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Visiting Chicago

Guest blogger Kendra Thornton of Thornton Public Relations

This is part of a series of travel articles composed by myself and travel expert Kendra Thornton, former Orbitz Director, about our favorite things to do in our home towns.    

A Few of the Top Reasons to Visit Chicago

As a native of Chicago, I’m always amazed by how much this city has to offer. I always find something new to enjoy with my family. Of course, I also like to revisit destinations that I grew up with. To help acquaint fellow travelers with my favorite city, here are four of my top recommendations for places to see when you visit Chicago.

1. Chicago is a Sports Town

Chicago has always been a city that loves its sports team, whether they win or lose. We have basketball, baseball, football and more. Nothing is more fun than to take my kids to a ball game at Wrigley Field. We’re also hockey fans, and the Blackhawks have given us plenty to celebrate recently, having won the Stanley Cup! Attending a live sporting event is always a fun and exciting adventure when you’re in Chicago.

2. A Great Place to Eat Anytime

One thing all travelers have in common is that they love to find great restaurants when they arrive somewhere. I always make it a point to go to Glenn’s Diner. This is a traditional yet innovative diner that has a wide selection of dishes at reasonable prices. One of their specialties, believe it or not, is breakfast cereal. With over 25 choices, you can find a delicious and comforting bowl of cereal any time of day, served with cold milk and fresh fruit.

3. How to Find the Perfect Chicago Hotel

Your choice of hotel can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your stay, no matter where you’re going. Fortunately, Chicago has lots of wonderful hotels in many neighborhoods. How do you locate the hotel that perfectly fits your tastes and budget? One tool that I always use when traveling is Gogobot. This site lists many different hotels and includes all the information you need, such as rates, location and amenities. Even better, you can read customer reviews and find out what other people’s experience has been with the hotel.

4. Don’t Miss Grant Park

When you’re in Chicago, make sure you take the time to visit Grant Park. This is one of my favorite spots in the city, and it contains many attractions worth seeing. You have the Art Institute of Chicago right there, where you can find many fascinating exhibits. You will also find performance venues, gardens, playgrounds and lots more in this 300+ acre park. My kids especially love to visit the Shedd Aquarium, which is another of the park’s many attractions.

I hope you will take my advice and visit some of the Chicago attractions I’ve suggested. This is a city that you can enjoy day or night and during all four seasons. It’s diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, whether you prefer shopping, theater, visiting museums or cheering your favorite sports team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to follow Kendra on Twitter to connect more!

Chicago sounds like a great place to visit!  What is something that makes your home town special?  I would love to hear about it.

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Experiencing San Francisco Bay Area

This is part of a series of travel articles composed by myself and travel expert Kendra Thornton, former Orbitz Director, about our favorite things to do in our home towns.

As I just relocated from NYC to the San Francisco Bay Area, I am sharing the top 5 things I am most excited about doing in and around the Bay!

Experiencing city life the San Franciscan way

  • Such an iconic San Fran experience are riding the trolleys (ding, ding)!  Excited to hop on a cable car and ride the 7 hill tops and watch our west coast peeps hike the city’s steep hills (NY may be a city of walkers but the San Franciscans have the calves!).
  • With the yearly moderate temps a bike ride through Golden Gate Park (20% larger than Central Park) is a must.  Can’t wait to bike through the Japanese Tea Garden (where the first fortune cookies were supposedly made) and stop at the coastal end of the park to play in the sand with the kids.
  • After living in a city with some of the greatest restaurants and chef’s in the world, my eager taste buds are ready to dine at the trendy Gary Danko’s in North Beach and RN74 in South Beach.  The food is suppose to be delicious and the atmosphere noteworthy.

Home to the 49ers and Giants!

  • Such iconic California teams in the Bay.  Where else can you catch an out-of-the-park home run ball by boat but at the AT&T Park.  In my opinion, one of the best places to watch a baseball game.  And, the red and gold spirit on the peninsula is contagious.  We may be a true Green Bay Packers family (I’m a drafted fan due to marriage, ha!) but when the Packers are not playing we will definitely be rooting for our new home team at Candlestick Park (soon Levi’s Stadium), go 49ers  –  “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

Biking, Hiking, and Surfing

  • The Bay Area has such a diverse amount of outdoor activities.  A couple things I am most pumped about are hiking along the gorgeous beach lined coastal hills, and then in the winter, watching the world’s bravest surfers at Mavericks Beach shredding waves.  So California.  Then at the nearby Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay grabbing a drink on the beach during sunset.  Can’t wait!

World Class Wineries

  • If there is anything more notable in the North Bay it’s the Napa wineries!  I am eagerly awaiting a day trip of wine tasting, touring the vineyards, having lunch at the Culinary Institute of America and ending the day drinking a local wine watching the sunset at one of the amazing spas in Sonoma County.

America’s Cup

  • A spectacular event on the Bay is watching the America’s Cup!  The catamarans make the show exciting to watch and the 2013 event was voted the most ‘fan-friendly’ AC ever.  Rumor has it that the 2016 AC event could, once again, be held in the San Francisco Bay.  I hope so!

With so much culture, diversity and beauty throughout the bay, there is something for everyone.  I hope some of my favorite things to experience inspire you to take a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is something you enjoy doing in your home city?  Would love to hear about it.

Real Beauty – All about Perception

A friend sent me this video, a Dove Project, and I found it fascinating. I could not stop thinking about it.  We, as women, can be so critical and hard on ourselves.  We see the magazines full of “how to look beautiful” all over the cover, we listen to the harsh comments about someone’s beauty or lack-of on TV, we see the sides of tall buildings plastered in advertisements depicting what beauty is and how one can become beautiful, we see other women on city sidewalks with the latest Tory, Chanel, or Yurman, stiff faces from Botox, and oily residue from the latest wrinkle cream or facial procedure, and we think this is what will make us feel beautiful, which in return, should mean happiness.  Right?  Maybe, for the immediate moment or as we walk out of the store and strut around for a couple days, and then it fades… Then it happens once again, we go back to the insatiable quest for beauty.

As I watched this video I could not help but see my daughter in these women.  It saddened me to think this could be her someday, seeing her own beauty in such a physical and negative way…

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As a mom, I hope to instill in my daughter how beautiful she is and that beauty starts from within.  I want her to look in the mirror and not see her wrinkles as flaws, but as blessings of a long life.  I want her to see the lines around her eyes as many years of wonderful laughter and for being fortunate enough to have had so much to smile about.  I want her to see beauty as a person who has a loving heart, has compassion for others, who is optimistic in life, is giving of themselves, and who leaves this Earth making it just a little bit better.  Hopefully, my journey as a mother, will instill these qualities into the already rapidly absorbing mind of my sweet innocent two year old daughter.  Not an easy task, by far, with so much in society working against us.  But, it will be a forever goal of mine.  I will always be her mommy, loving, and knowing just how beautiful she is.  My hope is, she can see it too.

What is your perception of beauty?  I would love to hear about it.

Central Park Breast Cancer Walk

This weekend we participated in our yearly family breast cancer walk. A walk I feel proud to be a part of for many different reasons.  So many people are affected by cancer and most of us have been touched by it in some way, either by a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or an acquaintance.  Cancer is a disease that could eventually affect us all in some way and breast cancer is the second most common cancer for women in the US.  According to the American Cancer Society, in 2012, about 227,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 40,000 women will die from the disease.  That sounds high, yet we are also making progress.  More women are being cured and living longer than in the past.  According to ACS, ‘The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36. Breast cancer death rates have been going down and this is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatments. Right now there are more than 2½ million breast cancer survivors in the United States.’  WOW!  What a feeling just hearing that.

Each year we do the walk in memory of my mother.  My mother who lived a healthy lifestyle, active, ate healthy, had regular check-ups and who was diagnosed at 53 with cancer in many of her major organs, including breast cancer cells.  A shock to us all, to say the very least.  Within a few months of being diagnosed she passed away.  I don’t blame anyone, not the doctors, not the things we could have done earlier, not the signs we didn’t take seriously, not the treatments available at the time.  I truly feel God was ready to bring my mother home, which makes me feel at peace with why she was taken so early.  I think about her daily: her love, her support, her smile, her loving advice, and our heartfelt conversations.  I also think about how 9 years have gone by so fast and the things that have changed: marriages, grandchildren, first homes, achievements and how the world has evolved.  Sometimes it makes me sad thinking about it, but I think of the higher power and put my trust in God and realize there’s a greater reason for everything.

When I walk in the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer walks with my family each year, I don’t just walk for breast cancer survivors and research, I walk for all those fighting a cancer fight, for those families who stand beside their loved ones and are a part of the emotional journey, and for those that will someday be face to face with the struggle.  I too wonder, if I will someday be in that fight, but I can look to my mother who handled herself with such grace and strength for her children and family and find peace in her courage, and how she fought, the good fight, at such an early age.

The month of October is the month my mother was born, the month she passed away and the month of breast cancer awareness.  Being a part of these walks are a wonderful way for Maddie to feel closer to her grandmother, for my husband to feel connected to his mother-in-law and for me to honor such a wonderful mother who gave her All for her family and children, and to walk with those who have been a part of what we have experienced with cancer.  The cheers while walking are not to make it to the 5 mile finish line, they are cheers for life and cheers for those still in the cancer fight.  What a wonderful walk to be a part of.

Has a form of cancer affected you or your family in some way?  May God bless those still in the flight and those that have been affected.

Amy

Pumpkin Carvings & Creations

What do you look forward to during the Halloween season?  Is it dressing up in costume? Is it the treats and candy?  Is it the spooky tales and haunted houses, or is it just another excuse to plan a party?  Well for me, it’s the pumpkin carvings and creations!  I love seeing the random carved pumpkins and pumpkin creations around the city, the rows of pumpkins lining the city squares, and checking out the glowing jack-o-lantern trails in the area.

This is the time of year when the parties and gatherings begin!  One of my favorite themed parties I’ve hosted is a pumpkin carving contest.  It’s fun for kids and adults, and most people are buying and carving pumpkins, so why not make it a party!  Check off one of your to-do’s while drinking, eating and laughing with friends.  And no need for a babysitter, invite the kids too.  It’s a simple party to get ready for.  Everyone brings their own pumpkin (BYOP), while you supply the stencils (free online) and individual pumpkin carving kits (they’re inexpensive) and a plastic trash bag for each person to carve their pumpkin on.  It’s fun watching each other create pumpkin designs and great for conversation.  I’ve planned one in the past and everyone had a blast!

Whatever your plans might be this year, either needing inspiration to design your own jack-o-lantern or ideas to help you win your pumpkin design contest, then check out below my favorite pumpkin ideas to get you in the spirit

So many ways to have fun with pumpkins!  There’s a lot more cool ideas out there, but these are my favorite pics!

Click here for free pumpkin carving stencils.

Click here to see the largest carved pumpkin.

Do you plan to carve or create something fun with your pumpkins this year?  Please share!  I would love to see and hear your ideas.

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