Last year on Memorial Day, we visited Cantigny Park, which is home to the First Division Museum. Seeing both reenactors and active military personnel, not to mention the laying of a wreath at the memorial, was a very moving experience, and I was hoping to do it again this year. We also enjoyed walking the grounds, touring the McCormick mansion, and climbing on the tanks. The one thing we missed out on last year, that I had really wanted to do, was hear Wayne Messmer sing with his big band…they were rained out. I’d like to think that this year, we would have finally been successful in hearing him perform!
If we had done everything I wanted to do at Cantigny, we would have spent most of the day there. Back at the hotel, we would have enjoyed one last evening swim with a much quieter atmosphere, because the crowds clear out quickly once Combo Breaker is finished.
One more day of our virtual vacation to go…and one last fun activity before we hit the road!
I had big plan for Memorial Day, because for the first time, we were going to be staying a Pheasant Run an extra day, giving us time for extra activities. My plan was to go to Cantigny Park, which is a fun place to visit any day:
But a really special place to visit on Memorial Day. In addition to a lovely ceremony, where they laid a wreath by the Doughboy statue, there were demonstrations of many kinds, including a fife and drum corps, and an army drill team:
The only real disappointment of the whole trip was that the concert at Cantigny, featuring the Wayne Messmer Big Band, was cancelled due to rain. I was really excited to hear Wayne Messmer sing in person for the first time, but I guess I can hope that we can do that next year. Anyway, we drove back to Pheasant Run in an absolute torrent, and headed up to our room to dry off…we were almost as wet as if we had been swimming!
We went back to Alfie’s Inn for another dinner of appetizers (nachos, wings, spinach and artichoke dip, potato skins, and onions rings), plus another dessert (brownie à la mode).
Thankfully the storms stopped, so we had the chance for one last swim in the Garden Atrium pool:
After our swim, we went back to our room to watch the St. Louis Blues play in the first game of the Stanley Cup final…unfortunately, they lost, but at least we were able to watch them away from home!
We often seem to unintentionally stumble into very appropriate activities around Memorial Day each year, and our visit to Cantigny Park (the former estate of Chicago Tribune owner and publisher Colonel Robert R. McCormick, which he named after the first American battle of WWI fought near Cantigny, France), the Saturday before Memorial Day was no exception.
We started outside, where the children enjoyed climbing on the collection of tanks, and I enjoyed the serene setting:
We then toured the First Division Museum. It has changed a lot since I was last there (and is scheduled for even more improvements later this year), and I couldn’t believe how much there was to see, and how much we all learned!
Cantigny is also known for its beautiful gardens:
I found the final resting place of Colonel McCormick and his first wife to be very interesting. It was modeled after an exedra, an ancient Greek meeting place which functioned much like modern-day newspapers, as people gathered there to share the news. Such a fitting twist on an old concept for the one-time editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune!
And of course, the McCormick mansion is a highlight of any visit to Cantigny. The children loved being able to recognize a setting from one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own. We didn’t have time to tour the inside, but even a walk around the exterior is amazing!
I’ve visited Cantigny many times in my life, and I was very glad to see that all of my favorite things were just the same as they have always been!
Day three of our weekend getaway started with an early morning swim in the hotel pool. The children and I then visited Cantigny Park with their grandparents. They were thrilled to discover that they were not only allowed but encouraged to climb on the collection of tanks!
After they climbed on every last tank, we toured the First Division Museum, a very appropriate activity for Memorial Day weekend. It’s changed a lot since I was last there over a decade ago, and I think we all learned a lot!
We then walked around the grounds, admiring the gardens and especially the mansion. The children recognized where they filmed part of A League of Their Own, and were very excited to walk in the same spot. We made sure to cool off in the fountains before we left, too!
When we got back to the hotel, we got to watch Ryan play in the Tekken Ball tournament, where he advanced to the final eight…it was very exciting, even if I didn’t really understand the game. We also briefly got to see Ryan in clipboard mode, which I found very amusing!