Historic landmarks to seek out when in Chicago

Of course you have heard of the Great Chicago Fire and probably are aware that John Dillinger got his at a Chicago movie theater. So, if you have time when visiting Chicago to see some sites either laden with history or are city landmarks, then check out these remarkable places.

Biograph Theater is where John Dillinger caught FBI bullets

Biograph Theater is where John Dillinger caught FBI bullets

Biograph Theater

Lincoln Avenue has lots of good restaurants and shops but a good place to stop is the theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Designed by Samuel N. Crowen in 1914 it was where FBI agents shot John Dillinger in 1934. Dillinger had been watching a gangster movie inside then was shotin the alley as he left the place. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a Chicago Landmark. The theater is now home to Victory Gardens Theater, a stage venue known for excellent productions. Although remodeled, the theater still has its grand staircase

Buckingham Fountain

At night you might spy the huge, gorgeous Buckingham Fountain by its aura of changing lights. During the day, find it by walking south from the Art Institute of Chicago along Michigan Avenue and see if you can spot a really high water spout. A designated Chicago Landmark, the fountain was dedicated in 1927 after Kate Buckingham had it built in memory of her brother, Clarence.  Yes, it’s pretty fancy. It was inspired by the Palace of Versailles’ Latona Fountain. The waters put on a 20-minute show from about mid-April through mid-October.

Navy Pier has had many lives ranging from Military to college and entertainment
Navy Pier has had many lives ranging from Military to college and entertainment

Navy Pier

Sticking out 3,300 feet into Lake Michigan from Grand Avenue, Navy Pier really does have military roots. Its Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Children’s Museum and restaurants make it a fun place to visit, today. But its air of holiday fun also dates back 1916 when it was designed by Daniel Burnham as a multi-purpose pier. Over the years it has housed Navy operations, some Army personnel and the Red Cross. It also served as a campus for the University of Illinois Chicago. Ships still do dock there but instead of carrying military personnel or freight they are tourist excursion boats, and sometimes, the Tall Ships that sail the Great Lakes.

Great Chicago Fire Sculpture

A conflagration that destroyed about 3.3 square miles, the Great Chicago Fire burned from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10, 1871. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has been exonerated but the fire did first burn down the O’Leary’s shed. “Pillar of Fire,” a sculpture of a flame by Egon Weiner, was erected there in 1961. To see the spot go to West DeKoven and South Jefferson Streets. It is next to a City of Chicago Fire Academy.

Site of Fort Dearborn

Look for Fort Dearborn plaquest at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive
Look for Fort Dearborn plaquest at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive

A historic location where tourists are bound to walk without knowing its unhappy story is the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive at the Chicago River. Look for a plaque that mentions Fort Dearborn. Built next to the river in 1803, it was destroyed during the War of 1812 and later rebuilt in 1816. But it was during its first existence that its residents were ambushed and killed by Potawatomi Indians when they left the fort.

Travel to London to see the sights or Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

Excitement is definitely in the air in London. It’s time to go to see royalty and possibly catch a glimpse of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s  baby daughter.

If you haven’t been there before, pick up a London Pass to cut the cost of such attractions as the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey and avoid the ticket lines.

See Westminster Abbey, snap a red phone box and do The Eye (back) Ferris type wheel

See Westminster Abbey, snap a red phone box and do The Eye (back) Ferris type wheel

Just go.

Visit Buckingham Palace. Pop into Harrod’s Food Hall and gape at the statuary along the store’s stairs.

Forget taxis. Stoplights and traffic make a cab ride slow and expensive. Walk or take the Tube and go to St. Paul’s Cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren. You can take a break downstairs in the café.

Then, head out the back way to stroll across the Thames River on the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern.

Pull out the Smart Phone or camera because you are on a pedestrian suspension bridge where you get great views. The UK’s famed modern art museum is housed in the Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron starkly-designed conversion of the former Bankside Power Station.

It still looks like a power station inside. At the Tate, you can lunch upstairs on Level 6 with a higher view of London but it is a bit pricey. Or lunch on the main level with a view of the river and walkways.

London has so much to see and do  that you should consider spending a week there.

On Wednesday or Saturday, antique hounds should go to the Camden Passage Antique Market. Any day is good to find a food gift to bring home from Fortnum & Mason near Piccadilly Square.

Sightseeing really depends on your interest. There really is something for everyone at Trafalgar Square.

For music, visit St. Martin in the Fields Church to one side of the Square. Go early for lunch downstairs in the Café in the Crypt. Save time for art. The National Gallery faces the Square and the National Portrait Gallery is around the corner across from St. Martin in the Fields.

Then, relax and rest the feet while indulging in sweets and petite sandwiches with an upscale tea. The Langham Hotel’s Palm Court is famous for its afternoon tea but any of the hotels on Park Lane would also be a good choice.

The Marble Arch is a Hyde Park landmark at Oxford Street and Park Lane

The Marble Arch is a Hyde Park landmark at Oxford Street and Park Lane

Stay

Think about location when looking for a place to stay. The Ampersand in London’s South Kensington area is good for the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and programs at the Royal Albert Hall. Just as good, South Kensington borders the Knightsbridge (think Harrods) and Chelsea shopping districts.

Or consider the Marriott Park Lane across from the Marble Arch on the Hyde Park corner of Park Lane and Oxford Street. A Tube station right outside the door will take you everywhere. It’s also a couple of blocks from Marks & Spencer for men’s clothes and from the large Selfridges which is fun to browse.

If time allows, fit in Kenwood House. A beautiful villa operated by English Heritage on Hampton Heath in the north area of London, Kenwood has a fine art collection that includes Gainsboroughs, van Dykes, a Vermeer and a Rembrandt. It is the highest point in the area with is a fine view of London.

There are many more things to do and places to visit and shows to see than mentioned here such as The British Museum, Kew Gardens and the Churchill War Rooms. So you will just have to come back. For more London sights visit London.

Catch the Travel and Adventure Show for tips and ideas

Experienced guides are happy to answer questions at the Travel and Adventure Show

Experienced guides are happy to answer questions at the Travel and Adventure Show

You can still catch representatives from hundreds of destinations, exotic tastes, travel speakers and fund to-do activities at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show, today. The show continues this weekend at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center until 4 p.m., Jan. 18, 2015.

Indeed, afternoon is good.

Travel Channel Host Samantha Brown speaks Sunday at 1 p.m. and Travel Ambassador Angel Castellanos speaks at 3 p.m. on the Savvy Traveler stage.

In addition, the early risers will be leaving so parking space in the connecting garage across River Road might be easier to grab.

The Chicago show is a good chance to find out more about distant places such as African Safaris or European explorations or closer-to home places  such as Traverse City and Crystal Mountain about six hours north of Chicago.

Representatives from far and near destinations are at the Travel and Adventure Show

Representatives from far and near destinations are at the Travel and Adventure Show

BTW, if you don’t make it today, the show will be in San Diego and Los Angeles in February and Wash dc and Philadelphia in March. Check out the dates at Travel Shows. http://travelshows.com/

The Travel show is at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center,t 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018, For more information call 847-692-2220 and visit Travel shows Chicago. http://travelshows.com/chicagoplan

How to beat January cabin fever blues

Cabin fever? It’s early January but cold and snow have already moved Spring up high on the wish list.

We can wait with fingers crossed until Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2015, to hear what Punxsutawney Phil has to say in Pennsylvania or Woodstock Willie in Illinois when they predict Spring’s coming. Or we can bring spring closer with these steps.

Woodstock Willie predicted lots more winter last year

Woodstock Willie predicted lots more winter last year

1. Go to the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show Jan. 17-18 to collect ideas and colorful brochures on places to go for spring or summer vacation. The show is in the west suburban Donald E, Stephens convention center in Rosemont. Turn it into a mini break by staying at the nearby Loews Hotel near the upscale Fashion Outlet mall.

2. Breath deeply a botanic garden’s indoor spaces. The Chicago area has the historic impressive Garfield Park Conservatory west of the downtown Loop and the lovely Lincoln Park Conservatory north of the Loop.  In the northern burbs there are lush tropical and flowering desert plants in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s greenhouses in Glencoe.

Feast the eyes on colorful plants and breath warm air inside a greenhouse when outside temps dips way below freezing.

Feast the eyes on colorful plants and breath warm air inside a greenhouse when outside temps dips way below freezing.

3. Host a Super Bowl party with a desert theme. NFL’s Super Bowl XLIX is February 1 in sunny Arizona at the U Of Phoenix stadium, Glendale. Turn up the heat, wear shorts, serve margaritas and be inspired by some of Phoenix’s Mexican restaurant menus.

4. Or just celebrate winter with a trip to Lake Geneva, WI for the National Snow Sculpting Championship the last weekend in January. Teams come from across the United State to sculpt amazing, fantastical forms and vignettes.  The town will be celebrating Winterfest with lots of food and fun. Stay the weekend at the Grand Geneva Resort for its ski slopes and spa.

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