Discovering A Hidden Gem In The Chicago Suburbs

Thanks to Oak Brook Hills Resort for inviting me to their re-opening celebration and hosting my family for a stay.

I’ve lived in the Chicago suburbs most of my life and am always amazed to discover new places that have been around for years that I’ve never heard of. Last week I had the chance to visit one place like that when I went to the Grand Reopening of Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center in Oak Brook, IL. Even though I have family nearby and lived in a neighboring town for a couple years I had never had a chance to visit it before.

The resort recently underwent a 5-year, $25 million remodel and has become an ideal place to host getaways, golf events, family vacations, celebrations, business events, meetings, weddings & conventions. The expansive lobby, along with many of the 348 rooms and 38 suites, overlook breathtaking views of the 150-acre property that includes lakes, lush scenery, and the award-winning Willow Crest Golf Club.

I was thinking it would be a great place to stay for our next family staycation. It would even be perfect for a babymoon before baby Emma comes in January. I’d just love to rest a bit in a nice hotel room without feeling like I have to clean or organize something. (“Nesting” has been in full-effect here since summer!)

Other than the updated rooms, there were plenty of other things that I liked about the resort. I loved the outdoor pool’s placement right by the water. I was also impressed to hear that there is full-service at the pool area which really gives it that resort type feel that I’ve previously only experienced on island vacations. Not visiting during the warmer months? No problem because they have a nice size indoor pool as well (which I know will be my boys’ favorite part of the stay!)

Another thing that was unique about this Midwest resort was the quality of food that they serve in their two on-site restaurants. The B. Restaurant is a farm-to-table concept that offers fresh, local (they have a garden on property) and seasonal ingredients in a casually dramatic setting. Tin Cup is a social gathering place with craft beers, pub food and a gorgeous outdoor seating area near the pool and golf course. Everything I ate at their grand re-opening party was delicious!

Other ammenities offered at the resort include a fitness center and sauna, spa, 18-hole championship golf course, high speed internet, golf simulators, full-service business center, and seasonal activities.

The thing that stood out the most about Oak Brook Hills Resort though, was the attention to detail that could be found throughout the property. From the gorgeous lighting fixtures to the custom wood barn bathroom doors to the swimming pool toys available for children.

So next time you are looking for a Chicago area escape consider Oak Brook Hills Resort. It’s just a few miles away from Brookfield Zoo, Morton Arboretum, Chicagoland Speedway and Oak Brook Shopping Center. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Midway Airport and downtown Chicago are all within 30 minutes of the hotel.

Make sure to check out their upcoming events as well. There’s Breakfast with Santa, the popular New Year’s Eve Celebration (featuring world-renowned Las Vegas-based performers, The Rat Pack is Back), and Fish Fry Fridays. If visiting in the summer, the Fourth of July festivities sound like a blast, too!

Discover more about the resort and book your next vacation here.

Fall Fun In McHenry County

Thanks to McHenry County, Illinois for hosting my family for a few days of fall fun!

My family was invited to visit McHenry County and we discovered so much fall fun just a short drive away from the city of Chicago. Between back to school and the busy fall sports season we hadn’t done many of our typical fall activities so it was great to cross almost everything off my fall bucket list when we were there a little over a week ago! From apple orchards to pumpkin patches to fall festivals, McHenry County has it all so you’ll want to make visiting during the Autumn season a must-do. I wanted to share about all the farms we went to and a few other things you’ll want to do while you are there!

All Seasons Orchard (Woodstock, IL)

If you are looking to pick apples, All Seasons Orchard is the place to go! A hayride takes you out to pick your own apples throughout September and October. They have over 15,000 apple trees and two orchards, along with being one of the largest Honeycrisp apple orchards in the area. Honeycrisp apples are delicious, juicy, and crisp so they are great for snacking on and I used them to make some amazing cinnamon applesauce a few days ago as well!

All Seasons Orchard has more fun things to do as well including pumpkin picking, a petting zoo, corn maze, and more. My boys like their apple cannon that shoots apples at targets and riding on their mini ziplines. Before you leave make sure to visit their market store to get all the apple goodies you need! Their apple cider is a favorite of mine and I love their apple salsa as well.

Stade’s Farm & Market (McHenry, IL)

I had to pick up a baby pumpkin for the baby growing in my belly while we were pumpkin picking at Stade’s Farm & Market! Isn’t it so cute!? Their pumpkin patch was huge so we also picked up two large orange pumpkins and a pretty pink pumpkin. I had never seen pink pumpkins before so this was a really exciting find for me and Lucas picked out the perfect one for his mommy. During the summer and earlier fall months there are even more vegetables and fruits available for picking so I can’t wait to go back and pick some strawberries and raspberries!

I wish we would have had longer to spend at the farm after our hayride and time spent pumpkin picking because there was much more to do there than I had originally thought. WIth over 30 attractions in their “Farmtractions Theme Park” kids will enjoy hours of fun. I liked that each activity was thoughtfully created to bring agricultural awareness so the kids were learning while they played. Stade’s also has a pumpkin cannon which I think is a really unique feature (I’d only seen apple cannons before) and the boys favorite thing to do was to go through the cattle truck maze.

Richardson Adventure Farm (Spring Grove, IL)

If “go through a corn maze” is on your fall bucket list you will find the ultimate one at Richardson Adventure Farm because they have the world’s largest corn maze! Each year they have a theme so this year it was celebrating the Bicentennial and I thought the design was pretty cool and it’s really all so intricate! Whether you go during the day or opt for a flashlight trip through the maze, you will enjoy finding your way out of this maze. The maze has nine to ten miles of trail winding through 28 acres of live corn with four smaller paths so you can choose how long you stay in the maze.

Richardson Adventure Farm might be known for it’s corn maze but they have so much more to offer. The boys spent hours on the jumpy pillows (they have two) which seems to be their favorite activity to do anywhere they can find one. Jacob dropped a pumpkin from the observation tower that allowed “pumpkin chucking” into a safe space below which he thought was so cool. There are over 30 activities to keep the whole family busy from a kiddie play area and train ride for the littlest ones to paintball that tweens and teens would love. Weekend pig races are also a hit I’ve heard!

A unique feature they also offered was their private campsite and picnic area. I thought this was great for groups who want to have a home base for everyone (and who can say no to s’mores over the campfire?!) And one other sweet treat to try while you are at Richardson Adventure Farm is their doughnuts. Sinisa, Mr. Sweet Tooth himself, taste tested a number of doughnuts on our trip and said these were his favorite!

Von Bergen’s Country Market (Hebron, IL)

I loved seeing all the colorful produce that is grown at this farm- like purple peppers! It was interesting learning all about what they grow (sweet corn is their specialty) while we were on a hayride.

And of course we ended our trip at VonBergen’s Country Market in their kid activity area. Though it was smaller than the rest activity-wise, the boys still had fun. They loved playing in the hay maze the most! There was also a giant sandbox, basketball hoops, farm animals, and more!

Royal Oak Farm Orchard (Harvard, IL)

Royal Oak Farm Orchard has 17,000 apple trees with over 30 varieties of apples to pick. They are also home to the world’s first apple tree maze, Amaze ‘N Apples, where you can wander through 1.5 miles of trails with nine varieties of apples. The boys loved going through the apple tree maze with their dad while I enjoyed sitting in front of this cozy fireplace located in their barn.

The entertainment area has a fun play area for children including a petting zoo, train, playground, and carousel. Make sure you come hungry to Royal Oak Farm Orchard, too, because their restaurant serves delicious food. I had their pot pie with a side of homemade applesauce for lunch and ended the meal with their award-winning apple caramel pie.

Tom’s Farm & Market (Huntley, IL)

Tom’s Farm Market features a wide selection of farm-grown produce and they also have a cafe with a number of bakery items available. Seasonally they have a fall festival with lots of cheap fun for kids. Other than the jumpy pillow, my boys enjoyed going through their small corn maze, bouncing in the pumpkin bouncy house, going through the train inflatable, and riding the pedal tractors. They also have a larger corn maze to go through and it’s the perfect place to grab a pumpkin to carve if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to pick your own at a patch.

Other fun things to do in McHenry County during the fall season

Eat pizza (and salad) at Lou Malnati’s!

Enjoy chocolate at Morkes Chocolates (you can even make your own at a party or camp!)

Go on a walking tour and see all the sights from the Groundhog Day movie.

Check out all the stops on the Autumn Drive for all your fall produce, crafts, antiques, and more!

There is so much fall fun that can be found in McHenry County, Illinois! Where would you go first?

Illinois Residents: You Could Be Driving With Suspended License Plates And Not Even Know It

I know what you might be thinking after you read the title of this blog post. You can only have suspended plates if you did something wrong, right? NOPE. Today I wanted to share about how we learned that our plates were suspended on one of our vehicles because of an insurance issue (even though we’ve never had a lapse in insurance). It’s happened to other Illinois residents as well so read on to learn more, including how you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

Here’s our story…

Sinisa went to a local currency exchange to renew the plates for the vehicle he drives and was told that the plates were suspended and he had to go to the DMV. He went to our local DMV office where they told him that our plates were suspended because we hadn’t proved that we had insurance on a random day in 2017. Apparently they had sent a letter to our old address (where our car was registered to) requesting proof of insurance for a single day in October of 2017. So since we did not receive the reporting form, we did not send it in, and the plates on our vehicle were suspended.

There’s no way for us to know how long we had suspended plates and if one of us would have gotten pulled over for unknowingly driving with a suspended vehicle registration there could have been penalties. According to the Driver’s Defense Team: “If the state can prove that you were operating a vehicle with invalid registration, the penalties can be quite severe. In most cases, it is treated as a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious offense in Illinois before a felony. This means the judge can impose a sentence of up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500, or both.” Would this happen if you can prove you had insurance and didn’t deserve to have your registration suspended? I don’t know.

Luckily, we discovered this issue on our own and not after getting pulled over or our story may have been very different! In our case, our local DMV office told us we could pay a fine of $100 to “make it go away” or we could drive to another DMV (that offers more services) and show proof of insurance from last October to get our license plate registration unsuspended. Thankfully, we have two vehicles and Sinisa had vacation time to deal with this so we didn’t have to pay an additional $100.

So how can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

First, just to be safe, I’d suggest checking your vehicle’s registration on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website just to make sure it’s not suspended. (You can do so here.)

Next, if you have moved since purchasing your vehicle, make sure the address on your vehicle registration is up to date. We mistakenly believed that our registration address was updated automatically when we changed the address on our license but it was not. You have to do this separately.

Lastly, if you get a form requesting proof of insurance send it in immediately so you don’t misplace it or forget about it. According to the IL DMV website: “Enforcement of the mandatory insurance law is accomplished through a random questionnaire sampling process and the issuance of traffic tickets. If the computer randomly selects your vehicle, you will receive a questionnaire asking for the name of your insurance company and policy number. Your answers will be verified with the company you name. If you do not have insurance or fail to return the questionnaire with the requested information, your license plates will be suspended.”

I hope this information is helpful and keeps you from ending up in a similar situation. Please share this post with anyone you know who lives in Illinois! 

Waterpark Fun To End The Summer

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!?

7 Unique Ways To See Chicago

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!?

unique ways to see Chicago

Illinois Residents: Reclaim Your Money

(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!

 

 

 

Exploring Glenview, Illinois With Kids

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?

 

Apple Picking at Jonamac Orchard {Malta, IL}

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.)

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 :)