Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Six

Here we are, already at the end of our virtual vacation. After packing up the car, we had one more stop planned before we hit the road…a tour of Wrigley Field! (Pardon the blurry photo…it’s a picture of a not great picture I took in college!)

After visiting the Friendly Confines, we would have made our way to Rainbow Cone to enjoy the ice cream treat they’re famous for:

I love driving through the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago…there are so many cool vintage signs!

The final stop of our Memorial Day Weekend trip is always a meal at Portillo’s, where I get the Italian beef, dipped, of course!

And then home sweet home…no matter how much fun we’ve had, it’s always nice to pull into our driveway (and begin the process of doing all of our vacation laundry!).

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Five

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!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Four

The fourth day of our weekend getaway would have started with church at St. John Wheaton. It’s weird to think that this Sunday, not only are we not going to be there, but nobody is.

I had planned to stop at the Popcorn Store after church, so the children could each pick a selection of candy. I’m happy to hear that store is currently able to do curbside popcorn orders, but it’s not the same without looking at all the candy displays in the shop!

I always wear Pinup Girl Clothing to Combo Breaker on Sunday. I had a really good outfit planned this year, too…my purple plaid Long Jun skirt paired with an Animal Crossing t-shirt. I even had new Animal Crossing pins for my lanyard!

The finals on Sunday are always so exciting to watch, and other than some pool time, I think we would have dedicated most of the day to Combo Breaker. I really loved seeing Tekken 7 last year, and I was really looking forward to experiencing some “Good Ass Tekken” with a hype crowd again this year!

I had big plans for Memorial Day…stay tuned!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Three

I had another big day planned for the third day of our trip north. First things first…we always take a family picture on the Combo Breaker Floor. Actually, that’s always one of my favorite moments of the trip. I’m pretty bummed that we’re missing that picture this year, so here’s a look back at the family photos we took during our first four Combo Breakers!

After a morning visit to the event, we were going to head to Brookfield Zoo. This has become one of our favorite Chicagoland locations, (we can spend a good six hours just walking around), and it would have been our second springtime zoo trip (to go along with two winter visits). You never see the same thing twice, and we were really looking forward to discovering something new!

I think this would probably have been the night we went to dinner at Alfie’s Inn, too. This restaurant has become another favorite place on our journeys, and they make a mean patty melt!

After dinner, we would have headed back to the hotel for a swim, and an evening of Combo Breaker fun. Now, I know that there’s no way the floor would look like this on Saturday evening, so empty and organized, but I really this picture!

Eventually we would have headed back to our hotel room…I wonder what was supposed to be airing on the Food Network tonight?!?

Up next…the third and final day of Combo Breaker 2020!

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 Virtual Getaway–Day One

It’s that time of year! Time for another Markel family Memorial Day weekend getaway to Chicagoland for Combo Breaker! So I’m back with another road-trip wrap-up…but there’s just one problem. Like everything else lately, Combo Breaker was canceled, and our trip along with it. So this year, we’ll be taking a virtual trip up north, and looking at all of the plans I had made. Yes, I know this may seem pathetic or depressing to some, but I figure a virtual trip is better than no trip at all, and this will help me remember all of the things I had planned to do once we finally do get away!

So, I’m assuming we would have been up dark and early on the day we left for Chicago. I’m kind of fudging the dates we would have been gone…Ryan, and probably Turkey with him, would have left earlier in the week for set-up, and I don’t know for sure when the rest of us would have joined them, or how long we would have stayed, because Moose’s junior high graduation was supposed to fall somewhere in this time. Since they never got around to scheduling his actual ceremony, (although his virtual graduation is today!), I figured I’d just pick a reasonable amount of time for our trip starting today.

Anyway, when I drive, I like to leave super early, so that’s what we would have done. We should have arrived in the Chicago area after the bulk of rush hour passed, and we would have breezed right through the toll plazas, because we finally bought an I-PASS in January just to make this drive easier…no waiting in the cash only lanes this time!

Instead of heading to Pheasant Run Resort, which sadly closed in February, (this trip was never going to feel quite right, I guess), we would have gone to the Schaumburg Renaissance Marriott, the new location for Combo Breaker. We were really excited about checking out that hotel…from the pictures on the website, it looks pretty fancy! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see it next year…

After lugging all of our stuff to our room (hopefully on an upper floor), and meeting up with the rest of our family, I had one big plan for the day…we were going to head even farther north for an architecture tour at SC Johnson & Son in Racine, WI. I was also really excited about doing this…it had been a possibility back in January, but the winter weather got in the way. Not only would we have gotten to enjoy mid-century modern design, (and make lots of Fibber McGee and Molly references!), but also admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, which is fantastic. I’m really hoping we get around to taking that tour someday!

Maybe we would have stopped by Lake Michigan in Wisconsin before heading back to Schaumburg…that would have depended on how tired we all were after our long day. I love looking out on the lake, though, so I think we probably would have made it happen.

Once we had gotten back to the hotel and had dinner, (most likely our road trip special of summer sausage and string cheese, with a side of fruit leather), we would have hit the pool, which is always one of our favorite parts of a road trip. Did I mention how nice the hotel, including the pool area, looks? And then I’m sure we would have enjoyed some cable TV before lights out.

Up next…what should have been our big day in Chicago!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

The final day of our weekend getaway was fairly low-key. We started with a trip to the Jewel to (finally) buy an I-Pass to make driving on the Chicagoland tollways a bit easier…and then proceeded not to need it at all on the way home. Oh well…at least it will be ready when we go back up in May!

We had planned to walk around the Chicago Botanic Garden on the way home, but wind chills in the single digits made that a less than appealing prospect. So instead, we stopped by the Chicago Baháʼí Temple to marvel at its architecture:

We also drove through the city, just so we could see the skyscrapers:

Of course we had to stop for a moment so I could walk along Lake Michigan. Have you ever walked on frozen sand before? It’s a weird sensation!

And, as always, we stopped for lunch at Portillo’s, where I had my favorite, the Italian beef (dipped, of course!):

So that ends another road-trip wrap-up. It was a pretty short trip compared to what we’re used to, and we didn’t get to do everything I had planned, but it was still a fun getaway!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

Last Saturday morning, we finally got a good look at the snow that had fallen the day before. What we couldn’t really see from our seventh floor hotel room, though, was all of the ice, because once the snow stopped, the freezing rain and sleet started! So we decided to just hang out in the hotel and visit Frosty Faustings, with some breaks to watch cable TV, because I had no desire to get back behind the wheel!

We were there as the event began for the day, and we started by checking out the games Ryan was working on (including, as he calls them, the “old man games”).

Of course we walked around…you never know what you’re going to see at these events!

We had plenty of time to play some games. A new favorite of the children was Them’s Fightin’ Herds, while I enjoyed a track and field game that was about as far from a fighting game as you can get…that figures!

For the first time ever, I even bought a piece of event merch…it turns out that if you slap a logo on a Chicago skyline, I can’t resist! (Also, Frosty Faustings has the most awesome logo ever!)

Of course I had to get a picture of the Fab Five:

And of the crowds in general:

We saw the cosplay contest finals…I’m always impressed by how creative people can be!

We ended up going back up to our room to watch the stream of the Tekken 7 finals on my phone, because the one downside to Frostys is that you can’t hear the commentary in the ballrooms, and we really wanted to hear what Tasty Steve had to say!

Up next: A little sightseeing on the way home!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

It’s that time again…time to look back at another winter weekend trip to Chicagoland!

Last Friday, we were up extra early in attempt to beat the expected winter weather out of St. Louis so we could meet Ryan up north in Wheeling for Frosty Faustings. And we did beat all of the weather on the way up (even though Moose’s school ending up canceling classes for the day!). It was a fairly uneventful drive, even though it was a bit nerve-wracking for me, as I don’t usually drive in that part of the Chicago suburbs, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It was nice and cold when we arrived at the Westin, but still pretty much clear, weather-wise, if not clouds-wise:

I’ve never stayed at a Westin before, and it was quite nice from the moment we walked in the lobby (the infused water was especially popular with the children!)…I especially loved the Lego model of the hotel they had on display!

The room was also nice, although it felt a little small compared the giant room we had last year at Frostys!

We took only the briefest of walks through the tournament area, because we realized that all of the things we had planned to do over Friday and Saturday would have to all be accomplished on Friday, thanks to an impending snowstorm.

Our first stop was the Brookfield Zoo. Just as we did last winter, we had an amazing visit, where we witnessed some new-to-us animal behavior (did you know that camels bark?!?), and enjoyed a walk around a very empty zoo. And the snow held off right until we left.

Then it really started coming down. We had tickets to Medieval Times, and it took us over two hours to drive from the zoo to the castle…traffic was horrible, and driving was very sloppy! We did finally make it, though, just as the castle doors were opening, which was a relief!

I didn’t pay for the VIP experience this time, but we had the best seats we’ve had yet…the second row, and right in the center. We also supported a different knight for the first time…instead of yellow, we were cheering for the red and yellow knight from the County of Perelada. As always, we had a great time, even though, as always, our knight didn’t win…at least our side won this time, and Bunny caught one of the carnations, which means that all three girls have now received one!

And then the harrowing drive back to the hotel. About a half foot of snow had fallen in just a few hours, and it was a mess. But there wasn’t much traffic on the way back, and everyone on the roads was content to go slow and careful, so it may have taken a while, but at least there was no pressure to keep up with traffic, which made it much easier to stay on the road!

Up next: Saturday spent at Frosty Faustings!

Markel Family Michigan Getaway–Day Three

Monday morning of our Michigan trip began with another walk along Frankenmuth’s Main Street while we waited for some of the shops to open. It is such a beautiful place!

We stopped at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, where we picked up a few things to try at home. It’s an amazing store!

We also visited beautiful, historic St. Lorenz:

The main event of the day, however, was stopping at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, A store I have wanted to shop at for years! And of course I had just the right outfit to wear:

There are many photo opportunities throughout the store, and I took advantage of several of them:

Some people say Disney is the happiest place on earth, but I think Bronner’s is. It’s always Christmas there!

We also visited their Silent Night Chapel, a reproduction of Oberndorf’s monument which stands on the site of the former St. Nicholas Church, where “Silent Night” was first sung.

All too soon, our time in Frankenmuth drew to a close, and we had to say “Auf Wiedersehen.”

Our fun for the day wasn’t over yet, though. We stopped for lunch at Big Boy!

And stopped to see beautiful Lake Michigan from its eastern shore:

And then, for the second time in less than a week, we got to eat at Portillo’s!

It was quite late by the time we reached home, but we got to cheer the St. Louis Blues to victory along the way, which helped the time pass. Look for more details about our visit to Frankenmuth in the coming days!