Showing posts with label Hilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hilton. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Visiting the Reimagined St. Louis Union Station

I’ve wanted to visit St. Louis Union Station since it was remodeled a few years ago and the attractions were added. I had heard nothing but good things about it. When I was invited to cover a Yellowcard concert in the Gateway city, I decided it was the perfect time.

Brittany and I went straight from the concert to the Hilton at St. Louis Union Station, a Curio Collection Hotel. I was impressed the moment we walked into the lobby, with the high ceilings and light show that magnified all the art. I could only compare it to the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

We were exhausted and went right to sleep. In the morning, we had breakfast at Station Grille, one of the hotel’s restaurants. It was quite a meal, starting with freshly made pastries. Brittany had Chicken & Waffles. I ordered the Egg, Avocado & Quinoa, which was covered lightly with a balsamic dressing, and I loved it.

After breakfast, we met up with our friend `Amanda and headed over to the other side of the hotel for the activities. Our first stop was at the St. Louis Aquarium. It’s better not to explain how it’s done and let you be surprised, but I can tell you the entrance is an experience in itself!

The Aquarium is filled with hands-on experiences and also has animal shows. We got to see the training of an armadillo.

We then went to check out the Mirror Maze and Union Station Selfie Express before heading outside to The Wheel. This Ferris wheel towers over the area and provides quite a view of the city, including the new soccer stadium.

We stopped at the Soda Fountain for some unique milkshakes and fries, before going to miniature golf and on the carousel. You can buy packages that include all of the attractions so it doesn't get too expensive. Amanda had to leave, and Brittany and I headed to lunch at the Train Shed.

We always like to get different things so we can get a better feel for restaurants, but the Grilled Chicken, with fresh mozzarella, pesto aioli, basil, roasted tomato, arugula, and balsamic on whole wheat caught both our eyes. Brittany ordered it and it was as good as it sounded. I enjoyed the Pulled Pork sandwich.

We went back to the room to rest for a while and to gain our appetites back before we went to dinner. We were going to the hotel’s newest restaurant, The Pitch. It is a sports bar that focuses mostly on soccer as the stadium is right across the street from it.


The Pitch does look like it belongs in an episode of Ted Lasso. Even the menu has a touch of British, with Fish & Chips, Fried Bologna, and Chicken Pot Pie, which I really enjoyed. Brittany had the Salmon BLT. We also ordered the huge pretzel (I took most of it home) and Fried Ravioli, which is a dish St. Louis is known for.

When we finished dinner, it was back to the hotel to check out. We watched one more light show. There were some families checking in as we checked out. The hotel has everything for all ages and is also dog friendly. I will definitely be back.


I was hosted on this trip for most of the activities, food, and accommodations, but views are my own.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Christkindlmarket and Dog Friendly Carmel

It was a busy and exciting day before as I took my service dog (then still in training) Teddy to Carmel, Indiana. My friend Jaimee stayed over with us at the Home2 Suites by Hilton. It was a bit of a tough night getting the little guy to sleep on his first overnight in a hotel.


We had requested a corner room, so no one seemed to be disturbed, but we were ready to get out of the hotel suite and let him run around outside.

After breakfast, which is included at all the Home2 Suites, we decided to check out one of the pet friendly city’s dog parks. I had asked around and Clay Terrace was mentioned as a good one by a few people. Teddy definitely agreed and it gave him a chance to burn some energy before he was back on my lap on the scooter “working.”


We were on our way next to the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. This was my second trip there and I was happy to be back as it was my favorite in the U.S. The market, which does not have an entry fee, is a yearly event filled with food, gifts, performances, and an ice-skating rink.


I had to sample the Glühwein, a spiced, warmed wine that I had enjoyed when I visited Christmas markets in Europe. I can also never resist a warm Bavarian pretzel when I go to one of these markets.

I purchased a few things from holiday booths (they have Christmas and Hannukah), and we walked around for a while, but it was an extremely cold day, so we headed to the car after about an hour.


Before leaving Carmel, we stopped at a chain famous in this area, Jack’s Donuts. I got a peanut butter roll to take go and even found some doggy bakery items for a treat for Teddy.


I dropped Jaimee at her Indiana home.  It was just under two hours west to Champaign and I was driving with the sun as it set. It was a beautiful way to end the day, and what would be the first of many trips with Teddy. 

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. 


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Introduction to Grand Rapids and LaughFest

I had been to Grand Rapids only once, for a short trip. I was happy to return with my friend Lisa to explore the city and attend my first LaughFest.

The annual event is in honor of Gilda Radner, a former comedian best known for her role on Saturday Night Live. Radner, who was married to fellow actor Gene Wilder, died in 1989 of ovarian cancer.

The Michigan native is the namesake of Gilda’s Club, which helps those affected by cancer. LaughFest raises money each year for this worthy cause.

Lisa and I checked into the largest hotel in the city, the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton.

The hotel is quite opulent and the service was great from the start. Our room had a great view of the river.

We quickly got settled in and headed downtown to the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

As we walked the few blocks to the museum we could see that the entire city was ready for LaughFest.

Signs and logo products were everywhere, especially the art museum where the official headquarters was.

We spent some time going through the museum, which had quite a lot of art from Michigan artists as well as additional exhibits from around the world.

Lisa and I returned to the hotel for dinner at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. We found both the cocktail and food menu of small plates to be quite eclectic.

We ordered a Passionfruit Cosmopolitan and a Wolfgang Puck Margarita, and sat back trying to narrow down the menu. 

We ended up with a well-rounded group of small plates: Gnocchi, Kale, Roasted Mushroom Truffle Pizza (our favorite).

For dessert, we shared a Crème Brulee and a Chocolate Molten Cake.

After dinner, we left the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and headed to our first LaughFest event, comedian Anjelah Johnson at the Fountain Street Church.

This church is best described by the headline of their website, “Fountain Street Church is about deeds more than creeds.

About liberation more than salvation. About justice more than righteousness. If these principles strike a chord with you, please visit us.”

It is spectacular – especially the art and stained glass -- but it was a bit strange for some people having it used for adult comedy!

Lisa and I just enjoyed Anjelah’s show, which was quite good.

It was only about 9:00 when it finished and we decided to head over to The BOB for the Chris Farley Tribute Night.

The LaughFest event was over by the time we arrived, but we checked out this large restaurant, with multiple bars and stages for live music.

We wondered over to one of those bars at The BOB and were enamored with a drink on the menu: Not Your Father’s Float.

Although I’m not a beer drinker, I do love hard root beer and Not Your Father’s is my favorite.

Fortunately, we only ordered one because the huge concoction not only included the root beer, but also had Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce!

It took us a while to get through it. We decided we needed to burn the calories so we walked back to the Amway Grand Plaza by Hilton. It was a busy today, but the next was going to have even more for us to do in Grand Rapids.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Exploring Milwaukee and Uber Surprise

It was day two in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with my friend Lisa and the day would definitely end much differently than it started. It just goes to show you that you never know what’s going to happen next.

Lisa and I were up early to head to the Milwaukee ArtMuseum. This museum had become as famous for its design as its exhibits. 

The main feature was a set of “wings” that would open at 10:00 am when the museum opened, “flap” at noon, and close when the museum did at 5:00 pm.

While we obviously couldn’t stay all day and watch the wings go, it was quite interesting to watch them open. 

We then went inside and saw the phenomenal exhibits, which included art from Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, and even Andy Warhol. It was fascinating and I hadn’t seen so many of my favorite artists since I was in Vienna.

When we left the Art Museum, Lisa and I decided to take a long walk back downtown to the Milwaukee Public Market

We admired a few buildings along the way, but we had worked up quite an appetite and were anxious to see what the Milwaukee market had.

I think it would be easier to say what the market didn’t have.

There seemed to be every food imaginable, though, ironically, the lobster that had been recommended for Lisa to try was the only place that was not open.

We finally decided on a sandwich at Green Kitchen. We asked what their most popular item was and were told it was the #Thirteen, turkey with avocado, sprouts, tomato, Swiss cheese and mayo. It was a good choice.

We figured we’d share it and then look around for something else, but the sandwich was huge.  

We were more than satisfied when we finished it and figured we would come back for some cheeses before heading home from Milwaukee on Monday.

It was at this point that the weekend and the schedule came to a dramatic change. Lisa had an emergency at home and had to leave me, so I put the rest of the day’s activities on hold.

Instead of the original plan of the Harley-Davidson Museum and a brewery, I did some exploring of downtown, finishing up on Old World Third Street, known for its German heritage.

Mader’s Restaurant caught my eye and I decided to go inside. It was very quiet when I got there and the bartender recommended an excellent Gewurztraminer (PJ Valkenberg Rhein).

I decided I should try a few German specialties. Although I wasn’t thrilled with the Pretzel Crostini, I loved the Potato Pancakes. 

Also, a nice couple came in and ordered the Giant Pretzel and gave me a piece to try. It was perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

I took the long way back to the Hilton Milwaukee and took a rest for a bit before I showered and got ready for the evening. 

I was excited about going to the Smyth Restaurant at the Iron Horse Hotel, but disappointed Lisa wasn’t coming with me.

I called for an Uber car and within a few minutes Roberta appeared in front of my hotel. She greeted me with a big smile and we immediately started chatting. 

She told me how she had always wanted to go to the restaurant she was taking me to and I told her that my friend was supposed to come with me and had to leave last minute.

By the time we arrived at the Iron Horse Hotel, Roberta was more like an old friend than a driver. I invited her to join me for dinner. She signed out of her Uber duties and was thrilled to accept!

We took a tour of The Iron Horse Hotel before dinner. I was quite impressed. 

It had a very casual rustic feel, yet it also had a bit of elegance in the presentation and clientele. I definitely could see staying in this transformed warehouse at some point in the future.

The menu at the Smyth looked fantastic and we couldn’t decide what to order. 

I started with a Fleur De Violette Cocktail, made with local Rehorst Gin, Creme de Violette, simple syrup, and topped with rosewater and absinthe. It was very refreshing.

The Mushroom Chevre Cheese Soup was quite refreshing and Roberta, who loves grits, loved them combined with the Pork Belly.

In addition to what we ordered, the chef also sent Cheese Curds (amazing), Rabbit Meatballs, Bison Tartare, and Halibut, so we pretty much sampled everything on the menu! It was a great meal.

Then came dessert. Roberta and I had just took tastes. 

We were so full, but I can say the Blackberry Crumble with vanilla goat crème and the S’Mores were both scrumptious treats.

Roberta drove me back to the hotel after dinner. We had such a great time I asked her if she wanted to join me the next day for brunch and museums. She agreed and we made plans.

You never know where or when you’ll make a new friend. For me, it was in Milwaukee