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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Santa's Village: East Dundee, Illinois

For years and years I remember hearing radio commercials for Santa's Village in East Dundee and it sounded like such a fun place. However, it wasn't until last year that I finally made it there for a visit. My sister-in-law and my youngest boys went there to check it out.

Santa's Village celebrated 55 years of family fun and I really love the nostalgic feel of the place that takes you back a few decades. We went in the gate and were immediately greeted by Santa - which, of course, called for a selfie.

Once inside, the first thing we hit was the classic carousel before moving on to some of the other fun rides. Most of them are probably ideal for 10 and under. Some have restrictions for kids being under 54 inches. Others require adults with the little riders. There were so many fun old-school rides there that I remember riding at our local carnival and at Kiddieland in Melrose Park.

My boys had a fun time. I think their favorite ride was the fire truck, where each rider had a real hose to spray water and a mock house with a real flame. The bumper cars were also a popular ride with them. I also loved the animal element. If you have kids who aren't big on rides or who love the zoo, they'll have a great time checking out the reindeer, camels and other animals and feeding some of them out of their hands.

Visit SantasVillageDundee.com for information on rides, rates and more for the 2015 season, which kicked off earlier this month. The park is currently open on weekends.

**Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the park to enable me to write an accurate post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wendella Boat Rides

For those visiting the city and for those who call the city home, a Wendella Tour is a must. Seeing the city from the roads and sidewalks as you make your way through downtown is cool and seeing it from way above in a skyscraper is awesome, but seeing the city from the water is just a whole different ballgame.

Narrated tours give you a bit of history and some insight into what makes the city of Chicago so spectacular. I fell in love with the Wendella rides when I went on one for a school field trip as a young kid. And I still love going on them. A view of the Chicago skyline from the water is something you can never get enough of.

Visit wendellaboats.com for schedules and rates.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tyler's Tender: Schererville, Indiana

If you have some young train fans in your family, Tyler's Tender is a place to definitely add to your itinerary. With an adorable train theme, kids have an opportunity to ride a kiddie train, push buttons to operate a train display in the dining room and have their meal delivered to they via train at the counter seats. There's also a connected arcade with a few video games and pinball machines, air hockey and my personal favorite - skee ball.

Oh, and the food is quite good, especially for a place centered around kids. I've tried a lot of their wraps and sandwiches and burgers, which really exceeded expectations. The homemade potato chips are a favorite of mine. The kid menu includes most of the standard kid fare with plenty of options. The kids also give the milkshakes high marks.

We've been going there for years and I had a few birthday parties there for my kids when they were younger. On this visit, I took my 8-year-old niece - and also my dad who I had told about the restaurant. He was intrigued and wanted to come along. A good time was had by young, old and in between. :)

Tyler's Tender
350 U.S. 30
Schererville, IN
50 U.S. 30, Schererville, IN 46375(219) 322-5590

Monday, February 2, 2015

Children's Museum in Oak Lawn

One thing I've always sought out when we have traveled is a children's museum to take the kids to. I love such attractions where there are hands-on opportunities at every turn and that I enjoy as much as they do. If you are visiting the Chicago area or live in the Chicago area, the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn is an amazing place to take your little ones where they are sure to be entertained for hours.

I recently had a new children's book released and me and my good friend Michelle, who did the illustrations for me, went there to host a program for the Happy Noon Year event, which included a noon balloon drop. I read the children's book and then Michelle led the visitors in an art lesson where she showed them how to draw the owl on the cover of the book. It was a fun program and something that was free to kids visiting that day. We had a blast! Here's a shot of us at the museum. :)

The museum has two floors with most of the exhibit space on the upper floor. The museum includes a dedicated infant area. My personal favorite in the museum is the water table and the life-size Operation game. Take a peek at the fun below!

5100 Museum Drive

Oak Lawn, Illinois  60453

(708) 423-6709


Friday, January 16, 2015

John Hancock Center Observatory

When tourists plan to visit Chicago, they often want to visit the Willis Tower since it's the tallest building in Chicago. Sadly it lost its tallest building in the world title back in 1998. And really I have a hard time calling it the Willis Tower. Just like I sometimes still slip and say Comisky Park when referring to the ball park where the White Sox play.

Anyway, being the tallest in the city, the Willis Tower gets all the attention, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret...there's another that's just as spectacular. The views are probably even a little better. I admit I have not yet tried out the Ledge  at Willis Tower and maybe that experience will make me sing its praises, but on our first visit to the John Hancock Observatory, I thought to myself "Why have I been going to the Sears Tower all these years when this place is so awesome?"

The observation deck is on floor 94 and allows for spectacular views of the city and the shoreline and the lake. You can see the city in all directions and on a clear day you can see four different states from 1,000 feet above. Being one who loves heights, I could sit up there all day and glance out at the world below. They've also added a new attraction called "The Tilt" that kind of one-ups the Ledge. It also gives a view from a little outside the walls of the structure, but with hydraulic lifts, it slowly tilts you toward while facing foreward for a unique view of the city that you can't quite get anywhere else. I'm looking forward to giving it a try. Tickets for the Tilt are in addition to General Admission tickets. For more information on the observation deck and The Tilt, visit 360chicago.com.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Myer's Castle: Dyer, Indiana

Meyer's Castle is tucked away just off of busy U.S. 30 in Dyer, Indiana, a complete escape back to a different time. This stunning estate modeled after a castle in Scotland was built in the late 1920's and today serves as a restaurant, banquet hall and wedding venue. I've been there many times to dine and also for a wedding and it provides a beautiful, nostalgic, romantic background. Our most recent visit was on Thanksgiving when they opened their banquet room to the public for a Thanksgiving buffet. My husband worked that day and I was planning to cook a big dinner the following day, so I thought I'd take the kids out for a nice dinner.

I've also made several visits to the Argentine Rodizio's Steakhouse, which is fabulous, offering a one-price multi-course meal including an abundance of meats brought out on swords and sliced at your table. The food is always wonderful and the venue makes a experience just that more special. A nightclub and lounge is also open in the lower level.

 Resident peacocks roam the grounds.

One back corner of the castle. It's a place you have to see for yourself. 

Meyer's Castle
1370 Joliet St.
Dyer, IN

Monday, January 12, 2015

Key Lime Cove Has Cure for the Winter Blues

These arctic temps, piles of snow and howling winds getting you down? Go to the tropics without leaving the Midwest at Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois. The indoor water park remains at 84 degrees all year long regardless of how brutal it gets outside.

With charming decor that transports you to the Florida Keys, the cheery theme continues throughout the entire venue. In our rooms, the bedspreads were bright and flowery. The artwork represents somewhere more sunny and sandy. The gift and snack shops make you feel like you are in a touristy town rather than a couple blocks off an icy interstate.

We dined at the Crazy Toucan where there were tropical drinks for the grown-ups and the kids and a menu full of seafood and spicy entrees along with some classic kid fare. There's also a killer spa that is a great way to cap off a relaxing weekend. I wasn't able to squeeze in a spa stop on this visit, but on my previous visit I stopped in for a pedicure and I totally recommend planning for an appointment for some spa services.

Fun, colorful storefront facades make you feel like you're on a touristy, tropical island.

The water park includes several slides, a wave pool, lazy river, water playground and my favorite part - the adults only hot tub. Visit www.keylimecove.com for more details on this perfect family getaway, especially in the middle of this crummy Chicago winter.