Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Visit to Danville, Illinois

If you would like to read the first part of my Chicago recap, click here and here.

The Friday of my Chicago trip Harrie and I rented a car and made the 2.5 hour drive to the charming town of Danville. Quick side note: After driving in downtown Chicago, I may never complain about Dallas traffic again. Okay, I probably will, but it won't be as nerve-wracking as driving in Chicago. 

I'll be honest. I originally only wanted to go to Danville so I could say I had visited the hometown of Dick Van Dyke. If you know me, or have been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that he is my FAVORITE actor of all time. The man is a NATIONAL TREASURE

I personally think there should be a huge sign saying Danville is the hometown of Dick Van Dyke, but alas, there wasn't one. There was a sign saying it was the hometown of some astronaut (I can't remember his name). I personally think Mr. Van Dyke is more important- anyone can go into space, but not just anyone can be a national treasure, but then again, that is just my opinion. :) They do have signs along one of the main streets with pictures of their famous residents. Yes, I stopped for a photo by Mr. Van Dyke's sign. Don't even act surprised. :)

I heard there was a local museum that had memorabilia from some of Danville's more famous residents (i.e. Dick Van Dyke, Donald O' Connor, Bobby Short). When we got to the museum, there was a sign that said it was closed for employee vacation (I later found out it's operated by volunteers). I was bummed, but I wasn't going to let it ruin my day. Another side note: I later found out that museum is pretty new and they are still trying to get it all organized, so I was missing TOO much by not seeing it now. I WILL go back to see it at some point. :)

There are murals painted all around the downtown Danville area. This particular mural faces the theater where these stars began their careers: Bobby Short, Jerry Van Dyke, Dick Van Dyke, Gene Hackman, Donald O' Connor, and Helen Morgan.

It seems that Abraham Lincoln once made a stop in Danville. We didn't have time to check out everything in town related to him, but we did see this mural and went by the courthouse. It seems I had a summer of Lincoln history (check out my trip to Springfield, IL here).

I won't post pictures of all the murals, but here are a few more.

While walking through downtown we noticed a sign for a war museum. Since I'm a history and museum nerd, we decided to go by. I'll be honest- I was thinking that a town the size of Danville probably wouldn't have too much in their war museum (but I still wanted to check it out). Boy, was I WRONG! This is probably one of the best museums I've ever been to (and if you know me, you know I've been to A LOT). My only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend there. We spent just under two hours and I probably could have spent another hour or so in there. Yes, it was that good.

First of all, everyone who works there is super nice and helpful. They went above and beyond to make us feel welcomed and practically gave us a private tour. They were also willing to answer any questions we had.

We made small talk about what brought us to town (I told them it was my fandom of Mr. Van Dyke). EVERYONE we came across in Danville had a Dick Van Dyke story to share. Someone had either met him or knew someone who knew him. He and his wife had been in town back in June and the high school put on a performance for him. This nice gentleman named Jim found a program from that performance and gave it to me as a souvenir. Fun fact: This man is the uncle of Kevin Kouzmanoff, former Texas Rangers player (that conversation came up when he noticed my Rangers purse). :) What a small world!

Jim giving me the Dick Van Dyke program. Yes, I had many nerdy moments while I was in town- stop judging me. :) 
This sign is right outside the second floor entrance of the museum. I know some people are very sensitive about war- and I understand that. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. I appreciate this sign and I appreciate all of the men and women who have served or who are currently serving our country.
I took a lot of pictures, but again, I will spare you by not posting all of them. It seems people from all over donated items for this museum. Uniforms. Medals. Artifacts. Newspapers. Posters. Like I said, I could have spent so much more time in there. When I make my trip back to Danville, I'm going to go back to this museum.

A cannonball from the Civil War era
They let us try on a flak jacket

After we left the museum we ventured out to find a place to eat. Jim recommended a place called VIPS so we went there- it was quite good and inexpensive. It was about two by the time we got there, so we missed the lunch rush.

They serve breakfast all day long at VIPS- that's my kind of place!
After lunch we took a quick trip around the rest of downtown, checking out the architecture and some of the shops. There are several cute antique shops located around downtown.

We came across the office of the local newspaper. I went inside, hoping that they still had back issues from when Mr. Van Dyke was in town so I could buy them. I used to work for a newspaper, so I know that back issues are usually available for a few months at least. They had two issues that featured Mr. Van Dyke. They wouldn't even let me pay for them- they just gave them to me. Have I mentioned how much I love the people in this town?

Before making our way back to Chicago, we made two more quick stops. The first one was at Danville High School- where Mr. Van Dyke attended. I knew from following him on Twitter that a sign was recently put up in front of the high school honoring him- and of course, I had to get a picture.

Our last stop was at Mr. Van Dyke's childhood home. I read an article online that it was going to be torn down, but a group of people stepped in to renovate it and turn it into a foundation center.

I highly recommend making a trip to Danville. It's not that far from Chicago and makes for a great day trip. I'm so glad I went. I went just to say I had been to the hometown of Dick Van Dyke and saw so much more than I ever expected. I can't wait to visit again!



  1. Looks like a nice lil town. I'm glad that you were able to visit the hometown of your favorite guy. :)

  2. Thanks for your comments