The Home Opener

Baseball is back in St. Louis!

After what has seemed like a never-ending winter (that still isn’t over!), today’s Cardinals home opener came as a bright spot in an endless sea of grey. We had our traditional Opening Day dinner of hot dogs, brats, pretzels, and nachos, with special baseball cupcakes for dessert. All the fixin’s for Chicago-style hot dogs, chili dogs, and brats are quite a sight!

As always, I also took a picture of the Fab Five in their Cardinals gear:

Happy Baseball Day St. Louis!

Legoland Discovery Center

Possibly the most highly-anticipated event of our trip to Chicago was our visit to the Legoland Discovery Center outside of Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg!

I had read up on the experience before we went, but I still wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I had purchased our tickets ahead of time (which I highly recommend…the rate was significantly cheaper!), so we just had to get checked in, and then we were free to roam. The first stop was the Chicago Miniland, and I think it might have been my favorite part of the entire outing. There were tons of familiar Chicago landmarks, and they were still dressed up for the Christmas season, so we got to see the Christkindlmarkt set up in Daley Plaza! The lighting also changed from day to night, so we got to see the city lit up in different ways!

Next up was the Jungle Expedition. We loved all the Lego animals!

We peeked in on the Lego Master Builder Workshop twice, and one of those times, we saw a Master Builder hard at work!

There was also a Star Wars Miniland, which was very popular with the children:

The Kingdom Quest area included one of the two rides in the building:

The Friends area was quite small, but it was still fun to see the characters:

There was a cycle of four movies playing in the 4D cinema. We only saw one of them, and it was a lot of fun, but it hurt our eyes a bit.

There were cool “stamp stations” in every different area. If you buy an activity pack (either ahead of time when you purchase your tickets, or when you arrive), you receive a booklet on a lanyard with information, building instructions, and places to collect all the stamps, which was fun!

Turkey was really looking forward to the Racers Build & Test section. They had all kinds of vehicle parts, and a rather satisfying ramp to test out your creation. All of the children had a lot of fun with it, even though at point, it was getting really busy!

The second ride was right next to the racers, so we got to see how it worked before we took our turn.

There was also a playground with climbing equipment, slides, a water table, and more fun Lego builds. Part of this area was the Duplo section, which is clearly designed for the smallest visitors.

There were so many other cool details scattered throughout the experience, and we made sure to take our time and really look at them all:

When we were done, we walked through a Lego Store. It’s not a true Lego Store like you find in a mall (although there is one of those across the street inside Woodfield), and they don’t give you VIP points for your purchase (but if you show your card, they will give you a small discount right there), but the selection was good, and they even had a few unique items.

So there you have it…everything you always wanted to know about the Chicago Legoland Discovery Center. I would say it’s geared for children up to about age 12, so a few of mine weren’t the target audience, but we are such a Lego-crazy family, we all had a great time, and not one of us got bored while we were there (for almost three hours!). Now if only we could make it to a full Legoland theme park someday…

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Our last day of our winter weekend getaway was pretty low-key. We slept in as long as possible, and watched a little more Food Network before we had to pack up and leave the Clarion Inn.

I stopped at the local Jewel-Osco one more time before we left town…I love visiting local grocery store chains when we travel!

And then we hit the road. We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to Chicago, though, so we stopped at Portillo’s in Normal, IL, on the way home. There’s nothing like Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef!

And that was the end of our little vacation. This is the third time we’ve visited Chicago when the Fab Five were really old enough to enjoy it, and we’re already looking forward to our next trip!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Did I mention why we were in Chicagoland in the first place? Ryan was working at/playing in the Frosty Faustings fighting game tournament. We couldn’t get free spectator passes like we have in the past at Combo Breaker, so we didn’t get to see much of the event, but we did peek in on Saturday morning:

We had more plans for Saturday, starting with a visit to Wheaton College’s campus to see the Perry mastodon and the Billy Graham Center Museum, which included a walk through “heaven:”

We also enjoyed a lunch featuring some of Chicago’s best foods at Flip’s in Glen Ellyn:

It occurred to me last year that I had been remiss in not taking the Fab Five to the Popcorn Store in downtown Wheaton, so we visited what is probably Chicagoland’s narrowest store, and picked out about $10 worth of candy to share:

Then we went back to the hotel for a little more cable TV, and a nice picture of the Fab Five:

We went to church at St. John Wheaton for the third time, but this was the first time we were there in the evening:

After church, we enjoyed a German dinner at Schnitzel Platz:

Once we were back at the hotel, we stayed awake watching Worst Cooks in America for as long as we could since it was our last night in the hotel!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up pretty early again on day two of our winter weekend getaway because we had somewhere very important to be…the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg! Turkey has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, and while this wasn’t the full amusement park, it was as close as he has been, and he (and the rest of us) was very excited to see it! Lego never disappoints us, and we had a great time!!!

After a stop at the very big and busy Woodfield Mall across the street, we headed east to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to take advantage of the reciprocity we have with our Missouri Botanical Garden membership. The weather was kind of amazing for Chicago in January, and we all enjoyed our visit to the very beautiful garden!

Since we were already pretty far east, and I can never see enough of Lake Michigan, we drove through Ferris Bueller’s neighborhood, and stopped at Glencoe Beach, where we enjoyed the playground, a nice walk down to the beach itself, and the unusually gorgeous weather!

That was a lot of driving around for one day (and included me getting on the 290, which I have spent the last 20+ years trying not to do!), so we headed back to what was a very nice room at our hotel (the Clarion Inn), where we turned the Food Network back on, and just chilled out for the rest of the evening!

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!