Decatur, Illinois: A Great Place to Raise a Family!

Contribution by Limitless Ambassador and Decatur Transplant Aryn Peters

Decatur, Illinois: A Great Place to Raise a Family!

When my husband called me one afternoon and asked if I’d be willing to relocate our family to Decatur, IL, I’ll admit, I had to get out a map! I remember thinking things like, ‘where is this “Decatur” you speak of, and why on EARTH, would I uproot my family from our home (and my forever hometown) of beautiful Kansas City, MO?’ Well, when you are part of a family, you have to make decisions, and this time, we decided to jump on a new opportunity and adventure and see where it took us. And now, here we are, almost two years into our Decatur adventure. I can honestly say we are truly happy here and I believe Decatur is a great place to raise a family!

My biggest fear, as I’m sure you can understand, was my children. Moving away from schools, grandparents, cousins and friends is never easy. My children were 8, 6 and almost 2 at the time of our move. Today, they are 10 (5th grade), 8 (2nd grade) and 3 (daycare) and they love living in Decatur!

One thing you must be open to, no matter where you move, is learning about what your community has to offer. I didn’t have to worry about that so much in Kansas City. I was born there, grew up there, and knew A LOT of people and which programs were best, etc. I was starting from scratch, and when it comes to my kids, I have no problem digging in and asking questions! And honestly, I have been MOST impressed with this little-big town.

From the neighborhood we live in, to the shops and restaurants, to the schools my kids go to (yes, we love the schools and the teachers we have had!) to the lake views to the opportunities at Millikin University, we love it here!

For simplicity sake, let me break down the things I’ve found and the reasons that I think Decatur is a great place for a family:

1. Decatur Park District

Enjoying the Ropes Course at Overlook Adventure Park

You cannot overlook the amazing Decatur Park District if you live in Decatur! The opportunities they have for the children in the community are simply amazing. If you are a newcomer, I highly recommend you get involved here and find something your child enjoys. My children participate in the baseball program, which has been great. We also spend lots of time on the soccer fields with the Midstate Soccer Club. This is an amazing organization with amazing coaches and leaders. I am so glad we are a part of it!  My daughter also loves theater and has been a part of the community musical the last two years and both of my girls take dance. There is also a great area in Nelson Park complete with a waterfront and entertainment area, a mini golf course, batting cages, and a ropes course that our kids love. Our outings are always followed by Mr Softee ice cream, of course! There is also a water park coming soon that I know we will spend a lot of time at during the summer. From acting and dance lessons, to running cross country and track to birthday parties at the DISC, we love the Decatur Park District.  Your kids will too.

2. Parks and Trails

Sort of a tag along to the Decatur Park District, but the parks and trails in the area are so much fun! There is a walking/running/biking trail through the community that is in expansion mode right now. They are both beautiful and safe. We enjoy Fairview Park and you can’t miss the Rock Springs Nature Center! So many trails and beautiful scenery there. It’s great little morning or afternoon trip and it’s right in town. Check out the Decatur Park District trail map here!  It’s so fun to get the kids back into nature and to see how truly beautiful the area is.

3. Children’s Museum of Illinois and Scovill Zoo

The Children’s Museum of Illinois and Scovill Zoo are a couple of super fun additions to Decatur. Sitting right on the lake, you get some beautiful views. The zoo is small, but so well-kept and the perfect size for a family outing of a couple hours or so.  The price is right at under $5 admission for the kids under 12 (2 and under is free!), and BONUS . . .Thursdays are FREE!  There is a fun train ride that is currently undergoing expansion that will connect the zoo to the museum.  We love the museum for super cold days or really hot days when we want to get out of the weather! The kids have a blast each time we go.

4. Day Trips

You can take any number of days trips, and I could do a whole separate blog on different places to go (and probably will!), but for starters, Decatur is conveniently located within a triangle of three larger cities:  Springfield (state capital) , Bloomington/Normal (Illinois State University) and Champaign/Urbana (University of Illinois) are all within a 30-45 minute drive. Coming from a larger city, it often takes that long to get anywhere in a city, so making that drive has been simple for us. We’ve discovered great eats in these towns, and being large college towns, you can bet there is great food!And all the shopping we need is found in these cities, that is, if we don’t already have it in Decatur. Springfield is great for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and Homestead. It’s definitely worth trekking over for. Pair that with lunch at Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery right by the Lincoln Homestead (totally kid friendly and they have gooey butter cake for dessert!) and you have an awesome family outing. We tend to spend most of our time in the Bloomington/Normal area (we love going to Portillo’s!) but you’ll find your favorites for sure!

5. Longer Trips

Another thing that we enjoy about Decatur is it’s location. I know, it is sort of in the middle of nowhere…so they say. BUT, it is an EASY day trip or weekend trip distance to some GREAT cities! We have gotten to know Chicago really well, and seeing as my husband and son are HUGE Cubbie fans, they love it!  St. Louis is also a couple hours drive and is great for a day trip or overnight trip to the St. Louis Zoo or City Museum and tons of other kid-friendly options. We are also only a couple hours drive from Indianapolis, another great city with some fun options for kids including a children’s museum that my kids love. Nashville, TN is about 5.5 hours away, but not a bad distance for a long weekend getaway!

 

6. Festivals

The festivals in town are great and give that “small town” feel that we love.  The Decatur Celebration in August is super fun! Food trucks, rides, games, shopping…all in Decatur’s downtown that is an area of revitalization and growth. The Celebration is also known for it’s great live music throughout the weekend.  You have to come check it out.  This one is our favorite!

7. Millikin University 

Having a local university in the community is always a positive thing!  It brings culture and additional education opportunities to the community. Millikin University is no different. A beautiful campus on the west side of town, Millikin offers several opportunities for families. One opportunity we took advantage of right away were the music lessons at the Preparatory Department at the School of Music. Our kids took piano lessons from upper-level Millikin music students. I loved bringing the kids to campus and they enjoyed being on campus. Piano certainly isn’t the only option.  There are opportunities for lessons with all different instruments, voice lessons, children’s choir opportunities and more. It is a great program and I highly recommend you check it out.

8. Something For Everyone

Moving here from a big city with all the amenities, I was a little worried about what I was going to do. We need to have some time for ourselves too. Am I right, parents?! I will be honest when I say that I am TRULY impressed with the food and drink options in town and we LOVE going out!  We have a few favorites. You have to come to downtown Decatur and check them out. A few of the options can be found at the Merchant Street website. Merchant Street is an adorable and quaint street in downtown.

Some other favorites I’ve found are The Winery and Lock Stock and Barrel near Millikin University and El Rodeo at the north end of town. El Rodeo has easily became my all-time favorite Mexican food, and I lived in Phoenix, AZ for a while and have had my fair share of Mexican options. The Beach House is a great restaurant where you can sit out on the deck overlooking Lake Decatur and enjoy a beverage to wind down the day. We also have a brand new amphitheater located near the Beach House with concerts already scheduled through fall! 

In closing, I have loved meeting all of the people in this great community. There are just so many options for everyone if you know where to look. And what’s crazy is there is so much MORE that we haven’t had a chance to explore yet!

I hope this helps you take another look at Decatur. Maybe you have thought about moving here, but weren’t sure if it was a good place for YOUR family. I encourage you to come and check out some of these places for yourself. Decatur is growing; it needs people that believe in it and in the opportunities that it holds.

Some people may say that Decatur is a “has been” community. I truly don’t understand that, because honestly, when I look around this town, all I see is OPPORTUNITY. If you are looking for a great place to raise active, happy kids without the crazy hustle and bustle and competitiveness you can find in the big cities, come see us! Maybe YOU will open the next shop, boutique or restaurant in our LIMITLESS DECATUR!


Aryn Peters is first a mom and wife to her busy 3 children and hardworking husband. She is an adjunct professor at Millikin University and runs a lifestyle blog at arynpeters.com. Be sure to follow her on social media! Send her a friend request and check out her new account Live Love Decatur on Facebook and follow her on Instagram @arynpeters, where she shares all the fun she and her family are having living in Decatur, IL!

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Help Beautify the Main Street Islands

Let’s keep Decatur an attractive place to live, work, and play! Help the Beautify Decatur Coalition with these upcoming cleanup events to rejuvenate the West Main Street Islands:

Friday, April 6th
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Meeting Place: Millikin Homestead | 125 N Pine St, Decatur IL 62522
Tasks: remove litter, add weed protection and remove plants that lack curb appeal

Wednesday, April 11th
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Meeting Place: Millikin Homestead | 125 N Pine St, Decatur IL 62522
Tasks: plant new plants and add mulch

Please dress appropriately for the weather and bring garden gloves and landscaping tools if possible. Safety vests and lunch will be provided.

For more information, please click here.

Decatur to Have Ag Academy & FFA Program

December 18, 2017 – The Decatur Public Schools Foundation today announced the creation of the Dwayne Andreas Ag Academy, made possible by a $1.65 million dollar gift by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Ag educators at Eisenhower and MacArthur High Schools will lead a formal academic and field-based FFA curriculum, with an emphasis on career development in the agriculture industry, beginning in the fall 2018. The Academy will incorporate a Living Science Farm and collaborate with agribusiness companies across Illinois.

“We have to engage more young people to pursue opportunities in agriculture if we want the United States to continue to be a leader in global food security,” said Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. “Dwayne Andreas was a true pioneer who helped make the U.S. a global leader in agribusiness – we hope this Academy inspires the next generation of leaders to build on his legacy.”

“We are so excited for the opportunities this program will present for the students of Decatur Public Schools,” said District 61 Superintendent Dr. Paul Fregeau. “The number of agribusiness endeavors in the Decatur area is astounding. We feel this program will create a conduit to local careers or careers throughout the world if the students desire.”

The project has grown from a collaborative effort between school district leadership, Neuhoff Media and Limitless Decatur & Macon County. Area agribusiness employers such as ADM and Tate & Lyle will be key partners in connecting students to future jobs within the industry.

“The Academy will be a game-changer for students and for employers in our region,” said Decatur Public Schools Foundation Director Zach Shields. “Decatur represents the hub of global food production. Nowhere else in the world has there been the combination of local agribusiness partners and the generosity of a donor like Mr. Buffett to support a program of this magnitude.”

“This initiative is truly significant to continue the transformation that’s moving our community forward,” said Nicole Bateman, Executive Director of the Midwest Inland Port and Community Marketing Manager for Limitless Decatur & Macon County. “We need to identify every opportunity to connect young people directly to real job possibilities. This is an important step in that direction, and there is so much value in cultivating the communication and leadership skills developed by participation in FFA.”

 

Find additional coverage here.

Introducing the City Scout App!

Introducing the City Scout Decatur App!  Finally, an app for Decatur that features a full Events Calendar, Dining Guide, Attractions Guide, Local Business Guide and so much more!  Use the app to find some of the best local businesses, local eateries and attractions.  The app features hundreds of dollars in savings at local businesses with the Coupons/Rewards section.  Download the app in the App Store or the Google Play Store today by clicking the links below or searching “City Scout Decatur”.

App Store – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-decatur-app/id1318385974?mt=8

Google Play Store – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.grandstand.decaturapp

Celebrating Manufacturing Day

Approximately 250 students from Decatur’s MacArthur and Eisenhower High Schools and Heartland Tech Academy participated in Decatur’s 2nd Annual Manufacturing Days held on October 25th through October 27th at Richland Community College in Decatur, IL.

The three-day event encouraged students to get a closer look at available manufacturing career paths through facility tours, symposiums with local manufacturers, and interactive presentations.

Studies show that the U.S. will need to fill 3.5 million advanced manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years. Events like Decatur’s Manufacturing Days are coordinated in hopes that the next generation of manufacturers will become inspired for careers in manufacturing.

Manufacturing Days would not be a success without the help from the participating manufacturers (see list below), Richland Community College, Heartland Tech Academy, DPS61, IMEC, the EDC of Decatur and Macon County, and ADM for the generous lunch donation.

ADM
Akorn
Caterpillar
Decatur Industrial Electric
International Control Services
Mason Manufacturing
Midstate Electrical Training Center
MRI
Mueller Company
Ring Container Technologies
SMART Local 218
Tate & Lyle
TCCI Manufacturing
UA Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Local 137
Union Iron
Voestalpine Nortrak
Western Illinois University
Workforce Investment Solutions

Additional Media Coverage
NowDecatur.com
Herald & Review

Treat Yourself!

Here’s a list of 20 things you can do in (or around) Decatur during the month of October, along with some suggested links to help check off activities and specific events with ease. It’s time to treat yourself and live limitless.

Enjoy!

ATTEND FOOTBALL GAME
High School Football Schedule
Millikin University Football Schedule

GO TO PUMPKIN PATCH
Black Bart’s Pumpkin Patch
Indian Knoll Pumpkins
The Great Pumpkin Patch

WATCH A LIVE BAND
The Devon Halloween Bash
The Venue’s 1st and Annual Halloween Bash
X-Krush
Frankefest: Donnie’s & The Winery
Let’s Get Spooked at Port Royal
Lady Luck
West End Boogie
The All Star Shuffle Band

DRESS FOR A COSTUME PARTY
The Devon Halloween Bash
Witch Night Party
Dogs Only Halloween Costume Contest
Frankenfest: Donnie’s & The Winery

SUPPORT ART EXHIBIT
Gallery 510 Fun Fest
Decatur Area Arts Council

PLAY MINI GOLF
Family Halloween Putt-Putt
Halloween Glow Golf

TRICK OR TREAT WITH FAMILY
Boo at the Zoo
Boo! @ MU
Trunk or Treat 2019
Meet & Treat
New Vision Trunk or Treat
BGC Trunk or Treat
ACC’s Trunk or Treat Festival

PICK APPLES & DRINK CIDER
Okaw Valley Orchard
Curtis Orchard

RUN RACES
Scareport – Run the Runway
Halloween Fun Run

ATTEND LIVE THEATER
Lucky Stiff
Medea
Ripper the Musical
The Secretaries

ENJOY A HAYRIDE
Black Bart’s Pumpkin Patch

GET LOST IN CORN MAZE
Black Bart’s Pumpkin Patch
Sheffer Farms Pumpkin Patch
Curtis Orchard

CARVE A PUMPKIN
Pumpkin Decorating Day Extravaganza
Fall Family Day

EAT A CARAMEL APPLE
Del’s Popcorn Shop

GO TO A FALL FESTIVAL
Life Foursqaure Fall Festival
D1Naz Family Fall Fest
Harvest Fest
SPL Fall Festival
Light in the Night

VISIT A HAUNTED HOUSE
Boo Crew Haunted House
The Scream Haunted Adventure
Scream for Homes

TAKE A NATURE HIKE
Decatur Trails
Spitler Woods

GO ON A HAUNTED TOUR
Haunted Decatur
The Haunting of DBW!

GO ANTIQUING
Decatur Antique Stores and Flea Markets
Finders Holiday Market
Trash & Treasure Sale

Be an America in Bloom Volunteer!

Beautify Decatur is expanding their efforts to positively impact our community. They have entered Decatur in the national America in Bloom (AIB) contest.

What is America in Bloom?

In short, it’s a community improvement program that creates:

  • an opportunity for communities to build their image
  • a nationwide program that brings a community together to beautify inside and out
  • an opportunity to make a community more appealing through community involvement
  • a unique and informative creative process to highlight our community and improve overall involvement in beautification efforts

America in Bloom Committee – A Community-Wide Effort for Beautification

The committee’s goal: Make necessary preparations for the judges’ visit. (Green thumbs are optional!) The visit will highlight what we do well, and we’ll identify further improvements through increased collaboration and resources. To get us there, we need you!

The Commitment

We ask that you attend monthly meetings starting in September.

Volunteer Projects

Volunteers are needed for the following projects:

  • Participating in planting and clean-up projects
  • Assisting with implementing strategies to increase “bloom” factor – more flowers in public/private properties.
  • Helping plan community tour and dinner events
  • Creating marketing materials
  • Spreading the word about the AIB effort by speaking to churches, civic groups, schools, etc.
  • Expanding Bee-utify Decatur Contest specifically to improve corridor appearances by increasing number of participants and number of available prizes.

How to Sign Up

To sign up for the committee or for more information, please contact Ellen Hearn at 217.454.8432 or by email at ERHConsulting@comcast.net.

DPS at FPS

What does it mean to be Limitless in Decatur, Illinois? It means taking chances, investing in our youth, going above expectations, opening doors for opportunity.

On Friday, August 31, 2017, over 600 DPS61 sixth grade students, 100 high school students from MacArthur and Eisenhower, and 70 Limitless Ambassador community volunteers embarked on the Farm Progress Show (FPS) thanks to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, NowDecatur, Decatur Public School District 61, Richland Community College, ADM, U of I Extension – 4-H, and the Economic Development Corporation.

A passion project of this endeavor is what makes Decatur, Illinois Limitless.

Check out this Herald & Review article to read more about #DPSatFPS.

 

Here, There, and Back Again

Considering a move to Decatur but unsure whether it’s a place for you? If you come for a job interview, you’ll hear about Decatur’s selling points and why it’s such a great place to live. But is it true?

I moved to Decatur nearly 14 years ago to attend Millikin University as a college freshman. Upon graduating, I left the Midwest for the East Coast. One year later, I came back to Decatur, a place that had unexpectedly become my home. Here is my personal, unconventional, and honest look at life in Decatur.

Size: Small enough to run into familiar faces at the grocery store and to know community leaders firsthand. Big enough to offer a regional airport, two country clubs, Scovill Zoo, Richland Community College, Millikin University, the Children’s Museum of Illinois, live theatre, museums, and art galleries. With 76,000 people, we are neither a small town nor a big city. We are a small big-city.

Cost of Living: As far as national averages go, the cost of living in Decatur is lower than the norm. That means that groceries, utilities, and transportation cost a little less here than most other places. Where we boast the biggest savings is in the housing market. Tally up the square footage and amenities of homes in Decatur to those in other cities and you’ll quickly realize your family’s growth potential both inside the home and in the backyard.

Conveniences: When you move to town but find that your coffee fixings didn’t, we have two Walmart supercenters, Target, and multiple Walgreens and CVS locations. We also have two Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, a Panera Bread Co., and several locally owned coffee stops to get you restocked and refueled.

Shopping: You can stop into one of several department stores at Forsyth’s Hickory Point Mall, or you can experience retail charm through our locally owned shops where small-town personal service meets the look and feel of big-city boutiques. Some of my personal favorites: The Brass Horn, once a haberdashery that has expanded to include women’s lines; Giggles, a fun, unique gift shop that can personalize nearly anything; Millie and Bo’s Barkey, an upscale pet boutique complete with health-conscious pet treats baked in store; The Decanter, where our local connoisseurs impart their knowledge of imported and local wines during regular tastings.

Dining: Like most small towns, we have our share of diners and mom & pop stops. Just as cities juxtaposed by interstates have mall-chain restaurants and ample fast-food options, so do we. In the spirit of many big cities, we have a broad spectrum of restaurants: gourmet, ethnic, steak, seafood, fusion, breakfast, bakeries, and bar food. Some of the local favorites include Paco’s Sol Bistro, one of 15 restaurants in Downtown Decatur offering American/Southwestern fusion and great service; the Beach House, a locally owned seafood restaurant that sits beachside, offers lake views while dining indoors or out, and is complete with an oyster bar that is “shucking awesome”; The Wharf, located on the south side of town, is a hidden gem and true local hangout – get a horseshoe while you’re there (Philadelphia has cheesesteak – Central Illinois has horseshoes).

Healthcare: We have two hospitals, Decatur Memorial Hospital (DMH) and St. Mary’s Hospital, offering advanced sub-specialty medical care that rivals big city hospitals. DMH, for instance, offers molecular imaging for prostate cancer that is only available at one other institution in the country – Mayo Clinic. Because Decatur’s healthcare systems have such big draws from surrounding communities, it is common for our physicians to have treated multiple generations within one family, just as it is common for patients to know their physicians on a first-name basis from community involvement outside of the hospitals.

Water: We’re home to Lake Decatur, our 2,800 acre water source that is surrounded by the city. Thanks to its central location and size, you can conveniently fish, participate in the local Yacht Club, or use any of the five public boat launches to spend the day out on the water. It is a prime spot to watch the 4th of July fireworks show or listen to the annual Labor Day Pops shoreside concert put on by the Millikin Decatur Symphony Orchestra, and it makes for great views of the sunrise or sunset.

Nature: Overseen and funded by the Decatur Park District, we have over 40 parks and nature areas within Decatur. They include bike paths, paved and natural walking trails, pavilions, playgrounds, ponds, sports facilities, golf courses, and public boat launches. If you really want to get in touch with nature, go to Rock Springs Conservation Area and be sure to walk through (and breathe in) Pine Forest.

Travel: When driving through town, you can get anywhere in Decatur within fifteen minutes. Rather than stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper, gridlocked traffic, we have easy drives any time of day or night. When traveling out of town, we have a small regional airport with incredible fares. Plus, we’re located centrally within the state. In an hour or less you can drive to Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, or Springfield, our state’s capital, to travel by Amtrak. Or, you can get in your car and be on the interstate within minutes.

All in all, Decatur is a community of hardworking people who are as willing to lend a helping hand to strangers as they are to close friends. Rather than the hustle and bustle or anonymity of big cities, we offer a more laid back approach to life amongst friendly faces. If this sounds like a place for you? Welcome home.

 

Contributed by Jamie Muscato, Limitless Ambassador, and the creative mind behind Commode to Joy.