Tips for fun fall color drives

Deep reds are already tipping the tops of some trees. Drops of crimson sprinkle others. Gold leaves are beginning to line parks and parkways. Enjoy the local scenery, however, to feed that inner urge for a vista of color look for state and national forests nearby and in neighboring states.  But before packing the car and heading out check the following five tips to make the trip fun, not frustrating.

A state park in Door County glistens with gold

A state park in Door County glistens with gold

1.Don’t use your neighborhood color changes as the definitive guide. Colors in states or area of your state to the north and west may be in full fall color palette or just beginning to change south or east. In the Midwest visit these state information sites: Illinois, IndianaMichiganMinnesota and Wisconsin.

2. Take advantage of local Visitors Bureaus to find accommodations. As an example, Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and Traverse City in northern Michigan (below the Upper Peninsula) and Brown County (Bloomington and Nashville) in central Indiana keep tabs on what is available and know price points and type.

3. A GPS works some places but not all so stop at the area’s Information Center for maps, brochures and suggestions.

4. Because you are driving, not flying, throw those extra boots, hiking shoes, jackets, sun protector hats and sprays, water bottles, first-aid kits and backpacks into the car.

Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City

Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City

5. Don’t forget chargers for phones, ipads, cameras or whatever other electronics you take everywhere. Also check your accommodations before you leave, they already have enough chargers from previous visitors.

From crimson and copper to delicate pinks and sherbert oranges, colorful leaves surprise drivers around every corner in the upper Midwest. Just get in the car and go.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Visit the Antiques Roadshow online or in person

Antiques Roadshow Chicago visitors wait near the appropriate table to see an appraisal expert.

Antiques Roadshow Chicago visitors wait near the appropriate table to see an appraisal expert.

I recently had the good fortune to cover the Antiques Roadshow when it taped in Chicago this summer. It was fun, interesting and surprising. Here are some of the nuggets I picked up while interviewing its directors, executives, experts and people who brought items to be valued.

1. If you live in Albuquerque, NM, Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Charleston, WV, Austin, TX, Birmingham, AL, Santa Clara, CA, Bismark, ND, the towns visited this spring and summer, you can check  Antiques Roadshow about late September or early October to see when the segment closest to home will air in 2015.

2. To get more information about the 2014 summer tour click here. To see photos of some gems taped during the 2014 summer tour, go to behind the scenes.

3. If you want to attend an Antiques Roadshow appraisal event, check the first Monday in January when the show premiers its 19th season. Announcements are made on line and usually at the premier about where the show will tape that spring and summer.  Look online for ticket application information.  Tickets are given out by random drawing, not first come, but be sure to get yours in before the deadline, usually early April. Two tickets are given free of charge to the applicant drawn.

Surprises

A century-old German doll with all its original clothes was worth much more than its owner thought.

A century-old German doll with all its original clothes was worth much more than its owner thought.

There’s more to an Antiques Roadshow event than the expected wow.  Yes, some items are valued much higher than the people who brought them think. But other items are chosen for their education value as copies, tourist market objects or fakes. An art object brought to the Chicago taping could be worth $20,000 if authenticated but would be $2,000 as a decorative piece, if not.

Among the surprises in Chicago was that even though 3,000 people received two tickets each and could bring two items, meaning that the experts had 18,000 objects to consider, the appraisals and discussions were all done in one Saturday starting with 8 a.m. ticket holders and not ending until all 5 p.m. ticket holders were seen.

Another amazing tidbit is that the experts pay their own way to come to the cities being taped. They do get television exposure but they cannot hand their cards to the people they meet.  Of the approximately 150 experts on the show’s roster, about 70 came to the Chicago taping.

Reaction to an appraisal value is often a surprise. During a Chicago taping that evaluated a century-old doll, its owner became emotional when learning she would have to add a zero to the couple hundred dollars she thought it would bring. She kept it in a closet but originally was going to sell it. After the appraisal she changed her mind.

Keeping an object after appraisal is not surprising according to Executive Producer Marsha Bemko who speaks to groups across the country. “ One of the interesting things is whether its business or another group, 20-year-olds, 60 or 80, they have a question in common:  what happened to the objects after a person leaves the Roadshow. I tell them it’s about the relationship. It does not matter what the object is worth. They never sell the objects,” Bemko said. She added that a few exceptions did occur when the object was picked up cheap at a garage sale and had no family value.

Visitors were divided according to objects they brought by a generalist appraiser who gave them a ticket for the right table and area.

Visitors were divided according to objects they brought by a generalist appraiser who gave them a ticket for the right table and area.

Interesting

No matter where the Antiques Roadshow visits and how the the town’s convention center is configured, the set where the appraisals and taping are done will be the same. Windows are shut off and backdrops are set up.

Each town’s one-day taping is divided into three episodes. Host Mark Walberg introduces three visits outside the convention center using a different expert at each place. The outside visits, typically to a museum, a person’s collection or a significant building, is to give a sense of place to the town visited, according to Bemko. “Otherwise, all you see is the convention center,” she said.

In Chicago, the outside the convention center visits were to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Lyric Opera and Crab Tree Farm in the northern suburbs.

For more Antiques Roadshow interesting insight visit the Roadshow Scene

Fun

Merely circulating among the experts, camera crew and folks carrying paintings, sculptures, vases and carefully wrapped treasures was fun. It was also delightful to talk with people who loved coming even though their objects were not worth much

To learn about some of the items that  will appear on Chicago segments click Chicago

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

New visitor center makes navigating Chicago easier

Visiting Chicago can be overwhelming without a little concierge help. You know to toss questions at a hotel concierge but when downtown you now have another concierge desk ready to answer those “where are” and “how do you get there” questions.

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

Macy’s on State Street added a terrific Visitor Information Center in June in conjunction with Choose Chicago, the city’s main tourist information bureau.

The Macy’s center has a concierge desk, maps, brochures and interactive kiosks that have dining, attractions and shopping suggestions.

When you stop in the store, ask for directions to the fountain and its main escalators. Then go down to lower level near the candy and food area to find the Visitor Information Center.

The kiosks there will not merely light up with restaurant suggestions for several types of cuisines and tell you how to get to your restaurant of choice by bus, car or walking, it will also print out the directions so you don’t have to write them down. Same goes for attractions such as museums and shopping categories.

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

However, you can also check at the desk for savings passes and other information.

Macy’s has the International and Domestic Savings Program that gives a 10 percent discount on most store purchases to visitors from outside the store’s shopping region. Qualifying documentation such as a government issued ID is needed. The Savings Pass can be printed at interactive kiosks or from the concierge desk. BTW, remember on your travels to ask for a Macy’s savings pass when at the company’s other stores.

Visit Macy’s State Street for more information.

Photos (C) Jodie Jacobs

Downtown show venues range from lavish to old-world casual

Chicago doesn’t promote that it is a great theater town with about 200 stage companies in its metropolitan area. But if you are merely in and out of the city for a quick visit, try to get tickets to a show downtown. At the least, you will see a grand, historic venue.

However, production companies know that Chicago audiences are sophisticated theater-goers with high expectations so you are likely to see an exceptional performance.

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to go to several shows. You can admire their venue’s architecture and, in some cases, over-the-top décor. Many Chicago’s stages are in glorious marble, gold, exotic “palaces.”

Theater venues is the fourth category in the downtown Chicago walks series that includes, art, architecture, restaurants and shopping. Some theaters conduct tours but even if a theater is closed, box offices are often open so at least you can peak into some lobbies.

Combine any of the following five theaters with restaurant suggestions or the art and architecture walks.

The French Baroque style Chicago Theatre arguably became the prototy[e for movie palaces

The French Baroque style Chicago Theatre arguably became the prototy[e for movie palaces

If in the south end of the Loop for art or architecture definitely stop by the Auditorium Theatre at 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605 adjacent to Michigan Avenue. Extending around the corner onto Michigan Avenue, the building has been home to Roosevelt University for more than half a century.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, the building was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. When completed in 1889, it was the city’s tallest building. Notice its arches. They are Sullivan hallmarks.

Try to schedule a tour ahead of time. Built as an opera house, its auditorium is gorgeous. Home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, it has wonderful acoustics.

When walking in the central Loop area west of the Art Institute of Chicago, peer into the Bank of America Theatre in the Majestic Building.

Sitting just west of State Street at 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603, the building and its playhouse, the Majestic Theatre, date to 1906. A vaudeville playhouse, the theatre featured such entertainers as Harry Houdini, Al Jolson and Fanny Brice.

Closed during the Great Depression, it reopened in 1945 as the Sam Shubert Theatre. It was the place to go to see such post war musicals as “South Pacific” and “Guys and Dolls.” Later, it was the LaSalle Bank Theatre. Bank of America acquired the LaSalle and renamed the venue in 2008. The theatre is popular for pre-Broadway premieres from The Good-by Girl in 1993 to “Kinky Boots” in 2012 and hosts Broadway in Chicago productions.

To do a theater walk, start at the Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago.  60601.

Inside, large mirrors, crystal chandeliers and violet and white marble will have you believing you have moved through space to the palaces of France.

Built during the extravagant mid-1920s, the Palace Theatre (later the Cadillac Palace) was an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville playhouse. During its many lives, the venue was a movie house, banquet hall, rock venue and playhouse called the Bismark Theatre.

Renovated in 1999, it became the Cadillac Palace, hosting pre-Broadway openings of “The Producers and “Mamma Mia” and also other hit shows.

Walk east on Randolph past the impressive glass James Thompson Center, then north a block to the internationally renowned Goodman Theatre at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60601.

When the Goodman Theatre moved from its Art Institute of Chicago space to Dearborne Street it kept the historic facades of former landmark theatres but redid the inside as comfortable and casual.

When the Goodman Theatre moved from its Art Institute of Chicago space to Dearborn Street, it kept the historic facades of former landmark theatres but redid the inside as comfortable and casual.

Housed in a north wing of the Art Institute of Chicago built for the Goodman in the 1920s and opened in 1925, the theatre moved to its Dearborn location in 2000. It is on the former site and incorporates the former landmark facades of the Selwyn and Harris Theaters.

Totally unlike the ornate 1920s theater palaces, its main stage, the Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre, is a comfortable, casual space with side balconies somewhat old-world reminiscent of the Globe Theatre.

Artistic Director Robert Falls has staged and overseen several world premieres and notable productions. Among them is “The Iceman Cometh” starring Brian Dennehy. The Goodman’s annual presentation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” has become a Chicago area family tradition.

Return to Randolph Street, to walk east to the Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.

This is the site of the Iroquois Theater, whose deadly 1903 fire led to improved theater safety standards across the country. Designed by George and Cornelius Rapp and opened by Balaban and Katz as a movie palace in 1926, the theater’s Far East carvings, color and decor has visitors oohing and aahing before the show starts.

Closed due to disrepair in 1981, the theater underwent restoration and was renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997. It reopened in 1998 with the premiere of “Ragtime.”

The Oriental is just west of State Street so make the last stop the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St. Chicago, IL 60601.

Built in 1921 for $4 million, it is arguably the Balaban and Katz venue that made the statement: movie theater lobbies and auditoriums should look like palaces. The Rapps designed this theater in French Baroque style. Make a reservation for a tour to stand on the stage and go back stage.

Great entertainers have performed on Chicago’s downtown stages. World premieres and memorable performances have taken place there. So be sure to put Chicago theaters on the to-do list.

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