About Us

Enjoy Illinois is the official blog of the Illinois Office of Tourism and is dedicated to keeping you updated with insights about everything from events and festivals to quirky restaurants and fun wineries in the Land of Lincoln. Best of all, we’ll feature guest posts from people just like you that enjoy learning more about our wonderful state.

To learn more about travel in Illinois, visit www.enjoyillinois.com.

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About the Authors
Blog authors are residents of Illinois who volunteer their time to write about their experiences in our great state. The Enjoy Illinois blog is managed on behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism by  Katie Olson of Carolyn Grisko & Associates Inc.

Contact an author: enjoyillinois@gmail.com

Jan Kostner – Deputy Director, Illinois Office of Tourism

Jan KostnerHi, I’m Jan Kostner, deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

My love of travel in Illinois started when I was 8-years-old. Lucky for me, I now have the fortune and opportunity to incorporate travel into my everyday life, as I spend much of my time exploring and getting to know many of the great hidden gems throughout Illinois.  Whether it be a delicious new restaurant, a quaint antique shop, a fun attraction or a breathtaking view, I am constantly surprised by the variety of wonderful spots in our state.

You’ll also come to know that I love music and I hope you will indulge me while I offer some road trip soundtracks every now and then.  An avid reader, I also love to share insights and trends that I come across, especially those pertaining to travel.  It is my extreme pleasure to be sharing this space in the blogosphere with some very interesting, creative and knowledgeable Illinois travelers who can offer tips on anything from family and weekend travel to budget trips and traveling green.  I think that you’ll find everything you’ll need to know right here and, if you don’t, please let us know!

Kelly Aiglon – Chicago

AiglonPhoto2I’m a longtime Chicagoan that’s lucky enough to write about the city and surrounding area for a living. I work as the Chicago Kids editor at DailyCandy.com and, when not covering the latest family-friendly attractions, products, and services, I’m in full-tilt mom mode to two-year-old twin boys. Judging from the smiles on their faces when they lick a Rainbow Cone or watch the El thunder overhead, they love Chicago as much as I do.

Ed Baumgarten – Stewardson

EdProfilePicForIBOTI am a professional photographer, working as full time staff photographer for Mid America Motorworks doing product, automotive and event photography and every other minute of the day for my own business, Ed Baumgarten Photography. I love to explore Illinois, admire its natural beauty and meet its hard working and honest people. I hope to bring to light some of the interesting places and people of downstate Illinois.

Feel free to add me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out more of my photography on Flickr.

Linda Gardner Phillips – Mettawa

LindaSince I was a kid, I’ve always loved the open road. My family traveled between Georgia and Wisconsin every summer and Chicago was a thrilling stop. As an adult I could never decide which coast, state or country suited me best until sinking my roots into the beautiful Midwest. My husband, architect Frederick Phillips, created the Deerpath Farm conservation community, where we live with our kids. I’m a vision and strategy consultant, and have worked on many Web sites, big and small. I love to distill complex ideas into bright snapshots and am fascinated by the forgotten stories and off-the-beaten path places of northeast Illinois and Chicago.

Meet me here and on Twitter at the intersection of history, nature and the built environment. I’m excited to explore Illinois and share it with you.

Kristen Kuchar – Woodridge

I have been living, learning and having fun in Illinois for the past 23 years. I was born and raised in Chicago’s Southside neighborhood and currently live in the suburbs with my husband. I attend school in busy downtown Chicago and some of my interests are writing, travel, cooking, reading, trying out new restaurants and bars with friends and enjoying the outdoors.

I love taking advantage of all the wonderful things Illinois has to offer. With a mix of invigorating outdoor activities, plenty of historic landmarks, unforgettable nightlife and eating experiences and a flare for culture, Illinois is a great place for the adventure seeker. Whether it’s the delicious restaurants in one of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods, kayaking or fishing in one of Illinois’ many scenic rivers or lakes, or shopping down Michigan Avenue, Illinois has something to offer everyone.

Francesca Mazurkiewicz – Chicago

I am a life-long Chicagoan, born and raised in Little Italy.  Thanks to Chicago’s amazing diversity, from a young age I was exposed to different cultures and ways of life and grew up to be a passionate world traveler.  Many countries and five continents later, I am turning my travel focus to home:  Illinois.

I live in Chicaog’s Mt. Greenwood neighborhood, with my husband and my daughter. Now, more than ever, it’s important to me to explore and recognize my roots, so that I may help my daughter do the same.  Follow along with my family and me and let’s discover Illinois together.

Jeremie Rosley – Chicago

I was raised by a hippie and a Frenchie and so, as an adult, I’ve got varied interests. Fortunately, Chicago is diverse enough to never let me down. I’ve done my fair share of traveling, enough that I can say with reasonable conviction: Chicago is an amazing city, especially when you pause to think that it still holds the record for the fastest growing metropolis in U.S. history.

I’m about to get my degree in journalism and given the state of the printed word, I’m fascinated by the cyber-frontier, online reporting and social networking. I took a senior seminar last fall that involved researching much of the state of Illinois, further expanding my local pride.

When I need a break from the city, I’m a big fan of bike rides around the Skokie Lagoon and one-tank getaways to Starved Rock State Park.

Besides that, I’m a geek for history, art, politics, gastronomy, architecture and all things green.

Follow Jeremie on Twitter.

Shannon Sankstone – Chicago

ShannonI have lived in Chicago for most of my life, having grown up in the Uptown and Rogers Park neighborhoods.  I’m now a resident of Edgewater, and am loving every second of lakefront living.

When I was 14, I promised myself that I would travel the world.  I have kept that promise as I’ve been to over 20 countries on four continents, and have lived in England and Japan.  I especially enjoy the tropics and developing countries.  I’m currently pining to return to Peru and India, and trying to convince a friend that we simply must go to Colombia.  Now.

I love being a local traveler.  I am on a mission to discover and blog about all of the wonderful experiences Chicago and Illinois have to offer.  Some of my favorites include scuba diving in Lake Michigan, camping and hiking in the state parks, Chicago’s many museums and galleries and ethnic dining in the city.

Check out Shannon’s personal blog or follow her on Twitter.

Scott Troehler – Springfield

TroehlerPic0908I suppose, legally, I’m allowed to cross state lines but for some reason (with the exception of my high school years), I’ve lived in Illinois practically my whole life.

However, living here hasn’t kept me from wanting to explore the world.  The travel bug got to me while growing up in Mt. Prospect, one of the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Camping trips in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan were part of the routine, with day trips as a kid into the city during summer break on the C&NW to meet mom for lunch then walk around the Loop taking pictures and exploring the world until 5 o’clock rolled around.

After returning to Illinois, I spent a few years in the northern Chicago suburbs, and in 1992, moved to Springfield.  One of my first jobs out of college had me traveling throughout the state, racking up some 50,000 miles the first year.  From Paris to Palestine, Gibson City and even a stop in Time, I think it’s possible I saw more of the state than Dan Walker.

While some of my travels have taken me to the United Kingdom and Asia for my job as a television producer/director, in covering central Illinois from Quincy to Decatur, I’ve discovered  there’s a lot to experience right here in Illinois.  From its people to its places, we’ll look for the interesting stories you probably won’t find in a brochure, and might be worth your time to check out in person.

Follow Scott on Twitter.

Jim Watkins – Chicago

I’m a banker by trade.  I toil away at one of the largest financial institutions in the world, using the left side of my brain to analyze the financial statements and market trends.  It’s fascinating work; I get to hang around great co-workers, meet interesting people from all over the country and satisfy my obsession for the predictive capabilities of mathematic equations.  Yeah, I like my job.

However, my true passions lie in travel and photography.  Ever since my first trip to Paris in 1991, I’ve been addicted to the wonders of discovery both can bring.   Starting out with 11 disposable cameras traipsing around the City of Light, I was amazed at what those little cardboard-plastic boxes could do and the sense of accomplishment they gave me.  I just had to find out what a real camera could do.  Two years later, on another trip to Paris, I brought back another set of images taken from my little Minolta; they hooked me for good.

Since then, I’ve taken many trips in the U.S. and abroad, seen some amazing things and taken thousands of images.  However, I’m still fascinated by the discoveries in my own backyard.  As a lifelong Chicagoan, I’m pleasantly surprised by what I discover here in the great state of Illinois.  With my wife and best friend Tricia, I’m seeking out all fascinating stuff I can find to see and do in this state – in all seasons – and I hope to whisk you away with us on this journey.  This makes the right side of my brain very, very happy!


About the Photographers

David Vernon – Peoria

Dave VernonI am a photographer living in Central Ill. where I work as a freelance commercial and fine art shooter. I am also an instructor at the Peoria Art Guild. I founded and operate the Central Illinois Photoblog and also founded the Peoria Flickr group. In addition, I run eScapes Photo, a business that specializes in selling landscape photos from Illinois and beyond.

In the 10 minutes a day I’m not thinking about all things photographic, My wife and I like to get out and travel, see a little Illinois Shakespeare, have a little chow at One World in Peoria, or just hang our feet in the lake out back.

Follow Dave on Twitter.

Jeremy Wilburn – Springfield

Jeremy Wilburn profileI spend most of my time staring at glowing rectangles.  Through them, I frame the emotions of the people and the world around me.  I have been blessed with a love for life and my beautiful wife.  Together we go on adventures throughout the great state of Illinois, documenting along the way.

My work has been featured nationally both online and in print for various magazines and newspapers, and in publications printed by the University of Illinois (both Springfield and Urbana campuses).  I have also worked with the city of San Diego, the American Cancer Society and with the Smithsonian Institution on a secondary level science book for the National Science Resources Center.

My work in photography and advertising has gained accolades from the Illinois College Press Association winning me two first-place awards.  I also hold a fourth-place award from the Chicago Tribune’s annual Shoot Chicago photography competition.

View some Jeremy’s photos on his Flickr page.

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