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

 

 

 

The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos
Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go. Continue reading “The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name”

A Grand girls getaway in Lake Geneva

View from balcony at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI. (Jodie Jacobs photos)
View from balcony at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI. (Jodie Jacobs photos)

When “The world is too much with us… late and soon, as English poet William Wordsworth said with a poem that continues with “we are out of tune” you know it is time to take a break.

A good place to get back in tune is to plan a girls’ getaway where the view out the balcony door stretches across water and hills, where stress is forgotten over cocktails and delicious food and tension is massaged away by experienced hands.

My sister and I found such a place when we chose Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, WI for our annual spa getaway.

This year, my sister flew into O’Hare from Dallas so we could drive from my home in a northern suburb of Chicago. It took about an hour which is the same amount of time for someone flying into Milwaukee’s airport.

The resort is just on the eastern outskirts of Lake Geneva so we first parked downtown for a bit of boutique shopping then headed to the Grand Geneva to unpack and unwind. FYI, the lake is called Geneva Lake and the town is Lake Geneva.

Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI
Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI

The resort has lots of accommodation options ranging from deluxe rooms and suites to condos. We loved our deluxe double on the third floor of Building 3 with a view of a lake on the property.

BTW Grand Geneva has 1,300 acres that include ski hills in winter turned into an adventure spot in summer, golf, horseback riding and plenty of paths to hike and bike.

I liked the lap pool in the spa and fitness facility across the lane from our building. My sister liked the fitness center where she could work out with the type of equipment she used back home.

While waiting for our spa services in the women’s locker room, we heard happy chatter from girlfriends enjoying the spa’s whirlpool. Another waiting area open to males and females, was a quiet relaxation space with good fruit juice, crackers and cheeses.

We booked massages for one day and mani-pedi services, the next. Definitely recommend both.

The resort had two top notch dinner restaurants, the Geneva Chop House and Ristorante Brissago. Both have good food and good service. The night we ate at the resort we were in the mood for Italian flavors and loved our choices of a pumpkin bisque, Osso Bucco  and eggplant parmigiano.

Pumpkin bisque that is sweet and savory with the added balsamic.
Pumpkin bisque that is sweet and savory with the added balsamic.

The resort’s Sunday morning brunch in its Grand Café was tempting but after a weekend of eating we ordered light breakfasts from the menu.

We left on Sunday but heard there was a shuttle that went into Lake Geneva on Monday for a tour of the town that included lunch. Maybe will do it next time.

I’m thinking the resort would be a good place to visit next Valentine’s Day or birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day.

But regarding our experience, best of all was that everyone at Grand Geneva seemed to really care about the guests.

For reservations and more information visit Grand Geneva.

 

Stroll around tulips and visit a real windmill

Tour an authentic windmill on Windmill Island in Holland, MI. Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Tour an authentic windmill on Windmill Island in Holland, MI. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Less than three hours north of Chicago there is an authentic windmill that grinds out flour. Surrounded by gardens, small waterways and bridges, it is on Windmill Island and open spring, summer and fall. But a great time to visit is the second week in May when tulips are blooming across the island and its town, Holland, MI.

The whole town celebrates the blooms and its Dutch heritage with dances, art and craft fairs, parades and food during its famed, annual Tulip Festival.

In 2018, it is May 5-13 but don’t worry if you can’t make it or find accommodations during the festival. According to the Veldheer Tulip Farm and Gardens, a company that grows and ships bulbs globally, the tulips should peak the third week of May.

Masses of gorgeous tulips greet visitors in Holland, MI in May
Masses of gorgeous tulips greet visitors in Holland, MI in May

No matter when going, Windmill Island is a must see. The windmill really is from the Netherlands. Dismantled and put back together there, it is run by a licensed operator who grinds flour that can be purchased and used at home. The island also features, a Children’s Carousel, a street organ, a couple of delightful buildings with Dutch figures and gifts and there are good walking paths.

But also visit the downtown for its good food, beer and boutiques.  Stop in at Austrian Alpen Rose for breakfast, lunch or a coffee and pastry break.

Save time to see wooden shoes made and delftware painted on the outskirts of town at the DeKlomp Delftware and Wooden Shoe Factory on Quincy Street. Entry is free but you’ll want to take home well-made gifts for yourself, family and friends. BTW De Klomp is Dutch for wooden shoes.

Learn about Delftware and watch it being painted.
Learn about Delftware and watch it being painted.

Another place is Nelis’ Dutch Village that features dancing, shoes, Delftware and playground activities. Entry has a fee because it is an entertainment area.

Room availability is scarce during the Tulip Festival so make plans ahead of time, then go enjoy the Dutch culture of a Holland that is here in the States.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Chicago knows how to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

 

Either come to Chicago, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the town rated tops n the country for wearin’ the green, or if already in town find out about all the events because they are likely to be happening where you are or want to be.

Don’t’ worry that you missed such neighborhood parades as the Southside one that take place the Saturday before March 17. They’re fun but a lot more happens March 17 including turning the Chicago River green followed by the big, downtown parade. Of course there are also pub crawls. a run, and two days of music and dance at the Irish American Heritage Center. Just bring something green to wear.

Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Photo complements City of Chicago
Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Photo complements City of Chicago

 

The River  

Join the crowd at 9 a.m., March 17, 2018 on Wacker Drive (upper or lower) or on the east side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge to watch the river turn green with an eco-friendly substance poured from the boat that you’ll see going by. Best plan is to get there early.

 

The Parade

After seeing the river, find a spot on Columbus Drive west of Michigan Avenue between Balbo on the south and Randolph Street on the north before the noon step-off time.  Sponsored by Chicago Plumbers Local 130 UA and the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, the city’s downtown parade always has politicians marching but there are also several Irish dance groups and Irish bands. For more information visit City of Chicago/Parade and ChicagoStPatricksDayParade.

 

Irish American Heritage Center Festival

IAHC’s  festival is a two day event of Irish dance, singers and music. This year it actually falls April 17-18, but sometimes it is held the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day if March 17 is not on a weekend. Typically drawing about 10,000 visitors after the parade and the following day, it goes from 1 p.m. to midnight. There’s also a crafts’ fair, Irish gifts and food and drinks available to purchase. Admission tickets are $15 or $12 if purchased before March 16. Youngsters age 12 and under admitted free. IAHC is at 4526 N. Knox Ave. Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Irish American Festival.

 

St. Paddy’s Day Run

Certainly there is a lot of drinking and also some eating. So a good way to work off the weight ahead of time is to participate in a 5 or 8 K run or walk in the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the downtown. Once known as the Leprechaun Leap, the event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 17 from near the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Participants enthusiastically put together their green attire but they also get a commemorative shirt, and an invite to the post party at Select Steak House (2808 N. Halsted St. north of the Finish Line. For registration and other information visit Paddy’s Day run.

 

Lincoln Park St. Pat’s Crawl

Going from 3 to 9 p.m., March 17. participants of this crawl visit several bars in the Lincoln Park neighborhood starting at 2247 N. Lincoln Ave., To register and for more information visit Lincoln Park St. Pats Crawl. You Sat, March 17, 2018

 

Chicago Shamrock Crawl

Do the Wrigleyville bars from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 17. Participants can pick up their tees and other paraphernalia ahead of time. Registration and other info visit Chicago Shamrock Crawl.

 

St. Paddy’s Day Boat cruises

There are two cruises that leave from Navy Pier. The Irish-themed Architecture River Tour begins in the morning at 10:45 a.m. and lasts 75 minutes. For tickets and more information visit Shoreline Sightseeing. There is also the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner Cruise which is a St. Paddy’s Day party on the Mystic Blue. It boards at 6:30 p.m. goes from 7 to 10 p.m. For reservations and information visit Mystic Blue Cruises.

 

The only problem with celebrating the day in Chicago is the abundance of good choices.

 

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)

 

 

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!

 

 

Five family activities in Chicago for spring break

See weird specimens in a new, behind the scenes exhibit at the Field Museum Photo by Jodie Jacobs
See weird specimens in a new, behind the scenes exhibit at the Field Museum.  Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The kids are saying yea, no school for a week. But what’s a parent to do when there is more to plan for than a weekend outing?

From a tomb and T Rex to penguins and planets, the Museum Campus has lots to keep families fascinated for an entire day.

Penguin antics also make visitors chuckle at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lego is a hit at the Museum of Science and Industry and at the Legoland Discovery Center in west suburban Schaumburg.

The Centennial Wheel and musical play equipment are awesome at Navy Pier. Check them out and enjoy.

 

Explore Chicago’s Museum Campus

Youngsters don’t all like the same things but on Chicago’s Museum Campus at the south east end of the downtown, you can probably satisfy two different interests if you plan carefully.

Children fascinated by mummies, dinosaurs and native American tribal life will love the  Field Museum while adults will likely want to detour over to its gem exhibit.

Anyone who likes penguins or  pretty much anything live that moves through water will want to stop at the Shedd Aquarium across from The Field.

Budding astronomers and space explorer wannabes will want to go to the Adler Planetarium that’s further down the museum campus’ arm.

Families might be able to take in some of two places but really shouldn’t try to do all three museums on the same day.

Tip: While on the museum campus walk past the aquarium towards the planetarium .then turn around and look at the city. This is where journalists take photos of the skyline and TV broadcasters go for a super camera op of Chicago’s skyline. Your photo will look like you are out in a boat on Lake Michigan because you are on a peninsula.

 

Put on your minor’s hat or thinking cap at the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry south of downtown should satisfy all interests from its coal mine experience, Lego exhibit  and futuristic thinking room to Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the Great Train Story’s model railroads and the Mirror Maze.

Tip: On April 8 and 9 and April 15, you can also see special Robotics week events.

 

You play at Navy Pier

Ride the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Ride the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 Navy Pier, a 3,300 foot long entertainment pier jutting into Lake Michigan from Illinois Street east of the Mag Mile is home to the Chicago Children’s Museum,  a Ferris-type ride called the Centennial Wheel that is almost 200 feet high and ethnic festivals in its Crystal Garden.

Tip: There is also an IMAX Theater so check out its film schedule. Plus do ‘Impulse: An Interactive Art Exhibit,’  in the Polk Bros Park at Navy Pier, now through May 21. It’s a light and sound experience where visitors can try out seesaws and other play equipment that produce different tones and colors when activated.

 

Watch animals play at the zoo

Stroll through Lincoln Park Zoo to see two new, polar opposite,  animal habitats: South African penguins in their cozy cove (It’s not icy) and Arctic polar bears in a coldly comfortable place.

Tip: The zoo and its Lincoln Park environment are fun places to spend a day so plan on eating at Park Place Café which has Mexican, Italian dishes and burgers or if warm enough, the roof top Café at Wild Things above the Wild Things gift store. .

 

Discover what can be done with Legos

From things to ride, play with and see in 4D to Star Wars episodes to experience, there is an entire Lego world at the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg,  Entry and experiences are ticketed so plan ahead because tickets are timed to prevent overcrowding, particularly during winter and spring vacation breaks.

Tip: Online tickets save money so check it out at Tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

Parks and Recreation, not the sitcom

 

From Cubs Spring Training to spring festivals, Chicago area parks and gardens are celebrating the season with fun shows and events

 

Celebrate the World Series Cubs at Garfield Park conservatory's Spring Training show. Chicago Park District photo
Celebrate the World Series Cubs at Garfield Park Conservatory’s Spring Training show. Chicago Park District photo

Cubs Spring Training

Mesa isn’t the only place to find Cubs logos and icons. The Chicago Park District’ has turned its  historic Garfield Park Conservatory’s Show House into a celebration of baseball and the World Series Champions for its annual Spring Flower Show.

This year the theme is Spring Training. Visitors will see Wrigley Field’s marquee, bleachers, ivy-covered wall and a huge World Series trophy. The “Spring Training” show even includes an icon scavenger hunt.

Opened February 18, the show continues through May 14, 2017. Garfield Park Conservatory is at 300 N. Central. For more information visit Garfield Park Conservatory or call (312) 746-5100.

 

Orchid Show

You can still wander among thousands of gorgeous orchids at Chicago Botanic Garden. The annual Orchid Show continues through March 26, 2017. The Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., east of Edens Expressway,  Glencoe. Admission is free. Non-member parking is $25 per car. For more information visit CBG and call (847) 835-5440

 

Chicago Flower and Garden Show

You can find inspiration for your garden whether it’s a handkerchief-sized patch, a walkway or a personal hide-away at Chicago’s annual Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier, March 18-26, 2017. The theme is Chicago Neighborhoods. There are 20 gardens to walk around  including some with water features and others with sculptures. In addition the show has seminars, a market section, workshops and family activities.

The show is upstairs in festival Hall A and B. Tickets are $5 children, $15 weekdays and $17 weekends.  Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. For more information visit Flower Show.

 

Maple Syrup Festival at NPV

Watch the magic that turns sap tapped from a maple tree into maple syrup at the North Park village Nature center March 25, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. North Park Village Nature Center.  A free event, the festival also includes crafts, storytelling and music. North Park Village Nature center is at 5801 N. Pulaski Rd.  For more information visit NPV or call (312) 744-5472.