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Sunday, July 14, 2013

10 things to see and do in Springfield, IL


1) Lincoln Home National Historic Site - Get a tour inside the home Lincoln and his family lived in before he became president and stroll through the restored neighborhood. Tours are free, but be sure to get there early for a ticket. We made the mistake on our last visit of planning to tour the home later in the afternoon and were disappointed when all the tickets for that day were gone.

2) Union Square Park - Step inside the visitor center, a stunning restored train depot and walk around the big open space that hosts various events. You'll also find one of many Abe statues around the city where you can snap a photo with him.

3) Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum - This is an absolute must see if you visit Springfield. You enter to a round atrium area where you have several options of exhibits, which includes a large fascade resembling the White House, a recreated long cabin and two state-of-the-art theatres that do a great job of taking you back in time and feeling you are really there.

4) Dublin Pub - One of the meals you'll want to enjoy is a regional specialty called "The Horseshoe." You'll find it in a few local eateries. It's basically a meat on top of Texas toast, topped with french fried and cheese and the option of onions and peppers. Dublin Pub makes a great "Shoe" among other delicious offerings.

5) Old State Capitol - If you can fit it into your itinerary, I recommend visiting both the old and new state capitol buildings to see the contrast in construction and function. The Old State Capitol, like many other attractions has free admission, although donations are welcome. It opened in 1877 and was a site where Lincoln's casket was on public display after his assasination.

6) Lincoln's Tomb - This serene memorial in Oak Ridge Cemetery is the second most visited in the country following Arlington National in Washington, D.C. The tomb has a large tower with impressive statues, several more statues inside and outside is a bust of Lincoln that visitors tend to rub for good luck.


7) Knight's Action Park - After visiting all the historic sites, Knight's Action Park is a fun spot to visit with the family where you can enjoy some rides, mini golf, water park and other attractions.

8) Illinois State Museum - Another free attraction in the capital city, learn about those who inhibited the area centuries ago and let the kids have fun with interactive displays.

9) State Capitol - A visit to Springfield is not complete without taking in this gorgeous structure and gazing up at the interior of the dome. Free tours are conducted daily. Sometimes you're lucky enough to get to see some of the state's lawmakers in action. Allow a couple extra minutes for bag searches and the lines for the metal detectors.

10) Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site - This Frank Loyd Wright design was competed in 1904 wtih 35 rooms on three levels and was owned by Susan Lawrence Dana, the daughter of a wealthy area industrialist.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cypress Cove Family Aquatic Park, Woodridge, IL

My kids really enjoy visiting water parks and this nice park district-run one in suburban Woodridge, Illinois is probably the closest to my home. We've been there at least once each summer for the past few years. It's a well-laid out park with fun for all ages. It's not so huge that you have a long hike from place to place, but it's big enough to offer several attractions in one spot.

My favorite part of most water parks is lounging on a lazy river and Cypress Cove has a 600-foot lazy river that loops around Crocodile Isle.  Bullfrog Bayou is an area for kids under 42' with a spray playground, dumping water and water guns as well as a mini-body slide. A zero-depth pool is also great for the little ones. It also deepens at the other end and there are diving boards.

There's three long body slides as well as a short tube slide that dumps into the lazy river and a six-lane lap pool tucked in the back for swimming. The food in the concession area is reasonable and decent and the locker rooms are clean.

Daily fee for out of town visitors is $14 or $9 after 5 p.m. Children under 1 are free. Visit cypresscove.org for more information.


Photo: cypresscove.org

Chicago Fire game at Toyota Park

I'm a big baseball fan. That's the sport I like to watch. I visit Wrigley Field several times a year to see the Cubs play. Other than that I have never really been to other sporting events. I'm a Bears fan. I watch the games on television, but the only time I've been to Soldier Field is to watch a concert. I watch the Bulls on television ocassionally, but I've only been to the United Center to see the circus.

Up until last week, I had never seen a Chicago Fire game on television or in person. I had been to Toyota Park in the past, but it was for concerts and a press conference. My 11-year-old (who plays in a youth soccer league) and I ended up going to a game with a group and had a fun time.

Here's the tailgating fun in the parking lot.

And here are some shots from the game. While I didn't take time to go through and look around, there was a section of the parking lot with sponsor tents and it appeared that there were some games and family activities. One plus if you are taking young kids is that a soccer game is a little shorter than a baseball game, so it's easier to get through with antsy kids.

I'm glad I made it out for the game. It's definitely something I would do again.