you wish.
After a 6-mile journey down the river, you’ll arrive at Canoe Landing, where the helpful team at Reed’s Canoe Rentals will scoop up you and your boat and drive you back to your car. (What service!) However, we suggest beaching the kayaks and sauntering up to Ryan’s Pier for lunch before finishing your river escapade. Order a hearty burger or sandwich and an ice cold beer to refuel before handing in your rentals.
Have room for a post-paddle dessert? Finish your Kankakee weekend adventure with an old-fashioned root beer float from Jaenicke’s. This quaint, retro walk-up will bring you back to a time of car hops and Cadillacs while you reflect on your outdoor adventure in Kankakee County. The perfectly sweet ending to a spectacular weekend!
“I really enjoyed the bike trails here and how friendly the people are. It’s amazing how much fun you can have just an hour away from home. I’ll be back!” -Jeremy Punsiriruk, outdoor enthusiast