Open House Chicago becomes a travel experience in person or from home

Pui Tok Center Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Flicker Acct Jasmeet)
Pui Tok Center Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Flicker Acct Jasmeet)

Typically, Open House Chicago is a visit in-person experience that involves entering historic and interesting places in and around Chicago.

In 2020, the year of Covid, places of architectural and historic significance are visited outside on mapped trails and sites or virtually thanks to  a beautifully constructed app made available through the Chicago Architecture Center.

You could but don’t have to journey to Chicago by plane, train or auto. The app allows anyone, anywhere, to visit the places, hear narrations, read  about historic sites and see what they look like inside and out.

Be warned, once started on this journey it becomes addictive. However, it only lasts 10 days, from Oct. 16 through Oct. 25, so better start now before the experience is gone.

Givins Castle in Beverly (Photo by Eric Allix Rogers)
Givins Castle in Beverly (Photo by Eric Allix Rogers)

What to expect

The app includes explorations of more than 20 Chicago neighborhoods, ranging from Oak Park, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Rogers Park and Hyde Park to Bronzeville, Chinatown, Pullman, Beverly and Evanston.

If you are  interested in Open House Chicago, you likely already know that Oak Park is home to several structures designed by famed architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and George Maher. The Neighborhood section not only takes you there but it also has a trail to follow.

In Oak Park, it is the Frank Lloyd Wright; Portrait of a Young Architect Trail of seven houses he designed early in his career.. Click on the speaker to narration about the house by Adam Rubin, Chicago Architecture Foundation’s director of interpretation

In the Pullman neighborhood built by George Pullman to house his workers, you learn that its history is important from a labor and urban planning standpoint and you visit its Queen Anne Style Hotel Florence, an Illinois State Historic site.

Then check out the Tied Houses on the Pullman Trail that include the Schlitz Row Brewery Stable.

In the Evanston neighborhood, the “explore like a local” section takes you to the Mitchelll Museum of the American Indian in Evanston and the Illinois Holocaust Museum  in Skokie.

You may get the idea that you can become addicted to the app’s explorations.  But for a  good demo of how it all works go to zoom/rec/play. And if interested in public programs visit Programs.

There are so many choices of how to explore the city and environs that Open House Chicago really is a travel experience.

Enjoy!

 

 

Where to keep travel notes

 

My Travel Journal illustrated by Katie Vernon. (Photo by J Jacobs)
My Travel Journal illustrated by Katie Vernon. (Photo by J Jacobs)

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 fascinating town of Rondo on a scary drive up a precipitous mountain road and from driving around the Kotor fijord in Montenegro to meandering through 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.

Continue reading “Where to keep travel notes”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stroll around tulips and visit a real windmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodie Jacobs

 

Five really good places that make the holidays better

 

Granted the giving, religious and entertainment aspects are important but that still leaves shopping, food and restaurants to go with friends and family and specialty items to find.

So, even though it’s not always all about food or cakes here are two places that excel in those categories. And even thought it’s not all about shopping these two places have fun or unusual gifts and other items you’ll want or need for holiday celebrations.

Plus, even though it’s not just about toys, this place has something that will appeal to different interests and ages.

Chocolate Sanctuary is a restaurant in Gurnee that uses cocoa for savory and sweet dishes.
Chocolate Sanctuary is a restaurant in Gurnee that uses cocoa for savory and sweet dishes.

 

The Chocolate Sanctuary

Chocoholics rejoice. Go here because owners Bill and Donna Collazo have found a way with their executive and pastry chefs to infuse cocoa in entrees, appetizers, breads and butters, desserts and drinks.

But you don’t have to order any of those because this is a full-service restaurant where all the food is delish. BTW, the restaurant’s meats are supplied by Allen Brothers whose clients include some of Chicago’s top steak houses.

However, you will want to linger and relax here because it’s not so noisy that you can’t have a conversation and the owners’  motto and believed in by their staff, is that customers always are important and come first.

The bonus is that the chocolates you will see in a case when you leave are made in house and are irresistible so you’ll want a box to give and to eat at home.

The Chocolate Sanctuary is at 5101 Washington St. Gurnee at the corner with Milwaukee Avenue. For reservations and other information call (224) 944-0808 and visit Chocolate Sanctuary.

 

Ambrosia

Do what folks in northwest suburban Barrington area do. They know they can count on Ambrosia, a European-style patisserie, to come up with the perfect pastries to serve friends and families for holiday parties so they order but also stop in to see what looks interesting, creative and delectable.

This is also a good place to go for breakfast if you crave croissants that are sweet or savory. Choose what you want at the counter including coffee and bring them over to atable. But forget trying to resist bringing something to have later at home.

Ambrosia is at 710 W. Northwest Hwy., Barrington. For more information call (847) 304-8278 and visit Discover Ambrosia.

Ambrosia, a European style patisserie.Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Ambrosia, a European style patisserie.Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

The Olive Tap

Long Grove is a fun place to visit December weekends when it has carolers and carriage rides but you will want to stop in at the Olive Tap, weekends or weekdays to pick up gifts for the holidays.

You get to taste different olive oils and vinaigrettes before you buy. However what is most important is that the store’s products are fresh. They also know how to package items so they look special.

The Olive tap is at 240 Robert Parker Coffin Road, Long Grove. For more information call (847) 478-8741 or visit The Olive Tap.

 

Paper Source

The store has been the place  to go in Highland Park  for years when needing cards, invites, announcements and great wrapping paper. However, it shines during the holidays with all kinds of stocking stuffers you never would have thought of. It’s a great place to browse so enjoy and don’t be in a hurry.

The Paper Source is at 490 Central Ave Highland Park,  For more information call (847) 266-6100 or to get some ideas visit PaperSource.

 

Sage Explorers 

Paper Source is filled with holidays items. Jodie Jacobs photo
Paper Source is filled with holidays items. Jodie Jacobs photo

Among the unusual aspects of this toy store, a new shop that opened Sept. 2, 2017 in Lake Forest, is that visitors can try out and play with the toys.

Educators are on hand to answer questions, offer suggestions and when needed, schedule learning sessions because the store is also a Learning Center.

Sage Explorers is at 644 N Bank Ln, Lake Forest. For more information call (224) 249-3658 visit Sage Explorers.

 

Happy Holidays!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Plan now for a Cubs spring training vacation

 

It’s not too early to make ticket and hotel arrangements for Cubs spring training games. The Cubs have already announced their opening games in Arizona.

Sloan Park before the crowd enters Jodie Jacobs Photo
Sloan Park before the crowd enters
Jodie Jacobs Photo

First up, they play Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Park in Phoenix Feb. 23. The rest of that weekend they are playing Texas Rangers in Sloan Park Feb. 24 and the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale Stadium, Feb. 25. The next week through March 1, the Cubs will be at home at Sloan against the Seattle Mariners Feb. 26, the Chicago White Sox, Feb. 27, Oakland Athletics Feb. 28 and Colorado Rockies Mar. 1.

Even though the tickets are not yet on sale, the Cubs have a spring training waiting list. So best chance to get what you want is to sign up at MLB Sloan Spring.

To be in the middle of the Cubs action, consider the Sheraton Mesa at Wrigleyville West that is right there, abutting Sloan Park.

However, there are several good chain hotels and resorts near all the spring training ball parks. Plus there are lots of excellent golf courses, good shopping and outstanding museums that turn a spring training visit into a vacation.

Check out Visit Mesa, Visit Phoenix and Experience Scottsdale and Sloan Park.

Related articles: Spring Training at Wrigleyville West (2016 dates but tips are still valid)