Instead of stopping merely to stretch, think of the stop as a way to make a driving trip extra special. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting there we don’t take advantage of the unusual museums actually located along our way or in towns we’ll stop at anyway.
Because many towns have multiple sights it’s easier to fit in a place that makes it into popular guides. However, doing so may mean losing out on a place you will be excitedly recommending to others.
The following places are just a few of the unusual stops that a lucky travel writer might have uncovered. (Feel free to add your own recommendations.)
The Archway: If taking I80 across Nebraska, do more then stop to take a photo and go under the picturesque arch crossing above the highway at Kearney.
Opened in 2000, it celebrates the early and modern travelers who went west along the Great Platte River. See and hear life-like figures tell their stories against stagecoach and wagon backdrops. There’s even a more modern vista of autos and diners.
City Museum: If taking I70 or any of the other roads that lead to St. Louis, MO, make time to go downtown to explore this weirdly crazy museum. It opened about 25 years ago in an abandoned shoe factory. You will definitely feel like an explorer as you listen to menacing organ sounds while finding unexpected objects and pathways inside, outside on the roof and along different levels including underground.
Traveling North South
If driving the 101 to LA, go downtown to its latest museum, the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum that opened in 2021. it often updates exhibitions so you might catch old movies and costumes one time and might see Star Wars figures the next time.
4. If taking I 55 down to New Orleans, LA go to the warehouse district for the spectacular National WWII Museum. It has planes and artifacts but it is not about planes. It is a multimedia experience with immersive exhibits and first- person histories. Its “Expressions of America” reveals reflections of the men and women who served. It’s new Liberation Pavilion opens early Nov. 2023.
Even though spring vacation is mostly over travel how-to decisions still lie ahead. It seems there is more than one way than the family car or name airlines to get to your destination.
Go by bus in the Midwest
There are now more options than the family car for students to get back and forth from campuses in the Midwest and for vacationers to visit some Midwest cities without worrying about construction hassles and rising gas prices.
As of April 3, 2023, Megabus now partners with Indian Trails to expand service between cities in Illinois such as Chicago and Michigan, such as Ann Arbor, plus Wisconsin to include Milwaukee and Green Bay, and to Minneapolis in Minnesota.
“We are delighted to be expanding our service offerings once again in the Midwest,” said Megabus Vice President Colin Emberson. “This partnership will allow us to expand travel opportunities for customers in some existing cities in our network like Detroit and Chicago while also welcoming customers in a plethora of new cities.”
Traveling now during the pandemic means packing differently and even doing some homework before you go.
You may already know where you want to go but if not sure of best places to while Covid-19 cases are still spiking you can check out a couple of websites to help you decide. Their statistics do vary as states change their guidelines.
For states that require masks, have some requirement or none visit msn/. To compare your state’s Covid cases with a couple of other states, check out states comparison covid cases.
We are so used to doing things automatically that sometimes we don’t even realize what we are touching.
Don’t forget that gas pumps and the buttons pressed can be contaminated so either wear gloves and use disinfecting spray on them immediately afterwards before touching your car’s door handle or disinfect hands if no gloves.
If not camping out, check the protocols of places you are likely to stay while getting to the destination and at the destination.
Consider bringing your own pillows and a couple of extra pillow cases.
Social distancing is not possible when flying. In addition, many airlines’ blocked-seat policy expired Sept. 30, 2020 so call around to see which ones have extended that policy. Also ask if temperatures are taken before boarding and if a strict mask policy is in enforced.
Check how many miles are needed to upgrade to first or business class. If you have accumulated some this may be a good time to use them. Remember that most passengers usually board after first class so try to board after them or sit by a window.
Depending on trip length bring a supply of masks, hand sanitizers, wipes and washing machine or hand wash detergent packages.
Avoid the heavy road traffic of Labor Day Weekend by taking your well-deserved escape mid-September to mid-October.
The scenery, shops hiking paths and wine trails of the northwestern edge of Michigan from Frankfort and Sleeping Bear Dunes to Leland and Traverse City are snapshot perfect. And they follow state and local Covid protection protocols.
Thanks to some trunks, the Winnetka-based Kaehler Luggage chain was born 100 years ago. Now the company is inviting the public to celebrate its century mark at its Mag Mile store, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, at 11 a.m., Jan. 28 2020. The celebration includes a champagne toast, packing demonstrations and a 100-year history.
To find out more about the company and how the stores are relevant to today’s travelers, Travel Smart talked with owner Wallace Kaehler Jr. popularly known as “Buzz.” And yes, there will be a trunk at the anniversary party,” said Buzz.
If you heard that Thanksgiving was busy at Chicago’s airports so decided to drive to grandma’s house in a 6 or 8 horse-powered sleigh or will fly anyway for the holiday season, OK. But be prepared, patient and smart. And let the decorations and music bring out a few smiles.
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) says that O’Hare and Midway International Airports are expected to be among the busiest airports in the country for Christmas-through-New Year holiday travel with nearly 5 million passengers expected over the travel period from Dec. 19, 2019 through Jan. 6, 2020.
Pointing out that Chicago is a top holiday destination, CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said, “On behalf of Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago aviation community, we are excited to be a gateway for holiday travel – and holiday cheer – for so many. CDA and its airline partners are well prepared to provide a safe and efficient experience for millions of travelers during this holiday season,”
A couple of significant points were made during a press conference Dec. 20 that bare noting.
First is the forthcoming legalization of cannabis in Chicago Jan. 1, 2020. “To ensure safe travel for all residents and visitors, we’re encouraging all travelers not to bring cannabis through Chicago’s airports as it still remains illegal under federal law.” Said Chicago Police Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck.
That means that travelers cannot expect to pass through the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoints with any amount of cannabis because it remains illegal across state lines, and possession of cannabis may be illegal in the state or country to which you are traveling.
Secondly, even though Chicago’s airports are proud of the smooth passage to airport gates, the CDA and the TSA strongly urge passengers to arrive at the airport two hours before domestic departures and three hours ahead of international departures to allow for ticketing, baggage checks and security screening.
Third, according to the TSA passengers should not bring wrapped gifts through the checkpoints, as they are subject to closer inspection by officers.
Fourth is to know about facilities. Traveler-friendly upgrades have been happening this past year including restrooms in O’Hare and restaurants in Midway. There are better infant care areas including a new Mother’s Room in Terminal 3 near Gate L6 and a new family assist restroom, also in Terminal 3 on the H Concourse.
Midway has 23 new restaurant and retail locations with more planned. The Midway Central Express Market, features hot food as well as a variety of garb & go items such as fresh sushi, tasty parfaits and more. Visit flychicago.com for a map of all dining and retail choices at both airports.
At O’Hare, Winter Wonder, a new family-friendly entertainment, activity, and retail activation is in Terminal 1 near Gate C11. Fly with Butch O’Hare Family Lounge is in Terminal 2 and also in Terminal 3 (near Gate K2).
Last, but not least, is to take time to see the holiday trees decorated by Chicago’s cultural institutions and enjoy the music provided by the CDA. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Midway this week and at O’Hare on Dec. 23, between noon and 2 p.m,
For more information visit Fly Chicago. . The Website also contains real-time information on flights, regular updates on traffic and weather, real-time taxicab wait times, and other special alerts for the traveling public
Sometimes my family stayed on a Disney property. Other times we stayed at a nearby resort but rented a car. This time, I decided to accompany a small group whose aim was to check out a variety of attractions and travel options in the Kissimmee area.
The result was one surprise after another.
This was to be a no-car rental vacation. Yes, renting a car will likely be an option for some families and couples but we wanted to see what could work without that choice.
Just cleaned out the cabinet over my kitchen desk and found a travel journal I used years ago when going around Spain, later what was then (Josip Broz) Tito’s Yugoslavia, and even later, around Italy and Switzerland.
There was no way I could go back to my computer to finish a current travel article I started until I read through the whole journal.
From delightful Spanish Paradores (restored castles, monasteries) where we stayed to the fascinating town of Rondo on a scary drive up a precipitous mountain road, and from driving around the Kotor Fjord in Montenegro to meandering through the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, reminiscing past adventures took up the rest of the day. And that was not counting reliving the Italy-Switzerland trip.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop for a bite at the Garden View Café where you can eat indoors or outside on a deck with a view.
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).