Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

The Wright trip for stage and scenery

Peck's Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

Peck’s Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

A fall vacation that is not the same-old, same-old awaits 189 miles (about 3 hrs., 20 min.) northwest of Chicago in Spring Green, WI.

 

Water bottles, check. pillow ( I like mine), check. Phone, cords and bathing suit, check. Well, there is a lap pool at The House on the Rock Resort, my weekend retreat.

 

On the agenda is see a show at American Players Theatre which everyone calls APT,  tour Wright’s Taliesin, explore the hilly countryside and stop at Peck’s Farm Market East on the way home for yummy, fresh corn. The town is surrounded by farmland so visitors will be treated to true farm-to-table products that are not just a nod to today’s popular menu phrases.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center near Spring Green Wisconsin. (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center near Spring Green Wisconsin. (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

For Chicagoans and west suburbanites, I90 to US 12/14 around Madison is arguably the shortest, quickest route. Coming from the northern suburbs, I mosey west over to US 12 because I94 is under construction and it means I can stop at Anderson’s Candy Shop in Richmond, IL  for chocolate and Kindfolk Coffee inside a boutique center in Cambridge, WI, for a latte.

 

Fortunately, my room is ready even though I arrive closer to lunch than the 3 p.m. check-in. So after dropping my bags, I get directions to the Spring Green General Store for lunch. GPS is fine but I also like to know ahead of time where I’m going.

 

I heard that the Genera Store, alone, is a destination experience. Wow! Can’t believe all the stuff crammed on the shelves and down the aisles. But lunch first. Hmm, heard the soups are good however, I’m going to do a chicken salad sandwich on whole grain ciabatta and wash it down with peach iced tea.

 

After ordering at the counter and receiving a flag from Mexico (lots of countries represented) to ID my order, I find a table on the indoor porch. Totally stuffed, I walk off lunch, peering into boutiques and stopping in Arcadia Books.

 

Outside Freddie Valentine's restaurant in Spring Green. (J Jacobs photo)

Outside Freddie Valentine’s restaurant in Spring Green. (J Jacobs photo)

Then back to the resort to unpack, call Taliesin to book a tour for tomorrow and relax. I get lucky because I should have reserved a tour before leaving home. Fortunately someone had just canceled for the Highlights Tour that goes to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and his studio.

 

APT is also tomorrow and where I plan to do dinner. I ordered a picnic supper when I bought my show ticket.

 

So tonight will try  Freddy Valentine’s Public House in the historic State Bank of Spring Green. Imagine chowing down on great ribs in a bank. I was told by owner David Owen who named it after his dad, that everything on the menu was really fresh.

 

In its seven years, the restaurant has picked up several mentions as one of the best small town restaurants in Wisconsin worth the drive

 

BTW, in this town almost every building is historic. The General Store is in a converted cheese storage building dating to about 1919 that was other things before becoming the store and café in the 1980s. The bank, built in 1915 was listed on Register of Historic Places in 2007.

 

Pool at House on the Rock Resort. (J Jacobs photo)

Pool at House on the Rock Resort. (J Jacobs photo)

It will seem funny going to Wright’s organic, Prairie School style of architecture at Taliesin tomorrow after seeing old, small-town buildings of the same period, today, just a six-minute drive away.

 

Wright first built Taliesin on his family’s large farm in 1911. Then he rebuilt it after fires in 1914 and 1925. It was listed as a Historic Landmark in 1974 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019.

 

The visitor’s center with its great view of the Wisconsin River and where Taliesin tours start and end, is perfect for lunch. Going on the tour was a great way not just to see the inside of his home and studio but also take in breathtaking views of the Wisconsin River Valley in the fall.

 

Back at the resort to relax, I have time before the APT show to fit in some laps in a really attractive indoor pool where high ceilings and glass walls make it feel connected to the outdoors.

 

Refreshed, I drive less than a mile from the resort to the American Players’ campus, pick up my pre-ordered dinner, then picnic at a table before taking a shuttle up the hill. I will be seeing Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” in the outdoor amphitheater.

 

American Players Theatre outdoor venue. (J Jacobs photo)

American Players Theatre outdoor venue. (J Jacobs photo)

As the sun sets behind the trees, the seats start to fill with people more inclined to trekking up the hill than I was. Surprised by the many people who seemed to know each other, my seatmates explained that Apt audiences return every year like they do.

 

Not surprising, was that the show turned out to be every bit as good as the version I saw in Chicago a few years ago because APT attracts actors, directors and choreographers from TV, film and regional theaters.

 

Now I’m thinking I should come back next year.

 

For more restaurants, places to stay and things to do visit SpringGreen.

 

 

Vines and Vistas make a great fall getaway

Think Traverse City for a fall getaway.

Think Traverse City for a fall getaway.

 

Maybe it’s the talk of the Chicago Bears’ training camp. Or maybe it’s the ads for back-to-school supplies and end-of-summer sales. All of a sudden I’m thinking about where to go for a fall getaway that is withing six hours of Chicago.  Planning the trip now helps get through the “dog days” of summer.

 

On the map, (yeah, I still like atlases) the Michigan town of Traverse City may seem far  but I have made it up to TC in time for lunch. I love this town anytime of year but it’s still my top Midwest choice for fall.

 

I leave home in the northern suburbs early enough to do breakfast in Saugatuck then head east to Grand Rapids where I pick up US Highway 131. Its bordering forests and little traffic make it a relaxing drive up to US Highway 115 that is a perfect angle west to State Highway 37, the main road into TC.

 

After dumping travel bag and stuff at my lodging (more on this later) I feel my shoulders relax as I thread my way around the rolling, vine-covered landscape of the Old Mission Peninsula that starts at the east end of TC. Over every hill waits another glimpse of the sparkling waters of Grand Traverse Bay.

 

Over every hill is another spectacular view when hiking or driving Old Mission Peninsula at Traverse City.

Over every hill is another spectacular view when hiking or driving Old Mission Peninsula at Traverse City.

Or I head up the Leelanau Peninsula at the west end of TC to meander along the lapping shores of the Bay’s West Arm to Suttons Bay for lunch at Martha’s Leelanau Table, a small restaurant favored by the locals. Her arbor covered terrace is perfect for planning which winery to go to first.

 

Due to the two peninsulas’ prime clime location on the 45th parallel, soil and water protection from the Bay and nearby Lake Michigan, the land here has produced an abundance of cherries (home of the National Cherry Festival) apples and grapes. Translated, that means there are excellent wineries on both the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas.

 

The shops here in Suttons Bay beckon with colorful banners and signs after lunch. And around the corner from Martha’s is the excellent Suttons Bay Bike Shop which I may return to if I decide to bike north to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

 

Grand Traverse Lighthouse on Leelanau Peninsula

Grand Traverse Lighthouse on Leelanau Peninsula

 

Back to the B&B to relax and make dinner reservations. This time I’m staying on the outskirts of Suttons Bay at Black Star Farms which has a nice habit of serving a free glass of wine and nosh during the cocktail hour and also does terrific breakfasts.

 

Where to make reservations for dinner. Hmm, maybe Sorellina’s because of its really good veal dishes and it is downtown TC so I could work off dinner exploring Front Street.

 

Since my other two faves probably need more time than I have today,  I’ll probably do the teeny, tiny Cooks House tomorrow. It finds innovative but yummy ways to prepare locally sourced ingredients.  Then, it’s the Boat House for its good food and views the next day.

 

The city has lots of places to stay whether looking for something in town, on Traverse City Bay or staying at a winery on the Mission Peninsula. Check out the Traverse City Visitor Center  for lodging choices.

Chateau Chantal

Chateau Chantal

 

I’ve stayed at the BayShore Resort which I liked for its beach and indoor pool, and Wellington Inn because of its charm and good breakfast.

 

However, I’m thinking of staying at Chateau Chantal on the mission Peninsula next time for its views and it reminds me of a chateau in the Loire Valley. Maybe next time I’ll hike to the Mission Point Lighthouse on the Mission Peninsula.

 

Guess there will be a next time.

 

(All photos are by J Jacobs)

 

Visit Chicago for a peek at a technological clothing revolution

 

Pix Backpacks you design electronically. Designed by young inventors from Ukraine led by Margaret Rimek came up with the idea and found the solution funded through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. (MSI Photo)

Pix Backpacks you design electronically. Designed by young inventors from Ukraine led by Margaret Rimek came up with the idea and found the solution funded through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. (MSI Photo)

 

An exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry gives a whole new meaning to the phrase active wear.

 

Imagine wearing a SpiderSense Vest that can help guide you around obstacles in the dark or Seismic Powered Clothing™ that provides extra strength when standing or bicycling.

 

If riding a motorcycle consider being able to get a Dainese D-Air Racing Suit that will inflate its embedded airbags if a crash is imminent so that it protects you from injury. And how about being able to put on a Iridescence collar that reacts to the feelings and moods of people you encounter.

 

Those are just a few of the extraordinary items in MCI’s “Wired to Wear” exhibition up now through May 2020.

 

Created by renowned designer and technologist Behnaz Farahi, this collar’s quills use hundreds of actuators and vision-activated technology to follow your gaze and react with life-like behavior. (MSI photo)

Created by renowned designer and technologist Behnaz Farahi, this collar’s quills use hundreds of actuators and vision-activated technology to follow your gaze and react with life-like behavior. (MSI photo)

 

What you see are real items of clothing and accessories embedded with useful or fun technology that has been developed by companies and individuals in several countries. They don’t yet fill your favorite sports or clothing store but some items can be ordered and others will likely be available sooner than fashionistas expect and futurists predict.

 

“It’s coming. We have been monitoring t his for a few years. It’s gaining speed,” said MSI Director of Collections  Kathleen McCarthy, the museum’s head curator.

 

McCarthy points out that some of the clothing designs might not be as far out as some people think. “We’ve seen some similar items on Project Runway,” she said. (For a look at some of the apparel that appeared on the Bravo, then Lifetime, back to Bravo series go to Project Runway.

 

Her presence to guide me around the exhibit actually was introduced by a barking sound.

 

“Some of the pieces that were developed have personal motivation,” she said walking over to a jacket. “The person who designed this was moving with her husband to London from rural South Africa. He was worried about crime so she made him this jacket that can approximate people’s nearness and barks.”

 

McCarthy then walked over to a Smart Tattoo exhibit. “Other items were developed for commercial purposes or creative experiences.

 

As she explained the two arm tattoos mounted on a wall, a couple of youngsters went over to them and touched different sections of the tattoos to produce different sounds and colors. Designed by Microsoft, tattoos are a conductive technology that can be worn on the arm. “They turn the body into an interface,” she said.

 

Jet Suit created by Richard Browning can travel more than 30 miles per hour and ascend to 12,000 feet. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Jet Suit created by Richard Browning can travel more than 30 miles per hour and ascend to 12,000 feet. (Photo by J Jacobs)

 

She believes that a robotic dress kit is on the horizon that can adapt what is worn to different social situations. “People will say, “Oh, I can just adapt my clothing.”

 

She explained. “You will be able to change the look of what you’re wearing by changing its shape. You can start out creative, then change it to practical for a work out, then later change to become playful.”

 

Wired clothing? “Its practical and playful,” said McCarthy. “It will become an active partner in life. There is a relationship between us and clothing.”

 

DETAILS: “Wired to Wear is at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, through May 2020. For tickets, hours and other information call (773) 684-1414 and visit MSI Chicago.

 

Related: Three Stylish Blockbuster Exhibits

 

How to do a three day vacation in Chicago this summer

Chicago is high on the list of travelers destinations. (Photos by J Jacobs)

Chicago is high on the list of travelers destinations. (Photos by J Jacobs)

Known for years as Carl Sandburg’s “City of the Big Shoulders” for its stock yards and freight crossroads, Chicago has metamorphosed into a foodie and festival city. It’s also a cultural arts city, an architecture city and shopping city. Indeed, there’s enough to do here to fill a week but when all you have is three days it’s helpful to have a plan. Just remember to figure in downtime even if your walking shoes are comfy.

 

BTW, if you want to link your visit to one of the city’s famed free festivals in Millennium Park, Grant Park or along Lake Michigan, you might want to check these 2019 dates. The Chicago Blues Festival is June 7-9  in Millenium Park. Taste of Chicago is July 10-14 in Grant Park. Chicago Air and Water Show is Aug. 17-18 at North Avenue Beach north of the downtown and the Chicago Jazz Festival is Aug 31-Sept. in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and other venues.

 

The Chicago Peninsula pool overlooks Michigan Avenue's Mag Mile. (J Jacobs photo)

The Chicago Peninsula pool overlooks Michigan Avenue’s Mag Mile. (J Jacobs photo)

First Day

 

Consider splurging and booking into the  Chicago Peninsula Hotel at 108 E. Superior St.

 

The rooms and service plus the wellness area’s pool and spa make a stay here really feel like a vacation. And that is before you realize how close you are to good shopping, good food, good museums and good theater.

 

When you walk out the hotel door you turn the corner onto North Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile. Walking either way, north to Oak Street or south to the Chicago River, you will find Cartier, Lester Lampert, Rolex, Swarovsk,Tiffany & Co. and  David Yurman, plus  Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Chanel, La Perla, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo and Giorgio Armani.

 

And that doesn’t even count Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue or the indoor upscale malls of 900 North Michigan Shops that include Gucci,  Lululemon Athletica Michael Kors or Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan) which has  the American Girl Place, Candyality, Clark Shoes and Coach or The Shops at North Bridge (520 N. Michigan)  with BOSS Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Ermenegildo Zegna, Louis Vuitton, Stuart Weitzman and Vosges Haut-Chocolat.

 

But before heading out you may want to see if you can get tickets to the Ham Exhibition. That’s the immersive, 360 degree, interactive, multi-room exhibit that tells more and shows more about the “Hamilton” musical’s featured characters, their history and background than you find in the show. The exhibition is in a temporary building on Northerly Island on a strip of land just south of the Adler Planetarium. It’s up now through sometime this fall (rumored to leave sometime in September).

 

Ham exhibition is a walk through US historic founding. (Photo courtesy of the Ham Exhibition)

Ham exhibition is a walk through US historic founding. (Photo courtesy of the Ham Exhibition)

 

Also think about what else you want to see that needs tickets.

 

Chicago is rich in theater options. There are about 250 theater companies in the Chicago area but if you want to stay in your theater-area you might want to get tickets downtown to a Broadway in Chicago  musical or a show at award-winning Goodman Theatre or at Lookingglass Theatre in the Chicago Water Works building.

 

Also check with the Chicago Architecture Center to find out what tours are available while you are in town. A really popular one is the boat tour on the Chicago River but the others are also good and interesting, including a walking tour of the city’s art deco buildings.

 

Now, have fun shopping. The malls mentioned have places to eat lunch but if you are at Water Tower Place check the many choices on the Mezzanine.

 

Whew! All that planning and shopping the Mag Mile deserve a time-out swim in the Peninsula Pool or a spa visit before thinking about dinner.

 

The hotel’s cuisine is excellent but if you want to do cocktails and then go out consider the hotel’s Z Bar for its views, music (and food) or go over to the Fig & Olive on Oak Street for cocktails and their crostini appetizers.

 

For dinner, if you didn’t stay at the Z Bar or Fig & Olive, but are interested in upscale Italian/Mediterranean cuisine, snag a reservation at Spiaggia. Chef-Partner Tony Mantuano’s multi-award winning restaurant at the corner of Oak Street and North Michigan Avenue.

 

Frank Gehry's designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park has music festivals but the lawn in front is a place for exercizes early in the morning and where people relax later in the day. (J Jacobs photo)

Frank Gehry’s designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park has music festivals but the lawn in front is a place for exercizes early in the morning and where people relax later in the day. (J Jacobs photo)

Second Day

 

Breakfast. Just outside the hotel door and to the left at the corner is the Peninsula’s French café, Pierre Gourmet. You may think you are going there just for really excellent croissants and coffee but you are likely to order more after seeing the menu and deciding to take something back to your room. The café is a favorite neighborhood place to stop for breakfast, lunch and mid-day breaks.

 

Depending on if or when you have tickets for the Ham Exhibition or a Chicago Architecture Center tour, make Day Two a Millennium Park/Museum Day.

 

No matter which tour you take or exhibit you see, spend time at Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets. You can walk or take almost any bus from around the corner of the Peninsula Hotel south on Michigan Avenue to Randolph or Madison Street.

 

That overblown steel ribbon you’ll see in the park is the top of the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion.

 

If you are an early riser and didn’t run along Lake Michigan this morning before breakfast, consider joining a workout in Millennium Park on the Great Lawn by the Pritzzger Pavillion.

 

Then do breakfast across Randolph and Michigan at Free Rein next to the Saint Jane Hotel.

 

The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

But go back to Millennium Park, home of Chicago’s famed “Bean.” Actually called “Cloud Gate” by its British sculptor Anish Kapoor,  the Bean is where tourists and residents alike do selfies, take each others pictures, snap photos of the skyline relected on its 110-ton elliptical shape and walk through its concave arch.

 

Don’t leave without seeing the Crown Fountain whose giant faces “spit” water into a zero-depth wading/reflecting pool . Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the fountain consists of two, 50-foot glass block towers with changing faces of real Chicago residents.

 

You might have noticed that the Art Institute of Chicago is across Millennium Park’s Monroe Street side.  The museum’s  blockbuster summer show running only to Sept. 8, 2010, is the gorgeous  “Manet and Modern Beauty.” Purchase tickets to the museum and the show ($7 extra) when you visit.

 

To see a  part of the museum that won’t cost anything, walk up the Nichols Bridgeway that starts in Millennium Park and reaches an upper level of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Go inside and then back outside but on the The Bluhm Family Terrace.

 

Here’s a great place to take in the skyline and see Millennium Park from above. The Terrace also features  temporary modern sculptures. To leave, take an elevator or escalators down to Griffin Court in the Modern Wing.

 

Nichols Bridgway from Millennium Park up to the Modern wing's terrace and restaurant. (J Jacobs photo)

Nichols Bridgway from Millennium Park up to the Modern wing’s terrace and restaurant. (J Jacobs photo)

 

If at the museum near lunch time try to reserve a table at the back of the Terrace at Terzo Piano. The food by Spiiaggia’s Tony Mantuano, and the view, part of Modern Wing architect’s Renzo Piano’s plan, are terrific.

 

Another good Millennium Park neighborhood eating choice is Park Grill below the Bean in Millennium Park near the Crown Fountain.

 

You can easily spend a day at the Art Institute of Chicago but even if you have just an hour or two pick up a gallery map or the Art Institute’s app to see “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet,  the “America Windows  by Marc Chagall and “Woman Descending the Saircase” by Gerhard Richter.

 

However, here is another tip: Go downstairs the main part of the museum to the Thorne Miniature Rooms  to see 68 incredible doll-house-size replicas of European and American interiors including a cathedral.

 

Your day of surprises isn’t up yet. Cross Michigan Avenue to what is sometimes called “The People’s Palace.” It is the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly the main public library), home of good art exhibits, lectures and concerts but for your quick visit, home of spectacular mosaics and stained glass domes.

 

Chicago Botanic Garden is actually in suburban Glencoe, about a 25 minute drive north of Chicago. (J Jacibs photo)

Chicago Botanic Garden is actually in suburban Glencoe, about a 25 minute drive north of Chicago. (J Jacibs photo)

Third Day

Make it an outdoor botanic and music day in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

 

Dive or take a train on the Union Pacific North Line from the Ogilvie Transportation Center on Madison Street to the Braeside station in suburban Highland Park.

 

From Braeside, a Highland Park stations, cross Lake Cook Road to wander the path west through a Cook County Forest Preserve across Green Bay Road to the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe.

 

Or drive there from Chicago along Lake Michigan from Lake Shore Drive to Sheridan Road. You will pass Northwestern University in Evanston, the gorgeous Bah’ai Temple in Wilmette, through the winding ravines of Winnetka/Hubbard Woods, past North Shore Congregation Israel designed by Minoru Yamasaki to the stoplight at Lake Cook Road. Go west two more lights to the Botanic Garden. The garden is free (except the butterfly building), but there is a parking charge if you drove.

 

Owned by the owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and operated by the Chicago Horticultural Society, you can view it by the numbers,: 27 gardens and four natural areas, 385 acres, nine islands and six miles of river-pond shoreline. Or just go and wander into its Butterfly and Blooms building which re-opend the end of May and goes through Sept. 2, 2019 on the north side of the Garden.

 

Then visit a wonderful Japanese Garden, fragrant Rose Garden, fun Model Railroad Garden, interesting greenhouses with different climates and the nearby Bonsai patio. Snap photos by the fountain in the lake and if there on a Saturday or Sunday check out  the Chef series in the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden.

 

Stop for a bite at the Garden View Café where you can eat indoors or outside on a deck with a view.

 

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is the summer home of the CSO. (J Jacobs photo)

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is the summer home of the CSO. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Plan to spend the evening at Ravinia Festival, a historic music venue that opened in 1904. Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra but also does pop concerts.

 

It is within walking distance of the garden if you took the train to Braeside.  Walk back to the station, then follow a path or the street north along the tracks to the Ravinia Festival gate.  There is a ticket charge to enter the grounds or sit in the Pavilion that varies according to the program. Classical is cheaper than pop. A train stops at the Ravinia Festival to return to Chicago’s Ogilvie station.

 

It almost doesn’t matter what is going on there when you’re in town because merely going is an experience.

 

Guests come from all over northern Illinois and adjoining states to picnic on the grass and listen to music under the stairs. You will see everything from elaborate setups of candelabra to small blankets and chairs. Ravinia rents chairs so don’t worry about sitting if you don’t get a Pavilion ticket

.

If you drove, get around the Ravinia Festival lot charge by going to the Highland Park stations of Braeside, Ravinia (not the festival one but a neighborhood station) or downtown Highland Park to take the free shuttle. You can buy food at Ravinia for a picnic or dine in one of its restaurants (reservations suggested).

 

You could spend Day Three in Chicago because there are world class museums on the museum campus and you could visit Navy Pier, a popular Chicago destination where you can take a boat ride or you could visit the Lincoln Park Zoo and eat at The Patio at Cafe Brauer.

 

But if visiting the Chicago area in the summer the Chicago Botanic Garden and Ravinia Festival should be on the must-do list.

Happy travels!

 

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