Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hometown Tourist Series: Allerton Park and Gardens

A few years ago the state of Illinois decided to pick out the “7 Wonders of Illinois” and Allerton was featured as one of those places.  The entire area is kept up by and belongs to the University of Illinois, which is located about a half hour east.  Allerton is a mansion, lanscaped gardens, and forest preserve all rolled into one, which makes it a great place to go see beauty, both natural and manmade.

Most of the time we go to Allerton to hike on the trails that wind through the forests surrounding the mansion.  The trails generally follow the nearby river and offer some scenic views and a feeling of isolation (in a good way).

Allerton also has a rather impressive array of statues.  There are a few mermaid statues around the mansion and one of a centaur just a little ways in the forest.  Opposite of the mermaids and centaur side of the mansion is a large collection of Fu Dogs (Chinese lions) that are also really cool to see.  There are also some impeccably manicured gardens which include varieties of roses and hedges.  Finally there is another statue called the Sun Singer.  It is set off by itself about half a miles walk from the rest of the complex.  The first few times we visited Allerton I always wanted to visit it to see the statue in person, but we always took the long way around and never made it there.  Finally during our last visit we took the shorter route to the statue and were able to snap some pictures of it.

There is even more to Allerton that we haven’t explored yet.  On the other side of the river there are even more hiking paths with areas such as a demonstration prairie and a music barn.  Normally this area should be accesible by a road within the park, except that the road has been closed since we have been visiting Allerton.  However, with how wonderful and beautiful the rest of the grounds are, we can’t wait to go see those areas too!

I think Allerton is just one of many places that shows that even though we are in a place that many might consider boring (Champaign Urbana?  Isn’t that just a lot of corn? ) that if you spend a little time and research what is around you, you can find a whole bunch of other things to do.  It may not have the persistent natural beauty of Colorado Springs or Salt Lake City, but there are plenty of beautiful little outcroppings that have plenty of wide open spaces to explore.

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