Consider theWit for a downtown holiday staycation

Ice skating the Ribbon in Millennial Park is easy when taking a staycation. (City of Chicago photo)
Ice skating the Ribbon in Millennial Park is easy when taking a staycation. (City of Chicago photo)

You’re in The Loop when you stay at theWit.

Well situated at State and Lake Streets, the hotel is close to Macy’s shopping, Walnut Room tree and holiday windows, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” Millennial Park’s Caroling at Cloud Gate and ice skating rinks, the Chriskindle Market, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago’s holiday-decorated Thorne Miniature Rooms and a short bus ride to the Auditorium theatre to see Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Continue reading “Consider theWit for a downtown holiday staycation”

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. Continue reading “The Wright trip for stage and scenery”

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.

Continue reading “Vines and Vistas make a great fall getaway”

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!

 

Chicago summer zoo news

 

Of course Chicago is filled with places to go, many of which you can find at Choose Chicago for the day or week you will be in town.

But put one of its zoos, Lincoln Park or Brookfield, on the do list.

 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Baby gorilla born on Mother's Day at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Photo by Christoper Bijalba and is courtesy of (Lincoln Park Zoo)
Baby gorilla born on Mother’s Day at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Photo by Christoper Bijalba and is courtesy of (Lincoln Park Zoo)

 

Founded in 1868, the zoo is a fun, free, destination in Lincoln Park, a grassy stretch of ponds, boats and conservatories along Lake Shore Drive just north of the city’s famed Magnificent Mile.

 

Go to Plan Your Visit to figure out all you want to do. Open 365 days a year, you can fit zoo attractions into half a day in this 35-acre zoo. But definitely visit the Regenstein Center for African Apes because a baby was born to Rollie, a western lowland gorilla on Mother’s Day.

 

The baby has joined the zoo’s group that also encompasses females Bana and Bahati and juveniles Bella, Nayembi and Patty. The newborn joins a troop of seven individuals, including adult females Bana and Bahati, and three juvenile females Bella, Nayembi, and Patty.

 

“It’s really amazing to see this family group grow and adapt,” said Curator of Primates Jill Moyse. “Lincoln Park Zoo’s last gorilla birth was in 2015 when the troop welcomed newborn Bella. It’s an exciting time to visit Regenstein Center for African Apes where you can see different life stages of the gorillas from newborn infant to full-grown silverback.”

 

Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2001 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614. For parking, hours, bus transportation and more information call (312) 742-2000 and visit LPZoo.

 

 

Brookfield Zoo

Snowflake, an albino alligator visiting Brookfield Zoo. (Photo by Kelly Tone and courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society.
Snowflake, an albino alligator visiting Brookfield Zoo. (Photo by Kelly Tone and courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society.

 

Brookfield  Zoo is in the southern suburb of Brookfield. Opened in 1934 it is operated by the Chicago Zoological Society. A year-round destination it is open every day.

 

The zoo is so large you will need a whole day to see everything but if coming the summer of 2019, do stop to see Snowflake, a 16-year-old albino American alligator in The Swamp habitat that is visiting from Florida’s St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park where it returns in September.

 

According to Brookfield officials, albino alligators are extremely rare with only about 100 existing in the world. Easily subject to predators, they have ivory-white skin and pinkish eyes.

 

Brookfield is worth visiting even though it charges admission. General admission is adults: $21.95, seniors 65 and older $15.95 and children age 3 to 11 15.95. Deduct 1 $ in each category ordered online. For ticket information that covers special exhibits and online ordering visit CZS/tickets.

 

Parking for Brookfield Zoo, a 216-acre destination that includes several winding paths, fountains, eateries and gift shops, is at two gates: North Gate Main Entrance 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street), and South Gate Main Entrance 3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield, IL 60513  Visit Directions and CZS and Brookfield Zoo/Home for more information.

 

 

 

Tulip Time returns to Holland

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)
Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

After a bruising winter it’s time to go to a town that celebrates brightly colored flowers with dancing, art, music and windmill-ground flour. No passport needed.

It’s Holland, MI where everything Dutch is celebrated year ’round but where when May comes tulips line the streets and the town is in festival mode.

Plan now to visit because accommodations fill fast. Tulip Time is May 4 through May 12, 2019. Week days are  less crowded but to catch the events you want, check the schedule.  To see the schedule visit Tulip Time events.

Dutch dances begin May 2, Tulip Town Tours, the artisan market and Art in Bloom, Tall ships, Tulip Time Quilt show are May 4.  But many of these events continue through the festival.

 

Tip: Don’t limit your time to just the main festival site.

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)
Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

My favorite stop is Windmill Island Gardens on the edge of the downtown.   It has a real, from-Holland, working Dutch windmill. There is also an antique children’s carousel and replica Dutch buildings. For Tulip time there is a Dutch Trade Fair and Dutch food.

Next are two places  on the outskirts of town near the highway that feature gardens and Dutch goods: Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens /DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory where you can watch shoes being made and delft painted, and Nelis’ Dutch Village Family Theme Park  & Wooden Shoe Factory which is geared to kids.

 

Accommodations I like the Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown and CityFlats Hotel that is also downtown. To see more choices visit Holland  Hotels.

Dining. I haven’t had a bad meal there. Among my faves are Alpenrose Restaurant and Curragh Irish Pub.But walkthe main street, 8th Street, and explore. There are lots of boutiques and good restaurants plus good sculptures to see and photograph.

Go. Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Good news this Groundhog Day

After the predition. (Photo courtesy of Woodstock Groundhog Organization)
After the prediction. (Photo courtesy of Woodstock Groundhog Organization)

Maybe the handlers of Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and Woodstock Willie in Illinois decided the Midwest and Northeast US deserved spring.

But whatever guideline they used from how cloudy it was when they woke their respective groundhogs early in the morning Feb. 2 when no shadow was seen, to possibly consulting the Farmers’ Almanac, they both announced an early spring for 2019.

Visit  Groundhog for Phil and Woodstock for Willie to learn more about their history, town fun and predictions.

For the movie connection to Woodstock visit Where Groundhog Day was Filmed.  It also has a link to the movie clips.

 

Take a Palm Springs escape back in time

Frank Sinatra House, Palm Springs (Jake Holt photo)
Frank Sinatra House, Palm Springs (Jake Holt photo)

 

It’s not too late to get tickets for An Afternoon of Jazz at the Modernist Loretta Young Estate  or a architectural Bus Tour of Palm Springs neighborhoods where such stars as Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack took refuge from Hollywood or hob nob with VIPs at Palm Springs Modern Committee Annual Gala Benefit  at the Lawrence Welk Estate or see designer Christopher Kennedy’s renovation of the  Modernism Week Featured Home: La Vie en Rose  a 1958 home in posh Vista Las Palmas that backs up to the San Jacinto mountains.

You get the gist of this escape. It’s a trip back to mid last century architecture and homes of famous people who wanted to be within a director’s calling distance of LA studios or not too far from Las Vegas stages.

A mere 119 miles southeast of Los Angeles and about 230 miles from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, CA sits on the always sunny (more than 350 days) western edge of Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. The events just mentions are a few of the dozens of tours and activities taking place in and around Palm Springs during the town’s annual Modernism Week, Feb. 14-24, 2019.

The bonus is two, really good shows in the Palm Springs Convention Center. Feb. 15-18, 2019. One is the high-end, Art Palm Springs. The other is a dealers’ Modernism exhibit. Feb. 15-18.

The week, actually 10 days, celebrates the area’s reputation for having more mid-last century homes than anywhere else in the world. Here, old homes are not torn down but are instead, preserved for people who appreciate mid-1900s designs. Indeed, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations architecture list in 2006.

Modernism Week happens twice a year, October and February. The fall event is small but the February one runs out of tickets to some of the popular tours and lectures. Check Tickets to see what is left and snap them up before you go.

 

Bus tour of Palm Springs (David A. Lee photo)
Bus tour of Palm Springs (David A. Lee photo)

 

Do a bus tour

Definitely get tickets for the Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Taking  about 2.5 hours, the bus drives around Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods, and past Desert Spanish estates.

Knowledgeable guides tell stories about the stars and are likely to explain that the Palm Springs area was chosen because of what was then the studios’ “two-hour rule.” Actors had to be available within a couple of hour’s driving time for film and photo shoot calls..

It’s where tour guides have been known to say, “There is Frank Sinatra’s home, Twin Palms. When he was ready to party he hoisted a Jack Daniels flag between the palms.”

Mid-century architecture is so valued that the much photographed  gas station at the foot of the area’s Tram, is on the tour as a re-purposed Visitors Center.

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama have gotten away from cameras here but it is also a resort and golf area for folks who like its year-round summery weather.

 

Go to the Convention Center shows

At the Modernism Show, wander around the booths of dealers who specialize in 20th century design movements to see furniture and accessories similar to what your parents or grandparents cherished that are now back in style.

At the Art Palm Springs show check out the post war and contemporary art works.

 

Shop, Visit Galleries, Relax

There is so much to do during Modernism Week, that you should schedule in down-time. Stay awhile to explore the area, shop the boutiques and art galleries. One of the best galleries is Heather James in neighboring Palm Desert. Oh, and get in some golf and spa time. The Greater Palm SpringsVisitors Bureau has lots of ideas.

 

 

 

South Padre Island: A good winter escape

Meet Allison, an Atlantic sea turtle at a sanctuary on South Padre Island. (Sea Turtle Inc photo)
Meet Allison, an Atlantic sea turtle at a sanctuary on South Padre Island. (Sea Turtle Inc photo)

You likely have heard that a hoard of college kids invade South Padre Island during their Spring Break. But the rest of the year this narrow strip of land at the far southern edge of Texas is a perfect vacation spot for girls’ getaways, couples, families and retirees looking for a new destination.

Picture blue-green water to sooth the soul, glistening sand for a sunrise walk, terrific Mai Tais, Martinis and Margaritas to sip at sunset and yummy seafood for lunch and dinner.

For a change of pace there are cruises to see bottlenose dolphins, kite boarding to move with the breeze and sand castle building lessons to find your inner architect.

All those experiences (except for the kite boarding which maybe I’ll try next time) made my really brief visit to South Padre Island (often referred to as SoPadre), a memorable vacation.

I had heard of the destination but what spurred me to visit this fall was United Airline’s decision to fly from Chicago nonstop to the Brownsville International Airport on Saturdays. The airport is a mere 30 minute drive or shuttle ride away.

Hilton Garden Inn pool (GI photo
Hilton Garden Inn pool (GI photo

 

After arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn which has an airport shuttle, the first thing I did was step out onto the patio to inhale the warm air and collapse on a chair to gaze at the pool, greenery and gulf. Time out really means something on South Padre.

Second, was to don a bathing suit (unpacking could wait), dip a toe into the pool, relax in a cabana then begin to think about dinner. Vacationing on the Gulf of Mexico is a chance to indulge in shrimp, crab, scallops, oysters and fresh fish.

But what surprised me after three days of trying different, preparations for lunch and dinner at different restaurants was how good the food is on the island and Port Isabel which is just across Laguna Madre Bay.

Pier 19 had a terrific shrimp basket. Pirates Landing had a wonderful shrimp and oyster po’boy. I learned not to judge by appearance. The elongated shacks that make up Pier 19 attract the locals and the commercial looking Pirates Landing has good shrimp and salads.

Pier 19 was also well placed to take an Osprey nature and dolphin cruise on Laguna Madre Bay. Watching dolphins slip in and out of view was fun but the crew also emptied a net into a tank so that passengers could see and touch what was swimming in the bay. While waiting to board it was fun to watch the kite boarding on the other side of the pier.

Fun to watch dolphin from the Osprey Nature Cruise. (Osprey photo)
Fun to watch dolphin from the Osprey Nature Cruise. (Osprey photo)

Kites, period, are popular in the South Padre area.. B&S Kites is worth stopping just to say OMG when seeing their huge, wonderful shapes hanging from the ceiling. It’s also fun to watch people try to control these large kites on the beach.

What looks deceptively easier is building a sand castle worth of Disneyland. Playing in the sand isn’t just for kids on South Padre. Sand castle lessons are actually advertised on the island’s tourism site.

A group of us staying at the Hilton booked a sand castle lesson with “Sandy Feet,” an expert sand sculptor who used common silverware tools. We learned you don’t have to be among the kindergarten set to enjoy creating a sand castle.

Building sand castles is not just for kids. (Sandy Feet photo)
Building sand castles is not just for kids. (Sandy Feet photo)

What fun and a good way to work up an appetite for dinner! I had already enjoyed red snapper at Sea Ranch so went for sophisticated dining at South Padre’s new, upscale  F&B SPI (Food and Beverage South Padre Island). Both restaurants have terrific seafood appetizers and fresh fish. But I also loved the desserts (which I never order when home) at F&B.

Before returning to Chicago, I had to visit the island’s famed Sea Turtle Inc. sanctuary. So the next day I heard an excellent talk and saw some rehabilitated turtles swimming in tanks. To see Allison and Gerry, two Atlantic sea turtles, visit the center’s web cam.

South Padre Island is a major turtle protection and rehabilitation area. Alerts go out when baby turtles that their moms buried in the sand for protection start hatching and are guided into the gulf by staff and volunteers.

Sunset from Sea Ranch Restaurant and marina on South Padre Island. (J Jacobs photo)
Sunset from Sea Ranch Restaurant and marina on South Padre Island. (J Jacobs photo)

The island also has a bird center and sanctuary which is interesting to walk during spring and fall migrations but has birds landing all year round.

Also nice all rear round are the island’s wonderful sunsets.