Category Archives: things for seniors to do in Chicago

Chicago historic hotels by Hilton

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Update 3/2017: The Drake Hotel is still a wonderful place to go. Just be aware that one of their restaurants, the Cape Code Room, is no longer open.
Chicago’s own Drake Hotel is one of a growing number of hotels in America that have recently been formally recognized as offering both ambiance and history that go beyond what most hotels can offer. What a great way to enjoy time out with your fellow boomer/senior friends.
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And Hilton Hotels, owners of The Drake and others, are determined to keep the magic alive in these grand-dame hotels. In addition to The Drake, another of their historic properties in Chicago is the Palmer House Hilton. Plus they own The Peabody (the one with ducks living inside!) in Memphis.
Drake Hotel in Chicago where Forbes took a $5,...
Drake Hotel in Chicago where Forbes took a $5,000 bribe. Postcard 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the case of the Drake, situated since 1933 at 140 E. Walton at Michigan Ave., you have three unique venues that have hosted untold numbers of famous celebrities, politicians, and gangsters. Everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill and to Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey has found a warm and friendly place to relax and be themselves at The Drake Hotel’s various venues.

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Between the Cape Cod room and the Coq d’Or (both situated at street level but with the feeling of private cellars), The Drake offers a quiet escape from the crush of the crowd. In the Cape Cod Room, guests are often invited to carve their initials into the nearly-hundred-year-old bar, and many famous folks have done just that, without worrying about autograph hounds or ogling eyes. Many came often enough that they had their own designated tables because, here, they are just people. Oprah, Michael, Frank Sinatra Joe DiMaggio, and hundreds of other well-known people have sought refuge and comfort food here.

Today you’ll enjoy the same decor in the Cape Cod Room as those who came in 1933, though the room added lights during the 40s when electricity became common. And you’ll enjoy the same sense of being in an elegant and private space.

Feast on classic Lobster Thermidor with butter and shallots, served with crisp green beans and mushrooms. And/or slurp the world-famous Bookbinder’s Snapper Soup (changed from the original turtle and served elegantly topped with basil/arugula foam), or enjoy classics like fish and chips with greens (grown, for your enjoyment, on the hotel’s rooftop garden and served fresh daily) or Shepherd’s pie. And trust the Cape Cod sommelier to recommend wines that pair perfectly with each dish.

If you’re in the mood for something showier and more plush, visit the gorgeous Palm Court room upstairs for drinks or lunch. This is where The Drake, one of the few historic hotels to offer high tea, invites families, elders and up-and-comers alike to partake of delicious and attractive tidbits, both savory and sweet, along with elegant teas (Tropical Garden herbal is just one surprising and delightful flavor). And of course you may also enjoy champagne and/or other wines or cocktails.

For dessert, enjoy the kitchen’s creations, some of them designed to be topped with a drizzle of The Drake’s own aged maple syrup. And don’t fail to try the legendary brownie, the classic dessert that was actually invented by the then-chef for the Chicago world’s fair of 1933. The powers-that-be wanted a dessert that was portable, delicious and non-spilling. Voila, the chef created the first-ever brownie, and today you can get one here that’s made with the same recipe – and loaded with nuts.

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If you hunger for the atmosphere of old-time classy cocktail bars, look no further than the Coq d’Or, down the stairs from the Palm Court and through the hallway.  Enjoy classic whiskey and other cocktails served with calm and measured aplomb by the long-seasoned staff members who know how to respect your privacy yet be available for conversation as needed. Bartenders here give careful attention to detail in both ingredients and service. Order a meal, a snack or choose from their extensive and carefully curated selection of cheeses. You cannot go wrong here. The dark wood and subtle lighting make for a supremely comfortable place in which to enjoy food and drink in Chicago.
Coq d'Or's own Few spirits-infused cocktails
Coq d’Or’s own Few spirits-infused cocktails
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The Coq d’Or (French for Golden Cockerel or “young rooster”) has been voted one of Chicago’s Best Restaurants & Lounges for its historical significance.  The legendary bar opened to a line of thirsty patrons after the repeal of Prohibition, on December 6, 1933 being the second outlet to obtain a liquor license and remains a fixture in Chicago today. Their extensive whiskey list including a new addition, a Rye Whiskey locally blended and distilled in Evanston, Illinois, by FEW Spirits in conjunction with The Drake Hotel.  Meet up here with local neighbors and international travelers and visiting business executives. Get some work done together, or just socialize in a warm and classy environment. Come for lunch, dinner, or late night with live week-end entertainment at the piano bar.

Gourmet cheese selections at Coq d'Or
Gourmet cheese selections at Coq d’Or

The Coq d’Or Whiskey Club
Enjoy a good Old Fashioned? Join the Whiskey Club. All you do is register online. You’ll get a membership card in the mail that shows you’ll be invited to private whiskey club quarterly events and get special discounts in the Coq d’Or. No application fees or dues (must be 21 years old to participate).

In case you haven’t heard enough, why not just schedule yourself for dinner or lunch or high tea or cocktails at one of The Drake’s fabulous venues? Then sink back into the elegance. Enjoy the food and drink while you feel the history.
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Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner has a new home!

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Welcome to the new Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner, the online magazine for Chicago women over 50. It’s great to be alive at this time in history – the Internet, the dynamic technology, the advances in medicine – and we’ve got the wisdom and the experience to make the most of it all.

Chicago skyline

Eventually we’ll have all  earlier material from the former Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner website posted, but meanwhile we’re all about helping you get out and enjoy our great city in any way that works for you. Share your ideas on what you’d like to read about – use the form below to connect with us.

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Chicago Boomers, what if you didn’t have a car?

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Have you ever thought about getting rid of your car? The older I get, the more I think about it. I try to drive as little as possible. In fact, I just opened a second small business account at a bank where I can walk over to deposit checks instead of having to drive 25 minutes through the often-torturous trek west along Diversey Avenue from the lake. [See 2017 updates in the middle and at the bottom of this post.]

English: Honda Civic Hybrid used by Zipcar, a ...
English: Honda Civic Hybrid used by Zipcar, a carsharing service. Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never think of driving in Chicago as a green experience. But it can be – sort of – if you drive a shared car. Now you may or not be able to do that conveniently, depending on what part of the city you’re talking about.

A recent NBC article says Chicago won the number 3 spot as the most car-sharing city. Good to hear. But the article goes on to talk about how Chicago is such a divided city – modern white lakeside communities, traditional white neighborhoods northwest and southwest, and then poor black and Latino communities on the west and the south. None of the car sharing services has a location in the west or south. And to be honest, based on my experience it’s tough to get a cab to show up only as far west as the dodgy end of Logan Square.

So what are your travel options in Chicago if you don’t have a car? In some but not all areas, you can become a member of your local I-GO (2017 update: closed and now operated by Enterprise CarShare) or Zipcar service and rent by the hour or day. You can also use RelayRides or any of several car rental companies. Be sure to read the Yelp reviews on these car sharing options.

Cabs are great if you’re in the right area, but they’re simply not in a hurry to pick you up in some areas. (Update 2/23/17: Nowadays, of course, you also have Uber, UberPool and Lyft – private cars on call all over the city and even in the ‘burbs. The pooling services don’t take much longer – their routing software is amazingly efficient – and as of this writing, can be highly affordable.)

But if you’ve never ridden Chicago’s extensive public transportation systems, I can tell you this is good option, generally available no matter where you live in the city. Obviously it’s more convenient in some areas than others, but getting around in Chicago almost anywhere is doable using CTA.

A CTA brown line train leaves Madison/Wabash s...
A CTA brown line train leaves Madison/Wabash station in the Chicago loop. Photographed from 41°52′58″N 87°37′34″W / °S °W / ; latd>90 (dms format) in latd latm lats longm longs looking south (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first moved back to Chicago I lived in the then-predominantly Hispanic Fullerton-Pulaski area. I could catch the Fullerton bus to the Brown Line station (at DePaul) and be downtown in 45 minutes. Or I could catch the Pulaski bus and take it to the Green Line (at Lake St.) and be in different parts of downtown in about the same time. Naturally I didn’t always want to transfer bus or train and spend 45 minutes traveling, especially if the weather sucked, but the point is I could get wherever I needed to any time of day.

Now I live in one of those sadly-not-very-diversified neighborhoods along the lake where the CTA is ridiculously convenient. I can take any of half a dozen bus lines – transfers rarely needed – and get almost anywhere downtown in 25 to 35 minutes. It’s city travel nirvana. And now I’ve joined a gym to which I can take a single bus and get there in 12 minutes, including the walk to the bus.

Getting rid of your car will save you a lot of money. Gas, insurance, parking, repairs and tickets can add up – not even counting if you’re making payments – to $5000 a year easily. But one of the additional advantages of not driving that you might notice, as I did the first time I took public transportation downtown when I first moved back, is a sense of freedom.

Say you’re walking down the street downtown and you get an urge to go look at a building, or stop somewhere for a drink or whatever, and you find yourself walking around the corner to look at something in another shop. You can do this when you’re not tied to a car parked somewhere. You don’t have to worry it’s going to cost you another ten or fifteen bucks if you stay a little longer. You can go out of your way because you can always catch the train or the bus at a different stop or even take a different one home.

And by the way, since CTA has installed GPS on its vehicles it now operates something called CTABusTracker. Look up your bus or train route, put in your direction and your stop, and you’ll get the ETA for the next several vehicles to be arriving at your stop. So if it’s nasty outside, you can stay warm inside somewhere until the thing is supposed to arrive. It’s a great service. Oh, and of course, you’ll be walking much more, which will probably make your doctor happy – and make you feel better.

I know you’re not going to dump your car without a lot of deliberation, and maybe you never will. For what it’s worth this has been a little food for thought.

(Update 2/23/17. The day came for me this past June, 2016: I sold my beloved 15-year-old Honda Accord – with only 76,000 miles on it! – and haven’t looked back. Oh, and for heavens’ sake, use Peapod for your grocery shopping when the weather sucks.)

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