Close but not too close to big-city hubbub and high-rises of Chicago, Kankakee County offers a refreshing down-to-earth mood: golf, hiking, kayaking, biking, delicious wine bar visits and more. The fun is amplified by the launch of the state’s Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, shining a spotlight on world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s profound Kankakee connection.
It was the turn of the 20th century when a young Wright designed Kankakee’s B. Harley Bradley House and the adjacent Warren Hickox House, the very first examples of Wright’s revolutionary Prairie Style: low-slung, landscape-hugging structures accented by Wright’s furniture designs; expanses of lustrous, quarter-sawn oak woodwork; and his own beautiful art glass windows.
Wright’s mantra, ‘form and function are one’, is evident throughout the Kankakee campus as the architect nestled the structure quietly on the banks of the Kankakee River. From almost every room in this 12,000-sq. foot masterpiece, guests can enjoy a breathtaking view and settle in to the history of the home.
When you’ve concluded your guided tour, grab your picnic basket and embark on an hour-long cruise in an electric boat to take in the beauty of Kankakee County by water—including another Wright-designed house right next door to the Bradley House.
Enthusiasts across the globe can catch a glimpse of Wright’s handiwork in An American Home, a documentary on the Bradley House. The film features segments on Gaines and Sharon Hall, the Kankakee couple who accepted the challenge of restoring the Bradley House to Wright’s standards after a fire and decades as a popular eatery. This 60-minute documentary includes re-enactments of how life was lived in the house when it was new.
The 2017 celebration of the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth (June 8, 1867) was just the beginning of the growing interest in Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright fans can now enjoy the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, 13 sites open to the public spanning across the state that includes a stop in Kankakee’s Riverview Historic District.
Tourists can find the Bradley House on the roughly 240-mile trek from Chicago to Springfield and a self-guided itinerary that rounds out your getaway with stops at Illinois Made Maker BrickStone Brewery and Wright-inspired murals downtown.
Celebrations take an even more flavorful turn with Dine on the Prairie, a dinner series at Locavore Farm in the countryside near Kankakee. Guests enjoy neighborhood-sourced haute cuisine served outdoors amid the boundless prairie vistas that inspired Wright.
Laughter, camaraderie and great meals shared at the farm’s purpose-built, 100-foot cedar table spark a “growth of community through local food,” according to their mission. That’s something Locavore has sought from the beginning, part of its owners’ search for “the simplicity and joy of seeing the sunrise and set, gathering with friends face-to-face (over) real food from the earth and wine that gladdens human hearts.”
These dinners, scheduled monthly between June and September, will let Wright fans savor a delicious, locally sourced meal and Locavore Farm’s unique, homey ambience. Where else would the summer dusk be set aglow by suspended canning jars full of glimmering lightning bugs?
Complementing the full schedule of Frank Lloyd Wright fun, Kankakee County offers endless recreation options to keep visitors entertained throughout their time in the area. Plan to stay for a few days; there’s plenty of fun to be had.
On the Surface: The Kankakee River flows between shaded, sometimes rocky banks—a perfect environment for canoeing, kayaking and wading. Or, try drift-boat fishing for small mouth and rock bass, sauger, northern pike and other hard-fighting game fish either on your own or guided by one of several Kankakee County outfitters.
Deep Dive: To go a little deeper, Haigh Scuba Diving Quarry offers instruction, equipment rentals and tank-fills to explore the county’s spring-fed quarry lakes. Meet large schools of freshwater fish and explore a wrecked cabin cruiser and several other underwater high—or low—points.
On Two Legs: There’s nothing like a walking pace for getting the lay of the land, and Kankakee River State Park, Kankakee Valley Forest Preserve, Perry Farm Park and Kankakee Sands Ecoregion offer miles of trails alive with songbirds and the rustle of woodland creatures bustling in the underbrush.
On Two Wheels: To cover even more of Kankakee County’s sparkling outdoors, paved bike paths or natural trails at venues like Kankakee River State Park, Perry Farm Park Trail and Riverfront Trailways of Kankakee County make for perfect pedaling. Don’t have a bike? Not to worry, you can rent one here.
Rugged Relaxing: Campfire fans enjoy circling the wagons at Kankakee River State Park, 4,000 forested acres spanning the Kankakee River that offer options for hiking, fishing, hunting and camping retreats to the natural world.
Refined Revelry: For those who like their outdoor fun on gracefully manicured grounds, Kankakee County offers plentiful links opportunities, including Aspen Ridge Golf Course, High Point Golf Club, Kankakee Elks Country Club, Kankakee Community College Golf Course, Manteno Golf Club, Minne Monesse Golf Course, Oak Springs Golf Course and Shamrock Golf Club. Click here for a more info.
Art in a Glass: Palate pleasing concoctions are a Kankakee County specialty. Flight 102 offers great wines from around the world and a selection of creative plates; Off the Vine Winery tantalizes with wines, brews, and a selection of meats and cheeses; and Grapes & Hops explores an ever-evolving selection of boutique-quality wines and brews from around the state of Illinois.
Art Outdoors: With Frank Lloyd Wright’s art glass window creations at the B. Harley Bradley House as guiding inspiration, local artists bring Kankakee public spaces to life with their own renditions of the groundbreaking architect’s decorative vision. Spend your afternoon ‘Finding Frank’ in downtown Kankakee and check out these murals on a walking tour.
Whether the goal is revolutionary architecture, outdoor fun or tasty tasting experiences, Kankakee County is doing it Wright.Plan your next getaway to Kankakee County.