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!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Last Saturday we woke up to the winter storm that had been forecasted…in the early part of the day, even the highways were covered, and from what we could see from our eighth floor hotel room, it was rough going out there. I was a little concerned that we would have to spend the entire day in our room…

We did have fun watching even more Food Network, and I went out to clear off the car at one point, but eventually I got kind of restless, so we walked over to the Oak Brook Home Show, which was being held next door at the Drury Lane Theatre. The show was kind of a bust (I hate high pressure environments), but I did enjoy seeing the inside of Drury Lane for the first time since I was a child. We were especially impressed by the beautiful chandeliers and ornate ceiling:

Back in our room, we noticed a bit of winter drama down below. One of the hotel snowplows had managed to get stuck in a snowbank, and we rather enjoyed watching as first they attempted to plow it out, then tried with shovels, and finally gave up and towed the thing out.

The snow did finally stop, and at some point I realized that the cars in the parking lot down below were no longer spinning their tires and the highways looked pretty clear. So we decided to venture out. First we stopped at Mariano’s, which is a new grocery store chain from when I lived in the Chicago area. We were very impressed with it, and decided we’ll probably need to go back in May, if only to sample the offerings from their “mochi bar.”

Then we went to church at St. John, Wheaton:

We even managed to stop back in at Frosty Faustings one more time, where we caught a bit of the cosplay contest and took a few more pictures.

Once we were back at the hotel, we dug into the treat we picked up at Mariano’s…an Eli’s Cheesecake sampler! We really enjoyed the specialty from “Mama’s Little Bakery, Chicago, Illinois!”

More Food Network, plus some Friends on Nick at Nite before bed on our last night in the hotel. We went to sleep wondering if there was going to be more snow overnight, but at least I parked in the theatre’s parking garage this time!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our winter getaway began with a look at the calm before the storm at Frosty Faustings. We were able to go in with Ryan and take a look around before it officially got underway…it was definitely the quietest the Clarion Inn was for the next two days! We especially liked Ryan’s streaming location, marked by the St. Louis city flag:

After that, the Fab Five and I headed to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. We had stopped there briefly last January, and the children were impressed both with the size of the mall and the fact that it was actually busy. So we decided to go back this year, and walk around the entire mall. It took us three hours, but we went around every level and stopped in many of the stores. We also ate while we were there…we shared a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s and a cinnamon roll at Cinnabon (classic mall foods), and we had lunch at A&W, including root beer floats for everyone. It was a really fun way to spend the morning!

After our mall trip, I wanted to do something educational, so we went to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst. This was a really unique experience, and I think we all learned a lot (including what the word “lapidary” means!). There was a lot of beautiful stuff on display, but Castle Lizzadro was probably the most beautiful of all:

We then stopped briefly at Frosty Faustings to see what was going on. We didn’t have much time, but we did get to take a look at all the vendors, a little bit of the game play, and we saw Ryan at work on the stream:

Then we went to The Popcorn Store in Wheaton. Originally, I had planned to do this Saturday, but thanks to the impending winter storm, I wasn’t sure that we would make it then. It was definitely too important of a stop to miss, so we squeezed it in to our already busy Friday.

Then on to dinner at Alfie’s Inn in Glen Ellyn, where I enjoyed an amazing patty melt.

We stopped at the Jewel on the way back to the hotel. I continue to be amazed at how little it has changed over the last 20 years…sure, some things are new, but for the most part, it looks like it did when I used to shop there!

Back at the hotel, we divided up our spoils from The Popcorn Store and watched more Food Network while we waited for the snow to start. It was another very relaxing evening!

Up next…the winter storm hits!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

It’s time for another look back at a winter getaway to the Chicago area!

Last Thursday, we hit the road at 4:15 a.m. (yes, you read that right) so Ryan could be in Elmhurst to help set up for Frosty Faustings before 10. Even with some poor weather along the way (fog, fairly heavy rain, and snow), we made good time, and were there before 9:30, which was perfect timing, because once we dropped him off, the Fab Five and I headed to Brookfield Zoo, and were there pretty much right when they opened.

I was a little worried about visiting the zoo on a cold, and still somewhat snowy, January morning. It was a free admission day, though, so we only had to pay for parking, and I figured we wouldn’t lose too much if the trip was a bust. You can imagine my shock, then, when we had what was probably my best visit to any of the zoos I’ve ever been to! Between the weather and the fact that it was a weekday, we pretty much had the zoo to ourselves, and despite the cold, the animals were out and so active. We had a great time and got to see some animals that the St. Louis Zoo doesn’t have…in the end, we walked around for about five hours! It was a great zoo trip!

By the time we were done at the zoo, our hotel room at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Suites was ready. As soon as we saw the lobby, we knew we were in for a treat:

Our room(s) did not disappoint. We had both a living/office area with a sleeper sofa, and a bedroom with two beds. We also had what I think is the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Our eighth floor room was on the corner of the building, so we even had two different views!

We were pretty worn out from our very long day, so we let Ryan have the van for the rest of the afternoon/evening, and we settled in for a pleasant night of watching the Food Network on the hotel’s cable TV. It was a relaxing way to end a very busy day!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Our last day of our winter weekend getaway was pretty low-key. We slept in as long as possible, and watched a little more Food Network before we had to pack up and leave the Clarion Inn.

I stopped at the local Jewel-Osco one more time before we left town…I love visiting local grocery store chains when we travel!

And then we hit the road. We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to Chicago, though, so we stopped at Portillo’s in Normal, IL, on the way home. There’s nothing like Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef!

And that was the end of our little vacation. This is the third time we’ve visited Chicago when the Fab Five were really old enough to enjoy it, and we’re already looking forward to our next trip!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Did I mention why we were in Chicagoland in the first place? Ryan was working at/playing in the Frosty Faustings fighting game tournament. We couldn’t get free spectator passes like we have in the past at Combo Breaker, so we didn’t get to see much of the event, but we did peek in on Saturday morning:

We had more plans for Saturday, starting with a visit to Wheaton College’s campus to see the Perry mastodon and the Billy Graham Center Museum, which included a walk through “heaven:”

We also enjoyed a lunch featuring some of Chicago’s best foods at Flip’s in Glen Ellyn:

It occurred to me last year that I had been remiss in not taking the Fab Five to the Popcorn Store in downtown Wheaton, so we visited what is probably Chicagoland’s narrowest store, and picked out about $10 worth of candy to share:

Then we went back to the hotel for a little more cable TV, and a nice picture of the Fab Five:

We went to church at St. John Wheaton for the third time, but this was the first time we were there in the evening:

After church, we enjoyed a German dinner at Schnitzel Platz:

Once we were back at the hotel, we stayed awake watching Worst Cooks in America for as long as we could since it was our last night in the hotel!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up pretty early again on day two of our winter weekend getaway because we had somewhere very important to be…the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg! Turkey has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, and while this wasn’t the full amusement park, it was as close as he has been, and he (and the rest of us) was very excited to see it! Lego never disappoints us, and we had a great time!!!

After a stop at the very big and busy Woodfield Mall across the street, we headed east to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to take advantage of the reciprocity we have with our Missouri Botanical Garden membership. The weather was kind of amazing for Chicago in January, and we all enjoyed our visit to the very beautiful garden!

Since we were already pretty far east, and I can never see enough of Lake Michigan, we drove through Ferris Bueller’s neighborhood, and stopped at Glencoe Beach, where we enjoyed the playground, a nice walk down to the beach itself, and the unusually gorgeous weather!

That was a lot of driving around for one day (and included me getting on the 290, which I have spent the last 20+ years trying not to do!), so we headed back to what was a very nice room at our hotel (the Clarion Inn), where we turned the Food Network back on, and just chilled out for the rest of the evening!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

Time to recap another fun Markel Family weekend getaway…this time, the somewhat unusual winter edition!

Last Thursday, we left for our trip to Chicago at 4 a.m. Now, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one four o’clock every day. But we had places to be, and I also knew that if we got to our first stop on our trip, the Adler Planetarium, before 9:30 in the morning, we would pay the early bird parking rate. Despite traffic on 55, we made it just in time, and this trip will be forever know as “that time mom wanted to save nine dollars on parking!”

Once we parked in the planetarium lot, I needed to have a moment with Lake Michigan and the city skyline. A nice, cold moment…there’s nothing like a lake breeze in January! But it was also a beautiful moment:

We then spent the next several hours touring Adler. It really was my lucky day, because in addition to the reciprocity that our membership with the St. Louis Science Center gives us, it was Illinois resident day, which meant that every one of us received free admission to the museum!

After we saw all we could see in the planetarium, I needed a few more minutes to walk around and take in the sights:

We then traveled west to our hotel in Elmhurst, where we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching the Food Network on cable TV, which is one of our family’s vacation guilty pleasures!