A Few of Our Favorite Things (in Chicago and South-East Michigan… With a Smidge of North-West Ohio)

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Recently, I got an email asking, “Would you be willing to share about your favorite things to do in your home town?”

Well, sure!  I love my little corner of the world and I was happy and honored to be asked by Kendra Thornton to collaborate with her on a post sharing a bit of the “je na sais quoi” that made us fall in love with the areas where we live.  Read on and you may just find yourself planning your next vacation!

Here’s a little about who Kendra is:

My name is Kendra Thornton, and I reside in Chicago with my family. Previously I have served as the Director of Communications for Orbitz, and I have been featured on many television and news stations quoting travel trends. Though I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively in my lifetime, I always love coming home to the Windy City! 

Kendra and her family at a Chicago Cubs game.

Kendra and her family at a Chicago Cubs game.

Some of Our Hometown Favorites (Kendra)

We all have our reasons for loving wherever it is that we call home. As one of the largest cities in America, Chicago is full of exciting and interesting places to go and things to see. Whether you enjoy sports, restaurants, museums or sightseeing, Chicago has something for you. Here are a few of my favorite places to go and things to see in my home city.

1. Lake Michigan

Chicago is directly built on the shores of the beautiful Lake Michigan. Besides being the primary source of our drinking water, Lake Michigan has some spectacular beaches that are safe, family friendly, and filled with fun in the sun for everyone! For a lake of this magnitude to exist next to a big city like Chicago is a tremendous asset, and this pristine, clean body of water is one of my favorite destinations when the weather is nice.

2. Chicago’s Famous Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza, packed with plenty of sauce, cheese and flavor. One of the best and most well-known deep dish spots is Giordano’s. What started in 1974 with one tiny pizza joint in the south side of Chicago has branched out into a chain of restaurants scattered throughout the city and its suburbs. Critics agree that Giordano’s still has the best deep dish pizza, salads, pastas and sandwiches in the city. For an authentic taste of Chicago, don’t miss Giordano’s deep dish pizza!

3. Enjoying a Spa

When I have some free time on a Saturday, I love to head to the spa at the Peninsula Chicago with my girlfriends. Located on East Superior Street, it is a beautiful hotel and has wonderful dining options. Featuring delicious European and Cantonese cuisine, you can eat light at the café or enjoy a delicious dinner. The Peninsula Hotel is a perfect place to unwind from a long day.  I was able to find the Peninsula Chicago using the site gogobot, which offers reviews and great rates on hotels.

4. Visit Chicago’s Millennium Park

Millennium Park is one of Chicago’s most famous tourist spots.  The Boeing Galleries, Wrigley Square, and the Crown Fountain are a few of the wonderful draws, and my kids love running around checking out these impressive structures. Millennium Park features live music, art exhibitions, and family activities, and bringing my family for a picnic while live music plays from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is one of my favorite Chicago pastimes.

Chicago is a booming city, filled to the brim with exciting places to go and things to see, and my favorites above barely even scratched the surface. In fact, it was extremely difficult to narrow this list down to just four places. There are so many interesting sights to see and places to visit that it could fill a whole encyclopedia! While these places are some of my personal favorites, I encourage you to thoroughly explore the city of Chicago if you ever find yourself in the Windy City.

A Few of My Favorite Things (Elizabeth)

Once you’ve been blown away by Chicago (get it? Blown away. Windy City.  Haha! I crack me up!) hop in your car or, for less than $20 on the megabus, and head on over to my neck of the woods: South-East Michigan (with a smidge of North-West Ohio thrown in).

I live in a tiny little town full of kitchy shops and “famous” for “The Old-Road Dinner Train.”  We have 2 stop lights, one teeny grocery store, and more than a dozen churches.  We are surrounded on every side by fields and farm animals and I love it!  But when one get’s the itch for a bit of the big city we can head out in most any direction and, within an hour, be in Ann Arbor, Detroit, or Toledo, Ohio.

It's fun in the summer!

It’s fun in the summer!

Sure. Detroit gets all the press for going bankrupt… but don’t think things are all bleakness and poverty around here.  Just listen to this:

It's fun in the winter!

It’s fun in the winter!

We have museums!

The Toledo Museum of Art is a huge, gorgeous, centennial building that houses a world-class art collection and admission is the very reasonable price of FREE.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum  and Toledo’s Imagination Station are the kinds of museums that let’s kids interact and explore every exhibit.  OK. I confess. I played with all the exhibits, too.

At the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor you can see dinosaurs, explore space, and learn about everything in-between!

We have sports!

I love the home-town feel of minor league sports so I have great fun cheering for the Toledo Mudhens baseball  and Walleye hockey teams.  Both teams have beautiful, clean new(ish) facilities with lots of easy parking, fabulous food vendors and there’s not a bad seat in the house.  What’s really great is that tickets cost 1/10 of what you pay to sit in the nose-bleed section at a pro game!  As an extra bonus, both teams are super involved in the community so my kids are always on the lookout for the mascots when we are at fairs and festivals.  Just a few weeks ago we saw Spike The Walleye at a walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

We have music!

Yes, there are the Detroit and Toledo Symphony Orchestras, but there is some extraordinary talent showcased in smaller, local venues as well.   The Tecumseh Pops is a community band that does a wonderful job with 2 fun performances every year and We have been to several breath-taking performances put on by the Adrian Symphony and they also do some great family-friendly shows geared toward exposing very young children to the arts.

If you’re a little more rock-and-roll there are a huge number of venues – everything from the Toledo Zoo amphitheater to the Michigan theater in Ann Arbor to Detroit’s Pontiac Silver dome that host all the famous acts.

We have food!

Did you know that the only restaurant with a Forbes Four-Star rating in the Michigan/Indiana/Ohio area is in Toledo?  The Final Cut Steakhouse  is part of the Hollywood Casino and they offer a dining experience that makes you feel like you’ve just had a tiny, wonderful vacation in the space of a few hours.  You will be pampered and taken care of. The steaks melt in your mouth. The wine selection is vast and the deserts are out of this world.  My favorite part is that they always surprise you with an extra little treat or two from the chef .

The Main Street Stable in Blissfield, MI has some of the best burgers anywhere and these amazing crunchy little sweet potato chips they serve with caramel dipping sauce.  Mmmm.  Plus they sell wine grown and made locally by J. Tree’s Cellars and, in the fall, they have a huge vat of simmering mulled apple cider on the bar that makes you feel all warm and happy the second you walk in and smell it.

J & G’s Pizza and Gyros in Sylvania, OH is a favorite for everyone I know and you can’t swing a cat in downtown Ann Arbor without hitting a great restaurant.  Why would you want to swing a cat, anyway? That’s just weird. Who does that? Put the poor cat down and go eat!

We have the great outdoors!

South-East Michigan (and a smidge of North-West Ohio) has dozens of amazing parks that offer swimming, fishing and all sorts of water sports. Do you know that Michigan has the most freshwater shoreline in the US? There are hiking trails and playgrounds, beaches and forests, sports facilities, running paths, and historical buildings around every corner.  If you love to swim, walk, run, fish, relax, play, explore, ski, sled, ice skate, boat, bird-watch, dig for fossils or climb rocks… there’s a park for that.

If there is a reasonable chance of the temperature being above freezing (and often, even if we know we’ll be buried in snow) Michiganders are having a festival.  The River Raisin Festival, Tecumseh Appleumpkin Festival, Clinton Fall Festival, and the Jackson County Fair are just a few of our favorites.

We have amazing people!

The people here are kind and generous and warm. It’s true our great state has seen some hard times but it’s only served to make us stronger, harder working, and more appreciative of the good things we have.  Everyone here will be happy to help you have the very best visit to this little corner of the world possible.

I hope you get the chance to visit our little mid-western paradises soon. Will you tell us your favorite things about your neighborhood?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

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2 responses »

  1. I have never been to the Chicago area. This was a great read. The area has plenty to offer which I obviously am missing out on. Thanks for sharing. I am visiting from Friendship Fri. this morning.
    Have a great Friday,
    Joanne

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