Not sure when our weather predicting ground hogs thought spring was putting in an early appearance but waiting for that warm weather to come to Chicago while sunning in Arizona is looking pretty good right now.
Besides, both Chicago baseball teams are there and won’t be back home until April; the 8th for the Cubs against the Padres and the 4th against the Mariners for the Sox. And their spring training facilities are in good vacation areas.
The Cubs’ Sloan Park, otherwise known by its somewhat similar layout and vendors as Wrigleyville West, is in Mesa.
An easily doable, laid back town with a couple of museums, outlet shopping, and is down the road from good restaurants, mountain scenery, and close to highways.
You’ll know Sloan Park in Wiglleyville by the street signs: Waveland Avenue is on the north, Sheffield Avenue is on the east and Clark street on the west.
Cubs tickets at other teams’ AZ parks might be easier to get than at Sloan and visiting other parks is also fun.
More tips from guest travel writer Arlene Davis who enjoys traveling alone at age 76.
Decide what kind of trip you want: Are you a theater-goer, a sports nut, a walker? I spent 3 weeks in London never went to the theater; that just doesn’t appeal to me; I would rather be out walking. By deciding on your type of trip, you can pack accordingly (see “Pack Light”).
Pack light: You don’t need a fresh t-shirt every day. If it’s warm, your shirt may need to be hung outside the closet so it ‘airs out’ a little. A day or two later you can wear it again. While you might not be “out of the shower fresh”, who cares? At some point that shirt will need to go into the outside pocket of your suitcase to be laundered at home, but on this trip it can be worn for several days. The same is true for shorts, slacks, etc. Coordinate tops and bottoms so every top can be worn with whatever shorts or slacks you are taking.
Disposable underwear (don’t laugh): The smartest thing I pack is disposable underwear. They are individually wrapped (look like Tampax) and fit easily into all corners of your suitcase. It’s wonderful not to worry about finding a laundry in some out-of-the-way place. Wear ‘em and toss ‘em. When you add the cost into the total cost of your trip, the expense is negligible.
I purchase mine from the Magellan’s Travel website. If I’m on a trip lasting more than 4 days, disposable undies go with me.
Soap your shoes: Small wrapped hotel-type bars of soap are perfect to keep your shoes smelling fresh. Place 2 bars of soap (still wrapped) into each shoe overnight. You’ll be amazed at how your shoes are ‘ready to go’ the next day. I’ve used the same bars of soap for several weeks. This way you can pack only one pair of sturdy walking shoes. My trips never include ‘dress-up’ days or evenings, so my one pair of cross-trainers is enough to carry me for the whole trip, without having to pack more.
Talk to (almost) everyone: Standing in line in a market, waiting to be seated in a restaurant, waiting for public transportation, etc., start a conversation with someone else in line. While on a bus in a small village in the Costswolds (England), I met a woman who has become a close, valued friend over the last 11 years. Of course, language can be a barrier, but it’s surprising how many travelers know enough English to have a conversation. It makes waiting much more pleasant, and it’s fun to talk to someone from another corner of the world.
Here are five tips from guest travel writer Arlene Davis that make up Part I:
Arlene Davis is a 76-year-old world traveler who took her first trip overseas at the age of 65 where she was clearly hit by the travel bug. These days she loves to explore alone and has picked up quite a few savvy rules of the road along the way. She’s now sharing her best travel trips for women who would like to “go solo.”
Do your homework
Request brochures from travel companies, tourism bureaus, use the library, etc. Decide what you want to see and how much time to devote to each. Figure out what attractions are near each other so you can see more than 1 each day. Have your days planned out, but leave lots of time for unexpected finds along the way. If you’re lucky enough to have more than just a few days, try not to exhaust yourself. You can start out at 10 a.m. after a leisurely breakfast, and plan to be done sightseeing by 4 p.m. Then you have enough time to rest and relax before going out to dinner.
Prior to my first trip to England, I purchased tickets online to many of the most popular tourist attractions; i.e., Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, etc. I was able to walk past long lines of people waiting to purchase their tickets and be admitted immediately. Most tickets have a 5-7 day window of time to use them. I also had all my train and bus tickets between London, Bath, and the city where I stayed in the Cotswolds.
In addition to advance planning, be sure to remain flexible. I can’t count the number of times I was headed to a particular place and en route something else caught my attention and it was hours before I reached my original destination. These little diversions are one of the great joys of traveling on your own and not being locked into anyone else’s schedule.
Live like (and with) a ‘Local’
Name brand chain hotels are pretty much the same the world over. Try to stay in a small, family-owned hotel/inn. The desk clerk at the name hotel will steer you to all the typical tourist-y places, while the local owner will know exactly what restaurant serves the food you are craving. The accommodations may be a little “quirky” and not what you’d expect in a typical name-brand hotel, but isn’t that one of the reasons you travel? I rely on books by Rick Steves, available at your local library, for recommendations to local inns.
Go with the flow
When things aren’t exactly up to the same standards as in the U.S., remind yourself that you intentionally left the U.S. to absorb a different culture. When the shower’s water pressure feels more like someone dribbling on you, don’t tell the front desk “Back in the U.S. we have …” Delete that phrase from your vocabulary for the entire trip. If it takes an extra two minutes to rinse out shampoo, so what? If the bathroom is so small you have to turn sideways to get into the minuscule stall shower, so what? Enjoy each and every experience, no matter how different from back home, they make wonderful stories to tell.
Maybe the handlers of Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and Woodstock Willie in Illinois decided the Midwest and Northeast US deserved spring.
But whatever guideline they used from how cloudy it was when they woke their respective groundhogs early in the morning Feb. 2 when no shadow was seen, to possibly consulting the Farmers’ Almanac, they both announced an early spring for 2019.
Maybe you don’t believe that a groundhog, a large member of the squirrel family also called a woodchuck, can predict if spring will come soon or if winter will remain will stay around six weeks past Feb. 2.
The historic background of Groundhog Day, supposedly founded in a European agriculture belief, doesn’t really matter if you loved the Harold Ramis/Danny Rubin movie that came out in 1993.
What should motivate you to travel to Woodstock, IL, about an hour northwest of Chicago, is that the town celebrates Groundhog Day every Feb. 2 by reenacting the movie’s prognostication, showing the movie and giving tours of the movie’s Woodstock sites. It’s fun and free.
Even though the action supposedly takes place in Punxsutawney, PA with groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, most of the movie was filmed around the picturesque square in Woodstock, a location within commuting distance of Harold Ramis’ north suburban home.
The fun begins very early in the morning with groundhog Woodstock Willie taken from his tree-trunk abode. A whispered conference that really depends on if it’s sunny enough for Willie to see his shadow and so scurry back into his hole for six more weeks or cloudy enough for him to stay out because Spring is on the way.
It all takes place on the town’s square with a polka band playing in the bandstand as in the movie. Surrounding the Square are such recognizable “Groundhog Day” places as the tall structure that really is Woodstock’s historic opera house, its old-fashioned movie house, the café and the slippery “Bing” stoop
So, go see the reenactment at 7 a.m. Feb. 2, the movie at 10 am Feb. 2 or Feb. 3, the walking tour of movie sties at 1L30 Feb. 2, 12:30 Feb. 3. ending with hot cider at the B&B where Bill Murray as TV weatherman Phil Conners, stayed and woke up to the radio alarm every morning, every morning, every morning. The event will feature actor Stephen Tobolwski who ‘Groundhog Day’ fans know as Ned Ryerson.
Make the trip easy tby snagging a reservation at , the Cherry Tree Inn, the B&B where Phil Conners stayed. (if filled this year, try for next year), or one of the nearby roadside hotels like the Best Western.
Time to start thinking about leisure time, outdoor sports and the next vacation. To get ideas or just enjoy the fun parts of two, get-out-and-do-something shows, check out the The Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show that takes over McCormick Place’s South building Jan. 9 through Jan. 13 and the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show that moves into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont Jan. 12-13, 2019. They both will likely have you drooling, wishing or planning.
Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show™ is not just about walking around and admiring boats or having “inchitis” to move up to a larger craft. See the seminars available to learn more about what you are already doing or hope to do.
If you stop by sponsor Progressive’s Boat Club that is working with the Annapolis School of Seamanship you may get some tips on docking techniques (docking pool) and you can experience a Virtual Reality boating session.
As to the travel aspect, Corona will be encouraging visitors to “Find their Beach) at its Beach Bar & Cantina to put you in a boating frame of mind.
Then there is a booth to test your boating skills (A429) and a Build-a-Boat at Chicago Maritime Arts Center’s section for youngsters and adults. Or let the kids (age 12 and younger) fish for free at Huck’s Pond.
Paddle board enthusiasts or wannabees can see demos and get how-to instruction while sailboat racing aficionados and hopefuls can try remote control sailboat racing or take a free sailing lesson with a simulator.
For those visitors who envision traveling now that they are retired or want to travel with their possessions, there is the RV Info Center with models and experts to fit all needs.
DETAILS: McCormick Place South, 2301 S Lake Shore Drive Chicago IL 60616., Jan. 9-13, 2019. Admission is free to age 12 and younger and $15 age 13 and older but save $2 by purchasing tickets online in advance through Jan,. 8. Senior Day is Jan. 9 to pay $10 for ages 62 and older. For hours, other information and tickets visit Chicago Boat Show.
The Chicago Travel and Adventure Show is a chance to hear about vacation destinations from Africa, Asia and Australia to closer to home adventures in North, Central and South America.
Visit and chat with exhibitors, hear travel experts and sit in on travel seminars. Some of the fun things to do are take SCUBA lessons in a dive pool and take a camel ride, really!
There will also be a trip door prize and giveaways from many booths.
DETAILS: Chicago Travel and Adventure Show is at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center’s Hall F, 5555 N. River rd., Rosemont, IL 6001 Jan. 12-13, 2019.. Tickets are $15 for one day, $22 two days to ages 17 and older and free to children age 16 and younger. Tickets are available at a discount on line for a limited time. For hours and tickets visit Travel and Adventure Show.
You get the gist of this escape. It’s a trip back to mid last century architecture and homes of famous people who wanted to be within a director’s calling distance of LA studios or not too far from Las Vegas stages.
A mere 119 miles southeast of Los Angeles and about 230 miles from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, CA sits on the always sunny (more than 350 days) western edge of Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. The events just mentions are a few of the dozens of tours and activities taking place in and around Palm Springs during the town’s annual Modernism Week, Feb. 14-24, 2019.
The bonus is two, really good shows in the Palm Springs Convention Center. Feb. 15-18, 2019. One is the high-end, Art Palm Springs. The other is a dealers’ Modernism exhibit. Feb. 15-18.
The week, actually 10 days, celebrates the area’s reputation for having more mid-last century homes than anywhere else in the world. Here, old homes are not torn down but are instead, preserved for people who appreciate mid-1900s designs. Indeed, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations architecture list in 2006.
Modernism Week happens twice a year, October and February. The fall event is small but the February one runs out of tickets to some of the popular tours and lectures. Check Tickets to see what is left and snap them up before you go.
Do a bus tour
Definitely get tickets for the Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Taking about 2.5 hours, the bus drives around Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods, and past Desert Spanish estates.
Knowledgeable guides tell stories about the stars and are likely to explain that the Palm Springs area was chosen because of what was then the studios’ “two-hour rule.” Actors had to be available within a couple of hour’s driving time for film and photo shoot calls..
It’s where tour guides have been known to say, “There is Frank Sinatra’s home, Twin Palms. When he was ready to party he hoisted a Jack Daniels flag between the palms.”
Mid-century architecture is so valued that the much photographed gas station at the foot of the area’s Tram, is on the tour as a re-purposed Visitors Center.
Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama have gotten away from cameras here but it is also a resort and golf area for folks who like its year-round summery weather.
Go to the Convention Center shows
At the Modernism Show, wander around the booths of dealers who specialize in 20th century design movements to see furniture and accessories similar to what your parents or grandparents cherished that are now back in style.
At the Art Palm Springs show check out the post war and contemporary art works.
Shop, Visit Galleries, Relax
There is so much to do during Modernism Week, that you should schedule in down-time. Stay awhile to explore the area, shop the boutiques and art galleries. One of the best galleries is Heather James in neighboring Palm Desert. Oh, and get in some golf and spa time. The Greater Palm SpringsVisitors Bureau has lots of ideas.
You don’t need half the stuff in your closet and drawers. Emulate travel writers.
On a recent trip to South Padre Island, none of the four of us travel writers had more than a roller board carry-on plus handbag.
The spinner (four turning wheels at the base) is best for easy walking and the handbag strap fits easily over the suitcase’s pop-up handle so you are basically hands free.
Ladies, you probably, strongly disagree but you don’t need to travel with six pairs of shoes. Pare down to a pair of walking/running shoes, a casual pair of sandals and a dressy pair of shoes/sandals.
The carry-ons out nowadays are roomier than you think and they look. There is room for a hanging bag which means you will already have the tops/dresses you like on hangers, ready to hang in the closet when you get there. If you carefully fit at least two tops inside each other they don’t wrinkle as much and you can fit six tops that way into the hanging bag.
Fit makeup (or shaving kit) and underwear on the bottom of the case between the wheel bars, shoes on either side with and then fold the hanging bag with its hangers on top. Really, try again. It does fit.
If not TSA approved, put liquids in the outside zipper compartment for easy access going through airports. You should be TSA approved. If not, apply. You won’t have to take out liquids from your suitcase.
Don’t forget sunscreen. No matter where you’re going you will be outside sometime. Also, pack or wear a hat. Skin cancer is real.
Now, for the easy stuff you think you know but often forget. You likely have a smart phone with everyone’s info on it but have you left your itinerary with contact information with friends, neighbors and family back home?
I know people whose basements have flooded when the electricity went off and the sump pump stopped working and people who have had a tree topple on the roof from wind or heavy, icy snow.
Now the handbag/ briefcase know-how.
Make a copy of your driver’s license and or passport. Also make copies of your credit card info and phone numbers to call. Keep it in a zippered compartment attached to your handbag/briefcase, not in a separate wallet that could easily be slipped out.
Wallets are taken out of pockets and purses more often than you may think. The time spent doing this is well worth the time. Even if you don’t need any of that this time you might need it back home because holiday shopping season is also pick-pocket/purse season.
Two examples: In Prague, the American Embassy has a stolen-wallet desk and there are warning signs on public transportation. In Chicago, a friend just had her wallet stolen downtown.
It doesn’t hurt to be old-fashioned and wear a money pouch/belt. It used to be common for travels outside the US but it is still a way to safeguard foreign and US currency.
Or be new-fashioned. Look for a Bandolier or Goldno cell-phone wallet on a strap. I wear one whenever I go downtown Chicago. My buss and train pass fit as do a credit and and couple of dollars.
And guys, you may think your back pockets are so tight a thief can’t access your wallet. Wrong. They are adept at bumping people in crowds and often work with an accomplice.
Because you’re smart and do only carry-ons you shouldn’t have to worry about what happens if your luggage is lost. But if you do check luggage through, put an extra pair of underwear/shirt and small make-up, sewing/ shaving kit into your handbag-briefcase.
If you have a tip to share, please put it in comments. Travel tips are welcome.
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.
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.
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.
Whether coming from out of town or the suburbs, spending a weekend downtown Chicago is such a treat you’ll want to make it an annual outing.
To help with the decisions because there’s so much to do and see, here’s a two-day guide (you probably settled in to your hotel last night) of steps and options.
Choose a hotel close enough to walk to many sights shows and bus stops.
The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority has routes that can take you as close as the Magnificent Mile of North Michigan and as far as the Museum of Science and Industry near Hyde Park. St. Jane Hotel on Michigan Avenue would be an example because it is just south of the Chicago River so the North Michigan Avenue shops are within walking distance going north, it is an easy walk north to Millennium Park with its famed Cloud Gate sculpture (The Bean) where visitors take selfies, plus the Art Institute of Chicago and the Theatre District. And it is near a good bus stop.
But check other hotels and prices at the city’s tourism website, Choose Chicago.
Figure out which shows you would like to see so you can snag tickets for those you want at times you want.
As an example Goodman Theatre is once again doing “A Christmas Carol” with terrific scene design and actors and The Joffrey Ballet is doing “The Nutcracker” with exciting choreography and sets that debuted in 2017.
Find show options at League of Chicago Theatres’ site Chicago Plays
Remember to fit in downtime and coffee breaks so you and yours go home smiling, not exhausted.
Two-day weekend divided by location
Day One: South of the Chicago River
Do breakfast at Free Rein, a French brasserie with a patisserie up front that has great croissants but the restaurant also does omelets, oat meal, smoothies and other dishes. Free Rein is at 224 N. Michigan Ave. attached to St Jane Hotel.
After relaxing over coffee, stroll west and south a couple of blocks to Macy’s at State and Randolph Streets to see how the department store decorated its State Street windows this year. Cross State Street to catch the #146 Museum Campus bus on the west side of State Street, and the north side of Washington Street. At he Museum Campus you can see the dinosaurs and mummies at The Field Museum , Penguins and dolphins at the Shedd Aquarium and the Destination Solar System show at the Adler Planetarium.
Tip: The museums have shops that are good for picking up last minute gifts.
Catch the #146 bus back to State and Randolph in front of Macy’s to go up to its Walnut Room on the 7th floor for lunch and to see its three-story tree.
If you couldn’t get a reservation for the Walnut Room, you probably can sit in the bar to the side and do lunch there.
After breakfast cross Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street to walk through Millennium Park, take photos at “The Bean,”hen walk up the Nichols Bridgeway, a walkway from the park’s “Great Lawn” that goes over Monroe Street to the 3rd floor of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.You have a good view of the skyline and the park if you turn around. The Art Institute doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m. so linger over coffee or picture taking at Millennium Park.
Along with seeing famous paintings, visit the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. About seven of the approximately 100 miniature period rooms are decorated for the holidays. But all of them are fascinating.
Tip: Shops in the Art Institute’s main building and modern wing have great gifts.
Take a break with hot chocolate or soup on the mezzanine of the Modern Wing or do lunch at the Park Grill at street level of Millennium Park to watch ice skaters. Or visit the Chicago Architecture Center on Wacker Drive. Its diorama on the main floor shows the Chicago Fire and architectural places of interest. The exhibit upstairs is about skyscrapers. Both exhibits are superb and Chicago is internationally known for its architecture.
Return to the hotel to relax before heading out for cocktails, dinner and a show or go ice skating in Millennium Park followed by a casual dinner at The Gage across Michigan Avenue from the park.
If going to the Goodman Theatre to see “A Christmas Carol” consider making a reservation next door at Petterinos. The restaurant has excellent calamari and a reasonable wine list.
Day Two: North of the Chicago River
Do breakfast at Pierrot Gourmet, a European-style café and bistro similar to Free Rein but this restaurant is attached to the Peninsula Chicago Hotel at Superior and Rush Streets. If you can’t decide on ordering a dish on the menu or trying one of the pastries, eat there and take something to go. The Peninsula Chicago overlooks the Magnificent Mile
Browse the shops on the Magnificent Mile. There are individual stores such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany, department stores such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom and indoor malls such as Water Tower Place, the 900 North Michigan Shops and the Shops at Northbridge.
Take a lunch break at Marisol, a new, neighborhood dining spot that is street level at the Museum of Contemporary Art a block east of Michigan Avenue. The dishes are innovative and yummy. Marisol is at 205 E. Pearson, a block east of Water Tower Place.
Restaurant access has no museum charge. However, there is a wonderful exhibit of Enrico David’s work, “Gradations of Slow Release” at the museum that is definitely worth a look
There are restaurants and food stands at the zoo. When through saying goodnight to the penguins and polar bear, head back to the hotel for a well-deserved night cap and rest.
Shop until ready to go into the John Hancock Center just north of Water tower Place for great views of the city. Take the elevator up to the 96th floor for cocktails and view or to the Signature Room on the 95th for dinner and a view. Reservations are a good idea.