Enjoy spring at Camelback Ranch or Sloan Park

 

 

At Wrigleyville West. (J Jacobs photo)
At Wrigleyville West. (J Jacobs photo)

Instead of waiting for spring to descend on Chicago and the Cubs and Sox games, enjoy both this month in Arizona.

Go online to pick up Cubs  or Sox tickets, book a trip to Phoenix, find a hotel in the Phoenix-Mesa area and enjoy the more casual MLB games in the Cactus League.

At home in Sloan Park, the Cubs will take on the Oakland A’s Feb. 22, Colorado Rockies Feb. 25, KC Royals Feb. 26 and Milwajukee Brewers Feb. 29

Their away games (sometimes easier to get tickets) are the LA Dodgers, Feb. 23, Seattle Mariners Feb. 24, Texas Rangers Feb. 27 and San Diego Padres Feb. 28

For tickets and the calendar visit MLB/Cubs/schedule2020 

Camelback Ranch in Glendale is the spring home of the Chicago White Sox. A suburb of Phoenix, visitors get all the advantages of Phoenix’s museums, hotels and its famed Botanic Garden but are close to White Sox action.

The Sox have a home game against the LA Angels Feb. 22 and are awayh against the Cincinnati Reds Feb. 23, LA Dodgers Feb. 24, have a split squad against the Indians away and the Giants at home on Feb. 25, then away against the KC Royals,Feb. 26, are at home against the Mariners Feb. 27, Indians Feb. 28 and away against the Rangers on Feb. 29.

For ballpark info visit WhiteSox/springtraining/ball park. For White Sox season info see Sox schedule..

The Desert Botanic Garden is a popular Phoenix destination. (J Jacobs photo)
The Desert Botanic Garden is a popular Phoenix destination. (J Jacobs photo)

If you go

The excellent Sheraton Mesa at Wrigley West places you right at Sloan Park. But check Visit Mesa to see other accommodation choices. It’s also a good referral to restaurants and attractions.

While in the area try to get to the Desert Botanical Garden and hike Camelback Mountain or Pinnacle Peak Park. Do visit the famed Heard Museum for fine Native American arts.

While visiting one of the Cub’s or White Sox’s away games in or near neighboring Scottsdale, browse fine art galleries in Old Town and visit Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

So get away from Chicago’s winter. Relax outdoor with a margarita or cold draft beer while shouting Hey! Hey! at Wrigley West. You will feel right at home because the border streets  are Waveland Avenue, Clark Street and Sheffield Ave.

Or enjoy a Chicago hot dog (no ketchup please) at Camelback Ranch and watch the newly rebuilt Sox team take on old rivals. 

 

 

Take a spring training vacation

Sloan Park aka Wrigleville West before fans filter in. (J Jacobs photo)
Sloan Park aka Wrigleville West before fans filter in. (J Jacobs photo)

Not sure when our weather predicting ground hogs thought spring was putting in an early appearance but waiting for that warm weather to come to Chicago while sunning in Arizona is looking pretty good right now.

Besides, both Chicago baseball teams are there and won’t be back home until April; the 8th for the Cubs against the Padres and the 4th against the Mariners for the Sox. And their spring training facilities are in good vacation areas.

The Cubs’ Sloan Park, otherwise known by its somewhat similar layout and vendors as Wrigleyville  West, is in Mesa.

An easily doable, laid back town with a couple of museums, outlet shopping, and is down the road from good restaurants, mountain scenery, and close to highways.

You’ll know Sloan Park in Wiglleyville by the street signs: Waveland Avenue is on the north, Sheffield Avenue is on the east and Clark street on the west.

Cubs tickets at other teams’ AZ parks might be easier to get than at Sloan and visiting other parks is also  fun.

To stay next to the Cubs’ action check out the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West. For lots of Cubs information visit Spring Training.  For home info see MLB/Cubs/Park.

 

Go to spring training and wave your Chiago Whtie Sox cap. (M Temkin photo)
Go to spring training and wave your Chiago White Sox cap. (M Temkin photo)

Camelback Ranch, in Glendale is the spring home of the Chicago White Sox.and shared with the LA Dodgers.

In Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, visitors get all the advantages of Phoenix’s  terrific museums and its famed botanic garden but are close to White Sox action.

At last report, spring training tickets are still available for Camelback Ranch but do check for Sox games in the area

For ballpark info visit WhiteSox/springtraining/ball park. For White Sox season info see MLB/WhiteSox.

Jodie Jacobs

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)

 

 

Gorgeous gardens illuminate for the holidays

 

Walk among flowers, trees and interesting plants in the winter? Yes if the garden has been transformed with lights.

From the Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum in the Chicago area to Bellingrath Gardens and Home near Mobile, AL and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, several gardens across the United States are putting on their holiday evening finery with lights and sounds to say enjoy the season no matter what the temps.

Whether you take a a “staycation” or go out of town, there’s likely to be a garden near by dressed up for the holidays.

Delightful lights and scenes are around every corner at Bellingrath Gardens outside Movile, AL. Jodie Jacobs photo
Delightful lights and scenes are around every corner at Bellingrath Gardens outside Movile, AL. Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Bellingrath

If near Mobile, AL do get tickets to explore Bellingrath Gardens and Home. The 65-acre estate of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath treats visitors to breathtaking light displays and the home is decorated for the holidays.

Called Magic Christmas in Lights, and running Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, 2017, the holiday event has  about 15 scenes, 1,100 displays and three million lights to surprise visitors around every corner and off in the distance.. Weekends feature choral groups on the home’s South Terrace.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is at 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd., Theodore, AL. For tickets, hours and more information call 800) 247 8420 and visit Bellingrath Magic.

 

Chicago Botanic Gardens

In the Chicago area trees sparkle with thousands of lights outside and trains toot around city landmarks inside during the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express celebration, Nov. 24, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. BTW there is gently falling snow in the main train area and poinsettias in the greenhouses.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 and visit Chicago Botanic Wonderland.

 

Morton Arboretum 

Illumination at Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL is stunning and fun. Morton Arboretum photo
Illumination at Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL is stunning and fun. Morton Arboretum photo

Also, go over to the Morton Arboretum where colored lights spectacularly light up the grounds during Illumination Nov. 17, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018. The lights are interactive with some lights moving to music and some trees changing color with a hug or song. A medallion will also be sold that reacts to the sights and sounds.

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

Tip: Tickets to the Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum holiday shows need to be bought in advance because they are time and date specific and sell-out early.

 

Desert Botanical Garden

If vacationing in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area go over to the Desert Botanical Garden for Las Noches de las Luminarias, Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, 2017. Wander the paths lit by thousands of luminaria bags and twinkling lights. In addition the garden will be featuring the work of Japanese American sculptor Jun Kaneko.

The Desert Botanical Garden is at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ. For tickets and other information call 480-941-1225 and visit DBG Luminarias.

 

Next in the holiday series will be zoo lights but if you have a favorite holiday garden visit not mentioned here please tell us in Leave a Reply.

 

Spring training at Wrigleyville West

 

Hey Cubs fans, tickets are on sale now for home games at Sloan Park in Mesa AZ. Here are some tips if you snag a ticket for the Cubs’ Wrigleyville West location (yes, that really is the park’s nickname) or to see the Cubs at another of the Cactus League parks.

Sloan Park before the crowd enters Jodie Jacobs Photo
Sloan Park before the crowd enters
Jodie Jacobs Photo

 

1.    No matter how you feel about the cost of ball-park programs do get the Cubs official Sloan Park Spring Training 2017 program. You might even want to get an extra one for a Cub fan back home who didn’t make the trip.

It will have photos and good info on the Cubs players similar to baseball cards.

In addition, it will have the rosters of other Cactus League teams so you will be able to tell who is or is not on the field when they play opponents.

It will contain highlights from the 2016 Championship season and tell about player’s awards.

The program will also suggest where to stand for autographs and buy Cubs items. It also mentions places to dine and things to do.

 

2.    The first full-squad workout is Feb. 18. The first Cubs spring training game is Feb. 25 when a split squad will play the Oakland A’s in Sloan Park and the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.

If going to the Scottsdale game check out the Western Spirit, downtown Scottsdale’s terrific Museum of the West. It features western paintings, sculptures and a collection of western gear from saddles and spurs to badges and rifles.

 

3.    When going to Sloan Park, prove to your friends that it is Wrigleyville West by snapping shots of its abutting street signs: Waveland Avenue on the north, Sheffield Avenue on the east side and Clark Street on the west.

A fan photo op Jodie Jacobs photo
A fan photo op
Jodie Jacobs photo

The park also looks like a somewhat smaller version of Wrigley Field. However, the famed marquee is inside here.

You can have a message light up on it or take a selfie in front of it.

 

Sloan Park is at 2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy, Mesa, 85201. 480-668-0500.

 

Three Chicago Cubs notes

 

First, the Convention

Chicago Cubs convention, White House and Spring Training notes. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Chicago Cubs convention, White House visit and Spring Training notes. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

You know Cubs Convention 2017 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago is sold out. But you can catch some highlights and commentary on WGN-TV Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. CT.

The program, hosted by WGN sports commentator Dan Roan, will show some of Friday’s opening ceremonies, player and coach interviews, Cubs legends interviews, some of the seminars and a bit from “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster.”

If you miss the Jan. 14 Convention special watch the show Sunday, Jan. 15, on CLTV at noon.

Or watch both times. After all, you’re probably still replaying the final out in the Cubs World Series Championship game.

 

Secondly, the White House

You know the Cubs were invited to visit President Barack Obama at the White House. It’s been delayed due to schedule conflicts but it is finally taking place Jan. 16, a few days before the White House changes hands. So catch the coverage of the historic meet and greet event Monday on Chicago stations’ news reports.

 

Third, Cubs Spring Training

The Cubs open their Spring Season in Arizona on Feb. 25 with a split squad. The games are against Oakland A’s in the Cubs’ Sloan Park in Mesa and against SF Giants in Scottsdale. Both games start at 1:05 p.m. For the complete Spring Training schedule click here. For tickets visit Cubs Tickets.

 

 

How to beat January cabin fever blues

Wait until Groundhog Day Feb. 2 to find out when Spring will come or try one of these four remedies.

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.

Three tips to help plan your Spring Break now

If you live in one of the states that felt winter’s arctic temps or wild winds or unpredicted floods (and that is most of the United States), you deserve a treat.

If you live in one of the states that felt winter’s arctic temps or wild winds or unpredicted floods (and that is most of the United States), you deserve a treat.

So, don’t wait until you can actually escape to somewhere fun, interesting or colorful for Spring Break. Start planning now while the skies are grey or work impinges on sleep. Part of the fun of getting away is thinking about where to go and what to do when you get there.

Here are some tips to help you decide but they require fairly quick action because spaces and tickets go quickly.

Become familiar with cruise line deals. For example: Go to Princess to find half-price fares. The cruise line delivers what it promises. However, other cruise lines such as Norwegian also do last minute deals. The lines want to book their cabins and some of the destinations are perfect for a spring break.

Tie your spring break with something you’d love to try or do such as expert cooking.

Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site
Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site

The CIA, not the spy organization, but the Culinary Institute of America, offers food enthusiast courses at its Hyde Park site in New York, its Napa site in California and its San Antonio site in Texas. The places are in interesting vacation destinations.

Tie the spring break to a sport your family loves such as baseball’s spring training.

Go to Major League Baseball for the schedule to see what ties in with your spring break. By baseball definitions these are warm vacation destinations. The Cactus League is in Arizona and the Grapefruit League is in Florida.

Bonus tip: Have fun so don’t worry about what you can’t change.

Three spas that will help you manage the holidays

Instead of trying to lose weight and feel better after the holidays arm yourself with expert advice and a wellness plan at a destination spa

Thanksgiving is just the beginning of our annual holiday binge days
Thanksgiving is just the beginning of our annual holiday binge days

Of course the holidays practically shove yummy temptations in your face so what is a fun, food and party-loving person to do to not gain what feels like 100 pounds between Thanksgiving and January 2?

Well, aside from either feeling deprived when out or staying home, there are ways to curb the appetite such as eat a favorite raw fruit or protein snack before heading out the door.

However, another choice is to move your annual January SOS trips to fitness centers up a month or two to November or December.

But instead of merely thinking local work-out place, take it to the next level. Seek out a spa that does more than massages and facials. You need one that also has a nutritionist on staff and trainers or work-out gurus whom you can consult.

No Junk Food? Will I survive? A couple of days later the answer was a resounding yes!
No Junk Food? Will I survive? A couple of days later the answer was a resounding yes!

You may have a good place near you. But you have a better chance of listening and following nutrition and workout advice when away from home and away from familiar temptations and distractions

Here are three spas with very different atmospheres. Each of them is worth traveling to any time of year but they all take nutrition and individually tailored workouts, seriously.

Heartland Spa

The most casual of the three spas,  even  likened to an away camp, is The Heartland, about 90 minutes south of Chicago in Gilman, Ill.

Leave the designer clothes at home when coming here. You don’t even have to worry about bringing fresh workout clothes. Shorts, Ts, baggy sweats (top and bottom) are handed out upon arrival and replaced when left outside the room’s door after wearing.

A highly lauded destination spa since the mid1980’s, Heartland covers a range of healthy body and mind issues from lifestyle discussions and fitness classes to body assessments and diet consultations.

Inspiring messages accompanied healthy snacks.
Inspiring messages accompanied healthy snacks.

Situated on a former dairy farm, the spa is small so guests tend to get to know each other, particularly because they gather in the small dining room at the same time. Healthy snacks were always available in an inspiration-filled hallway.

Everyone gets the same meal unless there is a dietary restriction. However during a recent visit, lunch was a delicious Italian roasted chicken breast on top of roasted vegetables topped with golden melted mozzarella. Dinner was tomato lentil soup, a yummy grilled chili salmon with sweet pepper salsa, garlic mashed potatoes, delicate asparagus and a three berry crepe for desert.

Calories and fat content are listed on the side. Meals and snacks each day are vegetarian with an add-on of chicken or fish totaling 1400 calories for women and 1500 for men. Activities here are mostly in the spa’s facilities with a few hikes along the farm roads.

Lake Austin Spa

About 35 minutes from downtown Austin, Texas, Lake Austin Spa Resort was named the Number One Destination Spa in the United States in Conde Nast Traveler’s poll in 2010 and 2011.

Dress is whatever guests want to wear. Activities are on the resort’s 19 acre property but with additional choices along the lake and on the lake.

Meals are nutritious and offer several options that often include burgers, salmon, pork loin and sea scallops. Diners can eat alone or at a communal table. Calories and fat grams are listed but choices are up to the guests.

Nutritionist Terry Shaw will work with guests to design meal plans and holiday eating approaches to take home.

Miraval

Desert, mountains, accommodations and philosophy make MiravaL a retreat
Desert, mountains, accommodations and philosophy make MiravaL a retreat

Spread across a desert landscape outside Tuscon, Ariz., Miraval is the SpaFinder Magazine Crystal Award winner for 2011. The spa ranked fourth in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2011 World’s Best List.

However, it is Miraval’s understanding of healthy eating, the right workout program and mind-body connections that makes the spa a popular destination.

The spa reflects the philosophy of Integrative Health and Healing Director Dr. Andrew Weil.

Dinner is sit-down but lunch is an attractive buffet with calorie and carbs listed. Guests can also have lunch with a registered dietician.

The spa’s desert location and meditation areas give Miraval a retreat atmosphere. Guests are comfortable wandering the grounds in robes or workout clothes.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs