I know this is sort of the OPPOSITE of what this forum is all about. . . but who has a favorite, nearby spot to hit when it's time to get OUT of this city?
Michigan's wine country has been a recent favorite of ours. We can get off work, zip around the south end of the lake and be at a B&B in St. Joseph within a few hours. It makes for a nice, relaxing weekend of countrysides and tastings (although you can still see the glow of Chicago from across the lake sometimes).
Or (if we're in the mood for a weekend of beer instead of wine) we occasionally head to Grand Rapids; a surprisingly hip city!
A friend of ours has a place in South Haven so we spend several long weekends a year up there. I'm more into beer than wine and there are several breweries within an hour or so from there in a few different directions. Last summer we went to Founders Brewery (Grand Rapids) and stopped at New Holland Brewery (Holland) and Saugatuck Brewing Co. (Saugatuck) on the way back. Which made for a nice trip. Michigan has many more breweries to choose from if you're into that sort of thing including Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo,The Livery in Benton Harbor and Dark Horse in Marshall just to name a few more.
Have you guys ever been to The Round Barn in Baroda? They are both a winery and a brewery.
I love Glen Arbor, MI for xc skiing in winter and hiking/kayaking in the summer. We always stop in at New Holland for lunch.
Devil's Lake is great for camping and there are a few surprisingly non-cheesy places in the Wisconsin Dells. We had a great get away at Sundara Spa last winter.
Point Beach State Park in Two Rivers is another nice campground not too far in Wisconsin. Nice woodsy sites and you walk over a small hill and you're on the beach on Lake Michigan.
I've heard good things about Devils Lake but haven't made it there yet. Maybe this year.
I spent a fellowship @ Oxbow School of painting in Saugatuck, MI during my college days....so the wife and I like to head up there for a weekend during the summer months. Makes you seem world's away from the city.
We also like Lake Geneva. (Especially now with the lil' one, who loves TimberRidge Resort)
However, I know it's NOT close, but the best bang for our buck is heading up to Boulder Junction, WI, where my parents have a cabin on a lake. Fishing, watersports, the great outdoors, and in the winter....Oh yah!!!! Snowmobiling!!!!!!