Thoughts on Memorial Day

Chicago Memorial Day Parade on State Street. (City of Chicago photo)
Chicago Memorial Day Parade on State Street. (City of Chicago photo)

With so many events canceled and people staying home to be safe, we may barely note that Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. But some places such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon have procedures in place to again allow visitors and other destinations are planning to reopen. So with that in mind think of where you might want to go to recognize the meaning of Memorial Day.

The following article is a reprint of one I did for the Chicago Tribune when I was a regular contributor to Features and Travel. It is “Military Museums: Fit one into a long weekend or summer destination.”

Heads up vacationers, you know that Memorial Day, May 25 (in 2015), and not the Summer Solstice, June 21, marks the start of summer vacations. But Memorial Day really is a time to honor people who lost their life while serving in the United States armed forces.

As a long weekend or the start of a summer journey it’s a perfect time to visit military museums to find out more about wars in which the US was engaged, their eras, battle conditions, leaders and places. And it’s simpler than you may guess because military museums dot the US from California to Florida. They range from huge displays of lifelike dioramas to small gems of plane and vehicle-filled hangers. And they often are near vacation destinations. Here are just some of the places to put on your do now list.

 

Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL

If you have watched in wonder as the Navy’s Blue Angels have zoomed overhead during the Chicago Air and Water Show, you can see them up close inside a hanger at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL and practicing outside.

But that wouldn’t be the only or even main reason to go there. Walk under and around a combat F-14D Tomkcat or a rare SBD Dauntless Bureau No. 2106 from the Battle of Midway. Glimpse the Western Front in a World War I diorama. Or see the replica of the WW II USS Cabot aircraft carrier’s Island and flight deck and go to its main deck to try the ship’s anti-aircraft gun battery. Memorial Day is also about people so look for vintage uniforms and memorabilia such as flight logs.

But don’t miss the Cubi Bar Café. Way more than a place to relax while touring the museum, the café replicates the mid-twentieth-century Cubi Point Officers’ Club that was in the Philippines. Known for its bar lined with squadron plaques started during the Vietnam War, the plaques here are the real ones sent to the museum when the Officers’ Club closed.

You will want a place to rest tired feet. The museum has 350,000 square feet of exhibits and covers 37 acres. NAS, as the base is known, dates from 1914. It handles Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard flight personnel. As museum historian Hill Goodspeed pointed out during a recent phone interview, it is an aviation museum but the people who serve are important. “You will see more than flying machines. Look beyond the machines and focus on the individuals in the cockpit. We have memorabilia, but really it’s about those who served of various ages, including those in their teens, who were and are willing to fly into a dangerous situation and serve in the military to protect our freedom,” Goodspeed said.

Lyon Air Museum, Santa Ana, CA

In contrast, the Lyon Air Museum, tucked into the Martin Aviation corner of John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA is tiny. At a mere 30,000 square feet, its planes, jeeps and memorabilia, mostly from WWII, are easy to slip in a sightseeing jaunt when visiting Orange County, CA’s Irvine area.

“Visitors who come here don’t feel rushed. They see how small we are so they feel they can take their time to really see what’s here,” said Museum President Mark Foster.

However, finding the museum is a challenge on the airport’s winding back roads unless you are persistent and the GPS is working. But once there you find a gem.

It’s not hard to find the B-17 Flying fortress used in the Pacific, a Douglas A-26 “Invader” or the B-25 “Mitchell,” named for General “Billy” Mitchell. The museum isn’t just a good place to visit for its machines and memorabilia, it’s the docents. Many of them are military retirees

“We get letters from visitors who say they spoke to someone who served in the same squadron or area as a grandfather,” Foster said. He added, “Talking with our docents is like finding old letters from a family member. You hear their stories.”

Retired USAF Major General William Lyon who flew during WWII and Korea founded the museum so current generations would have some idea of WWII era vehicles and battles and stories. lyonairmuseum.org/

National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredricksburg, TX

Tourists coming to Fredericksburg, Texas for its very western look and shops, its nearby wine region and its abundant flower and peach fields will arguably be surprised to find a museum dedicated to the Pacific War and its veterans while walking down Main Street.

But Fredericksburg was where Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in 1885 and the congressional district that appointed him to the U.S. Naval Academy. A career naval officer, Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and of the Pacific Ocean Areas for U.S. and Allied sea, land and air forces during WW II.

The background is important because it was the Admiral Nimitz Foundation that set up a museum in the former Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg in 1971.

Today, that museum is one of several stunning places to visit on the National Museum of the Pacific War’s six acres. Stop in the Nimitz Museum to learn of the Admiral’s career and see the historic hotel.

Iin the 33,000 square foot George H. W. Bush Gallery, follow the battles and America’s involvement on the Pacific Front beginning with Japan’s mindset that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Walk outside to the Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the Japanese military to the U.S. in honor of Nimitz. Also outside, see plaques honoring Pacific War heroes that line the Memorial Courtyard’s limestone walls.

Be sure to visit the Plaza of Presidents made up of stone and bronze monuments to the 10 U.S. presidents who served during WWII. A separate program, the Pacific Combat Zone, re-enacts engagements in a field two blocks east of the museum campus.

National WW2 Museum, New Orleans, LA

When looking for a fascinating way to work off at least some of New Orleans’ famed cuisine, check out the National WW2 Museum, a 220,500 square foot campus in the former Warehouse District known now as the Arts District.

Opened on the 56th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2000 and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the building was called the D-Day Museum until the U.S. Congress officially designated it America’s National World War II Museum in 2003.

As with the Lyon Air Museum, the volunteers you encounter are likely to be war veterans. But you will need a good half day to experience this museum. Its galleries and movies cover all the fronts, from Home to Europe to the Pacific Islands in several pavilions and theaters.

The feeling of awe starts in the museum’ s multi-level atrium where you see a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and SBD Dauntless, a Supermarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt BF 109 hanging from the ceiling.

You are in the US Freedom Center: The Boeing Pavilion. While exploring the Boeing Pavilion do the “Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience.” Similarly to major Titanic exhibits, it assigns participants an actual name of someone on board. Learn at the end if your person was lost or captured by the Japanese.

You can see the planes from an observation deck on the third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The original museum, the Louisiana Pavilion is the place to learn about Normandy and other beach landings.

Be sure to go to the new Campaigns of Courage Pavilion. Its “Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries” opened early 2015 with fantastic dioramas such as a blown-out German bunker and the forested “Battle of the Bulge” in the “Breaching the German Frontier” section.

Also look for a village and other scenes as the armed forces marched up the Italian boot. They are battle sites that have been recreated with bombed out roofs backed by the sounds of war and newsreels.

The remaining Courage Pavilion build out, “Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries,” opens in late 2015.

“It’s amazing,” said Owen Glendenning, associate vice president of education and access. “It’s immersive. It’s realistic and environmental. You can believe you are there,” said Glendenning.

Save time to see “Beyond All Boundaries, a 45 minute 4D film in the Solomon Victory Theater narrated by its executive producer, Tom Hanks. The movie takes you from battles to the Home Front using a variety of animation and sound effects. Personal accounts are read by Brad Pit, Gary Sinise and other celebrities.

For a recreation of USO style entertainment, think Bob Hope or the Andrew Sisters, try to catch a show at the Stage Door Canteen.

Perhaps the most forceful feature of the National WW2 Museum is the personal connection to people, places and time. Glendenning pointed out that the museum has four-full-time historians who are finding and recording personal stories of WWII veterans and their families. “It’s the compelling way we tell the story. It’s through personal narratives from citizen soldiers,” he said. www.nationalww2museum.org

First Division Museum, Cantigny, Wheaton, IL

A visit to Cantigny Park, the estate that Robert R. McCormick’s will decreed as a public space after he died in 1955, is a delightful Chicago area destination. Its gardens and museums are particularly fun to browse from late spring to early fall. What Chicagoans, and indeed, out of town visitors are likely not to know is that Cantigny (pronounced Canteeny (silent g), is home to a terrific museum that honors the Big Red One, the nickname of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division. BTW, the 1st Division celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017.

Talk about you-are-there dioramas, at the First Division Museum you don’t walk by them, you enter them and are fully enveloped by sight and sound as you connect from trenches and beaches to jungles and sand while going from World War I to Desert Storm. The museum plans to add a section depicting contemporary conflicts.

“It’s very powerful and compelling,” said Exec Director Paul Herbert, discussing the museum’s depictions.

What he hopes visitors will take away though, is an appreciation for the high price paid by people who serve in the military.

“It’s not just Division One, but all who serve our country. “Our soldiers have paid a high price for our freedom over the years. We’re telling the story of everyone who serves to defend our democracy,” said Herbert.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

Three no passport spring vacation ideas

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI (J Jacobs photo)
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI
(J Jacobs photo)

 

Don’t wait for the first robin or crocus to pop up to plan what to do or where to go for a spring vacation. Hotels and good B and B’s may already be booked and airlines will have few seats at the price you want. Make plans now

Good as Washington DC is, student groups may already have plane seats and hotel rooms so consider that destination for another time. Instead, Spring Break is a good chance to splash in a pool, visit and cross off a presidential museum or find an unusual children’s museum in a town not yet visited.

The suggestions listed here are Midwest destinations within a day’s drive of Chicago. The city’s schools are out April 6-10 and most suburban districts are out March 23-27 in 2020.

 

African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)
African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)

Indoor Pool

Arguably among the best indoor water parks are the ones at the Kalahari Resorts. If living in the Midwest, consider the African-themed one at the Wisconsin Dells. The resort really is a combination amusement park, movie and dining destination and games emporium.

I like the Dells as a summer or fall escape when the weather is predictable but spring is a good time to enjoy a resort that has so much to offer, guests might not feel the need to leave.  Also check out other Wisconsin Waterparks for a spring Break.

An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)
An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)

Fascinating presidential and public museums

Located in Grand Rapids, MI, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum combines his University of Michigan background, Nixon’s resignation, Betty Ford’s contributions and a replica of the Oval Office.

Across the road is the Grand Rapids Public Museum which has fun explorations and a merry go round ride. From American Indian displays to inventions, an old-time streetscape and a giant clock, there is enough here to spend the day.

 

An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)
An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)

Where a dinosaur and orangutans hang out

People outside of Indianapolis may not know the city has a remarkable Children’s Museum charmingly guarded by a huge dinosaur and that the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the few places in the country that boasts a specialized orangutan center where visitors can watch these intelligent animals play and practice their cognitive game skills.

I love the Childeren’s Museum’s Take Me There exhibits. When I visited it was to China. Currently it is to Greece. And there really is a simulated flight there.  And I was fascinated by everything the orangutans could do.

Also worth a visit when in town are the Eiteljorg Museum of American indians’ Western Art and the Indiana State Museum next door that has a wonderful Rube Goldberg inventions exhibit. See Visit Indy for more information.

 

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”

Staycation for the holidays

North Michigan Avenues Magnificent Mile twinkles after the Mickey and Minnie Mouse parade flicks the lights switch (City of Chicago photo)
North Michigan Avenues Magnificent Mile twinkles after the Mickey and Minnie Mouse parade flicks the lights switch (City of Chicago photo)

Shopping, shows, sights and lights, Chicago’s festival markets and moments seem to be descending at express-train speed. But instead of shouting “stop the train,” take control of the season with a “staycation” that balances shopping with spa time, festival watching with fitness-center wellness and special exhibits with special cocktails.

Several Chicago hotels are putting together packages that make staying downtown a fun alternative to insanely commuting to catch events. Because holiday gifts and sights stretch from Macy’s on State and the Art Institute of Chicago to Magnificent Mile and the Lincoln Park Zoo, a good plan is to make your holiday headquarters a hotel near Michigan Avenue. Continue reading “Staycation for the holidays”

Holiday shop in London this year – Harrods and Fortnum and Mason await

Oxford Street, London during the holidays. (J Jacobs photos)
Oxford Street, London during the holidays. (J Jacobs photos)

Make London your December holiday trip. The city is always bustling but during the holiday season stores go all out with spectacular windows, sparkling lights that line buildings and crisscross streets and music everywhere.

Pack comfortable shoes, warm scarf, hat and fly off to Heathrow (great shopping airport for last minute gifts before flying back). Take the Heathrow –London Express for the fastest way in (reserve ahead) or the Underground (Tube) or taxi to your hotel after checking options at Heathrow transport.

You are likely to find a place near where you want to be within your budget at Visit London. I like Marriott Hotel Marble Arch because it feels like a boutique hotel but is on a main tube stop and within easy walking distance to gaily decorated Oxford Street’s shops.

Once unpacked and ready to go, forget taxis. Traffic is so bad above ground that the meter runs while you wait through three lights to proceed through one intersection. Pick up a map of the Underground stations but wear those walking shoes.

London loves its Harrods for luxury items and Fortnum & Mason for gourmet foods but also likes the trendy stuff in the Sloan and Chelsea areas and the fun of shopping its famous markets

OK, have at it.

Holiday windows in the Knightsbridge Sloan shopping area often tell stories such as Cinderella a few years ago.
Holiday windows in the Knightsbridge Sloan shopping area often tell stories such as Cinderella a few years ago.

Knightsbridge: Take the Tube, get off to shop the Knightsbridgbe-Brompton Road-Sloane Street District where you can wander Harrods. I like the Food Hall. Then, go into Harvey Nichols and Sloan’s other high-end designers, even if just to look.

Snap photos of the Harvey Nichols Christmas windows (like Macy’s windows). They often tell a story like Cinderella. Tip: At Harrods and other London department stores you’ll see fun “crackers” which are good stocking-stuffers but airports started disallowing them after 9-11 so get one just for yourself to pop in your hotel room.

King’s Road: Another Underground stop would be Sloan Square for King’s Road and the Chelsea neighborhood filled with designer and trendy shops and Duke of York Square. Browse fun boutiques, cafés and the Chelsea Antiques Market.

Oxford Street: You’ll love the lights overhead if shopping at night and the windows any time of day. They all definitely set the holiday mood for stopping at Selfridges and Marks & Spencer.

If you didn’t get chocolates at Harrods, look for a Thorton’s across from the department stores. It’s a chain with really good candy. You can also find the Debenhams Department Store (founded in London in the 18th century) and several good clothing shops on the street. Which Tube stop that accesses Oxford Street depends on what stores you want to visit. The Bond Street station is closest to Selfridges.

Regent Street: Famous for its holiday lights and shops the street maintains a retreat area where you can relax during the holiday season. If you don’t mind walking, you can use the Piccadilly Circus Tube stop to pop into Fortnum & Mason and go over to Hamleys, an amazing toy store to visit even if you don’t have to buy a kid’s present. Dating to 1760, Hamleys is among the world’s largest toy stores. There is also Liberty, a high-end store in an elegant Tudor building that offers cutting-edge and clever accessories.

Oxford Street during the holidays (photo take a few years ago).
Oxford Street during the holidays (photo take a few years ago).

Or use the Oxford Circus station to hit Liberty and Hamley on Regent and then Fortnum & Mason at Piccadilly.

Opened in 1707 Fortnum & Mason has served the Royals since Queen Charlotte. You have to go here for the old atmosphere and to pick up something to take home.

While in the area of Piccadilly Circus or Bond Street walk down Savile Row if interested in a hand-tailored suit. Among shops to visit there are Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store, Henry Poole & company and Gieves & Hawkes. Also, go to the boutique filled Carnaby Street.

Covent Garden: You’ll find three unique markets here. Look for arts and crafts in the North Hall’s Apple Market. The East Colonnade Market has jewelry and handmade soap. Products in the Jubilee Market in the South Piazza vary by day from antiques on Monday to general items other weekdays and crafts on the weekend.

Camden Markets: Save time to explore the markets in Camden Town at the Camden Town or Chalk Farm Tube Stations. There’s the Camden Lock Market at the canal which was the original craft-stall place in the mid 1970s. The Camden Stables Market has fashions.  Other markets including Inverness Street and Buck Street spread out across the area with clothes and other items. It’s a fun place to browse. https://www.camdenmarket.com/

You don’t have to load up the suitcase because the stores are happy to ship. But a good idea if you want to take presents back is to bring an extra bag. Remember airports don’t like wrapped boxes so plan to gift wrap at home.

Have fun shopping, browsing and seeing London during the holidays.

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.

 

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.

 

Five Memorial Day Weekend ideas

Chicago Memorial Day Parade is on State Street May 27. City of Chicago photo
Chicago Memorial Day Parade is on State Street May 27. City of Chicago photo

Say Memorial Day to some folks and the response is it’s the time to commemorate people who died while in military service. To others it signifies the beginning of summer vacation.

On some town’s websites are parades, ceremonies and even a history note explaining that Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day and started shortly after the Civil War.

On others, it begins the period from the end of May through Labor Day when beaches are open, lifeguards are on duty, several outdoor fests and tourist activities take place and bus routes are added.

Five suggested Memorial Day Weekend activities in the Chicago area range from fireworks and festivals to a parade and party plus there’s a bus route bonus.

 

Parade

The City of Chicago is holding a Wreath Laying ceremony in Daley Plaza at Dearborn and Washington Streets at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 27, 2017.  It will be followed by a parade that starts at noon from nearby State and Lake Streets and travels south on State to Van Buren Street. The Grand Marshal is Marine Corps Commanding General Robert S. Walsh. The parade, among the country’s largest, includes veterans’ groups, marching bands and antique military vehicles. Visit Chicago for more info. The national Memorial Day remembrance is 3 p.m. Monday, May 29, 2017.   For an excellent government-based web-site with history and other info visit Government.

 

Parties

View the city while partying at Roof on the Wit Memorial Day Weekend. Mike Reeves photo
View the city while partying at Roof on the Wit Memorial Day Weekend. Mike Reeves photo

Chicago House Party – DJs and performers take over Millennium Park,’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and North Chase Promenade Tent May 27, 2017, from 2 to 9 p.m. Expect a variety of “house music” a style started in Chicago that is danced to throughout the country. The grassy areas are good for picnics or dancing. For performer schedules check City of Chicago. Millennium Park is at Randolph through Monroe Parkways along Michigan Avenue.

 

ROOF on theWit, a fun space with great cocktails and views of the city is starting its JETSET s series May 26-27, 2017. The party transports  guests to Barcelona, Spain  minus the airline hassle. ROOF on theWit is 27 stories above the Wit Hotel at 201 N. State St. at Lake Street, Chicago. For reservations visit Roof. JetSet weekends start at 2pm.  For more information and reservations, visit Roof or call  (312) 239-9502.

 

 

Festivals

The Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest runs from noon to 10 p.m. May 27 and May 28, 2017. A street party that has been going on for more than 20 years, the fest attracts excellent bands, good food, beer and wine booths and also features arts and crafts. A $5 entry donation benefits the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. Entry is at 3200 N. Sheffield, Chicago. Vist Chicago Events for more information.

Dovetail owners Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink welcome visitors to their brewery.
Dovetail owners Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink welcome visitors to their brewery.

 

Celebrate “Mayfestiversary,” a block party at and around Dovetail Brewery, 1800 W. Belle Plaine Rd. Dovetail is celebrating its first anniversary with Begyle Brewing which is marking the second  anniversary of its taproom. There will be food trucks,  live music and games. B elle Plaine Avenue will be closed from Ravensood to the CTA line. Part of proceeds benefit Foundations of Music.The festival goes from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 27 and 28, 2017. For more information visit at Dovetail or call (773) 683-1414.

 

Fireworks

Navy Pier is always good for a holiday outing but the Chicago attraction restarts its summer fireworks display Saturday, May 27 at 10:15 p.m. Among the ways to celebrate the weekend is to cruise on the Spirit of Chicago or Odyssey or stop in at the Miller Lite Beer Garden to hear Hot Rocks do Rolling Stones tributes from 2 to 11:30 p.m. BTW the Rolling Stones Exhibitionism upstairs at Navy Pier is worth seeing.  Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. , Chicago, IL 800 )595-PIER (7437) For more information visit Navy Pier or call (800) 595-PIER (7437).

 

Bonus

The CTA’s No 10 Bus that goes to the Museum of Science and Industry starts again Memorial Day weekend. That means it will be easier to get there from downtown Chicago to see the terrific Robots  exhibit.

 

Easter brunches shine from yummy French toast creations to tasty egg and seafood dishes

 

Don’t wait until the last moment to make your Easter Brunch reservation. Tables at popular restaurants that do brunch are going quickly for Sunday, April 16, 2017. At some of the restaurants you order from the men. Others have fixed priced buffets. Choices range from high end to moderate. If visiting or living in the Chicago area take a look at these places to see what fits your criteria of ambiance, price and location. Reservations are required.

Lox and bagels are often on breakfast buffets but there is a lot more to Easter menus at these restaurants. Photo compliments of Cellars
Lox and bagels are often on breakfast buffets but there is a lot more to Easter menus at these restaurants. Photo compliments of Cellars

 

CHICAGO

 

Broadway Cellars

Called Cellars by its fans, as in we’re going to Cellars tonight, the restaurant also has a big brunch following. So, the only seating left as of April 11 is at 10 a.m. and around 2 or 2:30 p.m. Brunch is ordered from the menu rather than a buffet table so diners end up spending  what they want for what they want. House brunch specials range from Broadway French Toast made with brioche, caramelized bananas, rum caramel syrup and whipped cream for $10 to E Grump poached eggs on crab cakes with lobster flavored hollandaise and Broadway potatoes for $14. But there are lots of other entree choices and sides.

Cellars is at 5900 N. Broadway, Chicago in the  Edgewater neighborhood.  For reservations and other info call 773-944-1208 or visit Cellars.

 

Mon Ami Gabi

Expect fine dining with a French accent but at moderate prices at this long-time popular Lincoln Park restaurant. Brunch, ordered from the menu, can range from crème brulée  French toast with blueberries and Chantilly cream for $10.95 to a poutine of bacon, Jarlsberg, blue cheese, crème fraîche, green peppercorn sauce and poached egg for $14.95.

Mon Ami Gabi is at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. For reservations call (773) 348-8886 or visit Mon Ami Gabi.

 

Shaws Crab House

Known for its Grand Brunch Buffet and wonderful seafood, Shaws normally charges $55 adults but the restaurant goes all out on Easter, Mothers Day and Fathers Day  For these expanded brunches the cost is $75 adults and $20 children under age 12 but the special brunches are very popular for p;eople willing to splurges.

Shaws Crab House is at 21 E. Hubbard St. in the River North neighborhood. For reservations and information call (312) 527-2722 or visit Shaws.

 

SUBURBS

 

Allgauer’s

Winner of Open Table’s Diners’ Choice in August 2015 and Best Brunch in 2014, the kitchen prides itself on fresh, creative and reasonably priced special brunches. For Easter, offerings include Champagne and Mimosas, a good seafood selection, omelets, prime rib and lamb station, other hot entrées, a kids buffet and wonderful desserts for $44.95 adults and $21.95 children ages 6 to 12, free to age 5 and under.  Seating is from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Allgauers  is in the Hilton Hotel at 3003 Corporate West Drive, Lisle. For reservations or more information call (630) 245-7650 or visit Allgauer’s or Hilton.

 

MLG Chicago

Located in the former Grille on Laurel space in the northern suburbs, MLG Chicago is carrying on the Grille’s reasonably priced Sunday brunch tradtition. Easter Brunch, which includes a carving station and omelet station plus cold and desset tables will be $35 adults, $15 ages 10 and under. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m

MLG Chicago is at 181 E. Laurel Ave., Lake Forest. For reservations and other information call (847)234-9660 and visit MLG Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to ice skate around Chicago

 

Maybe now that Chicago’s Ice-Age weekend has come and hopefully, gone, we can lace up the skates and twirl to joyful music. Tip: closing dates are important so put them on your calendar. The first skating spot listed is indoors because it is part of a winter fest that leaves after the first full weekend in January. The second is outdoors but its regular hours change to extended holiday times late December except for special days and events.

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. City of Chicago photo
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. City of Chicago photo

 

Navy Pier

If you want to skate at the Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Ice Rink among the rides and slides of the Pier’s Winter WonderFest, go by Sunday, Jan, 8, 2017. It all starts to disappear that Monday. Navy Pier is the nearly mile-long entertainment arm sticking out into Lake Michigan from 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

Check out cost and hours at Navy Pier Wonderfest or call (800) 595-Pier (7437).

 

MB Financial Park

You have likely passed Rosemont’s mega entertainment complex along the I 294 at I90 near O’Hare International Airport. There is a lot to do there including eating, seeing movies and flying (really) indoors. However, when winter comes there is also Frozemont, an outdoor Chicago Wolves Ice Rink for hockey and free skating. Skate rental is available. Tickets are sold at the rink’s box office. For the address think Monopoly game. It’s 5501 Park Place, Rosemont, IL 60018. Regular hours go through Dec. 23 but open skating has extended hours Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve and Day, Martin Luther King’s Day and Presidents Day.

Visit MB Financial Park for hours and other information and call (847) 349-5008.

Skate with the Greats (at MB Financial Park)

As those TV ads say, “wait, there’s more” re ice skating at the MB Financial Park. If anyone in the family follows the Blackhawks, consider getting a ticket to the annual Skate with the Greats, 1 to 5 p.m., Jan. 14, 2017. Sponsored by the Chicago Blackhawk Alumni Association, event proceeds to benefit Chicago area Ronald McDonald House charities. Learn more at skate event.

 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Families will appreciate the casual, no-pressure-to-show-off skating rink near the red barn at the Farm-in-the-Zoo in Lincoln Park. Admission and skate rental are each $5. Go now to also see ZooLights which continues through Jan. 1, 2017. Come back to skate some more through Feb. 26. You might not want to leave before visiting the new snow monkeys in the MacaQue Forest, the penguins in their new compound or Siku, a new polar bear in the Walter Family Arctic Tundra.  The zoo’s parking lot is at 2400 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614 and is on the CTA’s 151 and 156 bus routes.

For hours and other information visit Lincoln Park Zoo.

 

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

A fun place to skate is below Cloud Gate (The Bean) at the McCormick Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Take photos (can you skate while doing a selfie?) of the city’s skyline and warm up with hot chocolate from the Park Grill. Don’t worry about not skating at Olympic level. Free skating lessons are offered Friday through Sunday by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events during their Winter Workouts an hour before the rink has opend. Other lessons are available other times and dates Dec. 24, 2016  through Jan. 8, 2017. The rink is open weekdays at noon and weekends at 10 a.m. through March 5, 2017. It’s located in one of those “you can’t miss it’ places because it borders the west side of Millennium Park along Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets. Its formal address is 201 E. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60601. Skating is free. Rentals are $12.

For full skating and lesson hours visit DCA.

Maggie Daley Ribbon Ice Rink  A Maggie Daley Park photo
Maggie Daley Ribbon Ice Rink A Maggie Daley Park photo

 

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

Swirling and curving on the north-east side of Millinneium Park in Chicago Park District’s Maggie Daley Park, is the unusually shaped Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon. Open now through the first week of March, the Ribbon winds through a somewhat rolling, changing “parkscape” that  is a fun place to go. Skating is free. Rentals are $12 weekdays and $14 Friday through Sunday and holidays. The park is at 337 E. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60601.

For hours and events visit Skating Ribbon

 

Other Chicago Park District Rinks

The city has seven other outdoor ice rinks aside from the Maggie Daley Ribbon.  They will stay open through Feb. 20, 2017. To find the location nearest you or one you would like to visit and to see hours and special programs visit CPD.

 

Peninsula Chicago Sky Rink
You can skate with a city view above Michigan Avenue if eating, using the Spa or staying at the Peninsula Chicago. The upscale hotel has added an ice rink to its Terrace in a romantic setting of pine trees and snowflake lighting. Snack or warm up with hot cider, hot chocolate and other treats. The rink is open through March 1, 2017. Donations of $15 adults and $10 children age 12 and under go to children’s charities.

For other information and rink availability visit Sky Rink and call  (312) 337-2888.