A new exhibition has arrived in Chicagoland and you won’t want to miss it, especially if you are a lover of the hit TV Series, Downton Abbey!
Downton Abbey, The Exhibition just opened at Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie on November 10th and will run through March 31, 2024. This self-guided exhibition features never-before-seen elements from the show to connect fans and make you feel like you’re a part of the set.
The experience is about 60-90 minutes long and transports you to post-Edwardian England, where the beloved characters and the iconic house come to life. You’ll be immersed in the fascinating social history, culture, and some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run and it’s previous blockbuster feature films. While touring the space you’ll see Mrs. Patmore’s hectic kitchen and Carson’s office, the Crawley family’s glamorous dining room, to over 60 of the show’s official costumes! The fashion, of course, was my favorite part. They really had every detail of the times down to a tee! I also loved some of the production-used props and exclusive footage from the series.
The exhibition was hailed by The New York Times as a “cleverly immersive experience mounted with the same exacting care as the show itself.” Now you can experience it in Chicago for a limited time. Children ages 11 and under visit for free when accompanied by a paying adult. You also have a VIP option that allows guests to visit the exhibition on the selected date of visit at any time during normal operating hours. This ticket includes a complimentary audio guide and official show catalog, which is not included with the timed-entry ticket. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop before you go and snag some Downton Abbey themed merchandise available for purchase.
HOURS of operation: 10am – 6pm (last ticket sold at 5pm) Open weekly from Wednesday-Sunday
Chicago is a great city to explore with your family and there are many free activities to enjoy! If you’re planning a budget-friendly trip to Chicago or live here and just want to explore, here are some of my favorite free kid-friendly activities.
Visit Millennium Park: This public park is located in the heart of downtown Chicago and features beautiful sculptures, fountains, and gardens. The park also hosts free concerts and events throughout the year.
Explore the Lincoln Park Zoo: The Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo that is home to a wide variety of animals from around the world. Visitors can see lions, tigers, bears, and many other animals.
Walk along the Lakefront Trail: The Lakefront Trail is a scenic path that runs along the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a great place to go for a walk or bike ride with your family.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography: This museum is located on the campus of Columbia College and features a collection of contemporary photography. Admission is free. Check other museums for their free days, too!
Stroll through the Garfield Park Conservatory: This beautiful conservatory features indoor gardens and exhibits that showcase a wide variety of plants from around the world. Admission is free.
Explore the Chicago Cultural Center: The Chicago Cultural Center is a free public space that hosts a wide variety of events and exhibits throughout the year. Visitors can see art exhibits, live music performances, and more.
See the Buckingham Fountain: The Buckingham Fountain is a beautiful landmark located in Grant Park. It features a stunning water display and light show that takes place every hour.
Visit the Navy Pier: While many of the attractions at the Navy Pier require paid admission, there are still plenty of free things to do, such as watching the fireworks show on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer.
Walk along the Magnificent Mile: The Magnificent Mile is a famous shopping district in downtown Chicago, but even if you’re not looking to shop, it’s still a great place to go for a walk and take in the sights.
Visit the Art Institute of Chicago: While admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is not free, children under 14 can enter for free. The museum features an extensive collection of art from around the world, including famous works such as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”
We made it! It’s the holiday season and my favorite time of year to entertain. This year we are hosting friends and family for the holidays so I wanted to treat them to one of my favorite festive cocktails – The Santa Rita! #ad
You can make this a punch if you’re hosting several people, too. For my main ingredient, tequila, I like to use Lobos 1707. If you live in the Chicago area you can find it at Mariano’s.
A few reasons why I love the award-winning Lobos 1707 tequila besides its smooth elevated taste is Lobos 1707 itself is minority-owned and female-led. For all my basketball fans, Lobos 1707 is backed by cultural icon and basketball legend Lebron James. How cool is that?!
Okay, back to my Santa Rita which is a holiday spin on a classic margarita. What you’ll need for this festive cocktail:
2 oz. of Lobos 1707 Tequila
3 ounces Cranberry Juice (You can mix red & white cranberry juice for color)
1 oz Lime Juice
1 tbsp of Simple Syrup
1 oz Grand Marnier
Garnish with lime slice, orange slice, cranberries, rosemary
If you want a fizz – add a splash or two of tonic or soda water
Add tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and Grand Marnier to a shaker over ice.
Shake vigorously for 3-5 seconds.
Rim your glass with salt OR sugar and add ice.
Pour mixture into the glass over ice.
Garnish with a lime slice, an orange slice, a few cranberries, and a stick of rosemary.
Not only does it look pretty but it tastes delicious, too! I know you’ll love this holiday favorite just as much as we do. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
“Pick up a bottle at your local Mariano’s or you can purchase online. Cheers!
Busy Chicago mamas, this one is for you! Wendy’s just introduced their “Feed The Fam” menu that features a 50-piece Nuggs (spicy or regular) and a family-size Chili Feast for only $14.99 each in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. #ad
Being a travel baseball and working mom, the last thing I want to do on a Sunday is create a meal plan for the week or cook after a long day of work and numerous sports activities. I need quick, easy, ready-to-go meals that everyone will love and will also feed the whole family. Also, who doesn’t love chicken nuggets or chili?! Wendy’s doesn’t have just any chicken nuggets either. Theirs are made with 100% white meat that is breaded and marinated in a unique blend of peppers and spices and is served with your choice of dipping sauce. The dipping sauces include buttermilk Ranch, BBQ, Sweet & Sour, Honey Mustard, or Ghost Pepper Ranch. Yum!
The 50-piece Nuggs and Chili come in on-the-go packaging where available, which makes it easy to transport dinner to or from the baseball, softball, or football field. With 50 pieces – there’s even enough to share with the whole team if needed. Can you say Mom Of The Year?
Now, let’s talk about the new Chili Feast! I never met a chili I didn’t like and Wendy’s makes theirs with fresh, never-frozen beef that is perfectly seasoned. This makes me want to throw a tailgate party at my house. What goes better with football than chili? The chili comes with season packets if you’d like to give your bowl a little kick as well as Saltines.
You can check out the Chili and Nuggets along with all Wendy’s offerings by clicking HERE.
This week I got to skip the meal planning and treated myself and my family to Wendy’s 50 pc Nuggs and the Chili Feast. Thanks, Wendy’s!
*not available in App for delivery or mobile orders.
Vail is one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado. We typically go every few years and it never gets old. I love the architecture and the Swiss Alps’ vibe of the town. I know Vail is a popular ski destination however, it’s just as amazing in summer. I think there is actually more to do in summer.
Vail, Colorado is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain and is set within the White River National Forest. In summer it’s a popular destination for golfing, shopping, fishing, hiking, festivals, and more.
If Vail is in your future travel plans, save this blog post as I’m going to share all my favorite things to do, where to stay, and where to eat when visiting Vail.
Let’s talk about places to stay.
Tivoli Lodge – They feature 65 rooms with mountain or village views, great amenities and are located in the middle of the village.
The Sebastian – Also in a great location and has their own private club and an amazing spa!
Austria Haus Hotel – Intimate hotel, great breakfast in the lounge every morning, and a boutique feel.
Recently my family and I took our summer road trip, which included a stop in Rapid City, South Dakota. I haven’t been there since I was a small child so I forgot how beautiful it is! If you’re taking a road trip or planning a trip to South Dakota, here are four things you need to do!
First stop, head to the Black Hill Mountains. The views are incredible, the air is crisp, and there are so many things to do. There are over 400 hiking trails. Two of our favorites are Lover’s Leap and Cathedral Spires. For camping, I recommend you check out Sheridan Lake and the Iron Creek Horse Campsite.
You can pop into some mom-and-pop eateries and souvenir shops. We stopped in Custer and you really feel the small town historical vibes. Some others that were recommended to us were:
If you have kids with you, stop in the Rush Mountain Adventure Park for some family-friendly thrill rides including a mountain coaster, and a sky climbing course. You can also explore a cave.
The next stop is, of course, visiting Mount Rushmore. I went in the 80s when I was a small child and boy has it changed! The monument is pretty incredible by itself but now they have a museum, an eatery (with ice cream!), a gift shop, and an amphitheater. You can even walk up the mountain (weather permitting), on the Presidential Trail (0.6 miles long, 422 stairs) to get up close and personal with the mountain sculpture and perhaps glimpse some of the area’s wildlife.
You need about 1.5 to 2 hours there. Admission is free to get in however parking is $10.
Speaking of memorials, another memorial to visit not too far from Mount Rushmore is Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse Memorial is 70 years in the making and is the world’s largest mountain carving located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is considered The Eighth Wonder of the World in progress.
You’ll need about 1.5 to 2 hours here as well. Entry per car is $30 to get in. For $125 you can go to the top and explore what will one day be Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm.
Lastly, you have to check out Badlands National Park. You can drive the 1.5 scenic route around the entire park to see some buffalo, wildlife, and be surrounded by the geographic formations. You’ll also see a ghost town that once was thriving during the Gold Rush. If you don’t have time for that then make a stop at Pinnacle Overlook which provides sweeping views of the Badlands. The best time to go is at sunrise and sunset! Parking is available and is free. It is also a quick 15 minutes from the main interstate.
My family and I loved spending time in South Dakota and recommend making a stop if it’s in your future road trip plans.
Recently my family and I were looking into purchasing a second car and we wanted something that was fuel-efficient, great for city driving, and safe. We also wanted something that was big enough for the whole family, yet small enough to fit into those tight Chicago parking spaces.
The 2022 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid checked all those boxes. I was fortunate to get to test drive one for a few days to check out all the features and was truly blown away.
The Sonata Hybrid is a “Hybrid” vehicle which means it uses a gas engine and an electric motor interchangeably to maximize fuel efficiency. It is not all-electric, and it’s not a plug-in, but get this, the car is available with SOLAR PANELS on the roof to help recharge its batteries! The car also uses regenerative braking, which means the brakes convert kinetic energy into electricity, which recharges the battery too. Talk about efficiency getting bold! This means you get better MPG. At lower speeds, the vehicle can use more electricity and less gas to help achieve up to 52 combined MPG. Impressive, right?
Other features I loved were the three available trims with advanced safety and technology options, and the LED lighting that you could adjust to your liking. There was ample enough space for my very tall husband and my two growing boys. There were also multiple safety features I appreciated like lane assist that featured side-view mirror cameras that would show a video feed of blind spots in your dashboard every time you turned on your blinker. I also liked the digital key feature on your phone (you can share the key with other smartphone users, too!) and the wireless phone charging station.
The “wow” feature list continued. If you hate parking in those tight Chicago parking spaces, the new Sonata Hybrid parks for you at the push of a button on your smart key. You read that right, the 2022 Sonata Hybrid can drive in and out of parking spots by itself!
All in all, we loved the 2022 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The tech advancements were supreme, the ride was smooth, and it’s a great sedan option for anyone. I highly recommend taking one for a test drive!
We made it! Patio Season is upon us, friends. If you don’t know, Chicagoans live for outdoor dining in our warm (and sometimes even cold!) months. Every year I start fantasizing in February about all the spots I’m going to hit up come spring. We try to do at least two a week since our outdoor time is limited. Rooftops are a whole different blog post, which is coming soon!
I know there are probably hundreds of amazing patios across the city, but I’m starting with these top 10 of our personal favorites. If you have more you want to share with me, send them my way!
Not only is this one of the most visited patios in the Wicker Park / Bucktown neighborhoods but it’s a prime spot for yummy tacos, margaritas, whisky, and for people-watching. You have to try the Walking Taco and the Big Star Margarita! They have a location in Wrigleyville too, but not as much outdoor space.
This beautiful space with a modern industrial design is the perfect oasis in the city. The Dawson’s large outdoor space makes you feel like you’re at a sophisticated summer soiree. You must try the frozen Mai Tais and bites of chicken-fried lobster. Is your mouth watering yet? The outdoor space is well lit and even features an outdoor fireplace. The Dawson provides the perfect cozy evening.
Gibson’s Italia is a gem located right on the west end of the Chicago River with sweeping views of the entire city. It’s a tri-level steak house with an Italian twist and some amazing cocktails. I would dine here every night if I could!
If you’re looking for a fun neighborhood quick stop you have to try PFCIC! All three major food groups are covered at Bridgeport’s new Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, and now customers can devour Sicilian-style pies, pretty cool Ice Cream pops, and chef Won Kim’s (Kimski) fried chicken on a back patio. There’s a walk-up window, too.
This spot opened in summer 2016 in the Southport/Lakeview neighborhood, which is my neighborhood. Coda di Volpe has become a neighborhood favorite due to their Southern Italian fare. They bring casual sophistication to the neighborhood and they have a terrific patio, perfect for enjoying the neighborhood vibe.
They also just introduced a new laid-back arm of operations via a walk-up window called the Foxhole, where diners can find a selection of Neopolitan pizzas, salumi, antipasti, dolci, and much more. I recommend the Hibiscus Lightworks slushie (lime, vodka, cream limoncello and prosecco). Sounds amazing, right?!
If you want a unique experience, look no further than Beatnik On The River! This breathtaking riverfront oasis makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a faraway destination. Beatnik On the River draws inspiration from the ’50s and ’60s, offering dishes and drinks from around the globe. The best tables in the house are on the 80-seat patio, which sits along the Chicago River and is outfitted with colorful tile, Indonesian daybeds, and fringe-lined umbrellas. Order a glass of bubbly and stay awhile.
Located on the corner of State & Superior, you are right in the middle of all the action! Chef Carlos Gaytán really hit it out of the park with the cuisine here. You have to try the Ceviche Verde before digging into heartier entrées like the fried red snapper served with salsa, pickled veggies, peanut aioli, and handmade tortillas. Yum! And, for dessert — the Arroz con Leche is an instant hit!
A Lettuce Entertain You restaurant that serves lunch and dinner, with a menu centered around hand-stretched pizzas, artisanal pastas, and grilled seafood. Second only to the food is the sizable outdoor terrace, which hugs the Chicago River and offers breathtaking views of the city. Grab a spritz and take it all in. I could spend all day here. It’s great for kids too!
There are so many amazing spots on the riverwalk, you really can’t go wrong!
Moving back up to the neighborhoods, you can’t go wrong with Le Sud in Roscoe Village. April in Paris? Mais oui! This popular French-Mediterranean spot offers a quaint patio that transports you to a garden in the south of France. Flowers and herbs scent the air, wine barrel fire pits warm you if there’s a sudden Chicago chill and proprietor Sandy Chen shows how a trip to the villages of Provence inspired her decor. A retractable patio roof has been added so guests can dine outside no matter the weather!
We should own stock in this place because we eat here so often! An American spin on Mexican cuisine, Tuco & Blondie is designed as a neighborhood gathering place, serving food hot for brunch, lunch, and into the night, with sides and sips for sidekicks. With 3,000 square feet outside, you’ll will enjoy a picturesque bodega, brick fireplace, engaging courtyard, and other fun aspects that will keep them coming back. In warmer months they feature an outdoor margarita stand too!
I hope you enjoy these picks and start making reservations! Here’s to Spring and Summer in Chicago!
Hey friends! I’ve missed you. I took a few months off from the blog as I was working on an exciting project with Google, but I’m back!
Our family just got back from a Caribbean cruise for Spring Break and I’m here to tell you that if you’ve been thinking of going on a cruise but haven’t yet – this is your sign.
First I’ll start off by saying that I used to be that person who wouldn’t even consider a cruise. I assumed they’d be overcrowded, the food would be terrible, and the rooms would be small and not a place I’d want to be. I reluctantly booked a European one with my husband shortly after we got married for our “babymoon” and fell in love! I was wrong about everything!
I will say the cruise line matters and I would suggest getting a balcony room to give you some extra space and views. They really utilized every nook and cranny for storage space. Even with our family of 4, the one balcony room works just fine. Our favorite cruise lines are Disney, Celebrity, Princess, or Royal Caribbean. Celebrity is my top favorite for food, Royal Caribbean has the best ships for families. There are always “upgrade” restaurants on all lines but as far as the free dining options, Celebrity was the best in my opinion.
I’m going to share all the reasons why YOU should consider a cruise too:
A floating city is a fun thing to experience. You don’t even feel like you’re on a boat more like exploring a small city.
You can visit multiple destinations in one trip.
They are super easy to plan, all you have to do is show up!
Everything is very organized and cruises offer lots of options for off-shore excursions from scuba diving to swimming with dolphins, visiting beaches, walking tours, wine tastings, and more.
You’ll never run out of things to do on the ship. They have something for everyone from casinos to shopping, bingo, trivia, yoga, and more.
Cruising is very family-friendly. The ships also provide FREE childcare in their kids’ clubs! The kids LOVE spending time in the clubs and it gives parents a break to enjoy all the adult activities.
Many ships now have water slides, rock climbing walls, mini-golf, and sports courts. This makes for fun sail days.
Ships have theatres to showcase Broadway-like shows, comedians, magic shows, and more.
There are so many itinerary options throughout the world to choose from.
You meet new friends with each cruise. We still keep in touch with friends we’ve met on multiple cruises throughout the last ten years.
If you’re considering a cruise, I would research the different ships to see what best suits your travel needs and sign up for their email campaigns so you snag deals when they post them. Here’s a photo dump of our recent cruising adventure!
My kids already can’t wait for our next cruise. We are thinking of Europe next summer! Want to join us?