Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

Time to recap another fun Markel Family weekend getaway…this time, the somewhat unusual winter edition!

Last Thursday, we left for our trip to Chicago at 4 a.m. Now, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one four o’clock every day. But we had places to be, and I also knew that if we got to our first stop on our trip, the Adler Planetarium, before 9:30 in the morning, we would pay the early bird parking rate. Despite traffic on 55, we made it just in time, and this trip will be forever know as “that time mom wanted to save nine dollars on parking!”

Once we parked in the planetarium lot, I needed to have a moment with Lake Michigan and the city skyline. A nice, cold moment…there’s nothing like a lake breeze in January! But it was also a beautiful moment:

We then spent the next several hours touring Adler. It really was my lucky day, because in addition to the reciprocity that our membership with the St. Louis Science Center gives us, it was Illinois resident day, which meant that every one of us received free admission to the museum!

After we saw all we could see in the planetarium, I needed a few more minutes to walk around and take in the sights:

We then traveled west to our hotel in Elmhurst, where we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching the Food Network on cable TV, which is one of our family’s vacation guilty pleasures!

Chickadee Thursday

It was a cold morning on Chicago’s lakefront, but that didn’t stop Chickadee from going out on the Adler Planetarium patio to look at the sun through a telescope equipped with a solar filter!

Museum Mosaics

When we went to the Museum of Science and Industry last month, I needed to see Lake Michigan. I wasn’t sure exactly how that would work out, so since we arrived at the museum early, I worked my way through the parking garage and up through the labyrinth that is the entrance, and when I got outside, pointed myself toward the lake. As I made my way to a good vantage point, I waked through a few tunnels, and was surprised to find that the walls were covered in museum-themed mosaics!

I love the details like these that are so easy to find in a big city…it just adds to the city’s personality!

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle

There was so much we didn’t get to see, or even see well, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The last thing we really did take a close look at before we left, though, was Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle.

Colleen Moore was an American actress in both silent pictures, and in the then newly popular sound films. The dollhouse was built by her father in 1928, and has been on display in Chicago since 1949.

Far from being “just a dollhouse,” this creation is a true marvel. There are 11 individual rooms (as well as an unexplained treasure room), and an outdoor garden. The castle contains tapestries with impossibly tiny stitches, vases that are over 500 years old, statues that are over 4,000 years old, the smallest Bible in the world, and fine materials including alabaster, amber, gold, and crystal throughout. There are depictions, as you would expect, from many fairy tales, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, The Wizard of Oz, and King Arthur.

I’m not going to lie…it’s kind of a weird thing. When you consider the value of all of the miniatures and the castle itself, it’s mind-boggling. The original price tag in the 1930s was almost a half a million dollars! But even though it’s strange, it’s also breathtakingly stunning, and when you consider the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into creating it, the mind boggles further. It’s truly something that shouldn’t be missed!

The Great Train Story

There is a lot of cool stuff to see at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but something I was especially impressed with is The Great Train Story. This is a model railroad system that features¬†over 20 trains (including freight, Amtrak, Metra, and the Chicago “L!”) depicting rail travel from Chicago to Seattle. In addition to the downtowns of both cities, there are suburban areas, farmlands (which I somehow managed to escape photographing), and mountains:

You can find this display in the heart of the Transportation Gallery, and it’s worth walking around not just once, but at least twice, to take in all the miniature details!