Think lighthouses for next vacation


Door County, WI has some good lighthouses to tour on land and some seen just by boat. (J Jacobs photo)

Making lighthouse stops can be fun or daunting as a vacation theme. Best is to plan ahead because given the amount of shoreline on the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada, there are way too many lighthouse outposts in service and deactivated to fit into one trip.

For some idea of how many lighthouses abound in the region visit the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers’ Regional Map. Count the orange dots or click on them for their info. Yes they are numerous but those don’t tend to include lighthouses that have become landmarks and tour sites such as the Grosse Point (not in Michigan) Lighthouse in Evanston, IL and also available at Grosse Point Lighthouse.

Do notice the white dots on the map. They don’t have information. But the town listed will so go to Holland, MI to learn about its Big Red Lighthouse. it should be considered as a lighthouse road trip. Big Red is reportedly the state’s most photographed lighthouse.

In addition, although not  even as white dots on the GLLKA map, Door County, WI has fun lighthouses to visit as does Traverse City, MI

Don’t worry that it takes a number of years to drive by all the lighthouses, active and not on the Great Lakes.

BTW boating is easier but not all lighthouses in the Great Lakes region are on an existing Great Lake, really. Many lighthouses on the GLLKA map are on islands or inland or far out from the roads. They are or were supposed to steer or warn boaters of potential trouble or guide boaters towards safe harbors.  Also, not all lighthouses are visible by boat, others are not visitable by car.

So, if considering a road trip connected to some Great Lakes lighthouses consider your parameters. Maybe do one state. Michigan, with 3,288 miles of lake shore, claims to have more lighthouses than any other state at 130 so visit Lakeside Lights | Michigan.

Or consider staying just in the United States (not the Canadian side) and think about just one lake area such as Lake Superior’s Upper Peninsula.  

Or consider those that are reputedly haunted. See “Dark side of area lighthouses.” 

Or those that have been repurposed such as B ‘n’ Bs. Two are listed on the GLLKA map and more from across the country are on the United States Lighthouse Accommodations done by the US Lighthouse Society.

Now that you have some ideas to consider the next article will be an easy Midwest/Great Lakes lighthouse trip to Door County, WI.

Why visit Chicago this summer or fall

The 'Bean' in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)
The ‘Bean’ in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)

Music floats on summer breezes in southeastern Highland Park, a suburb in Lake County, IL north of Chicago and on the North Metra train line. That is where you will find Ravinia Festival, summer host of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and dozens of concerts from classical and folk to pop and jazz.

But if summer won’t work plan to go this fall when “Hamilton” returns in mid-September. See more schedule info at Chicago Theater and Arts.

Either way, summer and fall are good times to yell and gobble hotdogs and cheesy fries or nachos at Wrigley field for a Cubs game or at Guaranteed Rate Field for a White Sox game.

Chicago’s museums also are interesting destinations this year.

The Art Institute of Chicago is holding a blockbuster van Gogh exhibit. called “Van Gogh and the Avant Garde: The Modern Landscape,” it runs May 14 to September 4.  If you are driving, Route 66 actually starts on the south side of the museum but the sign for it faces the Art Institute across Michigan Avenue. AIC is at 111 S. Michigan Avenue.

With the recent change of England’s royal family, now is perfect to see “First Kings of Europe at the Field Museum. It’s 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive on the city’s Museum Campus with the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.

BTW, Lake Shore Drive is now called Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive to honor its first non-native settler.

Three must stops:

The Chicago Cultural Center, covering a Michigan Avenue block from Randolph to Washington Street, was once the city’s main library and called the “People’s Palace.” its marble staircase and mosaic walls at the Washington Street entrance and cultural information room at the Randolph Street entrance, plus art exhibits on almost every floor are all worth stopping time.

Millenium Park sits across Michigan Avenue from the Cultural Center. This is where you find the city’s famed Bean., also called Cloud Gate, the Pritzker Pavillion/lawn with Frank Gehry’s sculptural bandshell and the Crown Fountain of Jaume Plensa’s interactive, “spitting” water. There is also a stairway to an upper floor of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing.

The location of the Chicago Architecture Center on the Chicago River just south of Michigan Avenue is great for taking its famous river boat tour. but it is also a building to visit for a build-out of the Chicago Fire and the upstairs exhibits.

Tip: Don’t try to do everything in one or two days.

Jodie Jacobs






Early May sky show


Spring full moon (J Jacobs photo)
Spring full moon (J Jacobs photo)

May 5 is celebrated as a victorious battle day by Mexican communities in the United States. So if in Chicago find a couple of Cinco de Mayo restaurant deals at Dining Out Eating In.

But if wondering why there are “falling stars” overhead or why it’s so bright outside that night, check out the following information.  

The Flower Moon

If the sky isn’t particularly cloudy where you live than the evening will seem brighter than usual May 4-6, 2023. May’s full Moon has total illumination in the afternoon of May 5 at 1:36 p.m. EDT but will appear full in the evening of May 4-6. The clue to the name of the May full Moon surrounds us almost everywhere there is a plot of earth. 

 The Old Farmer’s Almanac has the time the moon will be rising above the horizon and setting where you live. 

As followers of Travel Smart know by now, the name of a month’s Moon (and yes, it often is referred to the whole month by the same name), often comes from Native American tribes, long ago European farmers and also religions and cultures that base some festivals on lunar events. 

Thus the May Moon is called the Planting Moon, Budding Moon, Milk Moon and Egg Laying Moon. For more name info visit  The Old Farmer’s Almanac and (


Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)


May 5-6 is also when to watch for the Eta Aquarids, a meteor shower that typically sends about 50 meteors an hour across the sky. Their parent is 1pHalley which produces two meteor showers during the year.

The May shower is named for a bright star in constellation Eta Aquarli and is the first meteor shower from Comet Halley debris.

Earth passes through Halley’s path around the Sun again in October when its debris is known as the Orionid meteor shower that peaks around October 20.



Solar eclipse info

Photo from Adler Planetarium Eclipse Exhibit 2017
Photo from Adler Planetarium Eclipse Exhibit 2017

Remember when about half dozen years ago there was a solar eclipse Aug. 21 in 2017 and places to stay near group watch locations filled fast?

NASA is already making plans on where to send experts for watch parties for the next solar eclipse. It’s less than a year, April 8, 2024.

If interested make plans to travel to Kerrville, TX, Indianapolis, IN and Cleveland, OH. NASA will set up group watching places with experts to talk about what is happening. And they are likely to have the special glasses and equipment needed to safely watch.

However, there will be an Annular Eclipse to watch this fall, Oct. 14, 2023. Although the sun will appear as a ring around the Moon, it still is dangerous to watch without precautionary measures.

The moon will appear small because its orbit has it near its farthest distance from Earth. But it will not be safe to watch this eclipse without good protection for the eyes because the Earth will not be blocking the Sun.

NASA will be broadcasting the Annular Eclipse from Kerrville, TX and Albuquerque, NM.

Visit NASA Solar Eclipse to see both the 2023 Annular and 2024 Full Eclipse paths.

The Lyrids are here


Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)


The prolific Lyrid Meteor Shower fills the skies with “falling stars” April 15 through April 29, 2023. But to really see them in action check the late night sky after the moon has set during their peak activity April 22-23.

However, the moon should not be a factor because it is between its new moon (dark) phase April 20 and First Quarter Moon (sliver) April 27.

The Lyrids typically produce about 18 meteors per hour traveling about 29 miles per second. On rare occasions they have produced a storm of meteorites shooting across the sky.

Lyrids’ arrival in Earth’s atmosphere is an annual sky event discovered by A.E. Thatcher in April, 1861. Thus, they are formally attributed as debris from Comet Thatcher (comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher).

To get a good idea of where they seem to originate visit Time and Date for its live-action photo centered on an area between the constellation Lyra (The Harp) with its bright Vega star, and its neighbor, constellation Hercules.

Best is to go out after midnight through pre-dawn when the star, Vega, is overhead. Be patient and allow your eyes to acclimate to the dark sky. You don’t have to look for the Lyrids’ radiant (origination point) because their trail appears longer further away.

If you have ever seen a sky show in a planetarium such as the Adler in Chicago, you know that stars and constellations rise and move from one direction in the sky to another.  So, you may look northeast early in the evening for Vega, then overhead as the night progresses and then more southwest at dawn. 

For more information visit Space and Earth Sky.

Travel to colleges and vacation destination


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.

Megabus has added more Midwest destinations. (Photo courtesy of Megabus)
Megabus has added more Midwest destinations. (Photo courtesy of Megabus)

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.”

For more information, dates, rates and locations visit Megabus and Indian Trails


Go by Seaplane in the Northeast. Photo courtesy of Tailwind)
Go by Seaplane in the Northeast. Photo courtesy of Tailwind)

  Go by seaplane in the Northeast

Tailwind Air reopens for the season April 14, 2023 at Boston Harbor (IATA code: BNH) and Manhattan’s Skyport Seaplane Base on East 23rd Street (IATA code: NYS).

It also announced the launch of its newest seaplane route, Boston Harbor to Nantucket Airport (IATA code: ACK). The new Nantucket route, a popular summer destination will begin operations May 17.

The new daily service to Nantucket will take approximately 45 minutes from Boston Harbor. One- stop connections from Manhattan are also available.

Tailwind Air, which already includes such destinations as Provincetown and the Hamptons, plans to resume flights to Washington DC this fall. Visit their website at


National Parks are part of Amtrak destinations. (Photo courtesy of Amtrak)
National Parks are part of Amtrak destinations. (Photo courtesy of Amtrak)

Go by train in the U.S.

Amtrak has added several options to vacation travel including taking an Auto Train similar to a car ferry so you’ll have your car when you get there.

Or if going traveling long distance book a private room,  meals included.

Amtrak also has National Park routes as vacation destinations.

Check out Amtrak routes and schedules.


Planet Parade plus Pink Moon


Venus, Jupiter, Moon shine from Space station. (Photo taken by former Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly NASA photo)
Venus, Jupiter, Moon shine from Space station. (Photo taken by former Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly NASA photo)

Look up Tuesday night, March 27 (best night) and all this week for what appears to be a parade of five planets, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Uranus, plus the moon and star cluster M35. 

See them live on EarthSky. Or follow what NASA Astronomer Bill Cooke said, “Look at the western horizon right after sunset.”

OK, accept the challenge and find an unobstructed view of the western sky away from electric lights. The setting sun will still be a problem but give it a shot.

The first two planets to look for are Mercury and Jupiter but don’t wait. They set about half an hour after sunset. Jupiter will appear brighter than Mercury but both could be a problem because of the fading sunlight. Binoculars might help but you can see them without them . They will appear close together.

Then, look for Venus which always appears to be bright. When looking at Venus you might see Uranus as a pale green color dot to the upper left.

Find Mars. It ls not as visible as it was in November when closer to earth. However, look for the moon then check out the bright, yellowish orange dot at the upper left of the moon.

For the M35 star cluster look for its Geminit constellation.

For more information on this unusual parade visit Space.


Spring full moon (J Jacobs photo)
Spring full moon (J Jacobs photo)

 Next Full Moon

A week after the planet parade the Pink Moon will dominate the sky.

It will be full April 5-6, reaching full illumination at 12:37 a.m. ET April 6 but will appear full April 4-7. The best time to appreciate how large it will look is at it rises

The Old Farmer’s Almanac  talks about the color pink and other names. Pink is supposed to be for the color of wild flowers appearing in early April.

As the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 20), it is also called the Paschal Moon which sets the date for Easter, this year April 9. The April full moon is also called the Breaking Ice Moon, Budding Moon and Growing Moon.

For more information on when it will appear full in your area visit Time and Date.


A tool for you


March full moon is the Worm Moon. (J Jacobs photo)
March full moon is the Worm Moon. (J Jacobs photo)

You probably know that today Feb. 21, is called Fat Tuesday and is when people like to eat foods they don’t during Lent. And, maybe you know that Mardi Gras translates as Fat Tuesday (Tuesday fat).

Or ask others if they knew that Friday, Feb. 24 is Yukon Heritage Day in Canada.

For other holiday info check out Holidays worldwide (

Did you notice the link took you to Time and Date?

I like the website because it does a good job of keeping info short and to the point regarding the moon, planets, meteor showers and space stuff and more.

Now for your tool.

The site also has a make-your-own calendar. For March go to Calendar/timeanddateIt has design options.

You can download and write in the next full moon date. It is called the Worm Moon. See more at moon Phases/Lunar calendar.

Of course with a site name that includes “time,” it also gives hours and minutes info around the world at The World Clock — Worldwide (

Have fun with timeanddate.

Orchids up close and personal at Chicago Botanic Garden


Artist Carolyn McMahon gets inspiration and later some orchids for a pot she made. (Photo by artist Mark McMahon)
Artist Carolyn McMahon gets inspiration and later some orchids for a pot she made. (Photo by artist Mark McMahon)

Visitors to Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual Orchid Show walk around a profusion of color before seeing what looks like a tunnel leading to the greenhouses. But they should consider the title of the 2023 Orchid Show – “Magnified.”

The floral covered structure is one way to interpret or introduce visitors to another way of looking at and appreciating orchids – through a lens.

Past shows have featured such aspects as orchid occasions and locations. “Magnified” suggests viewing a variety of orchids through lenses to better see different characteristics.

Jodi Zombolo, Botanic Garden associate vice president of programs, pointed out that “Magnified” showcased the beauty of orchids through “immersive” experiences.

 “This show provides a playful opportunity to connect with and admire each orchid part,” said Zombolo. She hoped the experience would leave visitors “inspired and wowed.”

Signs suggest what to seek and find. (J Jacobs photo)
Signs suggest what to seek and find. (J Jacobs photo)


Column of orchids at Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show (J Jacobs photo
Column of orchids at Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show (J Jacobs photo









Visitors can view up close and personal, single orchids through strong lenses across from the greenhouses. Next to them are labels that suggest what to look for.

Looking at orchids from one side (J Jacobs photo)
Looking at orchids from one side (J Jacobs photo)









 Then, when strolling through the greenhouses they will get the larger picture. Some orchids like to grow in columns and others, individually and in bunches.


Be sure to gaze through lenses in the Regenstein corridor before or after the show. (Jacobs photo)
Be sure to gaze through lenses in the Regenstein corridor before or after the show. (Jacobs photo)
Orchids in the Greenhouses are in bunches, paired and individually showcased. ( J Jacobs photo)
Orchids in the Greenhouses are in bunches, paired and individually showcased. ( J Jacobs photo)









To turn the Orchid show into a special event, come to After-Hours or when a sale is taking place. 

After-Hours: Feb. 14 and Thursdays 5-8 p.m. (Requires different tickets) Sales: Venders are there March 25-26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Illinois Orchid Society Spring Show and sale are March 11-12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 The Post Orchid Show Plant Sale is March 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden Orchids Magnified.



Visit Abe Lincoln



families like to pose in the foyer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)
Families like to pose in the foyer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
(Photo by Jodie Jacobs)


Take advantage of Presidents Day, Monday Feb. 20, 2023, to get to know Abe Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. A federal holiday when schools and some businesses are closed, the extra day off is a chance to sightsee everything Lincoln all at one time in historic Springfield, IL.

Or go a week earlier to take advantage of free admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Feb. 11-12.  Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, KY, Feb. 12, 1809, so Springfield and the museum celebrate his birthdate each year with events and special admissions. The museum’s normal rates are adults $15, seniors and students with ID $12 and children (5-15) $6. But for Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration admission is free.

Among items recently added to the museum is Lincoln’s definition of democracy found on a piece of paper among the artifacts: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” 

Either way, Springfield, IL and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum are worth a visit.

The Visitors Center is in the building that housed the law office of Abraham Lincoln and his partner. (J Jacobs photo)
The Visitors Center is in the building that housed the law office of Abraham Lincoln and his partner. (J Jacobs photo)

What to see

Visitors Center – located in the building that housed the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, 1 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, it’s a good place to choose where to go, get advice on how much time to spend at each place and where to park or walk. Count on staying in Springfield for at least two days because the town has a lot to see and do including stuff for Route 66 aficionados. As its address implies, the Plaza also has the Old State Capitol building where politicians, including Barak Obama, stood on its historic steps to speak to the world.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum – Way more than just a holding place for Lincoln artifacts, the Presidential Museum, located at 212 N. 6th St., has live, you-are-there shows, interesting movies and period characters including Abe, wandering the halls. The museum has interactive vignettes from his early years, political life and Civil War. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is across the street. Both buildings need tickets.

Lincoln’s Home – A good place to see the furnishings of the period, the home is at 426 S. 7th St. Take a tour and learn more about his and his family’s years in the house.

Lincoln’s Tomb – This stunning memorial to Abram Lincoln is outside the downtown area at 1500 Monument Avenue in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetary

Dana Thomas House – an important Frank Llyod Wright designed dwelling at 301 E. Lawrence Ave.

Lincoln’s New Salem – A re-constructed historic village at 15588 History Ln. (Rt 97) Petersburg  20 miles northwest of Springfield, it portrays the life and times of Lincoln’s early years before turning to politics. 

Illinois State Capitol – an imposing structure at 401 S. 2nd St,, its dome can be seen from the highway. See the rotunda and tour the legislative assembly rooms open between sessions.

For more attractions go to Visit Springfield/Attractions

Lincoln's New salem. ( J Jacobs photo)
Lincoln’s New salem. ( J Jacobs photo)

 Where to stay

Because Springfield is both the state capital and home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the town is “packed” with places to stay ranging from B&Bs and popular chains to large hotels.

Two of my favorites are The State House inn, a smallish, mid-last century hotel at 101 E. Adams St. It is across from the Illinois State Capitol and six blocks from the Presidential Museum, and the Inn at 835 Boutique Hotel, at 835 S. 2nd Street, a historic inn convenient to the Dana Thomas House and Lincoln’s Home.

Why two weekend dates

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is a state holiday on Feb. 12th in California, Connecticut, Missouri, and Illinois.  Presidents’ Day was originally celebrating the birthday of George Washington Feb. 22, 1732 in Virginia. It was celebrated as a Federal holiday in the 1880s. The short story is that following lots of haggling and changes of mind, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill that moved holiday celebrations to Monday. Thus Washington’s Birthday celebration became Presidents’ Day in honor of Washington and Lincoln. 

Jodie Jacobs