Eckert’s Belleville Country Store and Farms ~ Belleville, Illinois

A common place that many St. Louisans love to visit is Eckert’s farm. It is always particularly popular among those who like to pick fresh apples, peaches, or strawberries, as well as pumpkins in the fall. Located about half an hour outside of the city, they’ve established quite a complex at their Belleville location.

When we visited the Belleville Country Store, we went on a Saturday evening. We had no intent of picking any apples as I’m the only one who eats fruit in our family. We first visited the store area which is just wonderful. It is like a giant farmers market. They have fresh baked goods, deli meats and cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, and also several house made goods such as their famous apple butter and several types of dips and salsas. What’s really nice is that they have several samples out to taste to know if you want to purchase their dips.

After buying some salsa as a gift for my dad, we made our way over to the restaurant. It was quite busy, but after a short wait we were shown to our table. It’s fun because the tables are covered in white paper and you can color with crayons while you wait. They also start you off with some biscuits served with their apple butter.

We decided to start off with an appetizer of cheese curds, and I’m so glad that we did as they were the highlight of our meal. They had a slight kick to them. I’m not sure what the exact seasoning was, but it made them some of the best cheese curds I’ve ever had. Just look at that cheesy goodness inside!

I had read online that Eckert’s had some amazing chicken and dumplings. I was envisioning something along the chicken and dumplings you receive at Cracker Barrel restaurants, but it turned out to just be chicken dumpling soup. Andrew decided to go with a St. Louis special and ordered the toasted ravioli.

While we both agreed that our “main courses” were good, they weren’t anything that special either. However we would most definitely visit again just to have those cheese curds!

It should be noted that Eckert’s is also known for their family style meals. That seemed like way more food than we would want for two people, but the options did sound delicious!

Eckert’s also has their own frozen custard stand which we had planned to try for dessert, but we were both really full from our dinners, so we decided to do without dessert.

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John Deere Pavilion~ Moline, IL

As mentioned in a previous post, our friend Ryan was completing his vicarage in East Moline, IL. Moline, IL is where John Deere headquarters is located, so it only made sense to visit the John Deere Pavilion once before leaving the area. The Pavilion is located near the river in downtown Moline and offers a building that houses a visitor center/museum and also a building that houses a gift shop with just about anything you can imagine in a John Deere theme.

The visitor center/museum is very hands on, which makes it a great place for people like me to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I also love museums that are filled with information to read, but I love a hands on experience much more!

Luckily the day we visited, there were only a few other families there so we didn’t have to wait too long to have a turn sitting in any of the various tractors and didn’t feel like we were taking time away from kids by having a turn.

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I tried out the view from one of the bigger tractors and also a machine that helps cut down timber. Pretty decent views!

I also experimented with the riding lawnmower and also the Gator. Gators were always used at the camp that I grew up attending, so it was a big deal for me to finally get to sit in one!

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While all the big equipment was pretty neat, my favorite probably had to be the lawnmower equivalent to a Roomba. How cool is this thing? Andrew said he’d miss mowing the lawn on his own, but I think this little guy is pretty awesome!

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Springfield in a Day Part 3

Our final part of the morning in Springfield was spent at the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Lincoln’s Tomb. The Presidential Museum was honestly one of the best museums I’ve been to in a very long time.  It is split into two main sections: Lincoln’s early life and The Presidential Years.  The Early life section focuses on Lincoln’s boyhood, his time as a shopkeeper, and his years as a lawyer.  It discussed his romances and his family as well as his failed run for senator.

The Presidential Years section was what really impressed me.  I didn’t take as many pictures because I was really just soaking in the atmosphere and exhibits that brought his time as president to life.  You know you’ve found a good museum when you feel as though you should be quiet and respectful of his body lying in state and then remind yourself that’s it’s not real!

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Entering the White House

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That fateful night

After the museum we had a quick lunch back at Cracker Barrel and then headed up to the north side of town to visit Lincoln’s Tomb. Many people don’t realize it, but you can actually go inside the Tomb, not just see the outside.  When you go inside it is filled with plaques containing famous quotes from Lincoln and you can see his tombstone as well as those of his immediate family. It was a very somber place to visit and I’m glad I could pay respect to one of America’s greatest leaders.

Springfield in a Day Part 2

Following our visit to Lincoln’s home, we traveled a few blocks over to the Old Capitol Building. This is where Lincoln spent much of his working time prior to being elected President. This is also where his body lay in state after his assassination.  It was surreal to be in the place where such a beloved President lay for all of the adoring citizens came to pay their respects.  The room was entirely cleared out during this time aside from the portrait of George Washington which still stands to this day.

Just outside the Old Capitol Building is the location of Lincoln’s Law Offices.  They are currently being remolded, but we peeked in the windows.  They also have a plaque detailing his time spent there.  They also have a few statues outside of the Lincoln family, which Andrew was more than happy to pose with.

Springfield in a Day Part 1

Back before Thanksgiving, Andrew and I thought we would finally visit Springfield, IL.  We live so close and yet never bother to go!  It seemed like a perfect time.  We’d be on our way up north to see my family for a week for Thanksgiving.  We always pass through so we figured we would drive that far Friday night, see the sites on Saturday morning, and then keep going the rest of the way! Little did we know that things wouldn’t quite go as planned.  An early winter storm had it in for us!

On Friday night we made it to Springfield as planned.  We spent the night at the Baymont located just south of town.  Very inexpensive but they had awesome service and a really nice pool area, and it was right next to Cracker Barrel! Yum!  That night we hung out at the hotel and just enjoyed some time relaxing.  We knew a winter storm was moving in, but it was forecast to last the morning, so we figured by the time we left town things would be clear.

I’ll split this post into 3 parts just because there’s so much to say about just the few things we saw!  Part 1 will cover Lincoln’s Home. Part 2 The Old Capitol and Law Offices and Part 3 The Lincoln Presidential Museum and Lincoln’s Tomb.

We started our Saturday morning with a visit to Lincoln’s Home.  This is the house that his family lived in while in Springfield.  Many of the artifacts in the house belonged to the Lincoln family.  Lincoln’s home is maintained by the National Parks System.  They give guided tours every twenty minutes (if I remember correctly.)

When we arrived at the site shortly after it’s opening, it was somewhat rainy. By the time we entered the building where our tour would begin, we were experiencing our first snow of the season!  Needless to say, we seemed to be the only people brave enough to take the tour in this weather.  At least most of it was indoors.  They do have a few city blocks made up of buildings that were nearly all around while Lincoln lived in the area.  It was pretty neat! I only wish that the weather had been nicer so that I would have felt like exploring down the streets, but wet snow is not conducive to that!