Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Six

Last Monday morning, it was time to say goodbye to Pheasant Run and Combo Breaker.

But we weren’t quite done with our trip. We headed east, for a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where, despite the extreme temperatures, it still looked like spring!

We then drove to the south side of Chicago to try one of the Windy City’s specialties: Rainbow Cones. We were not disappointed!

We took the long way south to Normal, where we had one last taste of Chicago at Portillo’s before heading home:

And so our vacation came to an end. We have more fun trips planned for this summer, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s Combo Breaker!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Five

Last Sunday morning, we celebrated the Holy Trinity at St. John Wheaton. We didn’t say the Athanasian Creed, but we did get to have donuts after the service!

Following church, we hurried back to Combo Breaker. I had to take a picture in what I’m calling a “Sailor Moon Bound” Pinup Girl Clothing outfit with my Sailor Jupiter lanyard that Ryan bought for me before the trip:

And, as always, we had to get a family picture with the big Combo Breaker screen in the background:

We went for one last swim:

And then returned to Combo Breaker, to see the Guilty Gear final, which Bunny was very excited about:

We celebrated my 1st 39th birthday a few weeks early with my mom at the Schnitzel Platz, where I got to hear “Happy Birthday” played on cowbells after dinner!

Back at Pheasant Run, we visited the arcade one last time:

While we were doing that, Ryan received a medal for the third year running…this one was very special!

We saw some of the Dragon Ball top eight, but it was getting late, so we headed back to our room before the final. Turkey watched it on my phone while the rest of his siblings fell asleep watching…more Food Network!

That was (sadly) our last night at Pheasant Run, but we still had a few fun activities planned before we headed home on Monday!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Originally, we had planned to drive up to Milwaukee on the fourth day of our trip, but that ended up not happening. That was ok, though, because we got to spend extra time at Combo Breaker! In addition to watching more of the tournament(s), we also spent some time in the (free!) arcade, playing games like Crazy Taxi, bubble hockey, and pinball. It was crowded and loud and a lot of fun!

We did venture out for a bit in the unusually-hot-for-May temperatures to visit Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm. The animals seemed to enjoy the heat about as much as we did, but we did get to pet a sheep and some chickens. The horses, cows, and pigs were too busy trying to stay cool for us to get close to them.

Have I mentioned the fantastic view from our 15th floor room at Pheasant Run?!? On a clear day (and there were many) you can see the Sears (Willis, whatever) Tower dominating the Chicago skyline in the distance, over 30 miles away. And on a really clear day, you can see about three other unidentified skyscrapers, too!

We didn’t have money for a full meal at Giordano’s, but I had to stop and get an order of their limited-time fried artichoke hearts. They were delicious, and I managed to convince all of the children to try at least one…and most of them liked it!

We went back to Combo Breaker to see the cosplay fashion show, and afterward, Samus was kind enough to pose for a picture for us:

A moonlight swim at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool was high on our priority list, and it was a great night for it. The moon was almost full, and you could even see a few stars (which is an accomplishment in Chicagoland!).

Back in our room, we enjoyed the view, and more Food Network shows before bed.

Up next: The final day of Combo Breaker, and the penultimate day of our trip north.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Day three of our vacation, and we finally get to the reason we were there in the first place…Combo Breaker!

Ryan had been working long hours the previous two days to help set up for the event, but this was our first chance to take a look, and let me tell you, it looked GREAT! We always have fun checking out the different games being played (Chicago’s “Mystery Tournament” is always a favorite), as well as taking a look at the different vendors who have set up shop.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing we did on Friday. We went swimming (again), in our favorite of Pheasant Run’s pools…the indoor Garden Atrium pool:

And we went back to Medieval Times for the second year in a row. It was a real treat, because it was an all new show! After seeing art, armor, and illuminations at the Art Institute, this was the perfect lighthearted summer school field trip, and Ryan even had a break in his schedule (sort of) to go with us!

Up next: We had to revise our Saturday plans a bit, but that left us with more time for Combo Breaker, plus a visit to a living history farm.

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 One

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a week since we packed up the car and headed north for our annual trip to St. Charles, IL for Combo Breaker! We left super early that morning, and while we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to check in upon our arrival (because of the early hour), we found that our room (the exact same room we had last year on the 15th floor of Pheasant Run’s tower!) was ready and waiting for us!

After we dealt with our luggage, we made a Super Target run, partly because we needed a few things, and partly because we just love Super Target!

Most of the rest of the day was spent in one of Pheasant Run’s pools. I don’t think we’ve ever spent that much time in the pool in one day before!

We did take a break to walk around Pheasant Run and see if anything had changed…for the most part, nothing had.

When we got back to our room, we were tickled to find a tray of cookies and some milk waiting for us…it was so nice of Pheasant Run to welcome us that way!

Up next: Probably our busiest day of this year’s weekend getaway.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Four

We were up bright and early once again for the final day of our weekend getaway, because we had things to do before we headed home!

First things first. I was still pretty upset about our lost day in downtown Chicago. Now, most of the stuff I had planned for Saturday we couldn’t do in the time we had on Monday, but there was one thing we could do…visit The Bean. Fortunately, Ryan was able to find a parking space nearby, so the children and I took a quick walk over to the shiny sculpture, and admired the architecture (and pigeons) along the way.

We then set out for our last big Chicago activity…visiting the Museum of Science and Industry. Between our membership at the St. Louis Science Center, which offers a great reciprocal agreement, and homeschool discounts, we were able to get into the museum for free, as well as get tickets for both the Lego exhibit, “Brick by Brick,” that is on display currently, and the popular U-boat tour, for an insane discount. The museum is much bigger than I remembered, so we couldn’t see anywhere close to everything, but we did see as much as possible in the approximately five hours we had there!

Before we left Chicago, there was one last thing I wanted to do…get a good look at Lake Michigan. Fortunately, as we were driving north on Lake Shore Drive to get to I-55, we found an exit for the Oakwood-41st Street beach. It was a quick off and on, so Ryan just circled the parking lot a few times while I had my lake moment.

That’s it for our big weekend getaway this year. Ryan got to spend an extra day in St. Charles compared to last year, but the rest of us were there for one day less. Hopefully next year, we’ll all get to go up on Wednesday, and have an extra day to explore Chicagoland…there’s lots more we want to see!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Three

We were up pretty early yet again (we really don’t sleep in on vacations) to attend the early service at St. John Wheaton. It felt a little more familiar than it did last year, but part of me is still shocked that they’re in a different building!

When we arrived back at Pheasant Run, we hurried over to the Mega Center to watch Ryan play in the Mystery Tournament top eight. He didn’t win his match, but he came home with a medal for the second year in a row!

After he was done running his bracket, Ryan took us to lunch at Portillo’s. I think we’ve decided that enjoying one meal there while we’re in Chicago is a must…fortunately, it’s not too expensive! I ordered the Italian beef dipped (of course!), and some of my children were adventurous enough to order a Chicago-style hot dog. It was a delicious meal!

After yet another swim, we checked back in with Combo Breaker. The farther you get into Sunday, the bigger the crowds are!

Another swim, another walk around the resort. There was a small art show in the normally blocked-off upstairs of Bourbon Street, so we took a walk though there, and enjoyed both the art and the unique view. We also stopped by the bonfire after it had been lit, which was especially nice because it was a fairly cool weekend up north.

One final visit to the Combo Breaker floor, to see a round of the Street Fighter top eight, which is the highlight of the weekend for many:

Of course we watched a little more cable TV back in our room (after I discovered that for some reason, I couldn’t get a signal for WGN and couldn’t watch the News at Nine). And we left the curtains open so we could enjoy a last evening look from our room, on the clearest night we experienced while we were there. The glow coming from downtown Chicago is unmistakable, and we even realized that we could see a few other unidentified skyscrapers by the Sears Tower!

Just one last day of family fun to go before we returned home!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up early again on day two of our weekend getaway (although not as early as on day one), to get ready to go to downtown Chicago for our big day of exploring. We decided to depart from the West Chicago Metra station this year. I was impressed by how cute the station was as soon as we drove up.

And then our plans for the day came to a screeching halt. It turns out that there are no ticket agents on duty inside any Metra station on the weekend. We did discuss one other option for getting on the train, but we decided it just wouldn’t work out, and so we had to cancel our big plans for the day (an especially big disappointment for Bunny, who was really looking forward to going to the Art Institute), and come up with a “Plan B.”

While we were thinking, we took a walk around the outside of Pheasant Run (it was a beautiful day!), and hit the pool again, which is pretty much our default when we don’t have any firm plans.

We then decided that since the weather was so nice, we’d shift our plans for Sunday (visiting the historic Naper Settlement), up one day. We had a really great time, even if it wasn’t Chicago!

We also took a short walk on Naperville’s River Walk while we were down there, mostly so I could see the Dandelion Fountain:

Our big family dinner out for the trip was at Muldoon’s in downtown Wheaton. The food was delicious and the atmosphere just like I remembered from the old days when it was Cafe Wheaton.

After another evening walk around Pheasant Run (there’s seriously so much to explore!), and more swimming, we went back to Combo Breaker, and the children tried out the arcade machines that were set up in one of the resort ballrooms for attendees to play for free:

After that, we were ready to head back to our room, and enjoy a little more TV before bed. One of the nice things about not having cable at home is that it’s a real treat when we get to watch it on vacation! And while I was admiring the view from our 15th floor window, I discovered that we could even see the Sears Tower (about 40 miles east of us) in the distance! We didn’t make it downtown to see it, but at least were able to get a glimpse of it!

Stay tuned for Day Three!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day One

One week ago today, the children and I loaded up the car and hit the road at five a.m., so we could join Ryan in St. Charles, IL, for what I now assume is the annual Markel Family weekend getaway for Combo Breaker. It took us pretty much exactly five hours to reach our destination, so we had plenty of time to explore Pheasant Run after we took all of our stuff up to our room (which was on the 15th floor and had an amazing view!).

After reacquainting ourselves with the resort, we hit the pool:

Once the Combo Breaker floor officially opened, we took a walk around. We got to see Ryan both play in the Mystery Tournament and run a bracket.

Some of the children had hoped to find a new plush friend while we were there. I somehow ended buying one for everybody!

No trip to Pheasant Run would be complete without shopping at the mythical Super Target that’s just across the street:

The real highlight of the day, however, was a trip to Medieval Times in Schaumburg. We all really enjoyed the dinner and tournament…Bunny enjoyed it so much, she lost her voice cheering for our knight!

We did also sneak in a little Food Network and HGTV on cable TV when we got back to our room, but it was pretty late, and most of the children crashed quickly. Plus, they wanted to be well-rested for our big trip into Chicago the next day!