If not interested in flying or taking a long driving trip this Labor Day Weekend, consider making Navy Pier your destination.
Now that Hilton has built The Sable Hotel on Navy Pier, it makes sense to stay where fireworks fill the sky Wednesdays and Saturdays through Labor Day Weekend, delicious dishes please all ages, music and entertainment is free on the Lake Stage and the Beer Garden, movies are shown at the Lake Stage Lawn in Polk Park across the Pier’s entrance through \August, and the Centennial Wheel is a ride you’ll want to take each day of the stay.
After dining at Harry Carey’s Tavern or Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Bar and Grill, take in the views and while sipping well-crafted cocktails at the Offshore Rooftop and Bar, possibly the country’s larges rooftop terrace.
If there Aug. 28, 2021 spend the evening at Navy Pier’s Lake Stage to watch Resurgence, a program showcasing Chicago’s black dance companies. Look for times, tickets and other entertainment options at Cultural Attractions & Public Spaces.
If getting out on the water that lies just outside your door is too tempting to miss while staying so close, check the cruises that pull right up to the Pier.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois is the historic Mississippi hillside town of Galena. Its gorgeous fall color draws visitors from mid-September to Halloween, so if going then, book your stay now (weekdays are better).
But the shops, the mid-to late 1800’s structures, charming inns and good food make Galena a fun break in the routine pretty much any time of year. (Folks come here to ski Chestnut Mountain even if not every shop is open)
An easy three-hour drive from Chicago on I 90, the vacation begins when turning before Rockford onto US 20, General Ulysses S. Grant Highway when the four-lane expressway becomes a scenic two-lane road.
As you wind through the hills of Stephenson and Jo Davies Counties, you may realize you are on a ridge with grand vistas of lush valleys.
Although you can continue north through Galena to cross the Mississippi at East Dubuque into Iowa (and go the The Field of Dreams baseball movie destination), Galena is a getaway destination, itself.
Go back in time
Indian tribes roamed the area. then it was settled by French traders and explorers. However, the town flourished in the early 1800s when galena ore (lead) boats plied the Mississippi River. It then became a gateway west when Ulysses S. Grant’s family lived and worked here in the mid-1800s.
Galena was on the stage coach route (there still are some stage coach signs). Then by 1854, the rail line went through making it a natural stop for Abraham Lincoln who used the balcony of the Desoto House Hotel on Main Street to campaign for John Fremont in 1856. The Desoto House was also the campaign headquarters for Grant. Go in to see its staircase and ask about a tour.
A couple of other good stops are the old railroad depot on the south side of the Galena River. It houses the Galena Area Tourism Bureau. Also on that side of the river is Gen US Grant’s home built for him as the town’s favorite son.
Ask about walking tours when at the depot. The Galena Historic District covers about 85 percent of the city and includes some 800 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Think food, boutiques and quirky shops when strolling downtown Galena’s Main Street.
When pulling onto the street from US 20 I spied the cheese and wine store that I knew was there. But the unknown treasure was Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn a few stores down. I loved the roosters and birdhouses in front. My husband was drawn to the antique toy trucks in back.
Another fun store was Celebrity Hats on the other side of the street. Go in. Find your style.
Among the taste treats on the street were two chocolate stores and a patisserie that also did cocktails and sandwiches. Really. Called Bread & Vine, it did good macarons, lovely desserts and yummy sandwiches including a Croque Monsieur and savory croissant with smoked salmon.
There are a couple of chains but most of the stores are unique.
Some folks journey to Galena just for the Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. You do need a reservation. The place is that popular. I made ours before leaving town. It is known for its steaks but we chose seafood because we know everything there is well prepared and we had meat before we left. The front of the restaurant is on Main Street but its outdoor space is behind it where people park. This end of the street is blocked off for outdoor, curb and street side tables.
Also good is the historic Desoto House. It has three restaurants that are open at different times of the day. For lunch we did the Green Street Tavern where I had the best garlic French fries ever tasted with a delish pulled pork sandwich. My husband had an apple and mixed berry salad with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette .
Our dinner the night before we left was at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill at the Irish Cottage where we were staying. I liked their beer battered cod and seasoned Irish chips. My husband liked the traditional corned beef.
Galena has several B and Bs. Check the Galena Country tourism stay/site for ideas. We liked the Irish cottage for its first-floor patio suites but there were several other places that also looked good including the Goldmoor Inn which is a Select Registry on the road to Chestnut Mountain and the Chestnut Mountain Resort. Both have good views and friendly service.
Imagine teeing off on TCP Sawgrass’ famed 17th “Island Hole in Ponte Vedra, FL. It has already swallowed more than one pro’s golf ball during the Players tournament going on now, March 11-14, 2021. A major tournament, the Players was moved from May to March this year.
When the tournament is over you can play the course and see if you can land a ball on the green.
Arguably, the best way to snag the tee time you want is to stay at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. If not staying there, call and ask about a Resort Day Pass
While visiting TCP Sawgrass, soak up the legendary atmosphere with a Storyteller’s Tour of the Clubhouse and bring your camera. The Clubhouse is TCP headquarters. It and the course were built for the tour’s players.
Plan to lunch or do dinner at the Clubhouse. When weather permits, get a table on the veranda of the casual “19” restaurant for its view of The Players’ presentation area.
If time allows, book a lesson at the Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass. You can take your lesson on a course walked by the world’s greatest players.
Or stay at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village about half an hour south of Ponte Vedra on the western outskirts of St. Augustine. You can call over to TPC Sawgrass 14 days ahead to see if you can get a tee time.
At World Golf Village, you can try to reach its version of the 17th hole. Actor Bill Murray had landed a ball on that island green when in town for the Caddyshack Tournament he has sponsored at a World Golf Village course before The Players.
Then, chow down on great hamburgers and other pub food at Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant.
Be on the alert for celebrities Golfing greats occasionally drop by because it is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the King and Bear course Palmer designed with Jack Nicklaus (the only course they worked on together). The resort’s other course is the Slammer and Squire. Sammy Snead and Gene Sarazen were consultants to course designer Bobby Weed.
Stroll the Walk of Champions to read Hall of Famers signatures engraved on the path to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
No matter whether bedding down at the Sawgrass Marriott or the Renaissance Resort, be sure to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Head upstairs to see Hall of Famers’ lockers, learn the origins of golf and attempt to swing like the pros in a bay. Take a photograph as each of you cross St. Andrews’ famed bridge. Another flight up is the trophy room.
Tip: You might think the visit can be a quick in and out but you will find yourselves spending two hours in World Golf Hall of Fame.
World Golf Village is also the place to shop or sharpen your game. On the grounds is the PGA Tour Stop, a two-level, 30,000 square-foot golf pro shop, and the PGA Tour Golf Academy.
Both resorts are a good base for visiting the old city of St. Augustine, founded 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Walk the historic area, boat the harbor and drive over to the Alligator Farm, where hundreds of birds nest in the trees knowing that animals can’t get to their nests because of the alligators below.
If you go
Sawgrass Marriott Ponte Vedra, 1000 PGA Boulevard, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. 800-577-6009 and 800-457-4653 800-457-4653
Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, 500 S. Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, Fla. 888-740-7020
Listen up baseball fans. Spring Training 2021 tickets for Chicago teams go on sale this week: Cubs 1 p.m. CT Feb. 19, White Sox, 11 a.m. CT Feb. 20.
Chicago weather is supposed to get better the last week of February, maybe even going up to 40 degrees. But imagine yourself in Phoenix, AZ where daytime temps are in the 70s and you exchange sweaters and sweats for shorts and T shirts.
The Cubs’ AZ home is Sloan Park in Mesa. A smaller version of Wrigley Field, Sloan Park is often called Wrigleyville West. It is bordered by roads named Waveland and Sheffield Avenues and Clark Street.
The Sox play at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, a Phoenix suburb known as a restaurant, entertainment and sports mecca.
It may be easier to find tickets for your team’s games at competitors’ parks so get to know the schedule.
The Cubs’ schedule starts with the Padres away on March 1 and at Sloan Park against the KC Royals, March 2. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Cubs regular season begins April 1 when they play the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Historic Hotel Paso del Norte, a Marriott Autograph Collection property in El Paso, TX, is installing the Plasma Air system as part of its multi-million-dollar renovation.
Built in 1912 and on the National Register of Historic Place, the hotel is known for its Tiffany-style stained glass dome, Native American carvings and a statue of Mexican General Pancho Villa.
But when age and changing guest needs required extensive renovations, the Marriott organization also decided to add a major new air system component to safeguard the health of visitors and staff.
According to Hotel Paso del Norte, Plasma Air kills 99% of bacteriophage in after 10 minutes. It will be used throughout the property from guest rooms, hallways and common areas to restaurants, spa and fitness area. .
“We are among the First Marriott Autograph hotels in the world to install a system that cleans air to this level,” said Carlos Sarmiento, Hotel Paso del Norte general manager.
“Being in the renovation process when this crisis occurred gave us the unique opportunity to implement additional safety features before opening our doors,” Sarmiento said.
He added, “When we undertook this project we were prepared to restore the 108-year-old property’s architectural elements, create stunning event spaces and amenities, and curate a distinct culinary destination—but Covid-19 gave us the need to enhance air quality in all areas of the hotel.”
Information from the hotel and Marriott explained the Plasma Air system that is being installed as HVAC-mounted ionizers that use proactive air purification technologies to safely deactivate airborne viruses.
The system incorporates bipolar ionization that creates millions of positive and negative ions. It is supposed to be a proven method for virus destruction and has been tested in simulated hospital ICUs and hotels used to house medical personnel in isolation during the pandemic.
In addition, the hotel will have sanitizing stations, and sanitize high-touch areas at a minimum of every two hours, require associates to wear personal protective equipment, and receive temperature checks prior to each shift, and complete wellness questionnaires.
Other safety measures include that vendors wear masks and have their temperature checked. guests will be required to wear masks in public areas as mandated by local and state laws and Marriott, floor signage will encourage social distancing and trays will be used to hand items to guests.
A vacation in Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin combines Victorian atmosphere with country and contemporary comfort.
A little over two hours from Chicago’s northern suburbs, the village is a throwback to an earlier time when it was a summer vacation destination before the turn of the 20th century.
It is a sleepy town of resorts, family-owned restaurants, small stores and a century-old railroad depot museum and Saturday Farmers Market.
However, it is also home to a popular race car track that was known as Road America. Think of it as an advantage to keep good restaurants such as Lake Street Café and the Paddock Club, in business.
An eatery with a duel personality, Lake Street Café specializes in fun atmosphere and pub food in its bar and upscale bistro in its dining room. Its wine cellar has repeatedly been recognized by Spectator Magazine.
Next door is the Paddock Club which features local seasonal ingredients served in a contemporary, casual atmosphere. Look for familiar dishes with a twist of the unusual.
Among the resorts is Osthoff. It fits in with local Victorian architecture and neighboring old-time resorts but Osthoff was built in 1995. A historic-looking charmer, the resort was updated in 2007 with 21st century fixtures from Kohler, its upscale plumbing neighbor to the south.
Aside from the races, this is a town to come to feel the muscles relax, boat on the lake or play a round of golf. Bring the tennis racquets or read while the youngsters splash in a pool or the lake.
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.
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.
Ask a friend, ask a lover or ask a few people to join you to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine Feb. 14. It’s just nice to have a fun day in the middle of winter. Since Feb/ 14 comes on a Friday in 2020, celebrate the end of the week or the beginning of a fun weekend.
The ideas listed here are for Chicago but they could be adapted anywhere by substituting a local cooking class for No. 1, a decadent chocolate dessert for No. 2 and a different activity for No. 3. They range from pricey but yummy to free.
The Peninsula Chicago’s Shanghai Terrace is doing a Dim Sum for Lovebirds cooking class and dinner from Feb. 10 through Feb. 16. It includes a Chinese tea degustation, a class led by Chef de Cuisine Elmo Han and ends with a three-course dinner. The cost per couple is $888 but there is a less expensive option Feb. 15 only. It’s the two-hour Valentine’s Day Cooking Experience. At $480 a couple it includes tortellini making and a three-course lunch of oysters, pasta and dessert in The Lobby. (Gratuity and tax not included).
Peninsula Chicago is on Superior Street at Michigan Avenue. To make reservations or for more information call (312) 573 6620, toll-free at 1 866 288 8889, visit Peninsula Chicago or email reservations
The restaurant is not just among Chicagoan’s fave when it comes to hot dogs or Italian beef. It’s chocolate cake ranks among the town’s top dessert choices. So Portillo’s is shaping it famous cake into a heart for Valentine’s Day. A the single-layer chocolate iced cake, the treat will be available at Chicago area locations Feb. 7-16, but can be pre-ordered beginning Jan. 14, 2020 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
In addition, 100% of the purchase price of each Portillo’s Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake sold between January 14 and February 16 (capped at $25,000) will be donated to the American Red Cross. Portillo’s is supporting the American Red Cross Biomedical Services to ensure a safe and reliable blood supply is available for patients in need.
Heart-Shaped cakes will be available for purchase in-store February 7-16. Guests are encouraged to pre-order the cakes beginning on January 14 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
Skate against the Chicago skyline or skate under the stars. Ice skating at Chicago’s Millennium Park below Cloud Gate (The Bean) is a popular winter activity encouraged by background music and a concession stand of hot chocolate. The skating is free. Visitors can bring their skates or rent, or use the rental free of charge if staying at a Hilton.
The historic Palmer House at Wabash and Monroe Streets, just west of the Art institute and Millenium Park is a Hilton. So is The Wit, a popular millennial hotel by Doubletree at State and Lake, a couple of blocks west.
Up the experience by doing lunch at Terao Piano which is a short walk up the bridge from the park to the third floor of the Art Institute of Chicago or an elevator ride up from the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Those entrances to the restaurant don’t have a museum charge. Or do dinner in the Park Grill right there at the skating rink.
Sometimes my family stayed on a Disney property. Other times we stayed at a nearby resort but rented a car. This time, I decided to accompany a small group whose aim was to check out a variety of attractions and travel options in the Kissimmee area.
The result was one surprise after another.
This was to be a no-car rental vacation. Yes, renting a car will likely be an option for some families and couples but we wanted to see what could work without that choice.