Sunday, June 24, 2018

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 layouts - like the A frame with an upstairs bedroom and a barn-style with a loft with a little seating area that you get to via ladder, but that offers pretty, elevated views. 

The place opened 19 years ago and although it's easily accessible and right off of an expressway exit, it feels far away from the hustle and bustle. 

Although it is designed to be distraction-free and there are no phone in the cabins, there are televisions and a number of activities on site for couples to enjoy together - trail walks, bike rides, ping pong, board games, fishing and more. Each cabin has a private deck with a fire pit and grill and there's a bin of food for the geese, ducks and swans that reside there.



When you arrive, you park your car in the lot next to the check-in building and you are taken back to your cabin via horse-drawn carriage. You then get a little tour and explanation of the cabin and amenities by staff. One of the really unique features of the cabins is that once the staff drops you off any correspondence is done through a butler box, so for anything you need you don't have interruptions. 

If you have a request, you put a note in the butler box and flip a switch to let them know something is there. When they drop something off for you, they put it in the box and flip a switch that activates a light inside the cabin to make you aware that something has been dropped off. 

Not long after check-in, our light went off and we had a little s'mores kit waiting with everything we needed to make s'mores on our little patio campfire. After dinner our light went on again and we found dessert in our box. 

And then before bed, we had breakfast for the next morning delivered - a basket of muffins and fresh fruit. We also had the option of requesting complimentary fresh eggs (there are several chickens on site that lay eggs for guests) and for $5 we purchased bacon from a local meat shop. Both were delivered to our butler box with pans and utensils so that it could be prepared on the grill in the morning. They also leave a basket of snacks in the room, so there's always something there if you get hungry.



With grills on the patios, guests are welcome to bring their own meal to prepare. You'll also find menus for some local restaurants in the cabins. For dinner, we opted to order from one of the local restaurants and have it delivered. This was the only time delivery didn't come through the butler box. Two employees came in quickly, set down a table cloth, lit candles and placed out our meal of steak and pork chops from Decoy's Bar & Grill. It was lovely. 



There's a big selection of movies in the check-in office and I picked out a couple. It seemed an appropriate time to watch "The Notebook," which I had never seen in its entirety, so we watched it. At home, we have few opportunities to sit together and watch a full movie without interruptions, so it was nice to have the luxury of time to do so. After dinner we watched the movie, after a couple of rounds of ping pong in the clubhouse that was a short walk from our cabin. We also took an evening walk where we could see fish jumping out of the water. We talked about getting up and fishing the next morning, but after cooking breakfast we just didn't have time. A second day would have definitely been enjoyed - doing a little more walking, fishing, feeding the geese and just chilling together in our room. I now see why the line "One Night's Just Not Enough" is printed just below the logo on the home page of the website. It was a perfect anniversary get-away and one I am certain we will repeat for an anniversary in the future.




Serenity Springs
5888 N. U.S. Hwy 35
Michigan City, Indiana
219-861-0000
Serenity-Springs.com


***We were hosted so that we could experience a stay and write about it. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blue Chip Casino Spa

Looking out from the mani/pedi area
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 gossipy celeb magazine. Spa Blu's lounge was dim and comfortable with soothing music. 

My idea of relaxation - tea and a magazine in a quiet space.
On our visit, we first made our way to the mani/pedi area where we sat side by side for pedicures and added on the paraffin wax treatment. Our appointments were scheduled so that we had over an hour in between services, so that gave me plenty of time to just chill. I may have taken some time to enjoy the steam room and whirlpool, but because I just had polish applied to my toes, they recommend skipping it so I didn't damage the work they just did (so something to keep in mind should you schedule services - plan out some whirlpool time before your appointment if you are getting a manicure.) It worked out fine - I got a full uninterrupted hour all by myself with no emails, phone calls, barking dogs or kids complaining that we're out of ice cream or fighting over video games. It was an hour of complete bliss with an issue or People and a hot cup of red rooibos.

Our pedicures were followed up with a 50-minute couples massage. It was our first time experiencing a couple's massage and it was so nice to relax together. And it releived that little bit of guilt I feel when I take advantage of an opportunity to get a massage. I love to get a massage if I can when we travel, but it had been a decade or more since my husband had a massage. With his very demanding, stressful and physical job as a firefighter, he certainly needed it.

Log on to bluechipcasino.com to take a look at the full spa menu.

Of course there's way more than just the spa to enjoy when you are there- besides the 65,000 square-foot casino itself, you can enjoy big name performers in the Stardust Event Center, which seats 1200. You can dine at one of five eateries, which offering everything from snacks to prime steaks. We pre-gamed before our spa appointment at The Game sports bar for a snack and a flight of craft beer and we followed it up with a luxurious meal at William B's Steakhouse. I'll be posting about our dinner experience soon at ChicagoFoodieSisters.com, so keep an eye out for that review of our amazing meal.



If we hadn't already had plans for an overnight elsewhere, it would have made a great getaway. You'll find some great deals on hotel rooms if you take a peek at the website before booking.



Monday, June 11, 2018

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 activities for youngsters. In the winter, you can lace up skates on the rink within the park. You can grab a bite to eat at Park Grill, an awarding winning restaurant at the gateway to the park. And Millennium Park is just a stone's throw from Lake Michigan. 


Aside from all of the above, a huge draw at Millennium Park is a mirrored sculpture known as Cloud Gate, that is more often called "The Bean" by locals. 

It took many years after it was installed for me to visit and see it in person. And when I finally did, I was - like most of the other visitors - mesmerized by the beautiful reflection of the city's skyline. And you can visit many times and never get the same shot. One day it may be bright and sunny with the sky a stunning shade of blue. The next day may be overcast with a more dull hue of sky blue dotted with white clouds. Unless you are there at the crack of dawn when the park is quiet and uncrowded, you'll see reflections of tons of faces. It's virtually impossible to get an identical image on two separate days. 

Best thing about stopping at the park to see this artistic masterpiece is that it is free.

Stay in a Historic Train Car at Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Union Station

When we travel, we always like to find unique out-of-the-box lodging when we can. There's always the comfort of predictability in stay...