Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-up – An Adult Pumpkin Farm

Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-Up is an interactive pop-up experience in the city.  It sits on 2 acres of land in the Goose Island neighborhood.  This past weekend were the final dates for the 2018 season but I’m sure it will be back again next year.

While they are promoting themselves as an “adult” pumpkin farm experience, it is open to all-ages.  When we went, on a Friday night at 7:00 pm, there were only a handful of kids there with their parents.  The “adult” part seemed to simply be the three bars set up on the property.

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Your options for entry can be just general admission or it can include +1 or +2 drinks.  If you choose the later option, your drink choices are limited.  You have more choices available if you purchase your drinks separate from the admission.  The other “adult” aspect is they allow you to walk around freely with you drinks.

Having lived and raised my kids in the suburbs, I can tell you I have been to much larger pumpkin farms.  This was smaller, but unique.  Every couple of feet or so was another set up for the perfect photo opportunity.  Giant chairs, shadow boxes, old cars, farm equipment, and lights everywhere!

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Not to mention the most incredible skyline as a backdrop for many of your photo-ops.

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In addition to the selfie/Instagram/snapchat photo ops, there was a small corn maze, some carnival games, and a real camel ride (didn’t expect that one, did you?).  There was also one food truck there that night.  Not sure if that was a rotating option or if it was the same truck for the whole run.

landsape

 

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And yes, there is discounted admission on Groupon if you can go on a Sunday-Thursday.

Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Festival

First off, let me say, I love hockey.  The first signs of fall don’t make me think of Halloween or pumpkin spiced whatever.  It reminds me that hockey season is about to start.  Every September, the Chicago Blackhawks kick off the beginning of their season with a training camp festival.  It is a celebration of a new season and the fans who support the organization.

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Tickets are only $5 per person.  ONLY $5.00 people!  You do not need to be a season ticket holder to purchase tickets.  You don’t even need to know a season ticket holder to purchase tickets.  This ticket will provide entry into the festival and into the United Center for the scrimmage game.  You still have to pay for parking but even that is discounted.

The festival is an all-ages event but there is something for everyone.  From an adult perspective, there was a giant beer pong game, bags, and beer.  There was a band playing and plenty of opportunities for photo ops.

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In the parking lot, they had the Blues Brothers car, a Blackhawks race car, and a Hawks Zamboni.

Car collage

In the new atrium, you could get your picture taken in front of a mock-up of the locker room.

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There were plenty of chances for meet and greets as well.  Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Troy Murray, Steve Konroyd, and Eddie Olczyk were all on hand this year for autographs and pictures.

Embassadors

Then there is the game.  First, let’s go back to the cost of attending.  Since everyone is paying $5.00/seat, the ticket is general admission.  The upside of this is that, if you get into the rink early enough, you can get a prime seat in the 100 level.  On the glass even.  The downside is that, since it is general admission, you need to get into the rink right when they open the doors to get great seats.

They play a full three period scrimmage.  Most would assume that, since it is just a scrimmage, you will not be seeing the top skaters.  Not true.  Not only are the big names (Kane, Toews, Keith) on the roster, they play through the third period.  While it’s great to see the regular players return to form, my SO and I like to see how the prospects/rookies look and maybe get excited to see what they could bring to the team this season.

roster

And best of all, whether you are Team Red or Team white, at the end of the game you can still shout – HAWKS WIN!

Don’t forget to walk around the United Center (inside and out) at some point.  They have a new atrium area with a HUGE fan store.  Outside, you will find some great statues honoring some great players.  Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and the 75th Anniversary statue are all worth a visit.

Hull and Mikita statue

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The Cavalcade of Homes Tour

The Cavalcade of Homes Tour is a showcase of new homes and the creativity of the companies that built them.  It is a great way to visit a builder’s work if you are in the market to build new or remodel a room.  But you don’t have to be.  I love walking through model homes for decorating ideas.  My SO looks forward to checking out the finished basements (not available in all models).

The tour this year consists of 18 model homes.  You have to purchase a ticket to get scanned before you enter each house.  Tickets can be bought online or purchased at the entrance to the first home you decide to tour.  The cost this year is $12.00 but it is not limited to one day.  The tour this year runs from September 7-16 so if you didn’t see all of the homes on the first day, you can finish up the next day (or the following weekend).  We are hard-core and knocked them all out (with the exception of the homes in Ottowa) in one day.

map

One great thing about this tour is that, even though the houses are spread apart, they have a fantastic app that, once downloaded, you can pull up each listing and get directions to the next stop.  We started our day arriving at our first location in Sugar Grove around 11:00 am.  Shout out to our longtime friends, Greg and Rosie Millen with our favorite kitchen and bath company, Heritage Home Decor & Design.  They did the kitchen, master bath, and laundry room in this model.

Greg kitchen

We like looking at new improvements in the kitchen when we tour these homes.  It all goes on a bucket list for when we finally do remodel our kitchen.  One of the more popular attractions this year seemed to be the pull-out microwave.  Yes, you read that right.  The microwave is built into your cabinets, like a drawer.  Check it out in the photo above and in this close-up from a different house:

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Trends seem to change every couple of years with bathrooms as well.  Double sinks are great and seemed to be the norm in all of the master bathrooms that we saw.  Some had normal sized bathrooms with standard sized vanities and then some of them had this:

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I mean, come on.  It takes up a whole wall.  And it has a TV.  If I had this, it would take me twice as long to get ready.  Especially if I have Netflix on the TV and I am watching reruns of Parks and Recreation.  Or Scrubs.

Another big master bath trend is the open shower concept with multiple shower heads.  Walk-ins with benches.  Rain shower and massaging shower heads.  And stand-alone tubs.  Built in whirlpool soakers are dinosaurs now.

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Now for a couple of my favorites.  One of the models had a fireplace and a wet bar in the master bedroom.  If there was a TV over the fireplace instead of the picture, my SO and I would never leave this room.

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There was one home that had a stand-alone tub IN the walk-in shower.  It was like a spa.

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And finally, this walk-in closet.  What is this?  Maybe it’s what heaven looks like.

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This Cavalcade happens once a year in the Western Suburbs.  It is a fun way to spend an afternoon (or a whole day) together.  Even if you are not in the market to build or remodel, you would still have fun checking out the latest trends and maybe putting some of these on your “future” list.

Urban Adventure Quest – Chicago

Urban Adventure Quest is a scavenger-hunt using your smartphone.  But it is not your typical “find this item” type of pursuit.  That was my biggest concern before trying it out in Chicago.  I did not want to walk around the city just looking for the “most photographed sculpture shaped like a bean”.  Ok, that was on the “find” list, but at least the challenge that accompanied it made it interesting.

Anyway, as I explained above, this is an app that you download onto your phone.  The cost is $49/city hunt but, you can get it for a discounted price with a Groupon (of course) promotion code.  The game allows you to input anywhere from 2 to 5 team member names.  It gives you a specific starting location and, once you are there, you hit the “start” button that will take you to the first puzzle.  Here is what that puzzle looks like (and the only one I will be sharing with you):

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Two things I will recommend to you:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. This walking tour/adventure will take you 2-3 hours.
  • Bring a pen and piece of paper. We ignored this suggestion and regretted it.

The challenges/puzzles ranged from super easy to difficult.  The pen and paper will come in handy for a couple of different puzzles.  For one of them, you have to create a word find using words from a famous quote and then solve a riddle from it.  There is another challenge that requires you to fill in artists names in a blank crossword puzzle.

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At Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, once the challenge was complete it was optional to take a selfie in front of this very famous sculpture.  Here is my incredibly cooperative family contribution:

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What I appreciated about doing this in my own city was that we found things that we had no idea existed.  The quest showed us that there are some really cool stones embedded in the façade of the Chicago Tribune tower.  According to this article by Chicago Architecture, there are 149 of them.  Stones from the Parthenon, the Colosseum, and the Great Pyramid.  We wished we had more time to explore them all but, this was a timed competition and all.  And we were in it to win it.

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The quest also took us to a beautiful piece of artwork on Dearborn Street called “The Four Seasons” by Marc Chagall.  Six Chicago scenes are created from hundreds of thousands of mosaic tiles.  It is a fantastic backdrop for taking pictures.  My photo below is a close-up of one of the clues to a challenge but does not do justice to the magnificence of the whole piece.

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Another great thing about this online game is that you are not limited to the city you live in/near.  They currently have 60+ locations to choose from.  I think this is a fantastic way to explore a new city and I can’t wait to choose my next adventure!

Divvy Bikes

Divvy is a bike sharing program in the city of Chicago.  The concept of bike sharing is becoming popular in the suburbs too.  It is super easy and convenient.  Sign up (via the app), get a code for a bike, take it for a ride, then park it at another station.  You can also pay for and get a bike at the kiosk by any of the stations.  They are EVERYWHERE in the city.  The seats are adjustable and there is no athletic ability required.  You don’t need to wear spandex or a helmet!

We decided to pick up a few bikes at the Planetarium and started our trek through the museum campus and along the lakefront.  How could you not love these views?

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Our trip took us all the way down to Navy Pier where we dropped the bikes off.  Just park them in the bike stand and you are done.  No bike locks.  No need to worry about your bike being stolen.  It’s just that easy.

From there, we decided to make a day of it and explore the newly renovated Riverwalk.  There is so much to see and do here.  Besides the restaurants that are popping up, there is all the beautiful architecture and artwork.

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We stopped off at City Winery and had a cocktail and watched the boats and kayakers pass by.

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Then we returned to Navy Pier and, after a snack and another cocktail, we picked up a set of bikes again and headed back to the Planetarium.

This is not the only path you can take.  If you visit their site, there are suggested routes to take and recommended sites to see.  Or you can create your own adventure!

A Girl’s Gotta Eat – Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago

A food tour is a great way to get a taste of the flavors that a city has to offer.  A 3-hour walking food tour is an even better way to get to know about the city as well.  That is exactly what Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago has to offer.  You get a sampling of iconic Chicago dishes as well as some treats you maybe would not have tried on your own.  Plus, you get a little commentary on the architecture and history of the city itself.

My SO and I were in the city overnight and, knowing that we had to check out by 11:00 am, figured we would have lunch before heading home.  Instead of going to a standard restaurant, we decided ahead of time to give a food tour a try.  I found out about Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago through Groupon.  They have two options to choose from: River North and Wicker Park.  We went on the River North tour and met our guide, Jake, at 11:00 am just outside of the Merchandise Mart.

They like to keep it the groups small so there were only 12 of us total.  Yes, we were the only couple from Illinois, but that is not unusual.  Our first stop on the tour was an adorable little doughnut shop called The Doughnut Vault.  We each got a Buttermilk Old Fashion.  Not a sample.  A whole doughnut.  And maybe I should have saved some for later but it was soooooo good.

The Doughnut Vault

From there, we moved on to Lou Malnati’s pizza.  When you come to Chicago, you HAVE to try some deep dish pizza.  Now, I have had my fair share of deep dish pizza, including Lou Malnati’s, so this was nothing new to me.  But you can’t have a food tour in Chicago without a stop like this.  And I love deep dish so I was more than happy to get a slice of this iconic style pizza.

Lou Malnati's

The next stop took us to a small Mexican café called Xoco.  This is an Aztec word that means “little sister”.  It is a smaller companion piece next to Frontera Grill.  This was a necessary stop as chef Rick Bayless is a Chicago culinary treasure.  He has won just about every culinary award out there and I have a super foodie crush on him as well.  Here we were treated to some Mexican style street food.

Xoco

With a 3-hour tour there is plenty of walking so you can work off all of the food you are eating.  By the time we got over to Café Iberico, I was ready to eat again (almost).  This is a tapas bar/restaurant.  Tapas is a Spanish word that means “small dish”, like a snack/appetizer.  That was about all I had room for anyway.  We each got an individual portion of chicken with rice and sautéed onions.

Cafe Iberico

The final stop on the tour was, naturally, dessert.  We ended up at a bakery called Fabcakes.  This little gem has been serving European style meals and pastries since it opened up in 2012.  Each of us got a chocolate cookie sandwich with Nutella cream filling.

Fabcakes

All of the food we ate on the tour was delicious and a genuine representation of Chicago and its culture.  If you are thinking about taking one of their tours, and you should, I have two recommendations.  First, check out their FAQ page to see what is/is not allowed, especially when it comes to dietary restrictions.  Also, bring a bottled water with you.  Only two of the stops on the tour are dine-in.  The other three are truly sidewalk eating experiences.

Go Ape – A Tree Top Adventure

Tree top adventures (also known as high ropes courses) are starting to become more popular and are popping up in forest preserves around the country.  They are usually a combination of obstacle courses and zip lines anywhere from 30-40 feet in the air.  We visited Go Ape, which can be found in the Bemis Woods Forest Preserve in Western Springs, IL.

But don’t worry, your safety is one of the main concerns at Go Ape.  Full disclosure: I have a fear of heights.  But the combination of safety gear and instruction made me feel at ease.  Plus, I had done this once before (and quite a few years ago).  You step into a climbing harness that is connected to two safety lines, a pulley and a carabiner, that both clip onto the safety wire.  You are also walked through a very thorough instruction session before you enter the course.  You only unclip when you are moving from one station to the next and clipping back in is easy.

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There are 5 stations at this location, each one a little higher than the other (gulp).  There are also varying levels of difficulty.  The easy and moderate challenges require some balance and arm strength.  If you are not up for the difficult ones, they have an alternate route that will get you right back on track.  Here is an example of the easy vs. difficult routes:

Easy

 

Difficult

My SO was trying to do as many obstacles as possible hands-free.  I, on the other hand, felt much more comfortable with at least one hand on my safety line.  You can also move along the course at your own pace but, traffic jams can occur.  Like, when you are not sure how you are going to get across this one:

Crazy

If you are going to try this one, make sure you check out the restrictions and recommendations on their FAQ page.  My one recommendation is to wear clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.  Because, if you are anything like me, there will be nothing graceful about your landing at the end of the zip line.

Zip line

P.S. – I found out about this place on Groupon.  It may not be available right now, but these kinds of things return eventually.  Also, a quick Google search of “Go Ape Chicago promo codes” provided a number of discount options as well.