Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Two

Last Thursday was one of my favorite days of any trip up north…the day we took the Metra into the city of Chicago!

Those first moments in downtown Chicago are always a thrill for me!

Our big activity this year was going to the Sears Tower Skydeck. (Yes, I hear some people are calling it the Willis Tower these days, but it will always be “Sears” to me!) Not only were we thrilled with the views from all four sides of the Skydeck, we also walked out onto the “Ledge” for an even more amazing, and slightly terrifying, view!

After we had our fill of Chicago views, we made our way to Buckingham Fountain, where we had lunch, and a nice lady offered to take a picture of the six of us:

We then started walking toward Millennium Park, and found this cool dog along the way. I think he’s a companion to the dog we saw on the Wendella dock last year!

Bunny was thrilled to have an opportunity to feed some pigeons:

And we took some pictures at The Bean, as has become our tradition:

We then walked across Michigan Avenue to the Chicago Cultural Center, which used to be the central library in the city, and is home to beautiful mosaics and Tiffany glass domes:

Outside of the Cultural Center, we stopped to see the Bronze Cow statue, a gift to Chicago to commemorate the 1999 Cows on Parade display:

We of course had to stop at Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory for a box of Frango mints:

And then back to Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Geneva. We even found seats on the second floor!

After dinner in the hotel room, we indulged in the chocolate torte cake that I mentioned yesterday. It was as good as I remembered, and the children loved it!

After we spent a little more time relaxing, we headed to the outdoor pool, and stayed in the water as the stars came out. It was a lovely evening for a swim!

Back in the room, we watched a little more Food Network, but not a lot, because we were all exhausted from our busy day, and knew there was more fun to come!

Tasty Tuesday–Chicago’s Best Foods

Of course, one of the best things about visiting any city is finding out what foods that location is famous for and trying them for yourself. Chicago is no exception, and foods that I grew up with as just food are now special treats when we travel. I’m sure people could argue all day about constitutes a Chicago food, but here are my favorites…Chicago-style pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, Rainbow cones, gyros, Eli’s cheesecake, and Italian beef:

Ryan thinks I should have added the Italian combo to my list, but I really don’t like Italian sausage that much, so the best I can do is mention it. Also, not pictured, but extremely delicious and addictive…Chicago-style popcorn. I could eat that stuff by the (cheesy Christmas) tinful!

Flashback Friday–Beautiful Chicago

As much as I love St. Louis, I still think Chicago is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in person. Here’s a look back at some of my favorite Chicago photos that I’ve taken over the last few years:

Chickadee Thursday

Today was a big day, because we spent hours exploring downtown Chicago. One of the highlights of the trip was our journey to the top of the Sears Tower (I hear they’re spelling that different in Chicago these days, but it’s still Sears Tower to me!), which you can see in the background of this picture of Chickadee in front of beautiful Buckingham Fountain!

Quote of the Day

This conversation between Chandler and Rachel on Friends will never not make me laugh, and it also always makes me think of Eli’s Cheesecake!

“Where do you want to go to lunch?”

“Mama’s Little Bakery, Chicago, Illinois!”

Chicago’s Field Museum

Here’s a closer look at our visit to the Field Museum in Chicago:

There was so much to see, and we didn’t have a lot of time. We knew we weren’t going to get to everything, so we made sure we hit all the highlights. We walked through the Hall of Birds, learned about the state fossil, the Tully Monster (sounds like a Sesame Street character, doesn’t it?), visited the Hall of Gems, where we saw a likeness of the museum’s benefactor, Marshall Field, carved in green beryl, took a look at ancient Egypt, and saw meteor fragments:

The highlight of our visit was definitely the Hall of Dinosaurs:

And the best part of seeing the dinosaurs was becoming acquainted with Chicago’s most famous resident, Sue, the T. rex:

We were able to use the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership to offset some of the cost, so we only had to pay admission for three children. I thought that was a great deal for how much we saw and learned while we were there…someday, I’d like to go back and see some of the things we missed!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

We were worried we would wake up to more snow on the final day of our trip up north, but instead, we were greeted by the sun for the first time since our arrival! The views from the windows in our hotel room were excellent!

It was sunny, but quite cold and windy, so we loaded up the van as quickly as possible, and then headed into Chicago to visit the Field Museum. The retreating winter storm over Lake Michigan was still apparent from the museum’s windows:

One of the main reasons for our trip to the museum was visiting Chicago’s most famous resident, Sue, the T. rex. We were not disappointed!

Because I’m me, I had to brave the cold and wind to get a look at the city skyline before we left:

As we often do, we stopped for a late lunch at Portillo’s in Bloomington on the way home.

The rest of the drive was…interesting. We ran into some unexpected snow on the way home, and the last hour of our trip was slow-going and messy. But we got home at a decent time, and the clouds even cleared out for us to see the lunar eclipse later that night! It was a fun getaway, and we’re already planning our next trip to the Chicago area!

2018-19 School Year–Week Twenty

I know I’m late with last week’s wrap-up, but that’s because I wanted to share the cool learning experiences we had over the weekend, too! Briefly, as far as our regular subjects go, Turkey and Bunny learned about ratios in math (which tied in very nicely with their chemistry lessons), Ladybug read about Marco Polo and the Forbidden City in history, and Chickadee measured in centimeters. Oh, and there was other stuff, too, some of which was mostly the same as the week before.

On to the fun stuff! We were in the Chicago area over the weekend, so I planned some special field trips to places we hadn’t had the chance to visit yet. On Thursday, we went to the Brookfield Zoo, and had what may have been our best zoo experience ever. It was cold and a little bit snowy, but the animals were so active! We really enjoyed the chance to observe them in a way we never really have before!

On Friday, we went to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, where we learned about rocks and gemstones, and how gemstones are cut. It was unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and we learned a lot!

Yesterday, we stopped at Chicago’s Field Museum on the way home from our trip north. We toured the Hall of Birds and the Hall of Gems. We also took a look at ancient Egypt. The highlight of the trip, though, was walking through the Halls of Evolving Planet and Hall of Dinosaurs on our way to see Chicago’s most famous resident…Sue the T. rex:

We drove through snow for about the last hour of our trip home, but fortunately, the clouds cleared in time for us to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon during the lunar eclipse:

So we had three regular days of school last week, and then a lot of fun field trip days and unique experiences…it was definitely a nice way to spend a school week in January!

The Top Ten–Chicago Attractions

I’m doubling my usual “Top Five” list…there are so many great attractions in Chicago, I had to choose ten! These are pretty touristy, but they’re the places I’ve been trying to make sure the Fab Five see at least one of each time we visit because they’re important to me. If you’re going to Chicago for the first time and/or have limited time to spend there, these are the places I think you should visit first for the quintessential Chicago experience!

  • Art Institute–This museum has, in my opinion, some of the best art in the world, and also some unique exhibits, like the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Make sure to take time to see the Chagall windows while you’re there!
  • Museum of Science and Industry–Where else can you tour an actual U-505, visit a coal mine, see a Tesla coil in action, and watch baby chicks hatch? If you’re lucky enough to visit at Christmastime, you can also see an amazing display of Christmas trees from around the world!
  • Adler Planetarium–All about space…need I say more? Oh, and the views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline are amazing!
  • Field Museum–This museum, named after Marshall Field, the Chicago department store magnate, is home to one of Chicago’s most famous residents: Sue the T. Rex. There are many other exhibits, too, which bring the history and culture of many civilizations around the world to life.
  • Shedd Aquarium–If you want to see fish and other sea creatures from around the world, this is the place to be! You can also touch sea stars, stingrays, and sturgeons, and take in a show at the Oceanarium featuring dolphins and beluga whales.
  • Boat or Bus Tour–I’m a fan of the Wendella boat tour, but any chance to get out on the water (Chicago River and/or Lake Michigan) or on the top of a double-decker bus and see the city from a unique point-of-view while hearing a guide share some of the city’s history is a great experience!
  • Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo–The two Chicago area zoos are very different from each other, so you’ll have very different experiences at each. My favorite is the Brookfield Zoo, but I’ve been to both, and they’re both fantastic spots to see wild animals!
  • Sears Tower Viewing Deck or John Hancock Observatory–I suppose I should refer to these as Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower and 360 Chicago at 875 North Michigan Avenue, but I’m old school. Whichever you choose, you’ll get great, bird’s-eye views of the city…just make sure to go up on a clear day!
  • Wrigley Field–I feel a little guilty even mentioning this, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but there is something special about historic Wrigley Field. Whether you go for a Cubs game (I’ve only been once) or for a tour (something I’d like to do in the future), you’ll have a unique Chicago experience and get to see the famous “Ivy on the walls.”
  • Chicago Botanic Garden–This is a new favorite Chicago-area location (it’s technically in the northern suburbs, in Glencoe), for me…I visited it for the first time last year. But it’s a beautiful place to take a walk in the winter and spring, and there’s always something new to see!

Bonus item: Christkindlmarket–I didn’t think it was fair to put this in the main list, because it’s open for such a short portion of the year. But if you find yourself in Chicago in late November or December, this is definitely worth a visit, and one of my very favorite things to do in Chicago!

Not mentioned…the FOOD! I couldn’t narrow it down to just one restaurant, or even one type of food, because there’s so much to love to eat in Chicago. But you’re going to need to stop and eat while you’re visiting all these amazing attractions, so grab a Chicago-style pizza, some Italian beef, gyros, a Chicago-style hot dog, or a Rainbow Cone while you’re out exploring!

And, yes, I know Navy Pier and especially the Centennial Wheel are missing from this list. So here’s my confession…I’ve never been to Navy Pier. I actually would like to take the Fab Five there in the future, if only to say we’ve been, and if I do, and I like it enough, I may have to modify this list at a later date!