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Two smart winter ideas near Chicago

 

When Chicago’s winter gets going that’s the time to head to the Morton Arboretum for an indoor miniature train exhibit and an outdoor husky sledding event or to the Chicago Botanic Garden to breath moist air in its greenhouses or enjoy Asian orchids.

Visit Husky Heroes at the Morton Arboretum. Morton Arb photo

Visit Husky Heroes at the Morton Arboretum. Morton Arb photoMorton Arboretum

 

Morton Arboretum

An Enchanted Railroad is zipping around at family-friendly height at the Morton Arboretum now through Feb. 19, 2018. Viewing is ticketed so if at the Arboretum during those days stop at the Visitor Center Desk to get a timed ticket. The event is weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Or go over to the Arboretum Jan. 27-28 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to see Husky Heroes. Siberian dogs will be pulling sleds and posing for pictures. Demos are typically 11:30 a.m., 12:45, 2 and 3:15 p.m.  Also visit Adopt a Husky.

The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle. For other information call (630) 968-0074  and visit Morton Arb.

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

A favorite place for people in the know who can’t fly to warmer climes is the desert or one of the other greenhouses at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Others dress for the outdoors and exercise by exploring the Botanic Garden’s paths.

However, orchid lovers will likely be heading there beginning Feb. 10 to see 10,000 of those exotic plants in the Asian Orchid Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The show goes through March 25, 2018. For a special treat plan on Orchids After Hours on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. For tickets and more information visit CBG Orchid. Or go to Chicago Botanic Garden and call (847) 835-5440 (or 6801)

Visit the greenhouses at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a breath of warm air. Chicago Botanic Garden photo.

Visit the greenhouses at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a breath of warm air. Chicago Botanic Garden photo.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd.,  Glencoe.

Five really good places that make the holidays better

 

Granted the giving, religious and entertainment aspects are important but that still leaves shopping, food and restaurants to go with friends and family and specialty items to find.

So, even though it’s not always all about food or cakes here are two places that excel in those categories. And even thought it’s not all about shopping these two places have fun or unusual gifts and other items you’ll want or need for holiday celebrations.

Plus, even though it’s not just about toys, this place has something that will appeal to different interests and ages.

Chocolate Sanctuary is a restaurant in Gurnee that uses cocoa for savory and sweet dishes.

Chocolate Sanctuary is a restaurant in Gurnee that uses cocoa for savory and sweet dishes.

 

The Chocolate Sanctuary

Chocoholics rejoice. Go here because owners Bill and Donna Collazo have found a way with their executive and pastry chefs to infuse cocoa in entrees, appetizers, breads and butters, desserts and drinks.

But you don’t have to order any of those because this is a full-service restaurant where all the food is delish. BTW, the restaurant’s meats are supplied by Allen Brothers whose clients include some of Chicago’s top steak houses.

However, you will want to linger and relax here because it’s not so noisy that you can’t have a conversation and the owners’  motto and believed in by their staff, is that customers always are important and come first.

The bonus is that the chocolates you will see in a case when you leave are made in house and are irresistible so you’ll want a box to give and to eat at home.

The Chocolate Sanctuary is at 5101 Washington St. Gurnee at the corner with Milwaukee Avenue. For reservations and other information call (224) 944-0808 and visit Chocolate Sanctuary.

 

Ambrosia

Do what folks in northwest suburban Barrington area do. They know they can count on Ambrosia, a European-style patisserie, to come up with the perfect pastries to serve friends and families for holiday parties so they order but also stop in to see what looks interesting, creative and delectable.

This is also a good place to go for breakfast if you crave croissants that are sweet or savory. Choose what you want at the counter including coffee and bring them over to atable. But forget trying to resist bringing something to have later at home.

Ambrosia is at 710 W. Northwest Hwy., Barrington. For more information call (847) 304-8278 and visit Discover Ambrosia.

Ambrosia, a European style patisserie.Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Ambrosia, a European style patisserie.Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

The Olive Tap

Long Grove is a fun place to visit December weekends when it has carolers and carriage rides but you will want to stop in at the Olive Tap, weekends or weekdays to pick up gifts for the holidays.

You get to taste different olive oils and vinaigrettes before you buy. However what is most important is that the store’s products are fresh. They also know how to package items so they look special.

The Olive tap is at 240 Robert Parker Coffin Road, Long Grove. For more information call (847) 478-8741 or visit The Olive Tap.

 

Paper Source

The store has been the place  to go in Highland Park  for years when needing cards, invites, announcements and great wrapping paper. However, it shines during the holidays with all kinds of stocking stuffers you never would have thought of. It’s a great place to browse so enjoy and don’t be in a hurry.

The Paper Source is at 490 Central Ave Highland Park,  For more information call (847) 266-6100 or to get some ideas visit PaperSource.

 

Sage Explorers 

Paper Source is filled with holidays items. Jodie Jacobs photo

Paper Source is filled with holidays items. Jodie Jacobs photo

Among the unusual aspects of this toy store, a new shop that opened Sept. 2, 2017 in Lake Forest, is that visitors can try out and play with the toys.

Educators are on hand to answer questions, offer suggestions and when needed, schedule learning sessions because the store is also a Learning Center.

Sage Explorers is at 644 N Bank Ln, Lake Forest. For more information call (224) 249-3658 visit Sage Explorers.

 

Happy Holidays!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Jordan: An extraordinary destination

Welcome to Jordan, a fascinating gem in the Middle East that beckons with profound experiences from exploring the rose-colored city of Petra to floating in the Dead Sea to flying through the Wadi Rum desert in an open air, 4 x 4 vehicle.

From bustling cities to the quiet of Bedouin desert camp to luxury resorts, Jordan will simply surprise you with breathtaking moments and feelings of wonder.

Historic ruins, welcoming hospitality and unsurpassed luxury make Jordan an extraordinary destination.

Petra in Jordan. Mira Temkin photo

Petra in Jordan. Mira Temkin photos

 

Petra reveals mystery among the ruins

This UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new “Seven Wonders of the World” was once a bustling site in the crossroads of trade, built by the ancient Nabataeans.

For thousands of years, Petra remained an ancient city, unknown to the modern world. Discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812, visitors have come from around the globe to explore its intriguing architecture.

As you begin to walk along the Siq, the main entrance to the Red City, glorious stone monuments and carvings begin to emerge. Then the gorge opens up and you are standing front and center of the Treasury, made famous by Indiana Jones in the movie, “The Last Crusade.”

Continue on your walk and palaces, tombs and waterway systems come into view, one more exquisite than the next. Along the way, there are artisans selling spices, jewelry and meticulously- crafted sand art bottles.

The truly ambitious can climb up (or take a donkey) the 800 steps to the magnificent Monastery. Don’t miss Petra at Night where the site takes on a mysterious glow by candlelight.

 

Discover the life of a Bedouin

For thousands of years, the wandering Bedouins have maintained their nomadic existence, living off the land in simple tents.

Visitors can share this experience by sleeping in one of their camps like the Rahayeb Desert Camp in the Wadi Desert. Choose from tents or cabins, enjoy a traditional zarb (barbecue) dinner cooked in the ground and listen to their traditional music as you drift off to sleep under the stars.

At other Bedouin camps, you’ll hear the tapping of the kettle, offering anyone near a cup of coffee or tea. You’ll find the people most welcoming.

 

Traveling through the Wadi Rum Desert

DH Lawrence called it “vast, echoing and God like” and the setting where David Lean filmed his award-winning film, “Lawrence of Arabia.” This is the infamous Wadi Rum desert, best seen from the perspective of a open-air, 4×4 jeep. Get an up close view of the massive “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” Lawrence wrote about in 1917.

 

Luxury in the Dead Sea

Luxury starts at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea with its elegant, pure white surroundings, looking out on the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel. Dine in one of their four exquisite restaurants and enjoy the magnificent sunsets from your terrace.

There is something quite remarkable about floating in the Dead Sea. That’s because of the water’s high salt content and the Dead Sea is the lowest point in the world. Just sit in the water and you’ll pop up on your back without any effort at all. And don’t forget to slather the nutrient-rich mud all over your body, then bake in the sun and wash it off. Your skin will feel smooth and silky.

 

Look out over Mount Nebo 

See beautiful old mosaics.

See beautiful old mosaics.

 

 

One of the most revered holy sites in Jordan, Mount Nebo is where Moses is buried as well as where he stood and overlooked the Holy Land. You can see the same breathtaking views across the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea to the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The hilltop church right next to it features beautiful mosaic floors.

Wherever you travel throughout the country, it’s the warm, friendly people and hospitality that make Jordan such a unique and welcoming destination.

For more information about Jordan, myjordanjourney.com. I gratefully acknowledge being hosted on this amazing journey by the Jordanian Tourist Board of North America.

 

If You Go
Fly to Amman, Jordan via Royal Jordanian Airlines that offers non-stop from many North American and Canadian cities. Also check out these places: Grand Hyatt Amman  Rahayeb Desert Camp  Marriott Petra Hotel and Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea.

 

Guest Travel Contributor Mira Temkin

 

Plan now for a Cubs spring training vacation

 

It’s not too early to make ticket and hotel arrangements for Cubs spring training games. The Cubs have already announced their opening games in Arizona.

Sloan Park before the crowd enters Jodie Jacobs Photo

Sloan Park before the crowd enters
Jodie Jacobs Photo

First up, they play Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Park in Phoenix Feb. 23. The rest of that weekend they are playing Texas Rangers in Sloan Park Feb. 24 and the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale Stadium, Feb. 25. The next week through March 1, the Cubs will be at home at Sloan against the Seattle Mariners Feb. 26, the Chicago White Sox, Feb. 27, Oakland Athletics Feb. 28 and Colorado Rockies Mar. 1.

Even though the tickets are not yet on sale, the Cubs have a spring training waiting list. So best chance to get what you want is to sign up at MLB Sloan Spring.

To be in the middle of the Cubs action, consider the Sheraton Mesa at Wrigleyville West that is right there, abutting Sloan Park.

However, there are several good chain hotels and resorts near all the spring training ball parks. Plus there are lots of excellent golf courses, good shopping and outstanding museums that turn a spring training visit into a vacation.

Check out Visit Mesa, Visit Phoenix and Experience Scottsdale and Sloan Park.

Related articles: Spring Training at Wrigleyville West (2016 dates but tips are still valid)

 

 

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