Posts Tagged ‘Art Institute’

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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Five top things to do now in Chicago

It doesn’t matter if you have visited Chicago or are now thinking of putting the city on your summer vacation list. Chicago simply does not stay still long enough to make any experience old or boring.

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

Millennium Park, home to the city’s famed “Cloud Gate” (“The Bean”) and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, keeps adding and changing sculptures and concerts.

The Art Institute of Chicago, connected to Millennium Park by the Sky Bridge over Monroe, moves from one block buster exhibition to the next. The theater scene, home of 200 live stage companies including Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres and Broadway productions, keep turning out Jeff and Tony award winners.

Just as important, new restaurants pop up weekly and new and remodeled hotels cater to today’s plugged-in generation and suburbanites who want to take advantage of Chicago’s downtown attractions.

With so much going on, planning a weekend can either be fun or a challenge. Here are five top Chicago destinations that can be centerpieces of a great vacation minus the confusing what-to-do part.

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

  1. You don’t have to know anything about art to find something fascinating at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The world-class museum happens to be showcasing French Impressionism from the Musee d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and its own collection now through Sept. 29, 2013. However, adults and youngsters ooh and ah at the miniature furniture and interiors in the Thorne Rooms and Medieval arms and armor.
  2. If you make it to Chicago before Aug. 18 you can still catch Goodman’s beautiful production of “The Jungle Book.”  Another hot 2013 ticket is the “Book of Mormon.” At the Bank of America Theater through Oct. 06, 2013. This is  the writers’ and director’s recently revised production which many critics think is even better than the original.
  3. Visitors often talk about and recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river boat tour. However if the price or times don’t match your pocket book or schedule you’ll do fine with the other boat companies’ architecture tours.  If you don’t mind walking you’ll like the Architecture Foundation’s tours that go inside buildings.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

  4. Movie and television producers love Chicago. To see where some of the 80 movies set in Chicago were shot such as “Dark Knight” and “Blues Brothers” take the Chicago Film Tour. The guides are knowledgeable. You see parts of Chicago that even locals have not visited. And you see clips on the bus while traveling.
  5. You’ve heard of China Town, which is fun and interesting. But other Chicago neighborhoods also have their own character and unique restaurants. You can learn more about the city and explore some of its culinary scene with Chicago Tours and Sidewalk Tours.

Enjoy Chicago!

Photos (C) by Jodie Jacobs

For More endless summer ideas visit summer blogs

Spring blooms and great city equal a vacation destination

Second in series on Spring vacation destinations is Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Warm weather welcomed visitors to Chicago even though the calendar said it was only the second weekend in April.

Couples were downing salads and sandwiches on the Park Grill patio at the edge of Millennium Park.

Visitors head up the paths in Millennium Park to see its Frank Gehry sculptured roof of the Pritztker Pavilion and Cloud Gate. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Visitors head up the paths in Millennium Park to see its Frank Gehry sculptured roof of the Pritztker Pavilion and Cloud Gate. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Youngsters were dashing up the park’s steps for a closer look at Cloud Gate, known as The Bean and the wild Frank Gehry sculptural roof of the Pritzker Pavilion

About 20 miles north, visitors kept pouring into the Chicago Botanic Garden by bike, SUV and on foot.

Spring had finally come to Chicago.

April and May are fine times to make Chicago a vacation destination. Paths along Lake

Michigan are not yet crammed with beach-goers. The Magnificent Mile of North Michigan Avenue isn’t jammed with shoppers and lookers. The theater and symphony seasons are still in full swing. Museums don’t have lines out the door.

Spring has come to Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring has come to Chicago and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

And about a half hour drive north, colorful blossoms line the Chicago Botanic Garden entrance, paths and surprise visitors around every corner.

Where to stay:

As a convention city, Chicago is blessed with more than 100,000 hotel rooms so finding one that meets budget, style and location specifications is usually easy.

Hotels with special stay and play packages usually list their current deals at

Parking in Chicago is pricy so look for a package that includes parking.

A recent check of hotel deals listed W Chicago Lakeshore which is convenient to Navy Pier, the Amalfi Hotel which is convenient to North Michigan Avenue shopping and the Hyatt Regency which is near Millennium Park.

What to do:

Check the Chicago Symphony Orchestra schedule. Symphony Center is across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.

There is always something special to see at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

There is always something special to see at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

See “Kings, Queens and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France” at the Art Institute of Chicago through May 30, 2011.

The exhibit ends with a work by Leonardo da Vinci and his studio.

While there, be sure to explore the galleries either side of the special exhibit’s Regenstein hallways to see fine Whistlers and works of other famed artists.

Also take the elevator from the modern wing upstairs to the rooftop patio. Visitors can snap a great view of Millennium Park and the skyhline even if they aren’t eating in the adjacent restaurant.

The Art Institute's rooftop patio is a great place to look down onto Millennium Park and take in the skyline. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Art Institute's rooftop patio is a great place to look down onto Millennium Park and take in the skyline. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Go over to the Merchandise Mart on the Chicago River, a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue. The main floor has showrooms open to the public with great home decorating ideas. If at the Mart April 29 through May 2 see Art Chicago, an international fair that showcases contemporary and modern works.

Take a Chicago River Architectural Tour. Spring is the start of the boat tour season and Chicago is known as an architectural destination. Several organizations and companies offer good tours.

Drive north to Glencoe on I94 to Lake Cook Road and turn east for half a mile to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Spring blooms such as Dutch Crocus, surprise walkers around every curve and path at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring blooms such as Dutch Crocus, surprise walkers around every curve and path at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Spring is a fun time to explore its paths. Just about every turn uncovers another bulb opening or another plot of color. Take paths through the Japanese Islands and other islands to watch birds returning north and see trees beginning to bloom.

Stop in the Circle Garden to see colorful foxglove set against artistic fountain sprays and see what’s blooming in the English Garden and in the vegetable gardens.

Even though the weather is fine for walking outdoors, save time to visit the greenhouses to see cute topiaries and find out what is blooming indoors.

Add the Garden to a Chicago vacation.

Five ways to flavor your family holiday visit with fun and flair

Whether in or out of town, the next family Thanksgiving or winter holiday get together is also a chance to record old traditions and start some new ones.

Best, is to ink in some of the suggestions on the calendar so the holiday does not jump up before you are ready. Early November is not too early to start your planning.

Wreathing the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago is a day after Thanksgiving tradition that includes several family activities

Wreathing the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago is a day after Thanksgiving tradition that includes several family activities

1. Cell phone cameras are OK but if you want a high quality photo to save don’t forget to pack or have on hand a decent point and shoot camera. Some of them, such as Casio and Canon have movie capability. Digging into the turkey or ham, curling up on sofa or floor to play a board game or gazing at a tree or menorah lighting are memorable moments when someone says oops, who has a camera?

2. Add a new place to check out or a new activity to try. Sure it is tough to squeeze in research time before everyone comes or before you leave for the visit, but just adding a new adventure each year adds an element of excited anticipation. Chances are there are new exhibits at a museum you haven’t visited for ages, a nearby town that celebrates the holidays Dickens style, a forest preserve to hike or a family show, musical or ballet to see.

Trains, lights and miniature landmarks are an annual holiday tradition at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe

Trains, lights and miniature landmarks are an annual holiday tradition at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe

3. Seek an agency that is collecting gifts or food and where to bring the items. Family members can add the items to their shopping lists and increase the season’s joy by sharing.

4. Start a new tradition of trading reading material or recommendations during the visit.  It will give people something new to read on the way home or even during down time while visiting. Donate finished reading material to libraries and senior centers.

5. No question holiday time is also eating time which makes it a good excuse to try a new restaurant. The place may even become a new family tradition. Consider ethnic eateries, breakfast places and some that are outside the neighborhood or town. Definitely make a reservation.

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