OLLI Travel Opportunities 2010-Present

Ravinia Festival – with Northwestern and Bradley OLLI groups – August 10, 2017

OLLI at Illinois joined the Northwestern University and Bradley University OLLIs for a “Night to Remember” at Ravinia Festival. The three OLLIs enjoyed dinner under a tent and then pavilion seats for an “All-Russian Evening” – Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 and Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10. Krzysztof Urbanski, Conductor. Garrick Ohlsson, Piano. There was an informative pre-concert lecture by Stephen Alltop, Music Director and Conductor of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra and Professor of Conducting and Ensembles at Northwestern University. A total of 170 participants – including 49 from OLLI at Illinois – mingled and shared stories, leaving with gift bags of souvenirs from each OLLI and memories of a lovely experience.

Spurlock Museum Tours – July 26 and August 17, 2017

These guided tours for 20 OLLI members per date featured the museum’s nine permanent exhibits, each of them providing a contemporary, thematic exploration of peoples from around the world throughout history.
The tours provided an in-depth look at how history is documented and interpreted.

Broadway in Chicago – Something Rotten! – July 19, 2017

Welcome to the Renaissance! Set in the 90s – the 1590s, that is – this hilarious Broadway smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write their own hit play at a time when their contemporary, William Shakespeare, is getting all of the attention and writing all of the hits. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater involves singing, dancing, and acting (at the same time!), Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical. A group of 49 OLLI travelers had the opportunity to explore Chicago before attending the performance.

Chicago Botanic Garden – May 31, 2017

This trip offered a tour of one of Illinois’ most scenic and historic sites – the Chicago Botanic Garden, which opened more than 40 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers. A group of 55 OLLI members had the opportunity to explore the gardens’ 385 acres and participate in planned activities, including the narrated Grand Tram Tour of the Garden grounds, the Butterflies and Blooms Experience in a habitat filled with more than 500 butterflies, and a catered lunch in the private Garden Café. This trip was organized in conjunction with the OLLI-NEH Working Group’s presentation of the documentary film Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America in March 2017.

Japan House Tea Ceremony and Garden Tour – May 25, 2017

This tour highlighted one of the gems of the University of Illinois campus, Japan House, a traditional Japanese structure that provides both curriculum and practicum opportunities for students in an authentic physical setting. The trip, attended by 42 OLLI members, included a walking tour of the Japanese tea garden and Zen style rock garden by one of its designers/curators; followed by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Chado, or Way of Tea.

Broadway in Chicago – Hamilton: An American Musical November 9 and 30, 2016

Hamilton is the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, told by America now. Two trips of 55 OLLI members each saw Chicago’s resident production of the landmark musical in its early months. Travelers had time to explore Chicago on their own before attending the performance.

Spurlock Museum Tour – June 9, 2016

This guided tour for 30 OLLI members featured the museum’s permanent exhibits as well as the special temporary exhibit of a U of I sponsored scientific Arctic expedition in the early 20th century. The museum’s nine permanent feature exhibits are a contemporary, thematic exploration of peoples from around the world throughout history.

Krannert Art Museum Exhibition Tour – May 10, 2016

This guided tour of the campus’ renowned art museum for 18 OLLI members included the temporary exhibition “Spheres of Influence: African Vessels from the KAM Collection” and highlights from the permanent collection. Krannert’s rich permanent collection contains over 10,000 works of art dating from the fourth millennium BCE to the present, representing a broad range of cultures and varied modes of artistic expression.

Broadway in Chicago – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – December 9, 2015

This trip brought 55 OLLI members to the Chicago theater district for a matinee performance of Beautiful, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning inspiring true story of Carole King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her first husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Travelers had time to explore Chicago on their own before attending the performance.

Starved Rock State Park –October 22, 2015

This trip, led by OLLI members and instructors Fred Christensen and Bob Vaiden, led 55 participants on a tour of one of Illinois’ most scenic and historic sites, Starved Rock State Park, the place where Illinois history began. Starved Rock has spectacular natural beauty and a rich heritage in history and archaeology, and travelers learned about the Ice Age creation of the landscape and the first contact in 1673 between French explorers and the Illini Indians. Tour highlights included ascending to the top of the Rock itself, viewing the exhibitions at the Visitors Center, and enjoying lunch at the Lodge Restaurant.

All Aboard the “Ocean”: Quebec to the Maritimes by Train – July 29 – August 8, 2015

This trip, chartered for OLLI by Road Scholar, took travelers on a journey through eastern Canada aboard the “Ocean” train, reveling in the charms of Quebec and the Maritimes. Setting off from the Island of Montreal, 21 OLLI travelers rode the rails through the lower St. Lawrence River valley to New Brunswick. They stopped along the way to experience Quebec City, the natural beauty of the Bay of Fundy, and the unique culture of Acadia in New Brunswick.

Japan House Tea Ceremony and Tour of Gardens – June 18, 2015

This tour highlighted one of the gems of the University of Illinois campus, Japan House, a traditional Japanese structure that provides both curriculum and practicum opportunities for students in an authentic physical setting. The trip, attended by 30 OLLI members, included a lecture on the Japanese tea garden and Zen style rock garden by one of its curators; followed by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Chado, or Way of Tea.

Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour of Skyline Vistas – May 28, 2015

This day trip, led by a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, introduced 55 OLLI members to views of the Chicago skyline from unique perspectives. Grant Park, the Museum Campus, Millennium Park, and Chicago’s expansive downtown parks as well as emerging residential neighborhoods and commercial development were also included in the tour. Travelers ended the day with a lunch of deep dish pizza at Chicago’s famous Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. This trip was organized in conjunction with the OLLI-NEH Working Group’s presentation of the documentary film Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the Making of the American City in November 2014.

Tour of Krannert Art Museum – May 27, 2015

This campus tour for 22 OLLI members featured a guided exploration of the featured spring semester exhibitions at the Krannert Art Museum: Artists Including Me: William Wegman, curated by internationally recognized artist and University of Illinois alumnus William Wegman; Versions and Revisions, curated by Kathryn Koca Polite; and Speculative Visions of Pragmatic Architectures, curated by Jeff Poss.

Indianapolis Museum of Art – April 23, 2015

This day trip took 55 OLLI members on a guided tour of the exhibit “Tiffany, Gorham, and the Height of American Silver, 1840-1930” at the Lilly House, with time allotted for participants to explore the collections in the main museum on their own. The day concluded with lunch at Indianapolis’ renowned Shapiro’s Delicatessen.

Abraham Lincoln’s Law Circuit from Urbana to Danville – October 16, 2014

OLLI instructor and Lincoln expert Guy Fraker led 55 OLLI members on a bus trip tracing Lincoln’s law circuit from Urbana to Danville. Stops on the trip included guided tours of the Urbana Courthouse and the Vermilion County Museum/Fithian House in Danville, and a guided tour of many notable Lincoln sites along the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit. The day included lunch at the Possum Trot Supper Club in Oakwood.

Krannert Art Museum Tour – July 16, 2014Olli members touring Krannert Art Museum


The Krannert Art Museum on the U of I campus is the second-largest fine art museum in the state of Illinois and houses a rich, diverse collection of more than 10,000 works. OLLI members had this opportunity to tour the galleries and explore works of art dating from the fourth millennium BCE to the present, representing a broad range of cultures and varied modes of artistic expression.  

Gettysburg: The Battle, The Place, and the People – May 19-22, 2014

OLLI members pose for photo at Gettysburg site
On this trip, organized in conjunction with Road Scholar, OLLI members visited the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles. Expert battlefield guides brought history alive as they traced the battlefield strategies, separated legend from lore, and gained a deepened understanding of the impact of the battle on the town and its people. In addition to explorations of the battlefields, travelers were entertained by folk musicians who played Civil War-era music on instruments from the period; and visited the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and the Gettysburg National Military Park and Museum.

Peoria Riverfront Museum – “Chihuly and Friends:
Works from the George R. Stroempel Collection”– March 5, 2014

Chihulyyellow and orange art glass bowl


Jon and Judith Liebman led a trip to Peoria for this exhibit of works by renowned glass artists Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretto, and Vittorio Costantini. The visit included a guided tour by the exhibit’s curator; and was preceded by a public OLLI lecture by Jon Liebman that considered the place of these artists in the development of contemporary glass art, including their relationships and their glassmaking techniques.

Spurlock Museum – “Champaign-Urbana Spinners and Weavers Show” – January 22 and 24, 2014Woman demonstrating spinning thread


OLLI members visited the Spurlock Museum on the U of I campus for two guided tours of this exhibit, which centered on textile artifacts from the museum’s collection and the stories behind their creation – from the methods employed to the stories that this wide variety of fiber art creations told.

Wicked in Chicago – December 4, 2013Wicked Stageshow in Chicago


OLLI members visited Chicago for a day of sightseeing and an afternoon matinee of the Broadway hit Wicked, which was back in Chicago in celebration of the show’s 10th anniversary. This clever take on the familiar characters from The Wizard of Oz shows that, as the musical’s slogan says, “So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.”

Chicago Jazz Festival, August 29 - Jazz FestivalSeptember 1, 2013

Sam Reese led an immersion into Chicago jazz during the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, held outdoors in beautiful Millennium and Grant Parks along the lake front. Sam guided our travelers through a diverse range of jazz musicians during three evenings of Festival performances, beginning each day with a multimedia presentation about that evening’s music and musicians and ending the evening with optional trips to local jazz clubs.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Bloomington, IL – July 16 and 24, 2013

Shakespeare Festival


OLLI members saw two different productions – A Comedy of Errors and Macbeth –  at one of North America’s leading festivals of Shakespeare’s plays. The trip included a tour of the historic gardens on the grounds of the historic Ewing Manor, a picnic dinner, and a private backstage tour conducted by actors from the production. The July 16 trip also included an opportunity to socialize with some of the members of the Bradley University OLLI program!

Land of Enchantment: New Mexico, May 15-23, 2013

In her memoirs, written many decades after she travelled the Santa Fe Trail as a young girl, Marian Russell called her destination a "Land of Enchantment." Our tour, led by Fred Christensen, provided an introduction to New Mexico's Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultural heritage, and to its spectacular landscapes, historic towns and cities, prehistoric archaeological sites, arts and crafts, and cuisines. More than 30 OLLI members returned with a new understanding of the "enchanting" American Southwest!

Land of Lincoln, May 1 and June 25, 2013

Land of Lincoln

Guy Fraker, lifelong student of the life of Abraham Lincoln, guided two full-capacity groups on this insight­ful journey throughout Central Illinois. Fraker is the author of the acclaimed 2012 book Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit, which details Lincoln’s 23 years on Central Illinois’ Eighth Judicial Circuit, where he built not only his law practice but also his political base. The trip included visits to several historic sites on Lincoln’s law circuit, a buffet lunch, and a tour of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.

The Book of Mormon, January 30 and February 13, 2013

The Book of Mormon features book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are best-known as the co-creators of the animated comedy series South Park, and Lopez is the co-writer and co-composer of the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q. The Book of Mormon has broken dozens of Broadway records, played to sold-out audiences since its Broadway opening in March 2011, and won a Grammy Award for its soundtrack album.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Bloomington, IL – July 30, 2012

OLLI members saw a production of As You Like It at one of North America’s leading festivals of Shakespeare’s plays. The trip included a tour of the historic gardens on the grounds of the historic Ewing Manor, a picnic dinner, and a private backstage tour conducted by two of the actors from the production.

Istanbul and Venice, May 16-25, 2012

Istanbul and Venice

Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians—the ties among them are ancient. This trip to Istanbul and Venice highlighted their shared history from the Roman glories of Constantinople to the jewels of the sultans Mehmet II and Süleiman the Magnificent and then a journey to see not only the looted treasures of Byzantium in Venice but also the wonders of this fragile city on the lagoon. We experienced how being on the water has shaped both cities. And we had the chance to sample historic Ottoman cuisine, learn about the art and culture of both cities, and delve into the rich historical legacy they provide.

Alaska and Canada, July 14-26, 2011

OLLI members had a great trip to Alaska from July 14-16, 2011. They saw it all: whales, puffins, black and grizzly bears, moose, dolphins and the clouds even parted enough for them to see Mount McKinley. Visit the atrium of the OLLI building to see an impressive exhibit of photos and other materials that our travelers explored during their trip! To view the Alaska trip brochure, click here.

Germany, May 25-June 3 2010

OLLI's first international trip was a great success! Twenty-seven intrepid OLLI members and guests traveled in southwestern Germany to experience "Castles and Wine," and of course so much more. We learned more about the history of the region (many of us took Fred Christensen's German history courses prior to the trip), we experienced the friendliness of the people who live there, and we marveled at the breathtaking scenery in the areas along the Rhine and the Mosel Rivers.