Think Local

Think Local

Today I’m departing from our summer trip re-cap (I’ll pick back up with Wisconsin Dells next week) to give you all a little challenge.  I need it too – so I’ll be joining right in! Without any current trips planned, I need to find a way to still enjoy a “vacation” lifestyle.  Living near a decent sized city (Indianapolis) there are many things to do, but I tend to ignore what’s in my own backyard – the small suburb town I live in.  Don’t we all?  Even those of us who live in a vacation destination often take it for granted. So this week, I challenge you to take a day, afternoon or even an evening to do something locally.  Pick something that you’ve always said you need to check out, or a new restaurant to try, or a tourist attraction that you overlook since it’s always available. I spent all of 15 minutes this morning researching to try to find something fun and came up with so much!  A paint your own pottery place, shopping on our downtown square, TWO new restaurants that I haven’t tried yet, floating down the river, archery and/or a ropes course at our newest park, a winery I never knew existed and the 4-H fair.  Definitely, plenty I could do.  The fair will for sure happen as both my kids exhibit lots of projects, and in fact, I’ll do a full post next week on how to enjoy your county or state fair.  Now I just need to put together a fun outing with something else I’ve found … Check back next week...
Chicago Visit – Day 3

Chicago Visit – Day 3

Our last day in Chicago – we did a lot this trip but didn’t even touch everything we would have liked to have done.  Next time, right? We started the day by walking from our hotel to Millenium Park – it was about 15 minutes, so an easy little stroll.  It was going to be a hot day, so there were already lots of people enjoying the Crown Fountain. Just a few feet later we checked out the Bean.  We took dozens of pictures and had fun walking all around it, but my favorite was this one looking up into it from underneath: We walked across the bridge into the Maggie Daley Park next.  This is a fairly new addition to the city and a great place to hang out for a few hours or afternoon.  There is a huge climbing wall surrounded by what is called the Skating Ribbon.  We had planned to rent roller blades and skate around it, but the ribbon was closed for a summer camp – next time!  In the winter, they turn the ribbon into a place to ice skate – I think that would be fun.  The park also has a mini-golf course, play garden and several open fields perfect for kicking a ball around.  It’s a great addition to the city. As my daughter loves all things Italian, next we walked over to Eataly for lunch and shopping.  If you love Italian food, this is a fun place to check out.  We enjoyed checking out all the varieties of pasta, sauces, cheeses, oils, etc.  We purchased a few types of pasta...
Chicago Visit – Day 2

Chicago Visit – Day 2

The second day of our Chicago trip started early for me.  Everyone was sleeping so I slipped out to the Starbucks across the street to get a little work done.  It was relaxing and fun to people watch in a different city. Once we got going, we hopped onto the Big Bus and took it over to Navy Pier.  We had just enough time to enjoy a smoothie and green juice before walking over to the Shakespeare Theater to see the opening performance of Peter Pan.  What a treat!  The theater itself is beautiful and worth a visit – there isn’t a bad seat in the house.  The show was well done and so enjoyable.  If you’d like to hear more about it – I did a separate post HERE. After the show, we walked around the Pier and enjoyed the beautiful views.  Since it was lunchtime we decided to eat right there in the Food Court.  There was definitely something for everyone, so it was quick and easy.  We also indulged in a little sample of Garrett’s Popcorn courtesy of our Big Bus Tour – yum! Since time was getting short, we called an Uber and had the driver take us to the Adler Planetarium.  If you have any interest in space (my son is currently all about astronomy), then this is a must-see.  There was a lot of information, multiple exhibits, and some fun interactive areas.  We spent quite a bit of time making a hovercraft and testing to see if it would work – I love these type of hands-on projects. Hard to believe but by...
Peter Pan – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Peter Pan – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

This summer, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is doing a production of Peter Pan.  Located right in the heart of Navy Pier (very convenient for tourists and locals alike), there are two shows a day:  11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. We enjoyed the opening day of production – and what an amazing show it was.  There was so much talent on the stage and so much energy. The plot follows the traditional J.M. Barrie’s version quite closely, which as huge Peter Pan fans, we love. The theatre itself is gorgeous.  Although it holds quite a few people, it feels very intimate.  I doubt there is a bad seat in the house. This particular show is perfect for a younger audience.  My kids are tween/teenage and they loved it, but the story is so engaging and such a childhood classic that kids as young as 5 or 6 would probably enjoy it.  Fantastic for the whole family. I loved the way they had the actors flying around the stage – looked like so much fun! Captain Hook was fantastic.  The actor nailed the role. Do yourself a favor and take your family to this show – it runs through August 19th. Want a sneak peek?  Check out this YouTube video courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 312.595.5600 Thanks to Chicago Shakespeare Theater for hosting us at the show – we loved every minute of it.  The opinions expressed are all my...
Spy-Themed Restaurant?  SAFEHOUSE!

Spy-Themed Restaurant? SAFEHOUSE!

On our last night in Chicago, we were treated to a wonderful experience at a restaurant called The SafeHouse.  This is the second location for this spy-themed restaurant (the first being in Milwaukee) but I could definitely see it growing.  In fact, during dinner, we mentioned several times that this would be a huge hit in the Orlando area. Your first challenge is finding the restaurant.  There is an address, but there isn’t a big splashy entrance like you’ll find at most restaurants.  In fact, the only clues are a small plaque and a few signs – on a busy street like this one in Chicago, you have to look carefully or you’ll miss it! Open the door to find a simple reception room.  The receptionist asks who you are there to see.  If you know the password, you’ll be let right in.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the password though – you’ll just have to do something to gain access and prove you aren’t a double-agent.  If your kids are with you, ham it up – they’ll love it. The restaurant is really amazing.  Once seated, you’ll be greeted by your special agent and asked to make your own special agent nametags – which you are now known as … Our agent – Agent Mardi Gras was as fun as her name implies and she didn’t let us off the hook at all.  We had a variety of fun challenges throughout the meal that we had to complete.  Being a competitive family, we relished the chance to try to beat each other to the answers, solve the...
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...

Pin It on Pinterest