Archive for the ‘Hotels’ Category

Five things to do in Chicago for Spring Break

Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do whether visiting Chicago from out of town or planning to take advantage of the city if living in its metropolitan area.

 

Take an architecture tour

Chicago is known for its architecture – whether it’s the fabulous Louis  A. Sullivan Auditorium Theatre at Congress Parkway west of Michigan Avenue, the Rookery designed by Danial Burnham and John Root, with a grand atrium redesigned by  Frank Lloyd Wright on LaSalle Street or the Aqua Tower, an undulating multi use building designed by Jeanne Gang and her Gang Studios on North Columbus  Drive that includes the Radisson Blu hotel.

The Architecture Foundation does excellent art deco and other walking tours and has a good boat tour on the Chicago River. There are also other good architecture boat tours such as those done by Wendella.

The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

See movie and TV filming sites

Chicago is a popular movie and TV location site. A really great way to see the city is to take the Chicago Film Tour.

More than 80 movie and TV shows have been filmed in Chicago including The Dark Knight, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Sting, Spiderman, The Fugitive and North by Northwest so the tour goes from Wrigleyville on the Northside to China Town south of the loop and lots of places in between.

It takes close to two hours but while on the bus you also get movie shots on a TV monitor and background information from very knowledgeable guides.

 

Combine  Millennium Park with a lunch break

You’d never guess that any eyesore once used by the Illinois Central Railroad could be turned into the gorgeous 24 plus- acre park of gardens, walkways, remarkable sculptures, fountains, art work and public concert spaces that is Millennium Park.

The park stretches along Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street on the North to Monroe Parkway on the South. But what first catches the eye is the interesting stainless steel ribbon-like top of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry.  Its lawn is covered by an artistic sound grid.

Stroll the park to see the Lurie Gardens, the sculptures by Chaikaia Booker in the Boeing galleries section of the park (up now through April 2018, the 50-foot high towers of the Crown Fountain desiged by Jaume Plensa (the towers have changing faces of Chicago residents and the tower spits water into a wading area and the park’s famed Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean.

A 66-foot long elliptical sculpture by Anish Kapoor, The Bean is where visitors go to take selfies. Chicago’s clouds and skyline are beautifully reflected on the Bean’s polished stainless steel surface.

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

Leave the park by way of the Nichols Bridgeway, a long pedestrian bridge going from the park up to the Renzo Piano restaurant and the Bluhm Family Terrace in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. The restaurant, named for the architect Renzo Piano who designed the Modern Wing and the Bridgeway, is a terrific lunch spot with a view of the city. But you need a reservation.

If you haven’t snagged one go out onto the Terrace to snap photos and go back down to the park where you might be able to get a table at the Park Grill below the Bean.

 

Enjoy Chicago’s music scene

If you like blues, jazz or folk, find out who is at The House of Blues, Andy’s, Green Mill or The Hideout. For classical programs check Orchestra Hall, the Civic Opera House and the Harris Theatre. Also look up the Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, host of the Blues Fest, for free concerts.

 

Indulge in a short but wonderful “staycation”

Lots of hotels downtown Chicago have a workout room however few have the space for a good-sized pool and a great spa. Stay and book a spa treatment at the upscale, Oriental influenced Peninsula Hotel overlooking Chicago’s Magnifenct (shopping) Mile on North Michigan Avenue and swim in its half-Olymic length pool. You can also order drinks and lunch there.

Or  stay at The Langham, a five star hotel on the Chicago River with British roots. Aside from a fine lap pool and spa, the hotel is known for its traditional tea, good services and spacious rooms. Located in a former Mies van der Rohe skyscraper on Wabash Avenue, the hotel is also well situated for downtown and Magnificent Mile exploration. When reserving ask about the room’s views.

 

Chicago really is a terrific destination even for a few days. Enjoy!

 

 

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.

Green Bay: Go for football legends, stay for color and food

Fall destinations Series: Part 1 is Green Bay, Wisconsin

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Green Bay Packers to appreciate the team’s famed Lambeau Field but you arguably should be an admirer of cheese curds and hometown brewers to appreciate this northern Wisconsin town.

Imagine running out into the stadium to the roar of the crowd via the players’ tunnel or being allowed up on the exclusive club level. You get to do both when you take the stadium’s tour. The cost ranges from $8-$11 depending on age and military status.

As a Packers’ tour guide reminded us, Lambeau is up there with Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park as one of the historic stadiums on sports fans’ want-to-see list.  Dedicated Sept. 29, 1957, with the Green Bay-Chicago Bears game, the field was called City Stadium until renamed Sept. 11, 1965 after Curly Lambeau died. It is owned by the City of Green Bay and Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District with shareholders who live all over the world.

Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.

Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.

But the Greater Green Bay Area has enough to see and do to fill out a football weekend or a fall getaway.

Outdoors

Color explodes around this northern Wisconsin area so bring hiking or good walking shoes to enjoy the scenery.

Explore the L. H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve’s 920 acres of forest and meadows on the Bay’s western shore. The preserve has nine miles of hiking trails beginning at the Interpretive Center.

Bring the fishing gear and head to nearby Algoma, about a 35 minute drive. The fish always seem to be biting here.

Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Visit the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, a delightful 47 acres of rose, shade and seasonal gardens for adults and a terrific place where children will find butterfly and Peter Rabbit gardens and a frog bridge.

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth on the Foxy Lady and see the town from the water.

Indoors

Visit Hinterland, an artisanal brewery. It has $5 tours on Saturdays by appointment that includes two beers but stay to do dinner because, as with the beer, the quality and variety is way better than a typical pub.

Relax at Titletown Brewery because the place is fun, has terrific atmosphere and good, handcrafted beers and burgers. The brewery is in the old C. & N.W.R.R. depot, a historic building designed by Chicago architect Charles S. Frost at the turn of the last century. Titletown also has decent cheese curds.

Do a wine-tasting at Captain’s Walk Winery in a historic Green Bay house or at its parent location, The von Stiehl Winery in a historic Algoma building. No worries if you don’t know a lot about wines. Both places are delighted to answer questions and both have award winning wines.

Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.

Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.

To see a vineyard and taste award winning wines drive over to the Parallel 44 Winery in Kewaunee.  Owners Steve Johnson and wife Maria Milano have figured out how to grow a mix of varietals that produce excellent wines and survive Green Bay winters.

Learn a little more about the area and the science behind football at the Neville Public Museum. It is fun for youngsters and adults. The museum’s mission not only covers history and science, it also has an art component. Currently on exhibit are some terrific WPA paintings.

Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.

Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.

Just as you don’t have to love football to appreciate Lambeau Field, you don’t have to be a railroad buff to enjoy peeking into old railroad cars. The National Railroad Museum has a Green Bay address but it is on the edge of town that is also considered Ashwaubenon. Save enough time to visit the engines and old cars tucked into barns on the property, tour the museum which currently has an extensive dining car china exhibit and take a ride around the property.

Dining

Green Bay is not just brew-pub food although some of the pubs turn out exceptional meals. Please leave a comment in that section with a recommendation or an experience. With only two days to sample the culinary scene I have only two recommendations.

The best dinner I’ve been lucky enough to eat anywhere in United States was at Three Three Five, a private dining club downtown Green Bay that opens to the public only on Wednesday nights.

Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five

Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five

The rest of the time chef Christopher Mangless and his staff are turning out dishes for the club’s patrons, Hollywood celebs and political notables such as former president George W. Bush. When asked how people find out about him, his restaurant and that he caters dinners everywhere, Mangless  said “word of mouth.”

He is also known as The Traveling Chef. Wednesday is a farmers market which helps him decide what to serve that night. Even though his dishes, which are small plates, are very creative and beautifully plated, you can identify what you are eating.

I wish he were based in Chicago so I could eat there once a week, or at least, once a month. BTW, Mangless’ cheese curds side dish was among the best I’ve sampled.

The next best cheese curds I’ve eaten was at The Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, Wisc., a nice detour when coming from Milwaukee or Chicago.

While in Green Bay, also check out Ogan a restaurant on the Fox River. You’ll like the food and the view.

Stay

The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.

The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.

With little time to check out the many accommodations available, I opted for Cambria Suites, a business-style hotel that is about a good football field toss from Lambeau. The suite and bathroom were comfortable, modern and clean.

However, families might like The Tundra Lodge which has a North Woods atmosphere and is also near Lambeau. It has regular restaurants, a snack and shop store and  an indoor-outdoor waterpark.

When to go

Green Bay’s ski and snow mobile trails are a winter treat. Fox River, the Bay’s waters, and Lake Michigan make the area a good fishing place, spring, summer and fall (unless you want to add ice fishing for winter). Add the leaf color changes in the fall and you may make it a year-round destination. In addition, even if you aren’t into football, Lambeau Field is worth a stop any time of year.

Do a two-for-one getaway

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.

Tie a visit to Green Bay with a vacation in Door County. Green Bay is at the foot of the peninsula so it is about 10 to 20 minutes from The Door depending on your destination.

A hotel room with pure air is not just a dream

Imagine going into a hotel room and liking it a lot  – not just for the décor and view but also for the air. That’s room air, not the breeze blowing outside.

By the end of 2010, all the Hyatt Hotels in the US will have some rooms that have under gone a treatment to make them hypo-allergenic. As of mid-October, 65 of the chain’s hotels have some guest rooms that have undergone a hypo-allergenic treatment.

The Hyatt Regency downtown Chicago has some hypoallergenic rooms where the air is pure and bacteria are not allowed

The Hyatt Regency downtown Chicago has some hypoallergenic rooms where the air is pure and bacteria are not allowed

It’s great news for people with asthma or who are allergic to dust and fragrances. It’s also good news for travelers who simply appreciate breathing in pure air.

The treatment includes a special attachment on the room’s heating-air conditioning system and a separate purifying filter in the room.

It also has undergone a special cleaning of all surfaces which are then sprayed with an anti-bacterial “screen” so that bacteria cannot adhere to them.

The room is zapped to kill any other organisms still lurking. A special protective casing is put on the pillows and mattresses.

A card left on the room’s desk says it is Pure Room certified and explains what that means.

The decor of the Chicago Hyatt Regency's hypoallergenic room is the same as its other rooms. But it is what is below the surface and unseen on the surface that is different

The decor of the Chicago Hyatt Regency's hypoallergenic room is the same as its other rooms. But it is what is below the surface and unseen on the surface that is different

Hypo-allergenic treatment is performed by PureRoom, a Buffalo, NY based company that has partnered with Hyatt. Rooms are checked and re-certified every six months. 

I recently stopped at the Chicago Regency Hyatt to check out a PureRoom.

News such as this is really welcome to someone who is allergic but has to travel for work.

I start sneezing when any dust is around though I don’t have asthma. My nose clogs and my eyes water when sitting in a theater next to someone wearing perfume or in a hotel room where someone used a hairspray or cream that was not odor free.

All a guest will notice in a Hyatt hypoallergenic room is a room purifier in a corner and that the air seems particularly fresh

All a guest will notice in a Hyatt hypoallergenic room is a room purifier in a corner and that the air seems particularly fresh

I was told that even if someone did use something with a fragrance the purifier in a PureRoom would have gotten rid of its scent.

The air quality was excellent.

As someone who is often checking into a place eager to relax but finds the room has stale air, I love that a hotel chain understands about  people with allergy problems to help them breathe easier.

The Hyatt charges an extra $20 to $30 for these rooms but this traveler thinks the benefits are worth the price.

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