Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2023

24 Hours on Navy Pier in Chicago

 

Since I’ve been traveling in a wheelchair or mobility scooter the last few years, I have not gone many places alone. I decided to go for it when I was invited to spend a day – and night – at Navy Pier in Chicago.

I have been to Navy Pier many times, but was never able to stay there until Sable, a Curio Collection Hotel by Hilton, was built. I always wondered why there wasn’t a hotel there, and after spending time scooting my way around the property and the pier, I can attest that it’s a fun and unique experience.

The hotel is at the end of the pier and the entrance is right next to one of the parking lots. It was easy to park my van and take my scooter right into the modern lobby. Once inside you’ll be surprised at just how big it is, with a Kisbi Coffee and the Lirica Restaurant close to the entrance.

It did take me a little while to figure out how to get to the elevator to my room, but once inside, I found my biggest draw to this hotel – the windows. Every room has floor to ceiling views of the blue water of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline.

If it wasn’t for that famous skyline I could have just as easily been on a Caribbean Island. That view can bring a sense of relaxation, a touch of romance, or the beginning of a family enjoyment of Navy Pier.

I didn’t have too much time to stare out the window before my reservation at Lirica for dinner.  It’s a comfortable, but classic, restaurant at Sable Hotel at Navy Pier. The menu is modern Latin.

 

I started with one of their many mojitos, the house special Passion Fruit Vanilla. It was fantastic and not too sweet. It was the perfect accompaniment to their house guacamole, arbol salsa, and chips.

For a main course, I had the braised short ribs, served in a mushroom, garlic, and wine sauce. On the waiter’s recommendation I added in a side of roasted potatoes, which came with an aioli sauce for dipping, and a warm cauliflower salad. It all went ideally with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

 


I wasn’t anxious to leave the food, but I was excited to check out Offshore at Sable, the rooftop venue at the hotel. Fortunately, I had reservations because this place, as huge as it is, fills up.

 

I was immediately taken with the open-air indoor area, with tables all around a large bar. I had asked for a table outside so I could see if the sunsets here were as breathtaking as I had heard. I was not disappointed as I sampled an ice cream sundae and tried one of the many cocktails on the menu.

It was an easy ride back to my hotel room on my scooter and I was more than ready for sleep.

 

In the morning, I headed back to Lirica Restaurant. This time I sat outside and did some people watching on Navy Pier. The Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes were as good as the food I had the night before. When I finished most of the large portion and my coffee, I decided to do some exploring.

 

It’s hard not to love Navy Pier. There’s just no other city that has the views and activities like this. I went all the way to the beginning where the 13-acre Polk’s Brothers Park, is one of the newer gathering places. Indoors, I noticed that the Kilwin’s Fudge was added to the food options since my last visit.

I had done the Centennial Wheel not long before, so I skipped it on this trip. I did notice a new addition to the ever-changing interactive exhibits and caught a sign about the latest music series. There was also the start of the Halloween preparations, which was always followed by the beginning of the set up for Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier, held every holiday season.

The one thing I have yet to do at Navy Pier is take one of the boat rides. The sunset cruise has been on my list of Chicago things to do.

 

Maybe next time.

 

I was hosted on this trip, but opinions are my own. 

 



Friday, February 12, 2021

Celebrating Romance is Different This Year

 

Sanctuary at Camelback

I know it’s been a while. I think it’s pretty obvious that I haven’t been doing much traveling. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve mostly been sheltering in place.

I did manage to get in two short, socially distant trips over the past six months that I will be posting soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d do a roundup of some ideas for those looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Romance deserves more than one day a year. February is the month that you’ll see most of the deals for it. That’s not different in this crazy time. What is different is the options to do things from a distance – if you’d like.

Here are some ideas from places I have been to and enjoyed.

Stay healthy. Wear your masks. I hope we’ll all be hitting the road in the near future.

Marcia Frost


Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake? Of course!

The chocolate cake at Portillo’s is one of my favorites ever. In honor of Valentine’s Day,, they always have a heart-shaped one available. This year, they are partnering with No Kid Hungry to donate $5 for every cake sold.

If you are in Illinois, you can pick up a cake at Portillo’s or have it delivered from one of your local services (i.e. Grubhub, Door Dash). You can also order from their website to be shipped anywhere in the country.

Free Concerts

Nickelback at Ravinia

Ravinia Festival is normally three months of concerts in a relaxing Chicagoland atmosphere. Like many other events, they’ve had to adapt die to the pandemic.

Chicagoland’s loss is the world’s gain as Ravinia Festival is broadcasting a concert series on WFMT.com. The shows will continue through March 11th, on Thursday nights.

 

Don’t forget the donuts



Stan’s Donuts always gets creative with flavors for holidays and Valentine’s Day is mo different. My mouth is watering just thinking About how good their Peanut Butter Pocket is!

For February,  they are offering Beignet, Birthday Cake, and Lemon Pistachio. You can also order Stan’s Donuts for nationwide shipping through their website.

 


 

We Love Friends


On my last trip before Covid-19 hit the U.S, I was in Chicago. One of the things we did was to visit the Friends anniversary celebration at the AT&T store. It was a fun experience for any fan of the show, and we are.

The Friends Experience is coming back to Chicago, as well as New York. It will once again include displays with actual pieces from the sets, as well as interact opportunities. Visit the website for details.


A Romantic Inn


If you are ready to get away, Hotel Saugatuck in Michigan is a great place for romance. My stay was too short, but long enough to enjoy the spacious suite with jacuzzi, homemade dessert brought to our room in the evening, and delicious breakfast delivered in the morning.

If you are looking for the ultimate romantic getaway, check out the Hotel Saugatuck Proposal Package. It’s available through March 31st. They have rooms at the inn as well as cottages. 


Head to Titletown

Lodge Kohler Lobby

Green Bay, Wisconsin, is not only home to the Packers, it’s the location of Titletown, an outdoor complex of fun. From ice skating to tubing (free February 18th), you can bring your children or relive your childhood.

You can stay right there at Lodge Kohler, which has a full-service spa and  full-service spa and two great restaurants, Taverne in the Sky with its farm to table food and great views,  and the Leaps and Bounds Café (try the popovers).

 

Something Warmer



I’ve been to Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Arizona twice. The scenery is stunning and the spa is filled with unique and rejuvenating procedures. The resort also offers plenty of private casitas so you can easily socially distance.

With the warmer weather you can also find your own space at the pool, on the tennis court, or hiking. Check out all the specials they arecurrently running





Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tasting Chicago during the Holidays


Brittany and I woke up pretty early at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago

We had a pretty full day and I didn’t want to overdo.

We had breakfast downstairs at Fisk & Co. as we planned our day.



Our first outing was to the ChristkindlmarktI had never been to one in Chicago before, but had a good time at the Carmel one last year (and really loved the ones in Europe). 

The Christmas Market is a great place to get handmade souvenirs and German treats. 

I picked up a few Christmas tree ornaments and warmed with hot chocolate, while bringing home some potato pancakes and a pretzel.



I didn’t want to eat anything at the market because we had a brunch plan—and it turned out to be a big one.

After a nap, we took an Uber to the restaurant.

River Roast  turned out to be an excellent choice for brunch. The location was scenic along the river and there was live jazz music in the background.



We put in an order for the freshly baked cinnamon rolls while we were deciding on our entrees.



The cocktail list looked wonderful and I went for a Bellini, while Brittany had the Chocolate City Cold Brew. 


The rolls were about the best I’ve ever had, as was my meal choice, a roasted acorn squash was stuffed with cranberry, apple, parsnip, and faro.

Brittany enjoyed her fried chicken sandwich and we shared a side of the macaroni and cheese. We also had some tasty biscuits with honey.

All of the dessert menu looked fantastic. 


We decided to hang out, listen to the music, and enjoy another cocktail while we worked up an appetite for it.

We did find the room for an Adult Sundae Funday, vanilla ice cream with a spiked macaroon, whiskey cherries, rum soaked pineapple, and a Brûléed Banana, and PB & J Cheesecake. Yes, they were scrumptious!


Brittany wanted to go to the Blackhawk store, and I headed (on the same block) to Trader Joe’s, a store they really need to bring to Champaign.

We gathered our luggage from Hotel Monaco and made one last stop. Although we were pretty full, we did take home quite a bit from 
Stan’s Donuts.

For the holidays, they rolled out a Peppermint Chocolate donut, as well as a gingerbread one and one that was Crème Brulee filled.




We left with the boxes of donuts, which included my favorite, Peanut Butter Pocket.

We also had some Peppermint Hot Chocolate for me, and a Chocolate Lightening for Brittany for the road.


It was a sweet ending to my last trip for a while as I was heading back in for another back surgery.



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holiday Time is a Great Time to be in Chicago

I was back in Chicago right before the holidays with Brittany and my scooter. We had a few more things to discover before I took some time off for more back surgery. 

We checked into the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, which has a perfect location downtown.

I had never been to a Kimpton before. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of their wine in the evening. 

What we did get to see was one of the best rooms I’ve ever had in Chicago. The one-bedroom suite is reasonably priced (compared to most of the suites in the Windy City) and very big. 

I loved the separate bedroom, with large window seats. We were in a corner, so they provided a beautiful view and also had cushions large enough for kids to sleep on. I’d definitely recommend this room as comfortable for a family of four, or even six. 

The original plan was to check out some outdoor activities, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo lights or the Christmas tree at Millennium Park. The weather was frigid and wet, so it didn’t seem like a good time for either. 

On our way to the hotel, we had thought about stopping by the new Starbucks, which has a Roastery inside. The line was two blocks long. We noticed a few stores down, at the AT&T store, there was a Central Perk pop-up. 

We are both huge Friends fans, so it seemed like a good idea to check out this (inside) attraction. 

We were not disappointed.

If you have a chance to go to any of the Central Perks’ popups, it is an amazing experience for a Friends lover. It’s filled with memorab ilia and pieces from the set, as well as video clips, timelines and even a place in “Central Perk” where you can take pictures.


After another break, I headed a few doors down from the Hotel Monaco to the Virgin Hotel.

This was my first time there and I hope to go back to explore more and check out the restaurant. This trip was part of Chicago’s holiday tour.



Cerise Rooftop is not just for summer anymore. It was decked out in Mele Kalikimaka Christmas mode, with heated domes to keep warm in!

I thought it was really fun and I enjoyed the Hawaiian themed rum punch.

There was one more stop for the night and that was to see Dave Cavalier, whom I had met at Bourbon & Beyond a few years ago. He was playing at the Elbo Room. You can see my story about that event here



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Variety of Chicago in the WInter


The first time I was every in Chicago was in the winter. It was after the holidays, but many of the decorations were still up. 

It was freezing (-12!). I still thought the city was magical.

Fourteen years later, I live two hours away and love taking trips to Chicago.

I can’t tell you that I know my way around the city because I’m always looking to discover something new, or at least new to me.

I went to a different section of the city to a museum I have never heard of before. 

Wndr Museum is nothing like any other museum I’ve ever been. It’s fun enough for adults, and perfect for a family outing.

It was just Brittany and I on this outing. While the modern art is beautiful, this museum is more about experiencing it than looking at it.

Mirrors, music, textures, and shapes help you immerse yourself into the wonders of the Wndr Museum. 

At the end, there’s something else for kids of all ages. Instead of the usual hot dog and popcorn snack bar, this museum has an all-you-can-eat cereal bar!

From there we were off to a very popular Chicago sports bar for a first visit.





Timothy O’Toole’s may be most popular for their endless screams with every game imaginable, but they also have great food and drinks.

It’s one of those drinks that brought us there.

We were there to meet former Bears’ player Patrick Mannelly, who was introducing Longsnapper IPA, in partnership with Tighthead Brewing Company.
 I’m still not a beer drinker, but Brittany said it was delicious.

She sipped along with the Shrimp and Pasta. I loved the Chicken Pita.

I did speak with the Bears’ longest-tenured player, who retired in 2014, after 16 years with the team.

He has worked as an on-air analyst and now has an online instructional website, Longsnapper.

Mannelly, who is married to Tamara John, the co-proprietor of a healthy living website and daughter of MLB great Tommy John, also partnered with Kevin Gold and Chris Rubio to create the Patrick Mannelly Award. 

The honor is given to the best long snapper in college football (Mannelly played for Duke).

We left Timothy O’Toole’s and checked ino our home for the night, Hotel Essex on Michigan Avenue.

This boutique hotel is just a short walk from the Art Institute and Millennium Park. It’s a perfect spot for a girls’ (or romantic) getaway.



Even though I had my scooter with me, I was still glad there was time to nap before heading to the next appointment.

Fortunately, we didn’t need any transportation as it was actually right at the hotel.  

Sx Skybar was decked out for the holidays and had views of the Chicago Skyline.


The décor is plush and comfortable and though they don’t have a full dinner menu, there was more than enough food to satisfy us.

Sx Skybar is the place to be seen while you are sipping champagne cocktails and feasting on (not so) small plates.



We loved everything we ate: Peking Duck Eggrolls, Tempura Oyster Mushrooms, Port Belly and Fish Tacos.

It was the end of this holiday trip to Chicago for Brittany and me as we had to leave early in the morning, but we had another coming up soon.



Monday, December 23, 2019

Flying through the air in Chicagoland


The Acme Hotel Company in Chicago offers many convenient and unusual amenities, as I had discovered when I arrived with friends the nightbefore. I was ready to try out one of their most interesting in the morning.

Morning Joe is the complimentary coffee delivery provided to each guest by Acme Hotel. We took advantage of this, along with their Knock and Drop Bakery delivery.

The West Town Bakery is at the front entrance of the hotel. It is open to guests and the public, but guests can request their room service from a limited menu.

We decided to try some different things and all of them were fresh and delicious: a chocolate croissant for me; a blueberry muffin for Brittany; and the Breakfast Sammy (bacon, cream cheese and sliced tomato on a bagel) for Scott and Amanda.

I wish we had longer to linger at the hotel. It’s not just my opinion that the Acme Hotel Company is a fun and eclectic hotel, it was voted the No. 1 Hotel in Chicago in the Reader’s Choice Awards by Conde Nast Traveler.

We were off early to Ottawa, Illinois, in the Starved Rock area. Brittany, Scott, and Amanda were going skydiving for the first time. I think I was more nervous than they were!

Six years ago, Scott and I had actually had a discussion about going skydiving. We never got around to it. It was definitely not something I’d consider any more, with my back and joint issues.

We arrived at Sky Dive Chicago about a half hour before our scheduled time. 

I accompanied them as they went through the registration process, which included a weigh-in to make sure they didn’t have to many people in the plane.

After a short wait, they each met their partners for their tandem ride. Each were well-trained.

There was a class a didn’t get to attend but was told they were given instructions on what would happen and safety issues.

When they came back up, I watched them with their partners, putting on their gear and getting last minute instructions.

There are different groups waiting so there aren’t a bunch of planes in the air with people jumping all over.

The group for Brittany, Scott, and Amanda was called. They actually looked pretty calm and I tried to stay that way while I wished them good luck.

They boarded the plane and I watched them go up in the air. That part was easy for me as I’ve been a frequent flier since I was a kid.

It was hard to see exactly who was jumping as they weren’t the only ones in the plane. Once Brittany and Scott came down, I was told Amanda was next, so I was able to watch and film her landing.

Sky Dive Chicago was generous in not only providing the dives, but giving us photos and video. This one is from the plane:


For more information and gift certificates, visit the Skydive Chicago website, who provided the three dives.

It was an experience none of us will forget. I have a feeling my friends will be back when Skydive Chicago re-opens in 2020.



Monday, December 16, 2019

Tons of Fun at Acme Hotel Company

I had passed the Acme Hotel Company on a previous trip to Chicago and it looked really interesting, even from the outside. I was excited when they invited me to visit with my friends.

From the moment we stepped inside I know we were someplace fun.

The check-in at Acme Hotel Company was quick and I boarded the elevator to our suite with my friends. It was filled with music albums from a lot of my favorite artists.

We had the one-bedroom suite, and it was spacious enough for a family or group of friends, with a large pullout couch in the living room and two queen beds in the bedroom.

The music theme continued into the room, where we had our own guitar in the living room! 

We also had modern art out the window and in the room, including a Rolling Stones’ style kiss on our mirror.

An Amazon Echo, with Alexa waiting to play our favorite music or tell the staff if we needed anything. 

We even had a DIY cocktail kit so we could mix our own drinks if we didn’t want to go down to the bar.

Scott, Brittany, and Amanda had a concert to go to (Catfish& the Bottlemen), but I had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel.


First, I headed down to The Berkshire Room for drinks and a light dinner. I always love to sit at the bar when I am alone, and this is especially true when there are interesting drinks to be made. 



The Berkshire Room at Acme Hotel prides itself in its unique and handcrafted cocktails. 

They have some that are Barrel Finished, while others are old favorites with a twist.
These include the Old Fashion turned into “Old Money,” with bourbon, Aperol, Walnut Liqueur, and Allspice (it was delicious).

I also tried the Banana Cognac Cocktail. The concoction of cognac, banana brandy, banana cordial, Falerium, and Angostura bitters was flavorful, but not too sweet.



The selection of spirits, and even bitters, at The Berkshire Room bar is huge, so the bartenders can create anything you want.

While chatting with the staff and customers – the crowd grew as the night went on – I also sampled the Charcuterie plate, filled with interesting cheeses, some from the Midwest. There’s also a menu of mini desserts to end with.



I left Berkshire Room and headed upstairs to change into my bathing suit. I had been anxiously waiting for my next stop, the Bunny Slope.

The Acme Hotel Company has a downstairs with a large fitness center and a room they refer to as a Bunny Slope. The room can be rented out for parties, but, on this night, it was empty.



It was the ultimate in relaxation, with a fireplace, a flat screen tv, and crystal-clear water in the whirlpool.

My friends were back from the concert by the time I returned up to the room. We all chatted for a while, and Amanda played the guitar a bit for us.

It was then time to get some rest before an active following day as we were heading to the Starved Rock area to satisfy some bucket lists.



Friday, October 11, 2019

24 Hour Girls’ Getaway in Chicago, Part 2

It was a very comfortable night at the Hyatt Centric the Loop in Chicago.

We were able to take our time in the morning and I was excited to find out my friend and fellow writer, Kristine Hansen, was in town. We met for breakfast at Cochon Valent Brasserie, just downstairs from the hotel.

Their blueberry pancakes were loaded with fruit and as delicious as everything always is there.

My Joan picked something up to eat and relaxed in the room. and we met up to head over to the Art Institute of Chicago.


I have been to the Art Institute many times. I try to check out all of their special exhibits as well as some of the smaller ones. The exhibition that brought me here this time was Manet and Modern Beauty. 

Edouard Manet was a late 19th century painter known for what was a modern style at the time. He especially flourished when painting women.

The collection, the first of its kind in 50 years, was well worth a trip, but we decided to spend some time looking around. I stopped at some of my favorite classics, including Edward Hopper’s “Night Hawk” and Georgia O’Keefe’s “Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses.” We also saw a temporary exhibit dedicated to artist Jeanne Spring.

Before we left the museum, we stopped to take a look through the powerful display, “The AIDs Crisis Is Still Beginning.” It included newspaper clippings from around the world, showing the history of the crisis. George Bordowitz, I want to Be Well (after 1977 Ramones song) artist 30 years, spent half of his life with AIDS Professor at University of Chicago. Many pieces were from his own collection.


We checked out of the Hyatt Centric Loop. I wish we had been able to check out the Aire Rooftop Bar, but it had been closed before we got back the night before and hadn’t opened yet when we left. Next time!

We chose a very unusual place for lunch. Pinstripes in Chicago is a welcoming place for families or adults to have a lot of fun at, while enjoying good food. Think Chuck E Cheese for gourmets!

You can start here with the activity, food, or drinks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time for the fun, but we did get to watch other people.

Pinstripes has bowling, even offering shoes for rent. There’s also bocce ball.

As for the food, we loved everything we had. The Stuffed Mushrooms were served warm and gooey, just out of the oven, and were stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, and zucchini.

For the main course, the wood fired oven, which is visible to guests, looked to good to pass up and we ordered pizzas.

I had the Eggplant Flatbread, which had pistachio sprinkled on top for extra flavor, and Joan went for the Margherita. We had plenty left to take home.

Joan agreed with the popular opinion that the Strawberry Shortcake, served in a jar, was fantastic.

Pinstripes Chicago has a full bar that includes many local beers, a selection of wine, and handcrafted cocktails. I sipped a Riesling while Joan thought the Limoncello Martini was great.