Weekend outing; Pair model railroad meet with a historic town

You don’t have to wait until Spring Break to take a fun, weekend outing.

If you love the model railroads and buildings at the Museum of Science and Industry and at the Chicago Botanic Garden in the summer or Christmas, drive up to the northwest corner of Illinois March 4-5, 2017.  The Depot Stove Gang are holding their 29th annual Model Railroad Show and Swap Meet that weekend in Lena. The town is a short distance east of the historic destination of Galena, IL, so the model railroad show makes a trip to this area a good, two-for-one, weekend outing.

Model train show comes to Lena, IL March 3, 4, 2017

Model train show comes to Lena, IL March 3, 4, 2017

 

About the model railroad event

It’s fun to see the model trains moving along their tracks past villages and scenery. Plus there will be lots of railroad memorabilia and stuff to start one’s own setup or add.

The show is so large it takes place in the gyms and cafeterias at Lena-Winslow Elementary School, 401 Fremont St, IL , the Junior High at 517 Fremont St. and High School at 516 Fremont St. Check in is at 401 Fremont St., Lena IL 61048. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lunch is available in the Elementary Cafeteria. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

Lena is in Freeport/Stephenson County which celebrates the outdoors and history, year round. For things to do and other information visit  Freeport/Stephenson County. and call (815) 233-1357 or (800) 369-2955. The Visitors and Convention Bureau is at 4596 US Highway 20 E. Freeport, IL

 

About Galena

West of Lena on US Highway 20 in Jo Daviess County is Galena, a 19th century town filled with sites on the National Register of Historic Places. It has a terrific Main Street shopping area of boutiques, candy and ice cream shoppes, wine tasting places and historic homes and inns. For more information visit Galena and call (815) 77.3557 or (800) 747-9377. The CVB is at 720 Park Ave., Galena, IL 61036

 

Where to stay

There are lot of choices but to get you started check out Eagle Ridge Resort.

It is on the outskirts of Galena, west of Lena on US Hwy 20.

 

Three ways to take advantage of a long weekend

 

All of a sudden the long weekend that includes Presidents’ Day, the third Monday of February when schools and banks are close, is only a few days away.

What would have been a good time to fly south for a short, sunny break is likely going to be too difficult to book now. Airline flights and hotel rooms in places such as south Florida are typically at a premium that weekend, if still available.

However, instead of playing the “should-have” game, think of the weekend as a fun opportunity. The following suggestions work anywhere even though the examples given are for the Chicago area.

The Field has free general admission for Illinois residents Presidents' Day Weekend. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Field has free general admission for Illinois residents Presidents’ Day Weekend. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

Take a “staycation”

Nowadays all hotels have a fitness center so that would no longer be a deciding point on where to take your weekend vacation. Think about what you most want to do. Shop? Visit museums? See art and architecture? Go to the theater? Do it all?

Next, how important is a pool? Few downtown Chicago hotels have pools but some have indoor lap pools. Even fewer have a pool where children can swim all year round.

You can keep the bathing suits in the suitcase you planned for a trip south if spending the weekend at The Intercontinental on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent (Shopping) Mile. It not only has a pool, it is historic and large. The spa and fitness area is now a part of the hotel pool area.

The hotel is nicely placed for a “staycation.” Walk north from the hotel for Michigan Avenue shops. Walk south and cross the Chicago River a few blocks to Millennium Park for ice skating and “Cloud Gate” better known as “The Bean.”  A little further south is the Art Institute of Chicago. You are in a great spot to appreciate downtown art and architecture.

Cross Michigan Avenue from the hotel to take a bus to the Museum Campus’ Field Museum,  Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium at the south end of Grant Park. All of February is free general admission for Illinois residents at the Field.  Presidents’ Day,  Feb. 20, is free admission to the Adler Planetarium and the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park.

The city is at you doorstep when you take a “staycation” downtown. Enjoy

 

Binge on Oscar nominated movies

Get a jump start on Oscar night, Feb. 26, 2017 by seeing the nominated movies at your local theater.

For the kids there are the animated features: “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Moana,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” The Red Turtle” and “Zootopia.”
Best Picture nominees are: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land, ”Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.” Most theaters offer advance tickets. The AMC theaters at Northbrook Court were recently remodeled with really comfortable seats and a bar to get drinks and food.

Or settle in with popcorn or pizza at home as you check Netflix or On Demand for past Oscar winners. Some are oldies. Others are just goodies.

 

Make a penguin and cupcake play date with friends

Lincoln Park Zoo Penguin Cove opens. Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo Penguin Cove opens. Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo

 

Go to a zoo or aquarium then forget the diet and splurge on cupcakes at places you’ve been meaning to try.

In Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo has a wonderful, new penguin center.  Or watch the penguins in their Polar Play Zone at the Shedd Aquarium.

For a dessert break pick up cupcakes at Sprinkles Cupcakes at 50 E Walton St. west of the Magnificent Mile. Or stop in at the Magnolia Bakery  at 108 N State St at Block 37.

 

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Woodstock Willie predicts more winter

 

The weather is supposed to get slightly warmer next week but don’t put away the heavy  jacket yet.

Shortly after sunrise on Groundhog Day Feb. 2, 2017, Woodstock Willie saw his shadow and decided to return to his abode until spring comes.

Woodstock Willie saw his shadow on a sunny Feb. 2, 2017. Photo compliments of the Woodstock Groundhog organization

Woodstock Willie saw his shadow on a sunny Feb. 2, 2017. Photo compliments of the Woodstock Groundhog organization

So at least Midwesterners should be prepared for six more weeks of chilling winter.

On the bright side, folks  can visit Woodstock, IL where the movie, “Groundhog Day” was shot.

They can see the movie for free and tour the sites in the movie now through Feb. 5. (The Woodstock site is down this morning, Feb. 2  but try it later).

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the filming. Next year the town celebrates the 25th anniversary of the film’s release in 1993.

Co-written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, the film has Pittsburg TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) trying to cover Groundhog Day when he gets stuck in a time warp.

Also starring Andie MacDowell as news producer Rita Hanson and Chris Elliott as cameraman Larry, the “Groundhog Day”  supposedly takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

However, with the exception of a couple of opening and highway shots to set a sense of place, it really was filmed  in the cute, countryside town of Woodstock, IL Ramis had been searching for a site within a day’s drive of his Winnetka home.

Unfortunately for easterners. Punxsutawney Phil also saw his shadow in Pennsylvania so it looks like Spring is not on the way.

The groundhog prediction legend emigrated from Europe where farmers thought spring was coming if they saw badgers.

 

A Day in Chicago

 

Third in series on bucket-list towns where there is so much to see that that it is easy to miss some really good places. The series, begun with A Day in LA and continued with A Day in DC, highlights two attractions and includes a foodie stop plus an alternative attraction.

 

Combine art and architecture

Your start and end spots are Michigan Avenue from Monroe to Randolph Streets.

Modern Wing of Art Institute of Chicago Monroe Street entrance. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Modern Wing of Art Institute of Chicago Monroe Street entrance. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Of course you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the finest French Impressionist collection outside of Paris.

But you might not know that as of December 2016 with the addition of the ‘New Contemporay’ it also has on exhibit an outstanding collection of contemporary art by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Robert Raushenberg and Takahi Murakami and other influential artists plus important photographs by Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.

Comparable to that at the new Broad Museum in LA, the “New Contemporary” collection is on a long-term loan from philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. See it in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing.

However, the museum doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m. You don’t need to enter with the mass waiting for it to open. So think petit déjeuner at Toni Patisserie at 65 E. Washington Street, a couple of blocks north of the museum.

 

‘The People’s Palace’

You are now perfectly placed to go across the street to “The People’s Palace” as the Chicago Cultural Center was sometimes called. Its south door at 78 E. Washington Street, is across from the Patisserie and is a perfect place to start the day after your croissant and latte.

Pull out the smart phone. The outside of the building is somewhat ponderous but inside is one amazing sight after another starting with the awesome mosaics that line the entryway’s Carrara marble staircase and walls.

Designed by the renowned architecture firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Boston in a Beaux Arts style in 1897 it reflected the taste of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The building housed the Chicago Public Library so look for literary and historical faces and saying in the mosaics.

Mosaics line stairway and walls in Chicago Culture Center known as the 'People's Palace' Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Mosaics line stairway and walls in Chicago Culture Center known as the ‘People’s Palace’
Photo by Jodie Jacobs

If you entered from Washington Street you might notice Roman style arches.If you walk through to the Randolph Street entrance you will see Greek influence and Doric columns.

On the National Register of Historic Places, its upstairs is filled with beautiful spaces. Look up when you reach the third floor on the Washington Street side. You are in the gorgeous Preston Bradley Hall capped by reportedly the world’s largest Tiffany Favrile glass dome. Surrounded by fish scales, the dome’s center has the signs of the zodiac.

Walk around the room to your left (west side) to get to the impressive Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda and its stained-glass dome. Go into the decorative GAR Memorial Hall.

Chicagoans come to the building for literary readings, dance and music programs, lectures, expos and concerts and to admire GAR rooms and Preston Bradley Hall.

They also come to see the ever changing art exhibits. So, take time to stroll to see what’s being shown around the building. Featured art shows are typically on the fourth floor and sometimes in the Chicago Room on Level Two. The main floor has exhibition space running along both the east and west sides of the building.

 

The ‘Modern Wing’

When ready to check out the Art Institute’s Modern Wing cross Michigan Avenue and walk south to the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Designed by award-winning architect Renzo Piano, the wing opened in 2009 to mainly house modern European painting and sculpture and contemporary art collections. Tip: don’t try to do all of the Art Institute in one trip. The museum has nearly one million square feet.

At the Monroe Street Modern Wing entrance, you walk into the two-story, sky-lit Griffin Court.

The elevator up to Levels Two and Three take you to the museum’s 20th and 21st century collections. To see what’s on exhibit regarding architecture, go up to the café overlooking the Court. The room off the back is devoted to architecture.

 

Lunch break

When ready for sustenance, take an elevator from the short corridor on the west side off Griffin Court up to Terzo Piano, an upscale Italian restaurant guided by famed Chef Tony Mantuano. Reservations are highly recommended because lunch, from 11 to 3 p.m. fills fast (312-443-8650).

'Cloud Gate' better known as 'The Bean' in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

‘Cloud Gate’ better known as ‘The Bean’ in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Even if you don’t snag a reservation go out onto the Bluhm Family Terrace outside the restaurant for a spectacular photo op. You can capture Chicago’s skyline, Millennium Park and Lake Michigan in your lens. Plus there usually are some sculptures on the Terrace.

From there take Piano’s unusual Nichols Bridgeway pedestrian walk over Monroe Street down to Millennium Park. About halfway down turn around and take a photo of the Modern Wing.

If you’re still looking for a lunch spot see if a table is available in Millennium Park’s Park Grill. It is street level (behind the ice rink in winter) at 11 N. Michigan Ave.

You’ll want to end near there anyway because “The Bean,” Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel “Cloud Gate,” is directly above the Park Grill. You have to take a selfie at The Bean and a photo of Chicago’s reflected skyline on it. Everyone does.

 

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