Showing posts from 2018

Mazda fares well on family road trip

I received a loan of a Mazda CX-9 for a one-week period in order to provide a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are mine.
Although according to the calendar it is still summer - and will continue to be for a couple more weeks, the kids are back in school and summer as we know it is coming to an end. It always goes by too quickly, so I always try to seize the opportunity to do some short family road trips with the kids each summer. It’s getting harder and harder as they get older and are involved in activities and are committed to work schedules. I did manage to get in a nice trip this month, though, with 3 of our 5 sons and I was so excited to have use of a Mazda CX-9 as we traveled.
My everyday driver is a small sedan, so it was nice to have something as roomy as the CX-9 for traveling. The 7-seater had all the bells and whistles I’d hoped for - and much more. We made our way out of the Chicago area, through Indiana and up the west coast of Michigan in our SUV. …

University of Notre Dame

For the past six years I have been making my way to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend each summer to attend the Shakespeare Festival. I have a son who has been involved in a youth theatre group where they do a Shakespeare production each year through their Education Through Theatre Program. In mid-July, he and his fellow youth actors take the stage at Washington Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for Shakescenes - a variety of Shakespeare-related skits from several youth theatre groups. 

It's something I look forward to each summer - obviously it is exciting to see my son perform, but even moreso when it is on a stage at the University of Notre Dame! However, I also love this annual event because it gives me a chance to spend time on this amazingly stunning campus. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I take a deep breath as I enter the grounds and I can just feel the stress melt away. The winding roads, architectural masterpieces and natural beauty ma…

Palmer House Hilton

As I was cleaning out my inbox this week, I noticed an email from the Palmer House Hilton for a special July deal with rooms for this winter starting at $115 per night. I'm tempted to plan a little getaway because that is a great deal - especially during busy times of year. The deal is good for bookings through July 31 for stays from November 16 - January 31. When I hit the link and plugged in a couple dates, I came up with rates even lower than the advertised $115. I found some dates as low as $94.

The email also took me back to a couple years ago when my son and I stayed there in January when we attended the Cubs convention. This Chicago hotel is a historical and architectural gem built for business magnate Potter Palmer. It is said that the hotel was a wedding gift to his bride Bertha (who was 23 years younger than him.) The hotel burned in the Great Chicago Fire just 13 days after its grand opening. He rebuilt and the new hotel opened in November 1873.

The Golden Empire Dining R…

Serenity Springs

A few years ago I came across a place online called Serenity Springs and I jotted it onto my list of places to visit at some point. It came back on my radar this month as I was scoping out possible spots for an anniversary overnight that wasn't too far from home and Serenity Springs seemed the perfect spot. It was within an hour's drive of my home in Chicago's South Suburbs (it's between LaPorte, Indiana and Michigan City) and from all the online photos and descriptions sounded like a romantic, secluded place to get away. It absolutely lives up to the name - it's complete serenity from the moment you enter the grounds.

We reserved a room for a Thursday evening and as soon as we got there realized we really should have reserved two nights. The place offers much more than a room to spend a night in. The 85-acre grounds are beautiful and have 31 unique cabins situated either on their lake, pond or creek. There are five different rooflines, so there are different layout…

Blue Chip Casino Spa

Last week we were spending a couple days in Michigan City, Indiana as we celebrated our wedding anniversary. After an overnight at nearby Serenity Springs, we spent the next day at Blue Chip Casino, which included some couples services at the spa.  

Located a few floors up in the Spa Blu Tower, the 10,000 square-foot Spa Blu has a long list of offerings, from foot, hand, skin treatments to manicures to massages to hair styling to make-up applications - with lots of extras and enhancements that can be added on to the experience. 

Within the locker room areas, there's both a steam room and whirlpool to enjoy and you can order an alcoholic beverages to also help you unwind. When I visit a spa, I always linger for a while in the relaxation room. I absolutely love to sit back with a cup of tea and read a magazine, but it's something I just don't make time for at home. So, anytime I am at a salon or a spa, I try to put the phone down and indulge in some alone time with tea and a g…

Cloud Gate and Millenium Park

If you Google the top tourist attractions in Chicago or in Illinois, you'll find Millennium Park in the top 10 of just about any list. And according to the City of Chicago's official numbers, Millennium Park became the most visited site in 2016 in not just Chicago or the state, but in the entire Midwest. Millennium Park is the site of many events throughout the year - music events like the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Gospel Music Festival along with free movies in the park each Tuesday from June - August during the Millennium Park Summer Film Series and free music on Mondays and Thursdays as part of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series. It's the home of Chicago Gourmet. It's right next to the Chicago Cultural Center where you can enjoy a multitude of performances and activities. And below it is Millennium Station where you can travel in by train from the suburbs. It sits besides Maggie Daley Park, which has a plethora of …

Sable Points Lighthouse Tours

I've always been fascinated by lighthouses and they always look stunning with the blue water and blue sky as a backdrop. I've had the opportunity to climb a lighthouse and peer out from the inside and it was amazing. 

I was recently in Ludington, Michigan where there are two lighthouses (with others not far away), but I was too early in the season to have a chance to get inside. However, there are four lighthouses that are run by the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association that can each be toured. They are:





You can climb each lighthouse for $5 for adults and $2 for children. 

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse will open for the season May 8 and it will be open daily from 10 a.m - 5 p.m. through November 4. This year it turns 150 and you can celebrate during the Michigan Lighthouse Festival in Ludington August 15 - 27.

The other three lighthouses open May 26 and each is open daily…

Antique Archeology, LeClaire, Iowa

Last summer as we were visiting the Quad Cities, we took a little side trip one day to historic LeClaire, Iowa, It's an adorable river town along the Mississippi that has a main street with quaint eateries, boutiques, wineries, rental houses, shops and more. For those who are into antiquing, it's also a great spot to hunt for some unique finds.

A big draw to the town is that it's home of Antique Archeology, the antique store that the cable show American Pickers is based on. The show, which airs on the History Channel, debuted in 2010 and follows antique and collectible pickers,  Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, as they make their way around the country searching for treasures to bring back to their home base.

The main building houses some antiques and unique items along with American Pickers merchandise - lots of t-shirts, mugs, etc. - and an outbuilding has larger items. You can't miss the place, which has a rusty car placed out in front with the business logo on the side…

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

For anyone who is a fan of baseball - or sports in general - a visit the Friendly Confines known as Wrigley Field should definitely land high on the bucket list. One of the oldest major league ballparks in the county - second only to Fenway Park in Boston - Wrigley Field opened in 1914. Until the Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016, the ball park had not been the home of a championship team.

Being a life-long die hard, I know I am biased, but there's just this wonderful old-school charm about Wrigley Field that you don't quite get in other ballparks. It's what makes it overall such a fun experience - the hand-operated scoreboard, the ivy on the bricks, the jazz band that makes it's way through the stands, the very mature employees who stand guard at each section checking tickets. There's been a lot of modernization in the past two or three years - the additional of big screens in the outfield, the addition of metal detectors, the move of the bullpen off the fi…

Newport on the Levee

On a trip through Ohio with two of my boys, we decided to take the bridge from Cincinnati over the river into Kentucky and check out Newport on the Levee. It was a very warm winter day that was great for spending time outside. We took time to walk around and check out the shops and restaurants, walk the Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian only bridge across the river and visit the Newport Aquarium, which was a highlight of the day. 

The Newport Aquarium is absolutely worth the trip if you are anywhere in the vicinity and are mesmerized by under water creatures. The aquarium includes a tide touch pool where you can put your hands in and touch starfish, a Coral Reef, the Surrounded by Sharks tank where you can get an upclose look at sharks all around you, the Stingray Hideaway with above and below water viewing and an opportunity to touch them and a 75-foot long suspended bridge that you can walk over and see sharks below. The Newport Aquarium is absolutely one of the coolest places I hav…

Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Being the big baseball fan I am, I love to visit ballparks of minor league and independent league teams as we travel. Late last summer on a trip with my kids to Fort Wayne, Indiana, we took in a game of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps (well, a couple innings of a game, anyway, before the rain came pouring down).

The Tin Caps are a Class A team affiliated with the San Diego Padres playing in the Midwest League.  The park is a beautiful one that is less than a decade old and was a short walk from our hotel. With a roomy concourse, suite level lounge and several private events spaces, it's an amazing venue. It has several times been awarded "No. 1 Ballpark Experience in Minor League Baseball" by Stadium Journey.

Since I am a big foodie and also do a food blog (, I'm always anxious to see what the food options are at big venues and this one had a lot of the typical baseball fare that you'd expect, but also some fun surprises. I loved being able to enjo…

Visit Hamlin Lake in Ludington, Michigan this summer

The Ludington area is a popular spot during the busy travel season. The downtown is full of quaint shoppes and eateries. There’s a nice craft beer scene. The S.S. Badger sails out of the harbor daily during peak season taking passengers and their vehicles across Lake Michigan to Manitowac, Wisconsin. There’s also a lot of fun to be had on the area’s inland lakes, including the large Hamlin Lake located just north of downtown.
On a recent visit to the area, we stayed at Suable Resort, which is located on the east side of Lower Hamlin Lake. The western part of Hamlin Lake is bordered by the Ludington State Park as is the north shore of Upper Hamlin Lake.
We were there in the off-season, visiting while my kids were on their spring break and things were very quiet and laid back. It was actually snowing during our trip, which was pretty unexpected (at least to me) in April and kept us inside a little more than we had planned. 
The resort has a number of cottages to accommodate different si…

Travel & Adventure Show Takes Place This Weekend in Rosemont

The Chicago Travel & Adventure Show returns this weekend to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center at 5555N. River Rd. in Rosement. Head out on Saturday or Sunday for the 14th annual show, which will feature exhibits from all corners of the globe, demonstrations, entertainment and activities. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Sunday.

This year there will be 60 first-time exhibitors, so even if you've attended in the past, there will be plenty of new places to explore. Also included in the price of admission is access to dozens of inspirational, educational and culturally focused sessions on five stages located right on the show floor, along with hands-on activities for the whole family.

A Wellness Travel Experience pavilion is a new addition this year that showcases trends in wellness travel. There are also seminar sessions with some of the world's top travel experts, including Rick Steves, Pauline Former and Samantha Brown.

The follow…