The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Two

The second day of our trip was the one I was most looking forward to, because after three long years, we were finally going to go back to Chicago! The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but in the end, although it was quite cool, the rain lifted, and that was good enough for us. We got to leave from a new-to-us Metra station (Palatine), so we saw a bunch of different suburbs on our way downtown.

The sights that greeted us were just like I remembered:

It was so good to be back!

Bunny took some time to feed some pigeons:

And one even photobombed her!

Mostly, we just walked around and took it all in. It was so much fun to see all of our favorite places (and some new ones), and we even stopped to listen to a street musician (who was very talented!) for a bit. The only thing we didn’t get to do that I would have liked was see Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan, but it was very windy, and that was in the opposite direction of the other stuff we had planned, so I settled on seeing a sliver of my lake from a distance.

We walked up the Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place, something new for us. We stopped in to see the big American Girl store and the Lego Store (two of our favorite places):

We also spent some time in Jane Byrn Park by the historic Water Tower:

After that, we made our way to the Plaza of the Americas so we could visit the “Wings of Mexico” art installation, which is “a symbol of the immigrant journey and celebrates Chicago as a sanctuary city.” Moose didn’t care to have his picture taken, but us gals couldn’t resist!

No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street to buy a box of Frango Mints!

And then we made our way back to the train and said goodbye to my favorite city. The last time I said goodbye, I assumed I’d be back “soon.” Three years later, and without Turkey joining us because he was working Combo Breaker the whole day, I finally made it back. I really hated to leave, and I’ll never take it for granted again.

Back at the hotel, Combo Breaker had begun, so we spent some time on the floor, taking in all those sights, too.

We also enjoyed playing some of the arcade games they had set up, including Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong.

We couldn’t resist another walk outside, where the evening light was perfect. Also, we enjoyed watching muskrats swim in the hotel ponds…who knew?!?

We also found time for one more evening swim…it wasn’t quite the same as swimming under the stars at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool, but it was still fun!

One last look before bed:

Up next…a full day of Combo Breaker!

Chickadee Thursday

Last week, we finally made it back to Chicago! Chickadee was excited to ride the train in the city again:

We visited the big American Girl store at Water Tower Place:

She got a picture with the statue of “Mr. Chicago,” Irv Kupcinet:

And she had fun playing Pac-Man at Combo Breaker:

It was so much fun to travel up north again!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Two

The second day of our trip north for Combo Breaker was going to be A Big Day…it was the day we were going to to hop on the Metra and go into Chicago for a day of fun!

I had a lot of things planned…first we were going to take a water taxi to Navy Pier and ride the Centennial Wheel. After riding The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station last October, we were very excited about the idea of seeing the Chicago skyline from a similar vantage point.

We also planned on visiting The Bean, something we’ve done every time we’ve attended Combo Breaker (even the one year that we missed having our downtown day), and I’m sure we would have fed some pigeons, too, because that’s something we always seem to do.

I had hoped to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and maybe the American Girl flagship store (although I’m still not sure how I would have convinced the boys to go along with that!). And of course we would have stopped at the former Marshall Field’s to pick up a box of Frango Mints (thankfully, I was able to order some!), before heading back to the Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Schaumburg!

We were planning on going to Kuma’s Corner for burgers one night, and I think after a day of walking around downtown Chicago, we would have really appreciated that meal and a chance to relax. The “Lair of the Minotaur” burger, with caramelized onion, pancetta, bourbon poached pear, and brie looked especially good to me, but I was also looking forward to seeing the special.

After dinner, it would have been time to check out all that Combo Breaker 2020 had to offer. We love walking around the event the first day, and just taking everything in, from the vendors’ area to the main stage to casuals, and everything else! You never know what you’re going to see!

We always stop by the Gaming Generations booth to buy whatever catches our eye. The children were really disappointed about missing out on that opportunity this year, so they were really excited when Gaming Gen opened an online store, and they were able to order the plushes they were hoping to find at the event!

After that, we probably would have just headed back to our hotel room to relax and watch the Food Network, because our Chicago day is always exhausting. Sometimes, if we have the energy, we do go for a swim to relax, though, so that was always a possibility!

Up next…a visit to Brookfield Zoo!

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!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

I think this was our busiest day of vacation…and Combo Breaker hadn’t even started yet!

Last year when we were in St. Charles, we never made it to downtown Chicago, because to my great surprise, there were no ticket agents on duty at the Metra stations on the weekend. I planned accordingly this year, checked the hours, and was sure we wouldn’t run into any problems. Until we arrived at the Geneva Metra station, and the ticket agent basically shut the door in our face, because she had a “meeting.”

This forced me outside of my comfort zone…A LOT. I had already paid for Wendella boat tickets and Art Institute tickets, so I had to find a way downtown. Even though I faced possible problems, including the fact that my students don’t have school IDs, we used the Ventra app to ride the train, and in the end, it worked out fine.

We took a slightly different walk during our travels in Chicago, so we saw some things that were the same, and some that were new:

The highlight of the day was the Wendella Chicago River and Lake Michigan Tour. It has been close to 30 years since I last did the boat trip, so it was a very different experience for all of us, and a lot of fun!

After disembarking, we began our walk toward the Art Institute, stopping to see the “Bean” and other sites at Millennium Park (including the Crown Fountain) along the way.

At the Art Institute, we focused specifically on the Arms and Armor galleries, as well as a special exhibit on Medieval illuminations, in keeping with this year’s summer school theme, but we also saw a few other things, including the Chagall windows.

My children are obsessed with pigeons (no, I don’t know why), and they certainly got to see a lot of them!

Before heading back to the train, we stopped at Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory (now a Macy’s) to buy Frango mints.

We even got to ride on the upper deck of the train on the way back!

We enjoyed some more pool time back at Pheasant Run, which was the perfect way to end a hot day. We also indulged in some Food Network shows on cable TV, which is one of our favorite things about vacation!

Up next: Combo Breaker finally begins!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our weekend getaway was probably the most intense. The children and I hopped on a Metra train bright and early in the morning and headed to downtown Chicago. We walked for miles, and saw everything I wanted them to see…the Chicago River, the Tribune Tower, the Marshall Field’s building on State Street, The Bean sculpture, Buckingham fountain, the “corn on the cob” buildings, and Lake Shore Drive. The children couldn’t stop looking up! They were also interested in seeing the double-decker buses, the “el” trains, the articulated buses, and all the different boats on the river. We crossed the river four times in several different places, but sadly, we never saw any of the bridges open. We even spent some time in the Art Institute…not enough for Bunny, but enough to see the Impressionists, some of the religious art, and the Chagall windows. The weather looked like it was going to be a big problem, but the only rain we encountered while we were out was during our walk from the Art Institute to the Marshall Field’s building, and fortunately, it wasn’t too heavy!

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Once we got back to St. Charles, we headed to Giordano’s for dinner (we had to have Chicago-style pizza!), then visited the floor at Combo Breaker. Unfortunately, the storms had picked up, so there was no swimming for us that night, but we did enjoy watching some Food Network in our hotel room!