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Snapshot of a Chicago weekend: Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field

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chicago skyline

I first went to Chicago many years ago as a senior in high school with my Art History class. In some ways, that trip—and that class as a whole—helped set the course my life would take. I fell in love with art thanks to an inspiring teacher who made every moment, from ancient sculpture all the way up to contemporary painting, seem exciting. I would go on to major in Art History in college and earn my Master’s degree in the field after deciding there was no other subject I could bear to study.

During that school trip, we were only in Chicago for a weekend, but that one weekend was packed. We visited the Art Institute of Chicago where I saw Seurat’s famous scene at the park. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, I gained even more appreciation for Cindy Sherman, and during the architectural walking tour I marveled that such beautiful examples of American design were located in the Midwest.

I fell in love with Chicago, art, and travel that weekend.

Little did I know that my future husband would appreciate Chicago too. As a former resident and diehard Cubs fan, he is the one who truly introduced me to the city. Sure, I’d been there before on the high school trip, but it wasn’t until I went with my husband that I attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, had a beer at a locally owned bar in Wrigleyville, and became familiar with the El. I remember my first game at historic Wrigley, watching the numbers change on the vintage scoreboard. It is a unique place and a shrine to baseball.

Years have passed and my love for Chicago is still strong, so it was a thrill to see one of our favorite bands, Pearl Jam, play at the historic ballpark recently. The show was outstanding. Eddie Vedder sounded (and looked) amazing. Sure, we had to endure a three hour rain delay, but now that I look back at that night, the delay seems insignificant compared to the music.

I’m participating in Instagram Travel Thursday. Stop by and check it out to see what other travelers have been up to this week. Also, if you’d like to follow me on Instagram, I’m wandering_off.

Year in Review: Our Best Travel Moments of 2012

Looking back at 2012, I realize that this was a pretty epic year of travel for our family. With a new starting point (Las Vegas), we were able to visit destinations like San Francisco and Los Angeles that are much closer to us now than they were when we lived in Texas and the Midwest. However, that isn’t to say that we stayed close to home. This year also took us to Florida, the Bahamas, British Columbia, and elsewhere.

I’m in the mood to relive some of those great travel moments. Want to come along? Here are six highlights from the past year:

San Francisco

My husband and I started out 2012 with a parents-only trip to San Francisco. We are always a little sad to travel without our daughter, but having time to ourselves is essential. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Flour + Water, visited Alcatraz, and did our share of drinking at the hotel bar.

What I learned: Sometimes Mama needs a break! Be thankful for friends and family who are willing to babysit.

At a wine bar, Ferry Building, San Francisco.

Death Valley

We had been told that Death Valley was rather boring and that we should try another nearby national park, like Joshua Tree. Ever the contrarians, we decided to try Death Valley anyway. Dramatic vistas, huge sand dunes, and the expansive salt flats kept us entertained for an afternoon. The park makes a fantastic day trip from Las Vegas!

What I learned: Bring sand toys for the kids…and the grown-ups.

Death Valley NP sand dunes


We love Chicago, and in a way it is like a second home to us. We try to visit once a year, and this year’s trip was particularly fun. We did a few new things that we hadn’t tried before like a Wrigley Field tour. If the winters weren’t so long, I’d move to Chicago in a second!

What I learned: Even if you’ve attended a game at Wrigley Field, you should consider going back for a behind-the-scenes tour.

View from press box, Wrigley Field Tour

Disney Cruise

Although my husband had been on a cruise before, this was a first for my daughter and me. Our trip was filled to the brim with adventures: swimming with a dolphin, rushing down the Aquaduck slide, and meeting all of the popular Disney characters.

What I learned: The line for Disney Dream’s Aquaduck slide might look long, but it’s worth the wait.

The Aquaduck circles the deck of the Disney Dream


We visited Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in September with my husband’s extended family. Our group shared a house for a long weekend, giving my daughter plenty of opportunity to play with her cousins. Sometimes travel is just about fun…but sometimes it’s more than that. It’s about the simple pleasures in life, connecting with family and with nature, and taking a deep breath of that lovely mountain air.

What I learned: Winter or summer, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Colorado.

Estes Park, CO

Seattle and Victoria

Usually when we travel during major holidays, we go back home to St. Louis to see family. However, for Thanksgiving we tried something new and traveled elsewhere. During our visit, we ate at some really wonderful restaurants like Toulouse Petite Kitchen in Seattle and Mo:Le in Victoria.

What I learned: Food is awesome.

Victoria, BC at night

I’m so thankful that this has been a travel-filled year for our family. I hope you were able to enjoy some adventures in 2012. Thank you so much for reading Wandering Off.

Five Reasons to Visit Chicago’s Field Museum

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On our recent trip to Chicago, we made sure to spend some time at one of the city’s iconic institutions, the Field Museum. From ancient Egypt to dinosaurs to rocks and gems, this natural history museum offers visitors some awe-inspiring learning opportunities that can’t be found just anywhere.

1. A T-Rex named Sue: This is the largest, most complete, and best preserved tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Located in the museum’s central corridor, she is impossible to miss.

Five Reasons to Visit the Field Museum in Chicago

2. Prehistoric animals you’ve never heard of before: The Evolving Planet exhibit will take you on a journey through the history of life on earth. My favorite was the very tall Giant Ground Sloth, which lived during the Quaternary period.

Giant sloth at the Field Museum, Chicago.

3. All that sparkles is not gold…sometimes it’s a gem: The Hall of Gems and the Hall of Jades are impressive, but it may surprise you to discover that only 3% of the museum’s geological collection is actually on display!

4. Special exhibits: From Extreme Mammals to Genghis Khan, the Field Museum offers special exhibits that appeal to a wide audience. Check out the museum’s website to find out which exhibits are appropriate for which age groups.

5. Beautiful architecture: The neo-classical Field Museum is magnificent. The museum opened to the public in its current location in 1921, after six years of construction and some discussions with the military concerning using the building as a hospital during World War I. Chicago is one of the architectural capitals of the world, so make sure you observe your surroundings both at the Field Museum and elsewhere in Chicago. To read more about the Field Museum from an architectural perspective, click here.

Ceiling, Chicago's Field Museum

Have another reason why the Field Museum is worth a visit? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Back to the Homeland: Our Recent Adventures in the Midwest

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The Butterfly House and other Midwestern adventures

Beautiful flowers at the Butterfly House in St. Louis, Missouri.

We just returned from a whirlwind trip to the Midwest, visiting three destinations in five nights. It wasn’t exactly a slow-paced vacation, but we managed to make the most of our time.

Here’s the breakdown of our itinerary…it would make a great starting point for those wanting to visit Missouri and Illinois:

Day 1: Arrive in St. Louis. Grab a late-night snack.
Day 2: Explore Faust Park and the Butterfly House. Drive to the Lake of the Ozarks, with a stop in Columbia for pizza at Shakespeare’s. Arrive at the Lake in the evening and enjoy a moonlit boat ride.
Day 3: Don some sunscreen and hit the water for jet-skiing, swimming, and other lake activities during the day. Play a round of mini-golf or race around the go-kart track in the evening.
Day 4: Start the day with an all-you-can-eat breakfast at Kay’s Restaurant. Then hit the road to Chicago, which is about a seven-hour drive from Osage Beach. Arrive in Chicago, and grab a snack and a glass of wine at the popular foodie-hangout The Purple Pig, located on The Magnificent Mile.
Day 5: Take a tour of Wrigley Field and learn all about the historic ballpark’s story. Enjoy lunch nearby in Wrigleyville. Then take a cab to Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and enjoy the views. Have an early dinner at Harry Caray’s Steakhouse.
Day 6: Before heading out of town, visit one of Chicago’s iconic museums. We chose the Field Museum, based on our daughter’s love of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

As you can see, we managed to have a lot of fun (and learn quite a bit along the way) in a short amount of time. We would have loved to spend more time in all three destinations, but vacations can’t last forever. I’ll be writing more about several of these adventures in the coming week or two. I hope you’ll stop by.

First Cab Ride

Last weekend when we were in Chicago, we took a cab from the hotel to the airport. At first, I didn’t think much of it. There are so many milestones in a child’s life, “first cab ride” wasn’t one I was highly anticipating. However, when I looked back and saw E.’s face, I knew I had to get a picture.

To be fair, the driver didn’t really deserve E.’s skepticism. He seemed nice enough, and he got us to the airport in reasonable time without making me fear for my life.

Thanks to Delicious Baby for inspring today’s post! Check out more travel pictures at Photo Friday.

Chicago Weekend

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This was my eighth (I think) trip to Chicago, and Nick has been a dozen times in addition to living in Chicago as a child. We never get tired of this city, and I’m not exactly sure why. Is it the great food? The amazing architecture? The lake? The baseball? All I know is that we enjoyed a fun weekend of beer, baseball, and good food.

Nick and I dropped off E. with her grandparents who were also visiting Chicago the same weekend. They were anxious to see their granddaughter, and to be honest, we were anxious for some grown-up time. Our mission was to enjoy the kinds of things we can’t do while hanging out with E.: dinner at non-kid-friendly restaurants, going out for drinks, taking in a baseball game without any distractions. And we did all of those things…mission accomplished!

At the end of the weekend, we met up with E. and her grandparents and cousins at Navy Pier, and enjoyed lunch and a pleasant walk. Then it was back to Texas…we went from highs in the upper 60’s to highs over 100. I’m still trying to re-adjust.

I won’t go through the whole weekend step-by-step, but here are a few of my favorite memories from this trip:

–Taking the El. Maybe I’m a small-town kind of gal, but I am thoroughly entertained by mass transit: subways, elevated trains, metros, etc. Maybe it’s the people-watching. Anyway, I always loving hearing the words, “This is Clark. Doors will open on the right at Clark.” For more info on the El, visit

–Dinner at Harry Caray’s. Gosh darn, my filet mignon was good! And where else can you see Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry sitting at the next table?

–Evening walks. I love this city’s beautiful architecture, especially at night. Just gorgeous.

–A visit to Wrigley. Although we try to catch a Cubs game in Chicago every summer, we had to skip it last year. It was great to be back. There is something about the atmosphere around the ballpark in Wrigleyville that is really special and can’t be found in many baseball cities. And to top it off, the Cubs won!

–Reuniting with E. at Navy Pier. After a weekend away from her, I was ready to see E. on Sunday afternoon. When we met them, she was actually up in the ferris wheel with her grandpa and cousins! What a way to see your kiddo after being away from each other. I could see her peeking out of the cabin, waving at me from waaaay up there. For more info, visit

Hopefully, I’ll be writing another entry on Chicago next summer. Until then, I’ll just have to keep looking at the pictures…over and over and over…


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