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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.

Four Awesomely Fun Things

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I really don’t like writing these kinds of posts. I’d rather let each of these adventures have the spotlight, and write four nicely-composed, detailed posts rather than lump these experiences into one entry.

But this is the way it goes when you’re busy. (I also hate saying that “I’m busy” as if that’s an excuse because, really, everyone is busy.)

Excuses aside, I know that if I don’t write about our four recent adventures, I will never write about them, so here they are: four awesomely fun things that we have done recently.

Charlie Parker’s Diner: Springfield, IL

Checking out the menu at Charlie Parker's Diner

While we were in St. Louis for the holidays, we took a side-trip to Springfield. Being fans of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, we had to check out Charlie Parker’s, a breakfast and lunch place that is housed in a quonset hut. Famous for their “horseshoe” breakfast and lunch dishes, this diner serves classic American fare in a unique environment. And it’s definitely kid-friendly, so keep it in mind if you ever travel to Springfield.

Keepers of the Wild: Valentine, AZ

I have become obsessed with Groupon, which is always filled with interesting deals and discounts. I saw a “use it now” groupon for Keepers of the Wild, and we decided to give it a try. We love anything that has to do with animals. Keepers of the Wild is a non-profit that seeks to rescue exotic animals. During our visit, we saw lions, tigers, monkeys, and llamas, just to name a few. And of course we had to stop at Cracker Barrel when we drove through Kingman, AZ on the way. It’s a road trip staple! (My daughter is now better than I am at that triangular game with the pegs.)

Gondola at the Venetian: Las Vegas, NV

If you’ve ever researched a trip to Vegas, you’ve come across references to the gondola at the Venetian, I’m sure. Even though we’ve lived here for over a year, we didn’t take a ride on the cute little boats until recently. It’s not a cheap adventure, but it was fun. An added bonus was the fact that our gondolier sang for us and had an amazing voice.

Living Desert Camel Ride: Palm Desert, CA

Camel Ride

Of these four fun adventures, this is probably my favorite! We went to the Coachella Valley for a weekend and visited the Living Desert, a zoo that focuses on desert animals of the world. For an extra fee, visitors can ride a camel. At first, I thought my daughter would be riding alone, but at the last minute I decided I couldn’t resist joining her! (I’ll be writing more about our Palm Springs trip in future posts, so stay tuned.)

Writing about these latest excursions makes me think it’s time to plan a few more. Have any suggestions for us?

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.

A Must-Visit in Springfield, Illinois: The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

While we were visitng St. Louis earlier this month, my mother-in-law offered to watch four-year-old E. while my husband and I had some time to ourselves. Leave it to us to plan a date involving a two-hour drive to Springfield, Illinois!

I highly recommend the fairly-new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Opened in 2005, it features a wide range of exhibits that cover Lincoln’s life from his boyhood in Kentucky to his presidency and the Civil War. What makes this museum great is that it focuses on the humanness of both President Lincoln and his wife.

I was particularly moved by one room of the museum that focused on the death of Willie, Lincoln’s 11 year old son. It made me view Lincoln, an iconic American hero, as an actual person. The exhibit noted that Lincoln once granted an official presidential pardon to one of his son’s toy soldiers. Most parents can relate to that; many of us have suspended our own belief for the sake of our children, and I loved learning that President Lincoln was real father.

The museum draws you into it’s own world, with a replica White House that holds the majority of the exhibits on Lincoln’s adulthood. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon in Springfield!

The Lincoln President Library and Museum:
112 N. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62701
(800) 610-2094

Tips for Visiting the Gateway Arch

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Gateway Arch, St. Louis

During our travels to Missouri and Illinois this summer, we finally took E. to see the Gateway Arch. It’s crazy to think of all the times we’ve visited St. Louis, but haven’t made time to act like tourists!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your visit to the top of the monument:

Ticket Times: Don’t get too excited. When you see that it’s a busy day at the Arch, you might be surprised to find that your assigned tram time is only minutes away. However, keep in mind that you’ll do some additional waiting even after you report to the north or south tram line. First, you’ll need to wait to get your boarding pass, then you’ll wait again for your tram group to be called, and then you’ll watch a short film while waiting to board. In other words, bring something along to keep the kids entertained!

Restrooms and the “Point of No Return”: As I’m sure you can imagine, there aren’t restrooms at the top of the Arch. There aren’t any near the tram loading area either, so use the ones near the ticket counter when you have the chance. Also, be prepared for your child to announce, “I have to pee,” as soon as you step onto the tram and can’t go back. (Yes, this happened to us.)

Duck! The trams/elevators are very compact, even though they hold up to five people. You’ll need to watch your head getting on and off the tram. If compact spaces make you uncomfortable, remember that the ride up to the top only takes about five minutes.

View from the Top: Once you’re at the top of the Arch, you can look out the windows and see St. Louis on one side and the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other. Some highlights to spot before you go back down: the beautiful courthouse building (to the west), Busch Stadium (west), and the Arch’s shadow.

View from the top of the Gateway Arch

Most of all, enjoy your visit!

Gone Fishin’

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It’s been a week since I’ve posted, and those of you who read this blog regularly know that I usually post more often. However, I’ve been taking a good old-fashioned summer vacation!

As you can see, I’m back now and ready to return to real life (and blogging).

I hope you’ll join me next week when I share everything we’ve been up to lately: spending lazy days on the water in Central Missouri, gazing out at the Mississippi River from the top of the Gateway Arch, and exploring the excellent Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

And I’m anxious to catch up with my own blog reading and find out what my travelling friends have been up to lately. If you’ve got a particularly awesome blog post you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a link in the comments section. Or, you can just tell me about your recent summer adventures.


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