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Lincoln Park Zoo

September 25, 2014
  • Lincoln Park Zoo2001 N. Clark Street
  • Chicago, IL 60614
  • (312) 742-2000
  • Website

We really have an affinity for zoos.  All three of us love spending a day at the zoo and we’ve done it several times already this summer.

This past weekend, J needed to go home for an event at Skydeck Chicago.  L and I tagged along and we were joined by J’s parents.  After we had some fun on The Ledge, we decided to continue our tourist look at the town by heading out to Lincoln Park.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is Chicago’s free zoo.  It’s also one of the oldest in the United States with a founding date in the 1860’s.  The first animals were a pair of swans from Central Park’s Board of Commissioners.

While there’s no admission fee to the zoo, there is a parking fee if you’re traveling by car as we were.  The entrance to the parking lot is on the north side of the zoo off of Fullerton Parkway.  It’s not a one admission for all approach either.  Like all parking in Chicago, how much you pay depends on how long you stay.  You take a ticket when entering the lot and pay an attendant on the way out.  We were there a little over two hours which falls in the range for a $25 dollar parking day.

There are actually several entrances to the zoo because, again, it’s free, so they just open up the gates and let you wander in and out from the park.  It’s not uncommon to see joggers make the zoo part of their path and if you take public transportation or find a spot to park outside of the park, you can enter from many different places.  Read more…

Skydeck Chicago

September 23, 2014
  • Skydeck Chicago233 S. Wacker Drive
  • Chicago, IL 60606
  • (312) 875-9447
  • Website

Being a tourist in Chicago is always a little weird…but at the same time, I’ve missed out on some neat things just because I’ve always thought of them as touristy things.

After spending a few days in Traverse City, we made the long drive back to Chicago for a few more days of vacation.  It’s hard to explain why we had to go to Chicago without being to specific, so you’ll just have to take my word that there was a reason that J needed to be at the top of the Willis Tower at 9 AM.

As for L and I, we decided to tag along.  J parents joined us because, even though they have lived in Chicago their whole lives, they had never been to the Willis Tower either.

Skydeck Chicago is the tourist part of the Willis Tower (or as most people still know it, the Sears Tower).  It’s the part of the building that has those really cool ledges that let you hang over traffic 103 stories above the street.

The Willis Tower is located on South Wacker drive, but the entrance to Skydeck is on Jackson Boulevard between Wacker and Franklin.  Make sure you go in the big glass entrance on Jackson.  If you try to go in to the Willis Tower, they will kick you unless you have business there.   Read more…

Camp Critter Bar and Grille – Traverse City

September 20, 2014
  • Camp Critter Bar & Grille3575 N. US Highway 31 South
  • Traverse City, MI 49684
  • (231) 941-3600
  • Website
  • Menu

It seems like we always do it.  We go hard for the first few days of vacation.  We go out to nice meals.  We seek out the best a town has to offer.  Then, as we get near the end, we just want to eat.  We want to put as little effort in to it as possible yet still get a good meal.

On our last night in Traverse City, we were sitting in our hotel room discussing dinner when I told J I didn’t care if we just ate at the resort.  We could order a pizza or we could go down to the bar in the lobby and eat there.  J was fine with that, so we got dressed enough to make ourselves presentable and headed downstairs.

Camp Critter Bar & Grille is the standard restaurant at the Great Wolf Lodge resorts.  The restaurant is designed as a kid friendly pub that carries the lodge theme through the dining areas.

There were only one or two other families in the restaurant when we showed up for dinner at 5:30 on a Thursday night.  The waitress showed us to a booth in the bar area and handed us a couple menus before taking drink orders.  J ordered a Red’s Apple Ale (which the waitress called a cider….it’s not yet it’s a mistake almost everyone makes) and I ordered a Coke.  I was kind of beered out even though they did have a couple of craft offerings both on tap and in bottles.   Read more…

Right Brain Brewery

September 20, 2014
  • Right Brain Brewery225 E. Sixteenth Street
  • Traverse City, MI 49684
  • (231) 944-1239
  • Website
  • Menu

If it seems like we go to a lot of breweries, it’s because we do.  We always look ahead of time and try to figure out if it’s kid friendly or not.  We’ve learned that almost every brewery is.  I actually can’t think of one that we’ve been to where I wouldn’t take my toddler.

J’s not a huge beer drinker, so there are also considerations for her.  Do they have a cider?  If not, is there some kind of wheat or fruit beer that she will drink?  Also, a big consideration is do they have food.

We had our meals pretty much planned out on our Traverse City trip, but there was one question mark.  There was one brewery I really, really wanted to go to, but the food menu was iffy.  We couldn’t really find anything for L to eat and didn’t know if they’d let us bring something in for her.

I was going to call and ask, but after a couple hours of swimming in the water park at Great Wolf Lodge, L was exhausted.  We had to drag her back to the room, but her eyes looked so tired….she just wanted to keep swimming.

J was pretty tired too as she didn’t sleep well either night we were there.  I needed to get out of the room so both could get a good nap in, so I asked if it’d be ok if I just went to do a flight somewhere.

I asked to make sure J wasn’t really wanting to go with me before heading down to Right Brain Brewery on Sixteenth Street in what they’re calling the “SoFo District” (South of Fourteenth) of Traverse City.  The brewery is a huge warehouse.  I don’t use the word “huge” lightly here.  It is really large for what I pictured to be a small brewery.   Read more…

Jolly Pumpkin Old Mission

September 20, 2014
  • Jolly Pumpkin13512 Peninsula Drive
  • Traverse City, MI 49686
  • (231) 223-4333
  • Website
  • Menu

Our beer tour of Traverse City continued after we left Mission Point Lighthouse.  It was around lunch time and J asked where were going to eat.  There was a brewery on the way back, so..duh…we were going to another brewery.

Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, and Distillery is right on the Old Mission Peninsula on Peninsula Drive just a stone’s throw from Bower’s Harbor which is part of the West Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay.  It shares some land with Mission Table which was waaaay to fancy for the three of us and not open for lunch anyway.

For being away from town, I was actually surprised at how many people were there at just a little after noon.  I noticed we were joined by a few people we saw at the light house, but there also looked to be a good number of regulars and locals as well.

Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak Brewing work together under an umbrella corporation and share brewing facilities in Dexter.  It took me the longest time to figure out why there was so much North Peak gear on display when we walked in.  As we walked to the hostess, I noticed a lot of North Peak merchandise and thought that was a little odd because there didn’t seem to be a lot of Jolly Pumpkin which would have made more sense.   Read more…

Mission Point Lighthouse

September 20, 2014
  • Old Mission Lighthouse20500 Center Road
  • Traverse City, MI 49686
  • (231) 223-7324
  • Website

There was so much I wanted to do on our quick getaway to Traverse City, but L was going to be content just playing in the water park at Great Wolf Lodge.  We took the trip for her, so I wasn’t going to push her too much.

On our second day of vacation, I suggested we go for a drive.  I thought it might be nice to get out of the hotel and drive out to the Old Mission State Park.  We didn’t have to spend a lot of time out there, but I wanted to go check out the old lighthouse.

The Mission Point House right on the end of the Old Mission Peninsula on the Grand Traverse Bay.  It’s about a half hour drive from downtown Traverse City and the whole twenty miles is gorgeous.  There are a number of places where you get a great look over the rolling hills of the peninsula looking out on both the West Arm and East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

The lighthouse is at the end of M-37 inside the Old Mission State Park.  Once the highway ends, there is a road leading in to the park and to a parking lot near the lighthouse.

The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 as an exact replica of another lighthouse on the Detroit River. The location is just to the south of the 45th parallel which is the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator.  The lighthouse was only used up until the 1930’s, but the building was purchased by the State of Michigan.  Up until 2008, the lighthouse was used as the park manager’s residence.  Now, the building and the tower are open the public and that’s the reason we made the trip out.   Read more…

North Peak Brewing Company

September 19, 2014
  • North Peak Brewing Company400 W. Front Street
  • Traverse City, MI 49684
  • (231) 941-7325
  • Website
  • Menu

Our goal on this trip up north was to hit up as many breweries as we could.  The breweries that serve food always have outstanding food.  It just seems like people who care enough to make good beer care just as much the restaurant side of the business as well.

Our dinner choice on the first night in Traverse City was North Peak Brewing Company.  The beautiful brewery is a 100 year old building that originally housed a candy factory on Front Street just to the west of Downtown Traverse City and the Boardman River.

The parking lot is on the west side of the building and it’s shared with an Irish Pub next door.

The entrance to the brewery brings you buy some of the brewing equipment and to a set of old wooden stairs that lead you up to the main dining room and a hostess station.

The large pub is exactly what you would expect from a 100 year old building.  It’s fairly dark to due to the color of the wood and the color palate is a simple black and white.  The space feels much more like an upscale dining establishment than it does a brewery.   Read more…


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