Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lansing Historical Society Festival of Lights to open

One of the highlights of the season for me is the Festival of Lights exhibit at the Lansing Historical Society. I'm vice president of the society, which means I am the program director and I always enjoy selecting the program for November when our Festival of Lights exhibits opens. For several of the programs, I have booked musical groups that have performed holiday songs. This year the entertainment comes from veteran actor Terry Lynch, who will perform as St. Nick in "The Legend of St. Nicholas." Following the family-friendly program, the museum will be open for viewing of the trees. The exhibit includes nearly 3 dozen trees and holiday scenes.

The Lansing Historical Museum is located in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library at School Street and Indiana Ave. in Lansing, Illinois. For more information, go to

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dine with Santa on the Spirit of Chicago

Santa will be trading in his sleigh on December 13 in favor of a cruise ship and he's inviting his young fans to sail along with him on a lunch cruise. A newly designed menu will feature a variety of fresh, organic dishes and kid favorites (like meatballs and mini desserts) on the two-hour tour. Check out the press release below for further details.

Enjoy a Special Family Day Aboard the Spirit of Chicago with Santa

CHICAGO, IL (Nov. 20, 2014) - Christmas is coming early to the Spirit of Chicago. On Saturday, December 13, families are welcome aboard the Spirit of Chicago for a day of Christmas fun on the Santa Lunch Cruise. This cruise is the perfect start to a season full of holiday cheer with DJ entertainment and, of course, a visit from the big man in red. Guests can admire breathtaking views of Chicago's skyline on the Spirit of Chicago's climate-controlled ship and children will make lasting memories with a photo opportunity with Santa. 

The Santa Lunch Cruise will feature the newly redesigned Spirit of Chicago lunch menu that incorporates fresh, organic ingredients to satisfy all cruisers. The menu includes tasty starters like Organic Spinach and Kale Salad, as well as a Mediterranean Couscous and Chickpea Salad. Main course options include Roast Salmon & Tilapia, Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and Roast Broccoli. The meal ends on a sweet note with assorted mini desserts and fresh fruit. 

Don't miss out on this festive family activity for the holiday season. Give your children a special memory and reserve the Spirit of Chicago Santa Lunch Cruise today. 

All prices below are per person and do not yet include taxes and other fees; 40% off for children.  Complete menus, photos and further details are available upon request. 

Board 12:30 p.m., Cruise 1:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. 
From $42.90 for adults and $25.95 for children (3-12 years)*

*Prices do not include taxes or fees

Reservations are required and can be made by calling 888.957.2634 or by visiting

General Information
Odyssey Cruises, Spirit of Chicago, Mystic Blue CruisesSeadog Cruises and Chicago Elite Cruises are part of Chicago-based Entertainment Cruises.

The Spirit of Chicago, Seadog, and The Odyssey received the Trip Advisor 2014 Excellence Award

The Odyssey received Illinois Meetings + Events magazine's 2013 readers' choice Best of Award.

The Spirit of Chicago and The Odyssey received a 2014 Editor's Choice for Best in Boats from Chicago Traveler.

Entertainment Cruises' fleet was voted as a "Best of Knot Weddings" for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Spirit of Chicago received Chicago Parent's Best Places to Flirt in the Best Places for Chicago Parents in 2013.

Seadog Cruises received top ratings and a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor in 2012 and 2013. 

Odyssey was named the "Best Cruise Line in Chicago" by Destination Guide in 2012. 

Seadog Extreme was awarded the "Best Kid-Friendly Thrill" by Time Out Chicago KIDS in 2012.

Entertainment Cruises received the Silver Award from NTA's Courier Magazine in the "Favorite Sightseeing Cruise Line" category in 2012. 

Odyssey was named a 2012 Top Rated Restaurant & received a certificate of recognition from

Odyssey was recognized for having a 4 out of 5 stars from Yelp & received the "People Love Us" award in 2012.

The Odyssey was named the Best of Boats/Charters/Cruises by the Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine in 2011 and 2012.

Odyssey was named a "Concierge Favorite" by Concierge Preferred in 2011. 

About The Chicago Elite
The Elite is Chicago's most innovative dining and entertainment experience. The private charter yacht is available as a private event space for parties of up to 150 guests. Featuring two interior salons, an expansive bar and lounge on main deck and a finely appointed dining room on second deck. Top deck features a contemporary roof top style outside lounge with unparalleled waterfront views of Chicago's award winning skyline and architecture. Chicago Elite offers a completely customizable event on a private yacht for a meeting, wedding or unique gathering. For more information, visit

About The Odyssey
The Odyssey's 749-passenger ship, the largest cruise vessel to ply the waters of Lake Michigan, is unrivaled in luxury and recipient of Concierge Favorite and Best of The Knot awards in 2012.  The Odyssey, at 200-ft. long and 55-ft. high, is equipped with three climate controlled decks, an outdoor observation deck, three indoor bars, dance floors, and exceptional skyline views from bow to stern.  Odyssey's distinguished service and experiences cater to all tastes and senses. For more information, visit

About Spirit of Chicago
Spirit of Chicago's festive, four-story ship has been creating high-energy fun from beginning to end as it cruises along Chicago's lakefront. The 192-ft. ship sails year-round and features a vibrant interior of three climate-controlled dining decks with new bars and dance floors and panoramic windows.  For more information, visit

About Mystic Blue
Featuring a contemporary d├ęcor with sleek, silvery-blue interiors, Mystic Blue boasts an outdoor lounge with modern furniture, and three enclosed decks with the largest picture windows of any dinner boat on Lake Michigan. From parties of two to 600, Mystic Blue is the place for cool music, delicious food and drinks, top-notch service and unbeatable views from every table. For more information, visit

About Seadog 
One of the most popular attractions at Navy Pier, Seadog has thrilled over 1,000,000 people. Seadog offers three turbo-charged excursions from a 30-minute Speedboat Lake Tour, a 75-minute Lake and River Architectural Tour, and the most horse-powered vessel on the water, a 30-minute Extreme Thrill Ride. Dogs cruise free (based on availability). Seadog operates April - October, weather permitting. For more information, visit

Saturday, June 21, 2014

South Shore Arts hosts Family Arts Festival

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, South Shore Arts will host a variety of activities at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts as part of the Family Arts Festival, which will include music activities for infants and toddlers, back stage tours, musical performances and more. An artist reception from noon to 3 p.m. also takes place for the center's new art exhibit, Baby Boom or Bust! featuring the work of Brian J. Sullivan. A free photo exhibit will also be on display in the atrium titled "Dunes and Blooms"by Pete Doherty and Joanne Markiewicz. Face painting, theatre games and an ice carving demonstration are also part of the fun. Several of the day's activities are free.

Also enjoy brunch and a performance of The Princess Show. For all the details of the event, go to

The Center for Visual and Performing Arts is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana.

Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau shares 101 Things to See and Do in Kenosha area!

My friends at the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau sent me this extensive list of fun to be had in the Kenosha area this summer. Our family has visited the area many times and there's never a shortage of fun. It's also great that so many of these activities are free. Take a look at the list and pick out some fun for the summer!

101 Things to See & Do for Under $10in the Kenosha Area: Many are FREE!

Located in Southeast Wisconsin on the Lake Michigan shore, the Kenosha Area is gaining a reputation as being the very affordable and fun travel destination that it is. The area is extremely accessible and close to Chicago and Milwaukee, off Interstate-94. Parking is free at Lake Michigan and in Downtown Kenosha. Coupons, military discounts, and hotel packages are available On the same website is the very popular FUN101 list: 101 Things to See & Do for Under $10 in the Kenosha Area: Many are FREE!
Updated twice each year, here’s a sampling of this summer’s FUN101 list:
1. Take me out to the ball game! This is the inaugural season for the Kenosha Kingfish baseball team at historic Simmons Field. $8+
2. Enjoy 130+ vendors of organic produce, cheeses, artisan bakery goods, crafts, live music, chef demos, and much more at Kenosha HarborMarket. FREE to browse
3. Bring your favorite 4-legged friend to run and play at Ingram Park Dog ParkCarlisle Family Dog ParkHarris Family Dog Park, or Warren Close Bark Park. $2-5
5. Meet you at the lake! Bring the sunscreen and a beach towel … we have FIVE beaches along Lake Michigan! (no lifeguards on duty) FREE
8. Stop to see live animals and hands-on exhibits inside Richard Bong State Recreation Area’s Visitor Center, then head out birding. $7-10 per vehicle park entrance fee, Center is FREE 
9. Take the kids for a fun pedal boat ride on Lake Andrea! $8-10 
10. Try for an ace or a birdie on the disc golf course at UW-Parkside or Fox River Park. FREE
15. Enjoy a beautiful self-guided tour through Kemper Center's Durkee Mansion, which was built in the 1860’s on the Lake Michigan shore. FREE
16. Take advantage of the Super Twilight rate when walking 9 holes at Petrifying Springs Golf Course or Brighton Dale Links. $10
24. The Transparent Watercolor Society of America presents the 38th Annual National Juried Exhibition at the Kenosha Public Museum, through August 10. FREE
25. Spend Saturday night at the racetrack! On select dates, Wilmot Raceway offers Family Nights, which are a bargain! $10 & under 
28. Splish! Splash! Fly down the 200-foot long water slide at Washington Park Pool or Anderson Park Pool. $5 & under
32. Checkmate! Relax and enjoy one of the chess tables in Petrifying Springs Park and Fox River Park. FREE
34. Nature enthusiasts need to visit Chiwaukee Prairie, which is considered an ecological gem. FREE
35. Let the kids cool off with a visit to HarborPark’s splash pad area. FREE
41. Enjoy amazing stunts on water as the very talented performers of the Aquanut Water Shows do their thing on Lake Mary twice a week. FREE
53. Stand tall! Climb the 72 steps of the 1866 Southport Lighthouse. $10 & under 
60. Listen to live Kenosha Pops concerts under the stars at the Sesquicentennial Bandshell. FREE
61. Watch thrilling bicycle races at the Washington Park Velodrome. FREE
68. It’s a date! Meet your friends at Veterans Memorial Park for the Peanut Butter & Jam Concert Series. Two concerts take place each Thursday, July 10 – August 28. FREE; view more music events here.
71. Enjoy our scenic Lake Michigan shore from the seat of an authentic Electric Streetcar. $1 & under
79. Enjoy a scenic bike ride on the Pike Bike Trail or the Kenosha County Bike Trail. FREE
85. Relax and watch an amazing sunrise over Lake Michigan. FREE 
86. Reflect at the Veteran’s Memorial Fountain and Lone Soldier Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park. FREE
101. Spend your Sunday browsing through the Wilmot Mountain Flea Market. $1 & under
For more information about these places and events and more in the Kenosha Area, log on to or call (262) 654-7307 or (800) 654-7309. Follow Visit Kenosha on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to receive updates about events, specials, and more. Kenosha’s I-94 Visitor Information Center is located at the southeast corner of I-94 and Hwy. 165, while the Downtown Center is located at 812 - 56th Street.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Indianapolis Zoo

Although I live in Chicago where we have two wonderful zoos, I always like to check out zoos when we travel to see something new and see animals in different environments.

We have one zoo that offers quite a bit, but is so massive in size and so spread out that it's almost impossible to get through the whole place in one day. Our other zoo is smaller and much more compact with the advantage of being free, but parking is always a challenge and sometimes it's hard to get around with the large crowds.

The Indianapolis Zoo falls somewhere in between. It's big enough to offer a good variety of exhibits, but not so large that you log a dozen miles on a visit. It's easy to manuever and there's a lot to see and do.

Just outside the entrance is the White River Gardens, which you can visit with your zoo admission. There are some fun opportunities of upgrades you can add to your day, some of which are feeding giraffes, being a Jr. Dolphin Trainer or taking a train ride.

Some of the zoo highlights are the "Race-A-Cheetah" section where you can test your speed against these speedy cats, the Shark Touch Pool, the Dolphin Show and the new International Orangutan Center.

For more information, visit

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Soldiers and Sailors Monument: Indianapolis, Indiana

Central to downtown Indianapolis is Monument Circle, with the focal point being the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was dedicated in 1902. The structure is built on a site originally laid out for the Governor's Mansion, which was completed in 1827. That building was later demolished and during the Civil War it was first suggested that a memorial be built on the site to honor those who were dying while protecting the Union.

The cornerstone was laid in 1889 and completed at a cost of $600,000, built of gray oolitic limestone from the quarries of Owen County, Indiana. The foundation is 30 feet in depth while the height from street level to top of the Victory statue is just 15 feet shorter the Statue of Liberty.

Among the ornate statues that decorate the tower are  bronze statues of James Whitcomb, Indiana's Governor during the Mexican War and Oliver P. Morton, Governor during the Civil War and a statue of George Rogers Clark. Additional limestone figures of a calvary scout and infantryman sit near the entrance.

A beautiful, historic tribute to those who served prior to World War I, the monument beams among the modern buildings that surround the circle.

The circle is a hub of activity where you can catch a ride on horse carriage, watch street performers or pick up a bite from a food truck. The massive steps are a great spot to stop and take in the beauty of the city from this nostalgic backdrop.

I was excited on a visit this year to finally have a chance to head up to the observation deck, 231 feet above ground where you can marvel at the city with an awesome birds-eye view. The deck is enclosed in glass and can be reached by climbing the 331 steps. You can also take the elevator (for a minimal fee), which takes you up near the top. You have to finish the climb on a few narrow steps that spiral toward the top. Admission to the monument is free.

You can also visit the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum that is housed in the lower level. It highlights Indiana's contributions to the war, giving a sense of the living conditions and sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcome.

Horse carriages often line the circle waiting for riders.

A view from the top.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jelly Belly Center: Kenosha, Wisconsin

One of our family's favorite getaway spots is the Kenosha, Wisconsin area. For those living in the Chicago area, it's a quick little jaunt that makes for a great day trip, but it's also an awesome destination for a weekend getaway with lots of accessible lakefront, free museums, great eateries, superb shopping and other fun attractions.

When traveling with the family, it's always a plus when you can spend time somewhere that the kids enjoy and it's free. Jelly Belly Center is one of those places. I don't think we've ever been to the Kenosha area without making a stop there. Free tours are available daily  through the distribution facility on a cute little train with stops along the way for a video history of the company and to admire some awesome jelly bean art that hangs on the walls.

The tour naturally exits out the store. So, although the tour is free, it is pretty hard to make it out of the place without purchasing a few edible souvenirs. However, if you just want to taste, there is a sampling bar where you can try out a huge number of their beans and other products. There's also a section with deeply discounted candy, including the "Belly Flops" which taste great, but didn't pass the prettiness inspection.

The facility is not far off of I-94, so even if you're just passing through on the way to another destination, it's a great rest stop for families where they can stretch their legs and have a sweet treat.

We always do a bit of shopping on our visits to the Jelly Belly Center.

Jelly Belly Center
10100 Jelly Belly Lane
Pleasant Prairie, WI

Saturday, May 24, 2014

International Orangutan Center opens today at Indianapolis Zoo

Eight orangutans have taken up residence in some new digs at the Indianapolis Zoo. The new Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center opens today, giving visitors a close look at this amazing species that is on the verge of extinction. 

I was able to preview the exhibit earlier this month as part of a media tour and was enthralled by watching the orangutans play and interact with one another, but also get up face to face with visitors at the glass. Kids can go online to research each of the orangutans before the visit or follow up afterwards by learning more if they go to

The center allows for lots of opportunity for outdoor climbing and spectators can watch from a sky ride that extends around the exhibit allowing for a birds eye view of the center.

Also part of the exhibit is the Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope, which stretches 150 feet into the sky and will transform the Indianapolis skyline. At night it is illuminated by lights the orangutans turn on themselves, reminding us that there is still hope for orangutans.

We also had an opportunity to watch some practice lessons where the orangutans used computers to match up images, showing the intelligence of the species.

This is an awesome way to observe these creatures in ways that the general public never could before. Find out more on the exhibit at

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lansing to host first cruise night June 14

For classic car fans, there's a full season ahead of car shows and cruise nights to pull that antique out of the garage to show it off or to simply stroll along and admire the automotive designs of the past. South Suburban Lansing, Illinois has three cruise nights scheduled for the season. They all take place on Ridge Road between Burnham and Wentworth Avenues.

Dates for 2014 are:

June 14
July 12
August 2

Each cruise begins at 6 p.m. and runs until 10 p.m.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dinosphere at Children's Museum of Indianapolis celebrates 10 years

One of the most popular portions of the massive Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the Dinosphere, which turns 10 years old this year. The museum hosted several special activities during spring break and the highlight of the exhibit during this anniversary year is the arrival of Leonardo, the best preserved dinosaur remains ever found. Leonardo is a juvenile Brachylophosaurus that roamed the earth about 77 million years ago.

Also part of the exhibit is the dome (featuring Bucky the teenage T. Rex) that gives the sense of transition from morning to night with special lighting, a dinosaur dig and Dracorex howartsia, a recent discovery that was named in honor of the Harry Potter series.

The Dinosphere is included in regular admission to the museum.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
3000 N. Meridian 
Indianapolis, IN

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Indiana Beach Camping: Monticello, Indiana (with 50% off discount information for Memorial Day weekend)

Indiana Beach Amusement Resort holds fond memories for me as it was one of the first trips I took with my husband. We're going way back to the late 1980's when we had been dating for a year or two, so it was really fun to take our family there this past summer for a couple days at the campground and a day spent at the amusement park.

Camping facilities near the park have primitive sites, sites for RV hook-ups and rental cabins with swimming facilities, arcades, mini golf and other activities. Our rental cabin was the perfect size for our family. Six of us went on the trip and it was roomy enough for us to move around while providing accommodations above the "roughin' it" style of camping.

We didn't really spend much time at the site, but we were at the end of a row facing forest, so it was a nice quiet spot. I wish we'd had time to build a fire and make smores and just hang out.

The boys were fascinated by the tree frogs that came out at night and climbed along with windows with their sticky feet.

You'll be within walking distance of the park or if you prefer to be close to the gate, you can pull up for the VIP parking and then spend the day on rides, in the water park, on the beach or on a boat. Summer family fun at it's best!

Click here for a 50% discount on a two or more night stay over the Memorial Day holiday weekend!

Fly a kite at New Buffalo City Beach and Lakefront Park: New Buffalo, Michigan

It's just been in the past few years that we've discovered New Buffalo's public beach. For years we'd head up and spend time in Galien and Three Oaks, but never ventured over to New Buffalo. Now, it's a frequent summer destination for us as there are a lot of good eateries in addition to the fabulous beach.

And we don't always go there intending to go in the water. Sometimes in the off season we stop there just to take a walk and to take some pictures and enjoy the beautiful shoreline. We've also been there several times with the kids to fly kites. This time of year is a great time to visit when parking is free and the summer crowds haven't made their way there yet.

The beach is free but after Memorial Day there is a $10 parking fee, unless visiting before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m.  Sometimes we'll spend the day in the area to pick fruit or shop or check out the Flag Day Parade and later in the day, once it hits 8 p.m., we'll head over and spend a little time on the beach before returning home.

If you don't have kites, you'll find them at a lot of the shops in New Buffalo. I think we got some of ours in nearby Three Oaks at the Three Oaks Pharmacy. Once in a while one is short-lived (usually if it's something from the dollar section), but if you get a quality kite it will last you several seasons as ours have.  Their favorite is the shark kite we have that looks pretty cool flying above our heads.

Find more information on the New Buffalo City Beach here -

See vintage wedding dresses at Lansing Historical Society's June Brides exhibit

Wedding fashions have changed drastically over the decades and an annual exhibit at the Lansing Historical Society gives a chronological look at what local brides have worn over the years. Running throughout the month of June, the June Brides exhibit includes dresses that date back to the late 1800's made from a variety of materials along with an exhibit of wedding accessories and trinkets.

The all-volunteer museum has limited hours - Monday from 6 - 8 p.m., Wednesday from 3 - 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. - noon. The museum is located in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library at Indiana Ave. and School Street in Lansing, IL

Prairie Guest House, Fishers Indiana

On a recent media trip in Indianapolis, I spent a little time in Hamilton County, staying at the Prairie Guest House Bed & Breakfast in ...