Kinzie Hotel Brings The Holidays To Their Guests With The Holiday North Pole Express Package

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Disclosure: My family enjoyed a complimentary stay at the Kinzie Hotel but all thoughts are my own.

The holidays are here! It’s a magical time of year and Kinzie Hotel, located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, wants to help their guests celebrate the holidays when they are away from home. To embrace the spirit of the season, the boutique hotel is offering the new Holiday North Pole Express Package featuring the North Pole Sweet Express delivering treats to guest rooms, passes to ice skating at Millennium Park, festive activities and more.

Guests who order the Holiday North Pole Express Package will enjoy the North Pole Sweet Express, a festively decorated vintage bar cart with treats galore! The cart includes a hot cocoa station featuring marshmallows, peppermint, and other toppings, boozy hot apple cider and hot cocoa, holiday-themed cookies, and Christmas candies. (For those traveling with fur-family members, dog-friendly holiday cookies are also available upon request.)

After a long day, including an auto accident on our way to the city, the North Pole Sweet Express was just what we needed to get our weekend back on track! Though there are so many things to do in the city during the holidays, I was content to just curl up in the comfy bed and spend an evening relaxing with my mug of hot apple cider while I watched my favorite college football team play on tv….

Along with treats and drinks, the North Pole Sweet Express also had ornaments we could take and decorate in our room. Once done we could hang them on the community Christmas tree in the lobby of the hotel or take them home to hang on our own tree.

For guests who want to get out and explore Chicago’s festive atmosphere, Kinzie Hotel offers guests maps of the city’s top holiday activities and attractions along with skating passes to Millennium Park. (Hopefully you all would have a less comical experience on the ice than we did this past weekend, with my boys trying out ice skates for the first time lol).

Kinzie Hotel’s Holiday North Pole Express Package is truly a holiday experience guests will not forget and such a great option for those who are away from home over the holidays. In addition to all the great offerings of this special package, Kinzie Hotel guests enjoy the many other perks that guests do year-round including deluxe continental breakfast served on every floor, a nightly manager’s reception with complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a staff that is there to make sure their guests enjoy nothing but the best their entire stay.

Best of all, prices for this fabulous boutique hotel are really affordable which makes it the perfect holiday getaway your family will talk about for years to come! Ready to book your stay? Make reservations here.

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Why You Need To Visit The Shedd Aquarium This Fall

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Thanks to the Shedd Aquarium for sponsoring this post.

I know it’s not officially fall yet but Labor Day has just passed, the kids are back in school, and the weather is getting cooler so I consider this time the unofficial fall season :) If you are looking for something to do indoors and are in the Chicago area you’ll want to visit the Shedd Aquarium before life gets too busy with school events, sports and the holidays.

The Shedd is encouraging families to clear their “Sheddule” and find some time to unwind with family and friends at the aquarium. To make this even easier for cash strapped families they are offering 24 consecutive FREE days for Illinois residents starting tomorrow September 6th and going through September 30th. Illinoisans can enjoy free general admission with full access to the aquarium’s permanent and special exhibits, including Waters of the WorldCaribbean ReefAmazon RisingWild ReefAbbott OceanariumAmphibians special exhibit, the aquatic show and Stingray Touch experience. Admission can be upgraded to include 4-D Experience for $4.95 per guest- which is well worth it in my opinion.

In addition to free days for all Illinois residents, the Shedd will honor all senior guests with free admission Tuesdays and Wednesdays (from 9am to 2pm) in September. (Seniors will receive complementary admission for themselves plus one accompanying adult partner.)

When you visit the Shedd Aquarium this fall make sure these things are on your to-do list:

1) Touch the Stingrays. This outdoor exhibit, open until October, was the highlight of my trip to the Shedd. It was fascinating watching them glide through the water and I loved being able to touch them to see what they felt like.

2) View the whales, dolphins and sea otters underwater. Get a unique view of them in the underwater viewing galleries.

3) Enjoy a 4-D experience. The Shedd’s new experience- Splash and Bubbles is filled with music, fun, and everyone’s favorite citizens of the sea! The 4-D Experience combines the visual drama of a 3-D film with a variety of sensory effects built into the seats and the theater environment. Families with children will love this! (Note to sensory families: If your child is a sensory avoider or easily overwhelmed you may want to skip this experience. Mine are seekers so they loved it! Make sure to check out the Shedd’s Sensory Friendly App, too!)

4) Visit the Polar Play Zone. Let kids play in the polar playscape and explore a child sized submarine.

5) Find Nemo. Have your children look for a percula clownfish. Children will love seeing a real life version of one of their favorite Disney characters.

6) Touch a sea star. They may be called starfish but did you know that sea stars are not fish? In the sea star touch exhibit you can dip your hand into the water and touch their strong skin and examine the hundreds of tiny tube feet that help these extraordinary animals feel, feed and move around their environment.

7) Check out an aquatic presentation. The Shedd Aquarium’s show is unlike others you may find. Not only do you see animals like beluga whales, sea lions and dolphins performing but you’ll learn how they are cared for every day by their trainers and how the Shedd way of training highlights their incredible natural behaviors. It was interesting to watch!

8) Go to a shark animal chat. Learn about sharks during a daily shark animal chat in the Wild Reef exhibit. One question they’ll answer is why sharks don’t eat the fish they swim with.

Also, the Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea exhibit is opening September 23rd. This traveling exhibit will feature massive, colorful sculptures of familiar ocean animals including reef fishes, sharks, octopus, penguins, sea lions and more made entirely of plastic marine debris removed from West Coast beaches. It sounds really interesting and looks like a beautiful exhibit from the photos I’ve seen!

What will you discover when you #ClearYourSheddule and visit the Shedd Aquarium this fall? 

 

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Waterpark Fun To End The Summer

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Thanks to Raging Waves Waterpark for sponsoring this post.

School starts in a couple weeks here so we are trying to squeeze the last bit of fun out of it as we can. One thing we did this past weekend was head to the waterpark. Surprisingly, it was the first time we’d made it to a waterpark all summer but it’s one of our favorite seasonal activities.

The boys enjoyed the day with their cousins at Raging Waves, the largest waterpark in Illinois. Sitting on 45 acres in Yorkville, the park hosts a huge wave pool, lazy river, 20 waterslides, a kiddie play structure, zero-depth pool, and a sandy beach area.

Their favorite activity of the day was going on the various waterslides. I was proud of all four of them because they were brave and went on everything they could, from PJ’s Plummet (the 72 foot high body slide) to the Cyclone (a super fast raft ride).

Jacob and Camden’s favorite ride was the Wonambi -the newest ride at the park that sends guests into near-vertical, zero gravity moments.

Lucas and Maddie loved the Boomerang, a raft ride which starts off in a chute before dropping you quickly into a funnel, the most.

All the kids also enjoyed going around in the lazy river, though there was nothing “lazy” about this experience. The kids liked running around the river instead of relaxing on it!

For those with younger kids, they’ll enjoy the Kangaroo Falls play area. This four-story water fort is full of super-soaking fun. Kids can splash down the slides, race across the bridges, and play in the squirting fountains.

Overall, we had a great day and look forward to going back there before they close on Labor Day.

If you haven’t had a day of splashtastic fun at the waterpark, what are you waiting for!?

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7 Unique Ways To See Chicago

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Whether you are visiting Chicago for the first time, rediscovering “the windy city” you fell in love with years ago, or call Chicago home, you’ll discover new and exciting things every time you explore it. Since I live in the suburbs I’ve been to Chicago dozens of times and each time I visit I have a different experience. There are some ways to get unique views of the city that will help you see it in a new way that both Chicago tourists and locals would enjoy.

Take a trolley ride.

While you could drive around the city on your own, taking a trolley is such a better way to explore the city because the tour guide shares interesting facts along the way. Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. offers four distinct tours this summer that highlight the best sites Chicago has to offer: Chicago Trolley’s iconic Downtown Tour, the Wrigley Field/Lincoln Park Zoo Route, the Museum of Science & Industry/Chinatown Route and the Night Tour. For those wanting to experience Chicago by water, Chicago Trolley also offers the Land, Lake and River Package combining the best of the Downtown Tour together with Mercury Skyline Cruises boat tour. 

The Downtown Tour stops at 13 distinct locations around the city. Beginning at the Sheraton Hotel, tours will venture south over the Michigan Avenue Bridge to Skydeck at the Willis Tower, then over to Millennium Park, stopping by the Art Institute, Hilton Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Maggie Daley Park. Looping north, the tour continues to Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile, Water Tower Place, the Hancock Tower featuring 360 Chicago and ending at the Hard Rock Café. The full Downtown Tour departs from downtown Chicago Trolley kiosks with all day access to hop-on and hop-off. Tours operate daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and are approximately two hours in duration.

The Wrigley Field/Lincoln Park Zoo Route (approx. 90 minutes) departs from the Sheraton Hotel and heads to the Chicago History Museum, Chicago’s oldest cultural institution. Passengers then visit Lincoln Park Zoo before the tour ends with a trip to Wrigley Field.

The Museum of Science & Industry/Chinatown Route (approx. 90 minutes) departs from Sheraton Hotel and travels south directly to the Museum of Science & Industry. The tour then explores one of the richest cultural communities in the Midwest, Chicago’s Chinatown.

The Night Tour showcases Chicago’s dazzling skyline and illuminated landmarks after the sun goes down. Beginning at Sheraton Hotel the Night Tour makes stops at the Skydeck, Hilton Chicago, Navy Pier and the Hancock Tower featuring 360 Chicago, allowing passengers to hop-on or hop-off throughout the evening. The Night Tour operates daily from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and is approximately 90 minutes in duration.

Take a tour by boat. 

There are a number of companies that offer architecture river cruises because Chicago’s rich history can be told through the beautiful buildings in our city. The breeze as you travel down the river feels nice on a hot, sticky day, too!

Get a birds eye view of the city from Skydeck Chicago’s Ledge. 

The Ledge is located at the top of the Sears Tower (yes, I called it the Sears tower because Chicagoans don’t call it by it’s new name of “Willis Tower”….) Skydeck Chicago’s Ledge offers spectacular views of up to 50 miles and four states from the 103rd floor. Their glass boxes with glass floors extend out the side of the building and let you stand 1,353 feet up in the air looking down.

Go on a carriage ride.

There’s no more relaxing way to explore the city than from the comforts of a horse-drawn carriage. The carriage ride is a memorable way to explore the city at a slower pace.

Get a beautiful view of the skyline from the lake.

Whether you go out on a friend’s boat or a chartered ride, there’s nothing like seeing Chicago’s skyline from the lake. I’d recommend going later in the day on a Wednesday or Saturday so you can watch the sunset and then stay for the firework show over Navy Pier.

Go out in a kayak on the river.

Want to explore Chicago at your own pace on the water? Rent a kayak and travel down the river for a unique view of the city while you get some exercise.

Take a ride on the new ferris wheel at Navy Pier. 

Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel is an iconic part of the Chicago skyline. At nearly 200 feet tall, the wheel offers visitors unparalleled, 360-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Centennial Wheel’s enclosed gondolas provide a comfortable experience year-round.

Have you ever been to Chicago? If so, I’d love to hear about your visit, and if not, what are you waiting for!?

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Enjoy A Family Staycation At Pheasant Run Resort

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Thanks to Pheasant Run Resort for hosting our family for a staycation.

Summer is in full swing and, if you have been longing to take a vacation but can’t afford to or haven’t been able to get away for a week long trip, I have the perfect option for you. Take a staycation! If you are in the Chicago area you’ll find family fun in the burbs at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Pheasant Run Resort has an awesome Summer Splash package available Sundays through Thursdays, through September 4th. The package includes one night’s accommodations in a deluxe room, one 16” pizza and a two-liter soda, plus $10 worth of tokens for the Swamp Arcade all for just $149 per night for a family of four. The newly refreshed tower rooms have great views of the golf course and some, like our room, even have views of the local airport for those kids who love watching airplanes take off and land.

No need to leave the resort to find things to do on your staycation because Pheasant Run Resort has a variety of things that the whole family will enjoy doing. From swimming in their indoor/outdoor pool to playing air hockey in the arcade to getting ice cream from their ice cream shop, families will truly feel like they are on vacation. In addition, there is always something going on during the days and evenings, like arts & crafts, a scavenger hunt around the resort, and s’mores around the firepit. Families that enjoy golf can even play on Pheasant Run’s popular 18-hole course for just $10 after 5:30!

Looking for a bit of entertainment? You can find live music in some of their restaurants and bars in the evenings along with entertainment on their indoor “Bourbon Street”. Pheasant Run Resort also offers Zanie’s Comedy shows and a brand new iPanic Escape Room.

Hoping for more of a relaxing stay? For moms that can get away for a bit, there’s even a spa! With over 200 treatments, the resort’s spa was recently voted #1 by the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Overall, Pheasant Run Resort is just a fabulous place to get away from the daily responsibilities for a few days. Learn more about their Summer Splash Package and make reservations here.

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Waterfall Hiking Fun {And Family Hike Essentials}

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BlueLizardSummer #CollectiveBias

I love finding new places to explore with my family. Whether it’s sitting by the ocean, walking around a small town or going out on the lake in a paddleboat, spending time with my family brings me joy. This Mother’s Day I wanted to go somewhere we’d never been before so I chose to take my family on a hike to check out a waterfall in a local forest preserve. It was a short drive there and once we arrived we applied sunscreen and grabbed our bag of hiking essentials before we headed out into the sun.

We found the main trail to the waterfall easily but it wasn’t long before we spied water and followed a small trail that led us to it. We had discovered the end of the creek.

For a while the boys enjoyed throwing rocks into the water and even tried skipping rocks with their Nana. Since it was a beautiful day out Jake took off his shoes and socks so he could wade around in the water.

He was having lots of fun until he accidentally fell down and got soaking wet!

Luke meanwhile, stayed nice and dry, sitting in the sand collecting little shells.

After an hour or so of playing we headed back to the main trail and continued on towards the waterfall. The beautiful weather had brought out dozens of people who had the same idea as I’d had but we still enjoyed checking out the waterfall and walking along the rock paths in the water.

The waterfall was smaller than I imagined it would be but I was still excited to show my boys their first waterfall. If you live in Illinois you will want to check out this place called “Waterfall Glen”. If you live out of state, check online to see if there are any waterfalls near you. You may be surprised to learn about a hidden gem nearby!

Before you go hiking though, you’ll want to gather some hiking essentials.

The first thing you’ll want to pack is sunscreen. Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen has been dermatologist recommended for over 15 years and provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF30+) to keep you and your family safe from the sun while you are outside enjoying the day together. Blue Lizard® should be applied to dry skin at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and/or water activities and reapplied at least every two hours to ensure SPF protection is maintained. The products have a unique zinc oxide formulation and the Sensitive variety we used is paraben-free, chemical-free and fragrance-free. I love their patented Smart Bottle™ technology, too! The bottle changes color when exposed to harmful UV sunlight which can be a great reminder for busy parents that it’s time to re-apply sunscreen.

We found Blue Lizard® at Walmart on a fun summer sunscreen display they had towards the front of the store near the gardening entrance. It’s easy to find because it has a giant umbrella on top! Save some money by joining iBotta and earn $4.00 when you purchase Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen – Sensitive, 5 oz. bottle only.

Another important thing to bring along on your family hike is water to drink. It’s important to stay hydrated while you are exercising, especially when it’s hot outside.

We also packed a trail mix of nuts, raisins and candies to snack on when we took rest breaks (which was pretty often since we were hiking with kids….)

Other things you’ll want to pack include a first-aid kit, ponchos (if rain is in the forecast), and a trail map if you need one.

Family hikes are a lot of fun and lead to some nice photo opps along the way!

Does your family like to hike? If so, I’d love to hear your stories! Also, let me know what other things you consider hiking essentials so I can add them to my bag for our next family hike.

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Come Hear Me Speak At The Baby & Beyond Event

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I am excited to share that I’ll be speaking about parenting at the upcoming Baby & Beyond: Discover The Journey event hosted by Riverside Healthcare. If you are in the Chicago area I invite you to come on down to the event. I’d love a chance to meet my readers!

Baby & Beyond 2016Riverside Healthcare’s Baby & Beyond is just over 20 days away and we want you to be a part of it! This year’s event is on Saturday, April 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

We are excited to bring in a Top 50 U.S. Mom Blogger, Alicia Peiffer from Making Time For Mommy to be our keynote speaker, plus a variety of community vendors and three different educational tracks. Pre-register for #BabyAndBeyond at riversidehealthcare.org/babyandbeyond. See you there!

Posted by Riverside Baby Faces on Thursday, April 7, 2016

The event is Saturday, April 30, 2016, from 8:30am-12pm on the beautiful campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. This free event features a keynote speaker, community vendors and three educational tracks including Women’s Health, Expectant Mothers and Pediatrics. You can register for the event here.

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Finding Relaxation In The Chicago Suburbs

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(Disclosure: I received a free stay and spa service but all thoughts are my own.)

Now that school is back in full swing I find myself wishing I had a break from the craziness to relax and take time for myself. While I don’t have time for a vacation right now I definitely think that it’s important to find other ways to take a mental break and get away. Le Méridien Chicago, located in Oakbrook, provides just what a mom needs.

I recently stayed over night there and enjoyed a spa service. Unfortunately, Sinisa was out of town so I had to bring the boys with on my little getaway but I left feeling relaxed so I can only imagine how much more tranquil it would have been sans kids.

When we first got to the hotel we checked out the room which was beautiful and then headed to Oakbrook mall which is right next door. It’s the perfect location for those who enjoy shopping and the hotel even offers complimentary rides between the mall and hotel. After I got coffee we went to a few stores I wanted to visit and then a couple the boys insisted we go to. Once it started raining we were ready to head back to the hotel. One thing I will note here is that it’s best to give the car service notice of when you will need to be picked up so you don’t have to wait. If you have your own vehicle it’s probably just easiest to drive yourself over there.

Once we got back to the hotel we enjoyed their VIP lounge which had a delicious selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. They had some prepackaged choices and some freshly made options from their kitchen. We enjoyed our view of town as we ate.

When it was time for my spa treatment someone came to my room to get me and the boys. I wasn’t sure how it would go with them in the room while I was getting a facial but I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a hotel room that was set up to entertain my boys while I enjoyed some relaxation. There were snacks and water for the boys, a small building set for each and a television they could watch. They were excited to see all of that and I loved the thought that went into making sure everyone was taken care of.

My massage therapist was friendly and explained everything that she was doing. She gave me tips on taking care of my combination skin and what I should be looking for in products which I really appreciated. After a nice facial I planned to head back to the room with my boys but she told me that everyone who has a spa service gets to stay in the room for an hour after their facial or massage. Half the room was a serene bathroom so I was more than happy to soak in a big tub while my boys built their LEGO sets outside of the bathroom.

Afterwards we headed back to the room where the boys quickly claimed their bed. We ordered room service for dinner and watched television before we fell asleep in the comfort of our hotel beds. It was such a great day and the perfect way to relax when you only have a day to escape reality.

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Illinois Residents: Reclaim Your Money

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(Disclosure: This post is sponsored but all thoughts are my own.)

Have you ever found money in a pocket of your coat, or the bottom of your purse, that you had forgotten was there? Isn’t that a great feeling?

Now imagine for a minute that it was $10, $100 or even $1,000! Wouldn’t that be amazing? There are hundreds of people every day that get that surprise when they discover money through the Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash program. The program, founded in 1999, helps Illinois residents recover their unclaimed assets.

The state is currently safeguarding more than $2 billion in cash and 20 million shares of stock and mutual funds that need to be returned. These assets are transferred to the Treasury after banks, government agencies, and other companies become unable to return them to their rightful owners. The I-Cash website is a free and easy way for people to discover if they have cash or other assets to recover.

As soon as I heard about this program I looked up my last name in the database. I didn’t find anything but I did find some money that was a family member’s marked “accounts payable” and another family member had $100 from an insurance company that was owed to her. I then looked up my mom’s name and found she had $10 owed to her marked “Misc Intangible Property”.  When I told my mom she said she’d probably spend the money on a few of her favorite coffee drinks. (Hopefully she’d treat me to one, too!)

With more than 13 million names in the I-Cash database, one in four Illinois adults who search the website discover property to claim. The average claim is about $1000, while the highest claim was more than $8 million in 2012. $8 MILLION dollars to one person. Could you have hundreds or even thousands owed to you? You never know until you check!

CLICK HERE TO SEE IF YOU HAVE LOST MONEY!

 

 

 

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Exploring Glenview, Illinois With Kids

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Thanks to Go Roma for sponsoring this post.

I love taking road trips and one of the best things about living in the Chicago area is the amount of fun things there are for families to do within just an hour or two of where we live. A few weeks ago we headed to a town I’d never been to before called Glenview which is about 14 miles North of the city.

The boys and I spent a whole day exploring the town and didn’t even get to do everything on my list. Here are the things I’d recommend doing on your next trip to Glenview.

Play: Little Bear Garden Park

My boys spent hours playing at Little Bear Garden Park. It was a wonderful area with something for everyone. There was a playground, splash pad, huge sand pit, and plenty of grassy area and seating. There was also a path that went around the park with storybook pages every so often which would be perfect for families with preschoolers to walk around and read a book as they went along the path. The park was busy but large enough that it did not feel overcrowded.

Eat: Go Roma

I enjoyed eating at Go Roma when I was pregnant with Jacob so I was excited to see that a new location opened in Glenview. Go Roma features quick and delicious Italian foods. Their pizza is my favorite. Go Roma was affordable which I appreciated when I was working retail and on a very tight budget and I still appreciate.

When we tried out their new location for lunch I got the BBQ Chicken Pizza which I really enjoyed. I loved that the chicken was very prevalent on the pizza instead of diced up really tiny and barely there like at some other places.

Jacob got the kid’s cheese pizza and Lucas got the kid’s macaroni and cheese. They were so excited to see that their kid’s meal came with a cookie and they happily gobbled up their entree to get to their dessert.

Shop: The Glen Town Center

If you love shopping you will enjoy spending time at The Glen Town Center. It’s a beautiful, outdoor shopping area with stores, restaurants, and even a movie theater. I found Fourth of July shirts for the boys at Carter’s and looked around a few other clothing stores. We stopped by The Book Market and then stepped out of the sun for a bit and spent time reading our books while I enjoyed a coffee. We checked out the local candy store, Rocket Fizz, and ended with a trip to GameStop so the boys could look at Skylanders.

Some other places located in Glenview that we didn’t get to visit are Wagner Farm, the Grove and Kohl Children’s Museum. There really is enough to keep families busy for a day or two and it’s so close to the city for those who want to visit Chicago but then escape the hustle and bustle (and parking fees) of the city!

Have you been to Glenview? What other fun places should we check out next time we visit?

 

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Pizza Making And Fun At Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

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(Disclosure: My family and I received accommodations courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago but all thoughts are my own.)

What’s more fun than eating pizza? Making it! My boys stepped into the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago during our recent stay there and had a lot of fun creating their very own pizzas.

The kids donned their chef’s hats and were greeted with an assortment of pizza ingredients on a table and a cook who was there to help them create the perfect pizza pies. First they slathered sauce on the dough, then they sprinkled cheese on and finally they started adding the ingredients.

Jake tried making his as colorful as he could by adding lots of peppers and ingredients by the handful. Lucas on the other hand was very specific in placement and put each ingredient down in just the right place, as if he was creating an artistic masterpiece.

The boys really loved creating their own pizzas and still talk about the fun they had. They were very proud of what they made.

After we made the pizzas we headed upstairs to our room for the next surprise- dessert before dinner! The “Ice Cream Man” (who was actually the ice cream lady) arrived at our room so we could create our own personalized sundaes.

Jacob and Lucas liked the assortment of toppings available and loaded their sundaes with whipped cream, sprinkles and chocolate sauce.

Even mommy got her own ice cream sundae! So delicious!

After our ice cream we decided to checkout the indoor pool area. The 50 foot long pool is in a gorgeous domed room and there is a hot tub for adults, a swimming lap lane, and plenty of lounge chairs.

Pool image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago website

The kids worked up an appetite while playing in the pool so we called down to the kitchen to have the pizzas made. They were quickly brought up to our room on a room service cart. The boys were excited to see that their doughy creations had turned into our dinner.

While the boys had fun making the pizzas I don’t think they realized that whatever they added would be on the pizzas we were going to be later eating. If your children are picky eaters you may want to remind them of this fact. Jacob likes peppers so he was okay but Lucas added a little of everything to his and then wanted everything picked off his slice when it was time to eat.

After dinner we decided to check out another area of the hotel- their kid’s clubroom. Seriously, the fun at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago doesn’t end! We went up to the room, opened the door, and discovered a room full of toys and games. The room also had a great view of the city to enjoy while playing.

When we were done playing it was time for some family cuddle time while we watched a movie. The hotel had a nice selection of family friendly movies that you can borrow to watch in your room.

They also provided us with popcorn and coke that we could enjoy while watching the movie.

Once the kids were fast asleep it was mommy’s time to relax and I got to pretend I was at a spa and take an {uninterrupted} bubble bath in the extra large tub. It was heavenly.

The perfect ending to our day in Chicago was being able to sleep in a nice bed.

The next morning I got to lounge around and enjoy the view a bit since the bedroom had a door to separate it from the sitting area.

Want to enjoy a little family getaway to Chicago? When you book your stay at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago just request the Let’s Get Away package. It includes:

  • A visit from the Hotel’s Ice Cream Man or Martini Man, or Pizza Making Class with a chef
  • A USD 50.00 Spa credit or overnight valet parking for one vehicle
  • Age-appropriate in-room amenities
  • Luxurious accommodations in an Executive Suite

Always available to guests of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago:

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The Ritz-Carlton Chicago: A Kid-Friendly Luxury Hotel

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Despite living only about an hour away from Chicago, we don’t really go downtown that often. I wanted to go somewhere over President’s Day since the boys were out of school and I had the day off from work, so our family headed to Chicago for a couple days of fun in the big city. I was really excited about this trip because I would be reviewing The Ritz-Carlton Chicago hotel. I had heard of this hotel, and assumed it would be too “fancy” for me to bring the boys to, but when they invited us for a “family sleepover” we decided to go and I’m so glad we did.

When I checked out the website I noticed a few things immediately that keyed me in to how great it would be for kids. Room-wise they offered childproof rooms which I think is great for people with young children. They also had a bunch of amenities just for the kids. To keep children occupied they also had a pool, cookie baking, and a candy cart that you could have come to your room.

When we first walked into the suite I was amazed at how large it was. We were staying in their Deluxe Lake-View Suite. It was about the size of my first apartment. Here is a video walk-through of the suite:

This suite was located on the 24th floor and was on the corner so we had lake views from every room. I even got to wake up to the lake outside of my window as I laid in bed! That to me is a dream!

The boys were so excited to see a little tent in the room. One of the maids also came before bedtime for “turn down” service and made the pullout couch into a bed for the boys. Some of my other favorite kid-friendly features in the room were the bathrobes and kid-toiletries. 

We didn’t make it to the pool but the boys loved baking cookies in the kitchen. They were then delivered to our room about an hour later with whipped cream and sprinkles so the boys could decorate them and then eat them.

There were delicious treats for mommy and daddy, too!

Along with the fun inside the hotel, guests of The Ritz-Carlton can take an elevator down to the Water Tower mall. This was perfect for our winter visit to the city because we could enjoy the mall and it’s restaurants without having to put on our coats and walk in the slush and snow outside. The boys enjoyed playing at the LEGO store and Luke and I walked through the American Girl store. We also went up every escalator in the mall and then took the elevator down.

Another thing I liked was that the check-in and check-out times were really generous. Check-out was at noon so we were able to walk down Michigan Avenue and relax in our room a bit before we had to leave. We wanted to avoid this wintery weather for as long as we could….

Are you looking to enjoy an evening in Chicago? While the $785/night suites are a little pricier than my family would normally stay in, I think it’s worth splurging a bit to experience the luxury that we did! When I checked there were also hotel rooms priced at $295/night. Along with the beautiful hotel located in the perfect spot on Michigan Avenue, the staff was excellent and the beds were really comfortable. I think both couples and families would enjoy staying at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. It is definitely a hotel we will go back to!

(Disclosure: My family received a free stay at the hotel but all thoughts are my own.)

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Escape The Cold At KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort {Giveaway & Coupon Code}

keylime cove resort

(Disclosure: My family received a complimentary stay at the resort but all thoughts are my own.)

It’s been cold and snowy here in Chicago and I’m really ready for warmer weather. Last weekend we took an hour and a half drive North to Gurnee and escaped to the warmth of KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort.

Once inside we immediately felt like we were in Florida. The main hall was decorated to look like a street and it hinted at the fun we were going to have during our stay.

At check-in we learned that KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark is conveniently cashless. We received a Smart Band® RFID wristband which was our room key and also allowed us to charge everything back to our room just by the swipe of our wrists. The wristbands can be used for vending machines, token dispensers in the arcade, lockers, restaurants, spa, gift shops, and concessions at KeyLime Cove. I loved that we didn’t have to carry cash or worry about losing our room key.

After we checked in and headed to our room which continued the tropical theme. I thought it was nice that the sleeping area and the “living” area were separated by a sliding door because it created different living spaces.

Once we put everything in our room, the boys were begging to go to the waterpark. KeyLime Cove Resort’s Lost Paradise waterpark features 65,000 square feet of indoor fun. They have a wave pool, water slides, lazy river, and a great kid’s area.

I really love that the waterpark opens at 9am on weekends because my kids wake up really early and it is so hard to wait three or four hours for the park to open like at some places we’ve been. As far as safety goes, I thought the lifeguards were very aware of what was going on at all times and none of them looked “checked out” while doing there job. There was also plenty of seating in the water park.

The resort features a lot of other fun activities outside of the water park. I loved that there was a kid’s daily “Fun-tivities Guide” to tell us what was happening each day. The guide features new activities almost hourly during the day where children can participate in a kids’ parade, decorate a cookie, do a scavenger hunt, listen to a story, or do a craft. These activities are free! The boys did one where they colored a sports visor to wear. There is also a large arcade for kids of all ages.

Adults have a lot of options at the resort. Looking to relax? The resort has a spa with all sorts of services offered. Like to shop? Check out one of the unique shops to find the perfect gift for a friend.

While at KeyLime Cove you are bound to get hungry. There are many delicious options. While there we enjoyed a breakfast buffet at D.W. Anderson’s. The buffet featured an omelet station and a waffle station. I’m not really a fan of buffets but really loved this one because the food was freshly cooked and didn’t seem like it had been sitting there a while. The buffet even had blintzes which Sinisa loved and you don’t normally see at buffets. While at the water park we lunch from their Sharky’s Big Bites snack area. Dinner at The Crazy Toucan also exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed a strawberry colada with cheesy crab logs. Crab is my favorite food and this mixture of crab and cheese on toasted bread was amazing. They also had a large variety of choices for the kids. We headed to Island Temptations for dessert where candy, ice cream, coffee and more is available.

Overall, we had a great time at KeyLime Cove Resort. We stayed one night and enjoyed the waterpark the day before our stay and the day after which was perfect for my young kids. Then we headed home in this…

It was nice escaping reality for a bit :) Do you want to take a mini-vacation like my family did? Check out the great deal below!

 GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a $50 KeyLime Cove gift card

HOW TO ENTER:

Tell me why you want to win

EARN AN EXTRA ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends March 1, 2014 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

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Learn About Illinois Farms With Me

Ill Farm Family Logo 10-10-10

(Disclosure: This post is compensated but all thoughts are my own.)

My grandpa was a farmer. I remember getting to visit him when I was younger and I thought it was so cool that he got to be around animals all day (especially horses because those are my favorite animals). I understood nothing abut what he did on a daily basis and what it took to run a farm and to be honest, I still have no clue.

When I was asked to be a Blog Ambassador for Illinois Farm Families® I was excited and accepted because that meant I would get to head back to a farm and I’d get to understand what my grandfather really did. I also looked forward to learning more about growing food and seeing where my food comes from. It’s not everyday that you get that chance.

Looking into Illinois Farm Families more I learned that nearly all Illinois farms – 94 percent of them – are family owned and operated. I always thought that nowadays most farms were owned by corporations so it was really awesome to know that there are people like you and me running these farms and growing the food we eat. They feed their families the food they grow.

It was interesting looking on the Illinois Farm Families website and seeing that they are completely open about what goes on at the farms. They have Chicago area moms who are invited to be “Field Moms” and visit a variety of Illinois family farms to meet the farmers who grow crops and vegetables and raise livestock. They also invite people to ask questions through their website to learn more about how food is grown, technology that is used on the farm, environmental issues, and more.

What questions do you have about farming in Illinois? You can look for monthly blog posts over the next year answering my questions for the farmers (and yours too). I look forward to documenting my experiences and sharing what I learn with you all.

 

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Family Fun At The Pumpkin Farm

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(Disclosure: We received free tickets into Pumpkin Fest but all thoughts are my own.)

I love going to Fall festivals with my family. Last weekend we went to Pumpkin Fest at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, IL. There was so much to do there and the kids were in awe as they ran from activity to activity. We only were able to stay a couple hours but they jumped on inflatables, rode a pony, went on a hayride, went through a haunted barn, went through an obstacle course, saw animals at the petting zoo, and played on giant climbing structures.

There were pumpkins for sale throughout the farm and a big pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Other activities we didn’t get a chance to do included paintball, stories told by the Pumpkin Princess, a big bouncy inflatable “cloud”, a giant corn maze, a rock climbing wall and a train ride.

Here are some pictures from our afternoon of Fall fun:

The boys posing on the pumpkins {the one must-take pumpkin patch photo!}

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Wooden train play area

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The cornfield maze

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Jacob and Daddy

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Big spider web climber

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Luke on his pony ride

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The haunted barn we went in (which wasn’t all that scary but good for kids)

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The playland area the kids loved

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The pick your own pumpkin patch we got to by hayride

What a fun afternoon! Visit Siegel’s Pumpkin Fest in the next couple weeks to make great memories with your family.

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Kuipers Family Farm: Apples, Pumpkins, And Trees {Maple Park, IL}

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(Disclosure: I am receiving a family pack of passes to the pumpkin farm.)

Kuipers’ Fall season began in August when the orchard opened for apple picking (Sat & Sun only) and the aroma of fresh apple cider doughnuts, home-baked pies, fudge, pasteurized apple cider and hand-spun caramel apples from The Orchard Shop and Bakery lingers in the air.

September 21st the west side of the farm opened for some down-on-the-farm-fun like The Maize Corn Maze, hayrides, farm animals, a haunted forest, tractor tire mountain, peddle tractor derby, nature walk, jumping pillows,  pumpkin picking and much more.  Be sure to catch the Pig Races and The Cowboy Randy Roping Show on the weekends.  The Pumpkin Farm is a great place to host your child’s birthday party or visit with your Scout group (see website for package details). 

November and December at the farm is dedicated to the holidays with pies and specialty foods for entertaining, unique gifts for giving and of course, Christmas trees.  Harvest your own right from the fields or select a freshly harvested Fraser Fir from our huge selection.

Save on Fall fun at Kuipers Family Farm with this coupon! Visit Kuiper’s Family Farm online here.

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Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm {Crest Hill, IL}

siegel's

(Disclosure: I am receiving admission to the pumpkin patch for my family but all thoughts are my own.)

Live in the Chicago area? Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, IL has lots of fall fun for your family! The Siegel’s have been farming this same land since 1909 and is a 4th generation working family farm.

Harvest your Family Memories on 40 Acres of “Affordable Family Fun” with over 20 different attractions included in General Admission. Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm features a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkins right from the vine! Not many places around Chicago let you do that. Also, new this year are the Statesville Zombie Paintball Ride and Lexi’s Jumpin’ Blob Jamboree!

Make sure to grab this coupon before your visit and save $5 off the price of a ticket if purchased ahead of time or $2 off at the gate.

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Apple Picking at Jonamac Orchard {Malta, IL}

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Apple picking is one of my favorite things to do as a family during the Fall. This year we headed back to Jonamac Orchard in Malta, Illinois. Jonamac has a great choice of apples but we head to this one mostly for their doughnuts. They are served warm and are absolutely amazing. They are so good that this year I stood in line for almost an hour just to get some.

Jonamac Orchard has other things like a great kid’s area, a giant corn maze, pony rides, and an apple launcher. They also have a huge rocking chair for photo opps (which of course we forgot to stop at this year) and a country store. We got there later in the day than we had hoped to so we didn’t have time to do much. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of my boys, my niece, and my nephew at the Orchard.

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(Disclosure: This isn’t a sponsored post. We paid for the apples and delicious doughnuts.)

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Santa’s Village Autumn Harvest Fest {Giveaway}

santas village

(Disclosure: I received a family pack of tickets to Santa’s Village but all thoughts are my own.)

Santa’s Village is tons of fun in the summer months but did you know that the Chicago area amusement park has special activities just for the Fall season? Starting in September, the park will begin its annual Autumn Harvest Fest days. Open Weekends & Columbus Day, Sept. 28 through Oct. 27, Harvest Fest offers fun for families looking to perk up their weekends with a seasonal celebration. Harvest Fest provides guests with all the summer magic that Santa’s Village Azoosment Park has to offer, but with an exciting fall twist in the air.

In the spirit of the season, the park will be decorated with pumpkins and autumn colors. Enjoy new additions such as a straw maze, magic shows and your favorite fall treats like chili, caramel apples, specialty funnel cakes, pies and beverages. As the season comes to a close, celebrate Halloween at the park on October 26 and 27 with trick-or-treating and a costume contest from 2 p.m. -3 p.m. both days. Regular park admission fees apply.

We were planning to go today but because it’s raining we chose to push our visit to a later date. Here are some pictures from last year’s visit to the park:

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GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a family pack of tickets to Santa’s Village

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Follow Santa’s Village on Twitter

5) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right corner)

Giveaway ends September 11, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: I received a family pass to the park in exchange for posting. All thoughts are my own.)

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Air Classics Museum of Aviation {Sugar Grove, IL}

aviation

On our way home from a water park a couple weeks ago we passed by a bunch of old airplanes. I had to stop and get some pictures of them.

I discovered that they were part of an Aviation museum. The planes outside include an A-7 that flew in the Gulf War and a UH-1 Huey helicopter.

Inside the museum there are displays of uniforms and other aviation memorabilia from the 1930′s to the present time. The museum is located in Sugar Grove, IL (right outside of Aurora) and the musuem’s general hours are Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Organized tour hours available at other times as well. Learn more about the museum by checking out their website.

I think this museum would be fun for all ages. If you visit it I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments below.

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LEGOLAND Discovery Center {Schaumburg, IL}

legoland

(Disclosure: I am receiving a family pass in exchange for promoting LEGOLAND. Will share my review after my visit.)

Visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago and it’s like you’ve just jumped into the world’s biggest box of LEGO bricks! With over 3 million LEGO bricks, rides and a 4D movie theatre all under one roof, what will you discover?

I am excited to take my family to LEGOLAND since the boys are just starting to get into building with LEGO bricks. I can’t wait to see their faces when they see everything they will get to play with!

My readers can get a FREE Child Admission with Full Paid $20 Adult Admission!

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Volo Auto Museum {Volo, IL}

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(Disclosure: I am receiving a family pack of tickets to the Volo Auto Museum for posting about it.)

Volo Auto Museum is not just for car lovers or men, its fun for the whole family!  36 acres, mostly all indoors and includes fifty thousand square feet of antiques and gifts, a life like military combat zone, Betty’s Diner featuring decor which includes Elvis Presley’s autographed guitar, PeeWee Hermans Bicycle and more.  Plus over 300 restored collector automobiles from the early teens through today.

The largest collection of famous Hollywood TV and movie cars like the Batmobile, Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters and numerous others.  New for 2013 is the Cars in Wonderland Exhibit; it has all your favorite childhood cars from the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine to Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater from CARS all surrounded by movie-like setting from your favorite Disney and Looney Tunes Cartoons, such as Beauty and the Beast, Litter Mermaid, Coyote and Road Runner and others.

Volo Auto Museum is more than a car museum, its memories and education for all ages! My Readers can save up to $12 off Admission at Volo Auto Museum with this coupon.

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Exclusive Coupons For Family Fun In Illinois {Summer 2013}

Hope you all are enjoying your summer! I wanted to share some great coupons with you all to help you save money this summer and have fun with your families on a budget :)

 

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Dave & Busters Summer of Games

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I love spending time outside during the summer but sometimes it’s just too hot to do anything but stay inside in the air conditioning. On days like this, I am thankful for places like Dave & Buster’s. They invited my family for a complementary summer preview and we enjoyed spending the afternoon there.

We headed to one of the Dave & Buster’s locations in the Chicago area one afternoon for lunch and to play some games. Normally places that offer games for kids have kid-friendly foods but not many offerings for adults. Dave & Buster’s has a whole menu full of food that adults like and a great kid’s menu.

We got the boys a hamburger with fries, Sinisa had steak, chicken, and shrimp kabobs, and I had grown up mac and cheese. The servings were so large that I brought home enough leftovers from my meal that I had lunch the next day. I also had a delicious watermelon flavored drink with strawberry ice cubes. Yum!

 

Summer is just getting started, and already Dave & Buster’s is heating things up on the entertainment scene! As part of the “Summer of Games” promotion, Dave & Buster’s will give guests free play on five of the newest games when they purchase or re-charge a PowerCard, from now through August 25th. There were almost a couple hundred different games to play and there were a variety for all ages. I liked the card system at Dave & Buster’s. Points are loaded on cards and then all you have to do is swipe them at the game you want to play.

The kids loved playing the games!

Another great feature of Dave & Buster’s is their ticket and prize system. Each ticket is worth two typical tickets which makes walking around with tickets much easier. They also have amazing prizes. The manager at the store told me that a prize at one location is a motorcycle! Who wouldn’t love to play games to take one of those home?

and for the video game lovers….

The boys ended up each getting enough tickets for a stuffed animal and a water gun filled with candy. They were happy to take home their special prizes.

Have you ever been to Dave & Buster’s? What are your favorite games to play there?

(Disclosure: As stated above, Dave & Buster’s invited us for a free media preview. All thoughts are my own.)

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Favorite Family Friendly Restaurants Around Naperville, Illinois

Social Fabric Local Restaurants Blog Hop

Ever travel and wonder what restaurant to eat at? Which ones are kid friendly? Which ones have good food? Well wonder no more! Members from the Social Fabric blogging community are sharing our favorite restaurants in the United States, the UK, and Canada. I am sharing about restaurants in the Western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and in about a week will be sharing everyone else’s posts as well. Here are my favorite kid-friendly local restaurants:

All Aboard Diner

1) All Aboard Diner (Downer’s Grove, IL): We love this train themed restaurant! Ask for a counter seat and a train will come along the counter and deliver your food. This is a favorite to visit on birthdays because the train will bring around a little cupcake (they also have a party room). Thomas the Train plays on a tv screen and a train runs around the ceiling of the restaurant to keep the kid’s entertained.

2) Johnny Rockets (Bolingbrook, IL): This is a fun, old-fashioned diner. Pick a song from the tabletop jukeboxes to listen to while you eat. Favorites at this restaurant include burgers and milkshakes.

Lobster Grilled Cheese from Jimmy’s Grill

3) Jimmy’s Grill (Naperville, IL): During the summer this restaurant is a great place to go because of their large outdoor patio. It’s located in Naperville’s cute downtown area and is a fun place to people watch. The food is delicious as well. Last time I went I got the lobster grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a little pricier than we are used to but it’s pretty decently priced for the area. Kids are welcome at the restaurant and given crayons and paper to color.

4) Choo Choo Johnny’s (Naperville, IL): Similar to All Aboard Diner, this is another train themed restaurant where a little train delivers the food. Check the website for deals and coupons.

Pretzel dog with bacon and cheese & chili cheese tots

5) Sonic (multiple locations): This is a fun drive-in restaurant. They have great “happy hour” deals on foods and milkshakes. I love their new pretzel bun hotdogs, the boys like their french toast sticks, and Sinisa loves their cranberry juice with cherry syrup.

6) Lou Malnati’s (Bolingbrook and Naperville, IL): I live in Chicago so you know I had to have a pizza place on this list! While not my favorite place to go for pizza, I love going here for their salad. Yes, you read that right….I said I’d choose salad over pizza! The rest of my family does like their pizza though.

Cracker Barrel

7) Cracker Barrel Old Country Buffet (Romeoville and Naperville, IL): This restaurant is great for spending some time relaxing with the family. The porch is full of rocking chairs. There is a country store inside to check out as well while you wait for your table. Each table has an old fashioned game and there is a fireplace inside which gives the restaurant an at home feel. Crayons and an activity sheet are given to each child. My favorite food here are the cinnamon apples I get as a side dish with my French toast.

8) Culver’s (multiple locations): I discovered Culver’s when I was in college. I like their burgers because they toast their buns. The kid’s meal comes with a free custard which the boys can get if they eat their lunch.

BONUS: Bolingbrook, IL has a restaurant at the small, local airport called Charlie’s where kids can watch the planes take off and land. I’ve never been there before but it’s on our “to-do” list :)

Where do you like to eat in the Chicago suburbs?

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8 Tips To Save Money At The Zoo {And Brookfield Zoo Pictures}

zoo collage

We are lucky to have two large zoos and a handful of small ones in the Chicago area. Our favorite is Brookfield Zoo. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our first zoo trip of the summer (and ways we saved money while there):

Money Saving Tip #1: Brookfield Zoo has a dinosaur exhibit so instead of paying a lot in the gift shop for a souvenir, we picked up these dinosaur hats for just a couple dollars at Target.

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Money Saving Tip #2: Pack a cooler with drinks and food. We packed our drinks, snacks and the boys lunches. My mom and I ate food from a snack shack at the zoo and we splurged on ice cream since it was so hot outside.

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Money Saving Trip #3: Check into joining your local zoo, especially if you plan on going there often or are going to pay for attractions anyways. Our membership includes 4 tickets to the dino exhibit, 4 tickets to ride the tram, 4 tickets to the dolphin show, unlimited access to the Children’s area, free parking and guest passes. Once you pay for parking, it’s often cheaper to get a membership! Plus, zoo memberships often get you a discount on food and souvenirs.

Other ways to save?

#4: Look for coupons online.

#5: Check to see if your local library has any passes to local attractions (here in Chicago they do).

#6: If you are going to be purchasing a drink, look for refillable cups.

#7: Check to see if your zoo has free admission days.

#8: Enjoy a free show. A lot of times you can see zookeepers feeding animals or talking about animals around the park. These talks are free. Check the schedule at your local zoo.

How do you save money at the zoo?

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Family Friendly Events at Chicago Botanic Garden

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It’s July and the time of the year that many parents start to hear “I’m bored”. With over a month still left of summer and plenty of nice weather days left it’s the perfect time to go visit the Chicago Botanic Garden.

This summer, the Garden has a variety of activities for families to enjoy together. From the new Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and Kleinman Family Cove to the Model Railroad Garden and Butterflies & Blooms exhibitions, there are many engaging destinations to discover. A full calendar of events is designed specifically for families throughout the summer.

Image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America – runs through Sunday, October 27

The Model Railroad Garden returns for a 14th season with new features such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a refurbished White House. Eighteen model G-scale trains will run on 17 tracks, winding over bridges and trestles, and around nearly 50 models of American landmarks. The 7,500-square-foot exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (weather permitting). Special evening hours on Wednesdays, June 5 – August 28, until 8 p.m. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates; Garden Plus members are free on Wednesdays. The Model Railroad Garden is generously sponsored by Bank Of America. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/railroad for more information.

Plant Giveaways – Wednesdays through October 6

Visitors are invited to stop by the Fruit & Vegetable Garden between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to pick up a free seedling. Plant giveaways vary by month and include a care sheet and recipe to help you enjoy your new plant.

Butterflies & Blooms Exhibition – runs through Monday, September 2

The popular Butterflies & Blooms exhibition returns for its second season. Visitors are immersed in a tropical habitat full of hundreds of colorful butterflies interacting with plant life. Butterflies & Blooms features butterflies from around the world, including South America, Asia, North America, and Africa, as well as those native to Illinois. Volunteers are also on hand to answer questions. The 2,800-square-foot white mesh enclosure is located on the lawn of the Learning Campus. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates; Garden Plus members are free on Wednesdays. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/butterflies for more information.

Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden Family Drop-in Activities – Daily, through September 2

Get close to nature and discover where food comes from and how plants grow. Pollinate flowers, dissect seeds, see roots growing, compost with worms, create a rainbow for healthy eating, and more. Activities vary from week to week and all feature books and puzzles. Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekday hours are noon to 4 p.m. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/forfamilies for more information.

Kleinman Family Cove Family Drop-in Activities – Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, through September 1

Explore the plants and animals in aquatic habitats. Use scientific tools to look at tiny critters living under water, find out what makes water plants different from land plants, and more. Activities may vary from week to week. Program hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/forfamilies for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Family Sundays – Sundays, July 7 and 21, August 6 and September 1 and 15

Drop by the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden for hands-on activities related to Japanese arts and culture. Practice using chopsticks, rake miniature dry gardens, make Japanese kites, and more. The free activities vary each time, and are subject to change. 

Family Campout – July 27 (rain date August 2)

Families can come pitch a tent in our Outdoor Classroom for a low-stress camping experience with flushing toilets and running water! We’ll go for a scavenger hunt and evening hike through the prairie and cook s’mores around a campfire. Please plan to spend the night, as the Garden is unable to accommodate “under-night” or evening-only participants. Activities are geared for participants ages 5 and 6, but younger campers are welcome. Please note the rain date when registering for the campout. Campout fees will only be refunded if both the original date and the rain date are cancelled by the Garden. Program runs 5 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $50 per child; $20 per adult. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Adult must accompany children. Limit of three children per adult. Campers should bring a sack lunch for dinner. S’mores and breakfast is provided. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/afterschool/campouts or call (847) 835-8239 for more information.

Herb Garden Weekend – Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28

Learn about a variety of kitchen garden herbs in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden at Herb Garden Weekend. Staff, volunteers and outside experts will talk about their top ten herbs, how to grow herbs in containers, herbs in the kitchen and more. Herb Discovery Carts will introduce visitors to the herbs and edible flowers they can grow in their own gardens. Marcia Carmichael, herbal expert and historical gardener at Old World Wisconsin, will answer herb gardening questions throughout the weekend. Select vendors will offer plants and herbal products for sale. Visitors can take part in a number of family-friendly activities, including a sniff guess game, planting an herb seed and making a dried herb mix for herb butter. As part of the Plant Giveaway Program, visitors can take a marjoram seedling home (while supplies last). Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Nature Nights: NEW! Abounding Butterflies – Saturdays, July 6 or 20

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. You’ll learn how butterflies sense the world around them, find out about the butterfly life cycle, and discover how to attract butterflies to your garden. Each Nature Nights also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/naturenights/ for more information.

Nature Nights: Aquatic Adventure – Saturday, August 3 or 17

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. You’ll gather your own water sample and look at plants, insects, and animals that live in the water at the Kleinman Family Cove using scientific tools. Each Nature Nights also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visitwww.chicagobotanic.org/naturenights for more information.

Kite Festival – Saturday, August 10, and Sunday, August 11

Enjoy a day at the Garden as colorful kites decorate the sky above the meadow west of Evening Island. Members of the award-winning Chicago Fire Kite Team perform sport kite ballet and precision flying demonstrations, and experts will offer kite-flying tips. Kids are encouraged to join in the fun by making their own kite during the kite-making workshops between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There’ll also be a ‘Kids Mad Dash’ in which participants will compete to see who can get their kite built and soaring the fastest. Registration is free and available at the Gift of Wings tent between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The first 30 children to register will receive a free kite to build and fly in the competition. Participants may bring and fly their own kites in the designated “Kite Festival” area between performances. Kites will also be available for purchase through Gift of Wings, a Milwaukee, WI-based retailer which will set up shop during the festival. Gift of Wings along with the Kite Society of Wisconsin and Illinois make this festival possible.

Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/specialevent/kite or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Summer Festival – Saturday, August 17, and Sunday, August 18

Learn about the summer festivals (matsura) celebrated in Japan during this special weekend of activities. Listen to taiko drum and koto harp music, enjoy traditional folktales, and watch a tea ceremony. Kids of all ages can make projects to celebrate summer—fold origami, create a paper fan, make a kite, and more at family-friendly, hands-on stations. Program hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Malott Japanese Garden will be staffed with volunteers in the Shoin House and around the Garden from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also stop by the Mid-America Bonsai Society Show & Sale. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/familyprograms/dropin for more information.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend – Saturday, August 24, and Sunday, August 25

Get new ideas about everyone’s garden-favorite, tomatoes, with programs focused on growing and using heirloom varieties. Volunteers and staff will provide tips on growing and using tomatoes. “Tomato Discovery Carts” will explore many types of tomatoes you can grow at home and trace the history of tomatoes as they’ve traveled the world. Visitors can ask experts tomato questions and shop for tomato-related items in the Wheelbarrow Shop and from select vendors. Family activities include a creating an herb mix for pasta sauce, a tomato toss, a tomato test, “sorting supper,” “rainbows of tomatoes,” and “indicator art.” As part of the Plant Giveaway Program, visitors can take a Crimson King basil seedling home (while supplies last). Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to tour the tomatoes growing in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden with the horticulturist at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Seed saving demonstrations will be offered on the half hour throughout the weekend.

Find out more at www.chicagobotanic.org

(Disclosure: This post is not sponsored.)

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View Chicago’s Skyline From A Seadog Cruise

seadog

(Disclosure: I will be going on a Fireworks Seadog cruise in July during BlogHer but thoughts are my own.)

I love living near Chicago. It’s such an exciting place to be and an absolutely beautiful city. I don’t get to the city to explore as much as I’d like but the BlogHer conference is in my hometown this year so this July I will be spending a lot of time doing “touristy” things. One of the things I can’t wait to do is go on a Seadog cruise along Chicago’s scenic lakefront.

Seadog offers four exciting ways to see and experience Chicago from the water:

Lakefront Speedboat Tour

This 30-minute cruise along the shoreline offers a descriptive tour of Chicago’s famous skyline, while playing your favorite music.

Extreme Thrill Ride

This cruise is perfect for the dare-devil in you! This 30-minute ride features splash down stops, 180-degree turns, slalom runs and more.

River and Lake Architectural Tour

Enjoy historic views of Chicago’s famous landmarks and neighborhoods during this 75-minute cruise on both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Lakefront Fireworks Cruise

Enjoy front-row seats to the spectacular fireworks display aboard the Lakefront Fireworks Cruise! Cruise along Lake Michigan with an exciting speedboat ride paired with an informative tour of the Chicago skyline, then end the evening with a dazzling fireworks show and top-40 hits playing in the background! The open aired vessel allows for panoramic views, providing a perfect view. The Seadog Fireworks Cruise is available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, running from Memorial Day – Labor Day.

Seadog is great for both individuals and groups and they offer customizable group events for up to 450 people. Seadog also features specific holiday cruises, such as Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Halloween.

For more information, please visit www.seadogcruises.com/chicago/ or call 888-636-7737.

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Summer Fun At Magic Waters

magic waters collage

(Disclosure: I am receiving a family pack of tickets for posting about Magic Waters.)

Hey, Chicago! Looking for something fun to do on a hot summer day this summer? Visit one of the largest water parks in Illinois! Magic Waters is located just off I-90 near Rockford. Experience the Double Dare Drop 75 ft. Speed Slides, Tsunami Bay Wave Pool, Typhoon Terror Adventure Ride and the thrill a minute Splash Blaster Water Coaster Ride. Enter the dark tunnel of the Abyss for lots of twists and turns or relax on the 1,200 ft. Splash Magic River. Have tons of fun at Tiki Island where a 1,000 gallon pineapple water bucket spills to the delight of guests! Coolers welcome or grab lunch at the new Ocho’s Cantina! Luxury cabanas available. Free Parking. Visit magicwaterswaterpark.com for more information.

Water park opens June 8th 2013. Open Daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Mon & Fri 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Special Offers & Events

$12 Buck Bargain Days: Tues, Wed, Thurs during the 2013 season.

Friday Family Fun Nights: June 14 through August 16.

Meet & Greet: Sunday July 14th. Disney band IM5 will be at the park for a Meet and Greet. Go to magicwaterswaterpark.com for details.

Get your season passes now!

This is an exclusive offer brought to you by WindyCityKidsGuide!

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My On The Field Experience With The Chicago Cubs {And How YOU Can Have A “Priceless” Experience Too!}

priceless mastercard

As a blogger in a big city I get to do a lot of fun things but there is nothing I like more than being able to involve my friends and loved ones in my blogging events. When I was invited to enjoy a day at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs courtesy of MasterCard and allowed to bring a guest I knew exactly who I wanted to bring. My little brother is a huge Cubs fan and I knew he’d really have a lot of fun during this once in a lifetime experience. {Make sure to read below to find out how YOU can have a unique experience in Chicago, too!}

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

Love that they promote their social media channels here!

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My little brother, Brock, right after he stepped onto the field :)

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Brock playing catch on the field.

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Brock standing in front of the ivy wall at Wrigley Field.

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ME! Enjoying a relaxing morning on the field

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Hope of Digital Megaphone {she’s the one who invited us along!}

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Me and my little bro :)

During this experience we also enjoyed batting practice in the Chicago Cubs batting cages, got to take souvenir balls, and went to a private party at the Captain Morgan’s Club where we had lunch.

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Do you want to have a once in a lifetime experience like this? YOU CAN!!

This event was part of MasterCard’s Priceless Chicago promotion. MasterCard offers priceless experiences to their cardholders. You can find out more details on MasterCard’s website but here are a few experiences that may interest you or your family members:

Pre-Game VIP Party at Wrigley Field

Brunch at the American Girl Doll Place with Author Valerie Tripp

A day of beauty at Neiman Marcus’s Michigan Avenue store

Private 15 Course Meal with Top Chef Richie Farina

(Disclosure: I attended this event courtesy of MasterCard and Digital Megaphone free of charge. All thoughts are my own.)

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My Experience At Ribfest {With Ty Pennington & Sears}

Ty & I

I posted back in June about the Sears “Grilling Is Happiness” live event and how I was so excited because Ty Pennington was going to be there. I wanted to follow up and update you all about my experience and share lots of pictures, too!

Friday night I went to a media/blogger event at a beautiful hotel. There were about 10 bloggers, people from Sears, and then the cooking and lifestyle experts. The experts that attended the event were Ty Pennington {best known for Extreme Makeover Home Edition}, Robyn Lindars of Grill Grrrl, Perry Perkins of Burnin’ Love BBQ, and George Hirsch {a cooking and lifestyle expert}. We ate delicious food while chatting about grilling and blogging. It was also a great chance to get some pictures taken:

Ty & I

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Robyn & I

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Some of the Collective Bias Social Fabric bloggers at the event: myself, Laura, Kelly, and Michelle

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The dessert- yum!

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Saturday I attended the Ribfest in Naperville, IL. This is an annual event with many barbeque restaurants participating. This year Sears participated and hosted a “Grilling Is Happiness” event with live grilling demonstrations, pictures opportunities, and a chance to enter their sweepstakes to win some great prizes. Here are some pictures I took at the Ribfest:

George Hirsch showing off the Kenmore Grill he is using

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Shrimp that George Hirsch made with the help of Ty Pennington {I tasted it and it was delicious! He paired it with asian style noodles.}

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Ty being interviewed by ABC News

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Trying to stay cool on a hot day

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Perry showing what he uses to grill

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I learned a lot watching the experts grill and think it’s great that Sears included a woman in their panel of experts. I don’t know a lot about grilling but seeing that a girl could grill just as well as the men could made me want to go outside and figure out how to use the grill I just bought last month. I also loved how she made a variety of things on the grill that I’d never think to make. She even makes dessert on the grill! {Check out her grilled pound cake recipe}

I had so much fun at the event and took over 60 pictures! You can view the rest of my pictures in my Google+ photo album. I also took two videos at the Ribfest. The first is of Robyn giving a couple of her grilling tips and the second is of Ty sharing a grilling story with the crowd.

If you are in the Chicago area I encourage you to attend the Naperville Ribfest next year! You will not be disappointed. The food is amazing, they have live bands playing throughout the fest, and they even have a fun family area with lots of things to keep the kids busy.

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Connect with Sears:

Sears on Facebook, Sears on Twitter, Shop Your Way on Twitter, Sears Local Ad

Connect with Ribfest:

Ribfest on Facebook, Ribfest on Twitter

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears. #CBias #SocialFabric #GrillingIsHappiness All thoughts are my own.)

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Our Experience At Medieval Times {And A Giveaway!}

Jacob, my mom, and Camden

When I was younger I went to Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament with my mom and brother. It was an experience I wanted to give my children as well so I was really excited when my family was invited to visit the castle and attend the debut of their first new show in five years.

View of the castle from the highway

Since my youngest is only two years old I chose to invite my mom and four year old nephew to attend the show with Jacob and I. We spent the car ride playing a guessing game of what kinds of things we thought we’d see at the show. We also were on the lookout for the giant castle that the show is in. The castle in Illinois is near a major highway so as we were driving we could see it and the boys started to get even more excited.

Jacob, my mom, and Camden

Once inside the castle we received crowns to wear. Since it was VIP night there was a cocktail party beforehand with drinks and delicious appetizers. We chose to buy the boys light up swords as well and I was happy to find that they were reasonably priced.

The King is coming!

Before the tournament there is a little show in the lobby area. The King comes out and there is a knighting ceremony. People who attend the show can pay extra to participate in this experience. After the ceremony, everyone is let into the arena and seated according to what knight they will be cheering for in the tournament. {Ours was the black and white striped knight.}

Once seated inside we were given our dinner in courses. We were fed soup, bread, a huge piece of chicken, a spare rib, potato wedges, and an apple danish. The chicken and soup were my favorites. I ended up with leftovers to take home to Sinisa because there was so much food. Keeping in line with the “medieval” theme, the food was served with no utensils so you may want to keep that in mind if you bring little ones who might need a spoon for their soup or straw for their drinks.

While eating we watched the story unfold in front of us, watched the jousting tournament, and cheered for our knight. Here’s a little more about the new show at the Chicago castle:

While the new show has undergone a complete overhaul, some traditions remain. The live show still features two- and four- legged performers with a true medieval utensil-free meal, all in a recently updated, castle-inspired arena. However, the new live production presents even more of audience favorites such as live jousting, swordplay, horsemanship and falconry. Guests become part of the action, filling arena seats and cheering for one of six “Knights of the Realm,” named after historic regions of medieval Spain.

“The new show is designed to keep our guests on the edges of their seats from the opening moment,” says Saj Rizvi, vice president and general manager of the Chicago Castle. “New & returning guests will feel the electriticty in the air from the riveting new battle scenes and grand costumes, to the new lighting and on-going action set to a fresh musical score.”

After the opening, guests will witness intricate battles that are in reality precisely planned sequences with have been practiced daily. With authentic weaponry and enhanced armor, the new production presents non-stop action tied to the tempo of the music. And while there’s still a general theme of “good versus evil” throughout the show, guests will see much more of what they’ve requested – fight scenes that maintain the highest quality and safety standards.

Since Jacob is only three, I wasn’t sure how he’d sit during the show but he behaved very well. He was entranced with the show and, though he didn’t follow the story line, he enjoyed all of the action. My nephew liked the show too, however it ran a couple of hours past his bedtime so he started to get sleepy towards the end of it. Overall, we really enjoyed the dinner and tournament and I am happy that my son got to experience the show that I have great memories of watching as a child.

PURCHASE TICKETS:

Tickets can be purchased here.

Pricing for 2012: Children under 3 are free if they sit on a lap and eat of the adults plate, children under 12 are $39.95, and adults are $59.95.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a complimentary admission ticket to Medieval Times {Chicago Castle only}

Ticket is valid through September 30, 2012.

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win.

2) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

3) Like Medieval Times on Facebook

4) Share this giveaway on a social network

5) Enter another one of my giveaways {found here}

Giveaway ends June 1, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. Giveaway does not include travel to Chicago or anything else other than one ticket.

(Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets for my family to attend the VIP night at Medieval Times. Italicized information in this post came from the press release but all other thoughts are my own. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

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Spring Fun In Chicago

kidgrade ambassador

My family has enjoyed a lot of outside time these past couple weeks. It’s been wonderful but as much fun as we’ve had in the backyard, I am already looking forward to getting out and about around Chicago. I headed to Kidgrade.com for some ideas of places we could go that are family friendly. I like the site because there are ratings from other parents on how kid-friendly places are. Here are a few of the places I want to take the boys this Spring:

Places we have never been to before:

Blackberry Historical Farm (Aurora, IL)

Chicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, IL)

Exploritorium (Skokie, IL)

Kaitlin’s Hideout- A Play Center For Children With Autism (Glen Ellyn, IL)

Places we have been to before and can’t wait to return to:

Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield, IL)

DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville, IL)

Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL)

Wilderness Falls (Bolingbrook, IL)

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If you live in the Chicago area what fun places are you looking forward to taking your family?

(Disclosure: I am a Kidgrade Ambassador but all thoughts are my own. I was not asked to write this post and am not being compensated for it but I do receive “perks” as an ambassador.)

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Christmas Fun In The Chicago Suburbs {8 Places To Take Your Family}

Do you live in a Chicago suburb and are looking for places to take your kids to do some fun Christmas things? I have some ideas:

BASS PRO SHOPS (Bolingbrook and Gurnee)

BOLINGBROOK PROMENADE (Bolingbrook)

Symphony in light shows every evening from 5-9pm until December 31st. Find more information on the Bolingbrook Promenade here.

BROOKFIELD ZOO (Brookfield)

Chicagoland’s largest light festival takes place at Brookfield Zoo. There are lots of lights, animated light displays, a laser light show, music and entertainment. Find out more information here.

CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDENS (Glencoe)

Take a magical adventure to a winter wonderland of twinkling lights and holiday beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Outside, 750,000 lights sparkle and welcome you and your family to the Garden’s wonderland. Inside the Regenstein Center, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition of miniature trains winds through more than 80 miniature Chicago-area landmarks. In addition to the Wonderland Express exhibition there will be decorated trees, a gingerbread village display, and a wreath display and sale. Find out more information here.

MORTON ARBORETUM (Lisle)

A holiday favorite returns! The “Enchanted Railroad” rolls through with model trains of different colors and styles. One train even has a tiny camera on board so visitors can see what it would be like to ride along! Nine trains operate via remote-controlled interlocked signals, allowing them to cross tracks safely, and two trolleys that reverse direction automatically. Bring the kids and spend 30 minutes or more “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” at the toy trains. Find out more details here.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER (Schaumburg)

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago invites you to celebrate the season during Holly Jolly Holidays. Festive decorations will deck the halls of the Center throughout the month of December. Guests will also enjoy special seasonal games, group builds and plenty or LEGO-tastic holiday fun! Find out more information here.

CUNEO MANSION & GARDENS (Vernon Hills)

The Drive Thru Holiday Light Show presented by the Village of Vernon Hills in cooperation with the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens is held annually on the magnificent grounds of the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens.  The event opens Friday November 25, 2011 and runs thru December 31, 2011. Find out more information here.  

COSLEY ZOO (Wheaton)

20,000 twinkling lights and spectacular displays transform Cosley Zoo into a fairy tale winter wonderland from Thanksgiving Friday through the end of December. The lights come on at 3p.m. and the zoo closes at 9p.m. Visit the animals and purchase your Christmas tree, wreath, and holiday gifts! FREE to the public! Find out more information here.

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Make sure to visit Kidgrade to get more ideas of where to head for family fun in the Chicago area!

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Chevy Cupcake Quest

chevycupcakes

A couple weeks ago I spent my morning with other bloggers participating in a Chevy Cupcake Quest organized by Sharon and Chevy. We were put into teams (my teammate was Paula from Frosted Fingers) and drove around the city of Chicago in a Chevy Traverse, visiting cupcake shops and completing challenges. We did things like tweeting about the cupcakes we tried, sharing facts about Chevy’s 100 year anniversary, and doing a number of picture taking challenges. We were also given the opportunity to nominate a hero we knew for Our Town, Our Heroes program.

During the quest we had to visit four different cupcake shops: Swirlz Cupcakes, Sugar Bliss Cupcakes, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Sweet Mandy B’s. At each shop we got a cupcake (or two) to try, took pictures, and learned about the different cupcakes. At Swirlz Cupcakes I tried Gluten Free cupcakes that were amazing and tasted just like regular cupcakes. The Gluten Free Chocolate Mint one was my favorite (and best of all? It’s sold at Whole Foods all around Chicagoland!) At Sugar Bliss Cupcakes I ate a huge carrot cake cupcake with frosting shaped like a flower on top. At Sprinkles Cupcakes I ate a Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake that had a layer of peanut butter on top which was an unexpected surprise! At Sweet Mandy B’s I enjoyed a pumpkin cupcake and the old fashioned feel of the Lincoln Park bakery.

At the end of the quest we gathered for a “sweet-up” at Bleeding Heart Bakery where I enjoyed some peach pie and talked with other bloggers and representatives of Chevy. While we were there we learned who the winners of the quest were and guess what? Paula and I won! I was very excited because I had just spent the morning eating cupcakes and having fun and was now being rewarded with a $100 gift certificate to Bleeding Heart Bakery and a week long loan of the General Motors car of my choice.

Being the awesome mom that I am I came home with a bag full of cupcakes and cake balls for my children. Couldn’t keep all the yuminess to myself! Now the question is: which vehicle do I choose? A “mom” van or a hot sports car? :)

(Disclosure: I received a gift card to cover my expenses for the day but all thoughts are my own.)

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Six Flags Great America {Fun For Young Children, Too}

six flags

Photo courtesy of: Lisa from Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

For my birthday a few weeks ago my family and I headed to Six Flags Great America with some other bloggers and their families thanks to Discover and Chicagonista. I had always thought of Six Flags as a place for older children, teens, and adults but when I put on Facebook that we were going to Great America I was told that there was lots to do.

We started the day eating lunch with the other bloggers, the family from the Coaster Tour, and representatives from Discover. We listened to a family tell us about their roadtrip from Six Flags in LA to the Six Flags in Chicago and stopping at three other Six Flags on the way. It sounded like a fun trip and great bonding time for the family of four. We also learned about the perks that Discover card holders get when they go to Six Flags like early admittance to the park, a 5% discount at the park, and cashback bonuses (you can learn more about the perks and more here).

After lunch our family headed to the children’s area. The boys didn’t go on many rides but Jacob rode his first rollercoaster! I wasn’t sure how he would like it but he loved it so much he wanted to do it again. We ended our day at Hurricane Harbor which is the water park inside of Great America. My children are so young (2 and 3) that we were only able to go in one area of the water park but we could have easily spent all day in that one area. There were small slides that both boys went on and also large tube slides that Jacob and I both went on. We climbed all the way to the top and I was told only one person could ride at a time so I went first and waited at the bottom for Jacob. He was supposed to lie on his back all the way down but ended up rolling around and had a mouth full of water on the way down. I thought he would be done with the slides after that but he wanted to keep going on them!

We left in the afternoon because it was a long day in the sun for the boys and they normally nap at noon so by four they were exhausted. We didn’t even make it to the front gates before they were asleep! If you have children of any age I think they will love Six Flags Great America :)

(Disclosure: I attended this event free of charge and received Discover cards to cover my expenses but all opinions are my own.)

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