Chicago Visit – Day 1

Chicago Visit – Day 1

Our first day in Chicago was action-packed!  Lucky for us it’s a short 3-hour drive from Indianapolis, so even with a stop, we were there early afternoon. We decided to stop in Merriville and visit the Albanese Factory Tour and Outlet.  The tour was really just peeking through some windows to watch gummy bears being made – but still pretty interesting.  The candy was the winner.  This store offered just about any kind of candy you could want, so you can bet we stocked up on a few varieties to enjoy the rest of the week!  They also sell big bags of candies called “oops.”  The gummies that didn’t quite make the grade appearance-wise, but still taste great.  Fun!     Once we arrived, we checked into our hotel and quickly hit the street.  Our first stop was to hop on a Big Bus Tour.  There was a stop conveniently located a few blocks from our hotel so we walked over and chatted with the agent while waiting for our bus to arrive.  She was super helpful and gave us some great tips and ideas for things to do.  She also shared that by hopping on the bus after 2:00 PM our tickets were good for the next day – bonus! If you are interested in the benefits of doing a Big Bus Tour (and there are many), check out my blog post on the tour HERE. Our original plan was to get off at the Water Tower, grab a bite to eat and shop for a bit, but looking at the time we decided to just do the...
Blue Man Group – Don’t Miss It!

Blue Man Group – Don’t Miss It!

Through the years, we’ve seen dozens of shows, but Blue Man Group felt like a first.  As soon as you enter the lobby the artwork and “Important Information” sign clue you in that this is going to be different from a normal Broadway-style show. Surprise is the perfect word to describe what you’ll experience at a Blue Man Group performance. Blue Man Group is currently playing at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago, perfectly located close to the red line.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original show in NYC, Blue Man Group held an art competition.  The results are creative and exciting and make waiting for the show to begin a joy.   We especially loved that the art included multiple senses – just like the show. Once you enter the actual theatre and see the hilarious “advice” scrolling across the screen (not just your typical quiet your phones), you know you are in for a treat. I don’t want to say too much specifically about the show because I don’t want to ruin the fun for others.  A big part of the experience is not knowing exactly what will come next.  I will say that it was nothing like what I expected.  The show is funny, creative and full of fantastic energy and music.  We were lucky to have an especially interactive audience which positively added to the experience. Although not a word is spoken, we always understood what was happening.  The music is quite loud (and very good – a lot of talent here!) and there are a lot of flashing lights, fun technology and parts...
The Only Way to See a City

The Only Way to See a City

When visiting a big city, I’m sure you’ve seen those big double-decker busses – the ones with open seating on top, right?  Well, we had our first experience with one on our recent trip to Chicago.  We rode the Big Bus and it is the ONLY way to see a city.   First of all, for kids, nothing is better than sitting up on top of a bus.  It’s just cool.  Luckily it’s also pretty cool for adults – the views can’t be beat and you can get a bunch of amazing pictures in a short period of time – perfect for amateur photographers. The tour guides we encountered were all entertaining, funny and full of interesting facts.  I love geeking out over the backstories of a city and the Big Bus tour guides delivered.  We learned a little bit of history – did you know that at the time of the Chicago Fire, the population was only about 300,000 compared to the 3,000,000 that live in Chicago now?  We also heard some fun stories about how Navy Pier came to be, the prices of some of the high rise apartments and we got a peek at the building Jennifer Hudson lives in.  And the views … In addition to being fun and educational, a tour like this is a great way to get a feel for a city before you start hoofing it on your own.  After we had done the entire route I felt like I knew where everything we wanted to do the rest of the week was located and the best way to get there. ...
Are you Ready for the Weekend?

Are you Ready for the Weekend?

Is the weekend coming up and you have nothing planned?  Although I love it when this happens (with two kids in sport it’s rare), if I’m not careful, we’ll end up doing nothing interesting.  Sunday night comes and I feel like I “wasted” my free time. This ever happen to you? I’ve found that if I don’t have a few ideas in place BEFORE the weekend when it comes along I panic and can’t think of anything.  To head this off, on Wednesday or Thursday I start jotting down ideas in my daily planner.  I’ll often also look a few key places to see if anything is going on (festivals, live music, etc.). My favorite resources: Facebook – so many events are listed on Facebook these days in the Events section.  Open it up and filter on the date and/or type of event.  I just opened it up and there are at least 20 different events listed for Friday night alone. Yelp – I don’t use this as often for events, but I have found a few here and there that are interesting.  Do a search “Events this Weekend” and see what pops up. Tourist Websites – If you act like your city is a vacation spot and go look at the tourist websites, you can come up with many excellent ideas of fun things to do. Notes – I have a notes app on my phone with a tab labeled “Things to Do.”  Every time I think of something or the kids mention someplace they’d like to go, I jot it down.  Then when we are struggling with...
Plan the Perfect Summer Trip

Plan the Perfect Summer Trip

Ready for your upcoming vacation?  I know I’m ready for ours!!! Do you plan your vacation down to the specific details?  Or just wing it? Through our years of traveling, I’ve done both, and I’ve discovered that the most successful trips are in-between the extremes.  Too much planning and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment when something doesn’t go exactly as planned (which WILL happen).  Too little planning and you waste time trying to figure out what to do – and who wants to waste vacation time?  Not me. Here are my top 5 tips for planning the perfect summer trip: Research.  Spend a few minutes Googling the locations you are visiting.  Then request visitor’s guides a few weeks before you leave.  This gives you a good start on understanding your options. Involve everyone.  Once the guides arrive, ask each family member to pick at least one thing they definitely want to do on vacation.  Not only is it a good starting point for planning, it also ensures everyone is invested and excited about the upcoming trip. Look at the trip dates.  Once you have a simple list of things to do (from #1 and #2) take a look at when you will be there.  If it’s a Sunday or Monday, make sure shops are open if you plan on checking out a small town.  Look for museum or other attraction hours.  Think about what would fit best on each day – this doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s nice to know “on Thursday we’ll probably go to the amusement park.”  Consider leaving a day or...

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