Kentucky is where my parents were both born. My mother’s remaining relatives still live in the Louisville area. And the entire state is full of food and beauty and music – and it’s calling us to “come on down” and immerse ourselves in it. Just for starters, pack up your lawn chairs, dress in your best fun clothes, and go sample one or more of the amazing selection of music festivals going on just this June, 2019.
Festival of the Bluegrass – June 6-9, Music and laughter flow as freely as the bourbon, and new friends are made around campfires, over banquet-size meals, and while hootin’ and hollering’ at the artists on stage. www.festivalofthebluegrass.com, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY.
The city of Memphis lies serenely along the Mississippi River. Though the state of Arkansas is right across, when you look across from Memphis, all you see is empty-looking flat land. That’s because the river comes to flood stage fairly often, and Arkansas, being on a lower plane, gets the brunt of the flooding. So the Arkansans wisely choose not to build anything along their side of the river. Thus, Memphis appears to be a giant settlement teeming with human activity sitting alone atop its elevated perch next to the great Mississippi.
In addition to being the blues and BBQ capital of the US, Memphis is in the middle of a Renaissance – to the tune of $3.5 billion. That’s what they’re investing in the downtown area where tourists love to visit. Memphis tourism is the number two economic driver for the state after agriculture. The culinary scene is rapidly rising above its BBQ roots. James beard-nominated chefs are coming to town to begin catering to the increasing numbers of millennials. Food & Wine magazine ranked the John T Burger at Hog & Hominy – tagline: Italian Cooking. Southern Roots – as number one best in the entire United States. Vogue magazine voted The Gray Canary by chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer as one of the most anticipated American restaurant openings. Fodor’s Go List 2018 ranked Memphis number 6 out of 52 locations. And, of course, don’t forget the barbecue…
Millennials are increasingly attracted to aspects of life in Memphis. They’re finding the weather amenable, the job market cooperative, and the laid-back atmosphere in line with their ideals and conducive to their comfort. Fully one-third of the 600,000 population in the main city are millennials (aged about 25 to 40-ish), many of whom arrived in the last five to ten years.
So, for them and the rest of us non-millennials, why visit Memphis now? Milton Howery, the young and vibrant public relations manager of Memphis Travel, says visitors can immerse themselves in its history, the ongoing culinary revolution, and of course, the Memphis music scene. Along with the legendary Beale Street, the city is rich with music venues that present not just the classics of soul and blues, but also the newer tunes that many millennials crave. Memphis museums honor the city’s deep history, from the Civil War and on to more recent events. Mark your itinerary to include visits to the National Civil Rights Museum, the Blues Hall of Fame, the Memphis Heritage Trail, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, among others.
Unique lodgings abound in Memphis. You can stay at the guest house at Graceland, a new facility built across from the famous mansion. Or the Big Cypress Lodge at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in downtown Memphis. Or choose one of many other four star hotels under construction or in the planning. Getting around while you’re there can be fun. Consider using the bike-share program to make the Big River Crossing, new in 2018. It’s the longest pedestrian and bike crossing bridge over the Mississippi. And also the city now has Birds – personal motorized scooters. These things look much easier to use for us baby boomers then the Segways like we have in Chicago. A really fun way to get around.
Ride your scooter down to where the trolley is blowing its whistle through downtown Memphis. Instead of having to find an official bike storage rack, you can leave your Bird anywhere in the city and the service will find it and pick it up. The city is celebrating its Bicentennial in 2019 that’ll have the city hopping with music and activities. You can stay at the Peabody Hotel as it celebrates its 150-year Legacy as the South’s finest hotel. And don’t miss the Crosstown Concourse. It’s a building that used to be a giant warehouse but is now home to art galleries, retail and even some overnight accommodations. Beautiful lights and lots of activity.
It’s a rising area, it’s a welcoming city, and the sky’s the limit for where it’s $3.5 billion investment is going to take it. It’s a good time to visit Memphis and observe firsthand its continuing dramatic revitalization. And direct flights from Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Nashville and others mean it’s easy to get there.
Just thought we’d mention a few items we’ve sampled recently that you might find interesting as a gift idea this year. From a little toy that takes a ton of skill to work, to some luxury products loaded with CBD (cannabinoid oil) and a collection of beautiful fragrance packets, these are possibilities for almost anyone (except people like us hopelessly unskilled manual dexterity folks) this holiday. Check ’em out.
Spinnobi is a fascinating new little toy that will excite the manual-dexterity-masters, both kid and adult, on your list. For $10 you get this neat little spinny-wheel, bouncy gadget that you can do a lot of tricks with – but it takes some serious practice to master. I could see some kids competing to see who can keep it spinning the longest during each maneuver. It’s really satisfying to see the toy pop neatly up, still spinning, when you drop it on the table or floor. There’s a big collection of video snippets showing different ways to challenge yourself with the Spinnobi. Check out the kid who can make it pop off one knee onto the other and back. Each snippet is labeled according to how difficult it is to master. For us non-manual-dexterous types, anything but getting the wheel spinning could be challenge enough. I was completely unable to do any tricks but did enjoy just getting it to spin smoothly for a long time.
Gron CBD products include chocolates, sauces, balms and masks, and more, all laced with polite American society’s latest discovery: cannabinoid oil. The substance is said to offer health benefits that include easing the pain of arthritis without drugs. And the products come in a raft of different forms – chewable, drinkable, and even rubbable on your skin. Imagine: chocolate that actually makes you feel even better than the just the pure emotional joy of eating chocolate! Caramel sauce that sweetens your dessert and helps dull the pain in your knees or hands. A cream that lessens the discomfort of peripheral neuropathy. Hard to say how much of the relief might be mental because you believe in it. Happily, the edible stuff tastes pretty good, so you get the joy of eating and the benefit of the CBD. Keep in mind, it is a mild effect. You’re not going to be getting high or anything. Just feeling perhaps a little calmer – I’m guessing you shouldn’t try these after consuming a bunch of caffeine as the two could be canceling each other out. Gron does a truly gorgeous job of packaging, so these items can make excellent gifts for the adults in your life who are perhaps at times sleep-deprived or stressed out. I mean, who couldn’t use a little help with that once in a while? The products are not cheap at starting prices around $30 for caramel sauce. Read tips on using CBD and how to figure out how much CBD to take here.
Love beautiful fragrances? Floral Simplicity Scents sachet packets can set your heart and mind aswirl in dozens of different ways. Everything from baked goods like Vanilla Cake and Almond Biscotti or treats like Caramel Pumpkin Truffle and Apple Cinnamon, to flowers like Peony and Lily, or outdoorsy scents like Open Road or Seaside, you’ll find yourself transported with these true-to-life aromas at your fingertips. What a way to help you imagine your way to a relaxing vacation or trip through a greenhouse or a forest grove. These envelopes come wrapped in plastic so they retain maximum scent until you open them and place them where you like – in a dish on your hall table or beside your bed, or in your underwear drawer or wherever you’d like to evoke memories or conjure up an environment that soothes the spirit. The company, which also sells scented candles, donated 20% of its profits in 2017 to help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, support mothers and children in need. Floral Simplicity 3-packs start at $8.50.
Isn’t it fun to see what creative minds can do to help us use technology more efficiently? We already love our computers and our smart phones and tablets and so on. But products like external batteries, cases for e-readers, fun and useful attachments for phones – like the I-now-can’t-live-without-it CardNinja that holds your credit card, bus card, cash or whatever securely on the back of your phone – and so on are what keep the joy of the Internet and of smart phones constantly re-energizing itself.
A tech gadget company called myCharge has recently introduced a couple of fun and fabulous devices: the myCharge Unplugged Wireless Charging Bank and their handy little myFlipShade-cum-Phone Stand. Here’s what we think about them.
The myCharge Unplugged 5K Wireless Phone Bank has a beautiful, soft finish on the casing. It’s an elegant design that’s pleasingly smooth to the touch and has a classy-looking range of tiny lights to tell you how much charge is left. We’ve found it can hold its charge for quite a long period while it’s stored unused (a couple of weeks even). When you use it, the bank can charge up to 3 devices at a time – one wirelessly by setting it on top of the bank (as long as that device is equipped for wireless charging) and the other two devices via the two included USB ports. Plus there’s an Android connection, too, so you can charge Android devices (phones, Kindles, etc.) and also use it with a micro/USB cord to recharge the wireless bank. Very cool.
The myCharge is much nicer to look at and considerably lighter than many other external battery options – always a happy thing when you’re already weighed down carrying around so much tech paraphernalia that your shoulder’s threatening to go out of whack. It’s 2.75 inches wide and 5 inches high. We are very pleased with the usefulness of this product and happy with how handsome it is. Well worth the $50 price tag.
The myCharge myFlipShade is a cute, very lightweight device you attach to the back of your later-model smart phone – it’s too wide for older, smaller phone sizes. The attachment leaf has a spacious opening to accommodate camera lenses on most Android or iPhone models (not the 5 series and earlier). It’s about 2.5 inches wide, so check your phone width before you decide to buy.
The device is made of very thin plastic – a good thing for keeping the weight down, but it does make the device feel a little delicate. It has a set of “wings” that open up to protect your phone screen from sun, light rain, and/or prying eyes. On one of the samples we worked with, one of the wings snapped off before we’d even tried to attach it to a phone. We were able to re-attach it, but it never snapped quite all the way shut after that. So you need to handle those wings with care. The device comes in a couple of finishes, including white marble, the snazzy Black Dot and one in white that’s dotted with pineapples! Besides protecting your phone screen, the device can serve as a phone stand – works either horizontally or vertically, so if you’re into reading, making videos or watching long-a*s movies on your phone, this could come in handy. $9.99 on their website.
Historic Hotels of America came to Chicago recently to bring attention to a few of Chicago’s own homegrown historic gems as well as several others. Seated in the majestic King Arthur Court room at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 N. Michigan Ave., industry observers met representatives from several of these giants and heard them talk about the features and amenities of their gracious historic hotels.
The Intercontinental itself is a gorgeous historical hotel that was once an exclusive men’s club. The furnishings are rich and comfortable, the decor impeccably stylish, all of it kept in excellent condition with regular upkeep and periodic refurbishing and modernization over the years. A treasure to indulge your guests in for catered meetings and conferences, or yourself and family for holidays and vacations.
Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel. One of Chicago’s great historic gem hotels is the beautiful and iconic Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St. With a lobby to die for in terms of stateliness and decor, this is one of the prime Chicago spots to come to experience a historic hotel at its finest.
One of the many interesting ways to experience this location is the “History is Hott!!” luncheon and tour, held Tuesday through Saturday depending on ballroom availability. The hotel’s resident historian, Ken Price, a tall, dynamic speaker, continually surprises and delights guests with nuggets from his seemingly inexhaustible wealth of information about Chicago, the hotel and the history of both. Reserve a place on the tour by calling 312.917.3404.
The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, is part of Chicago’s history and part of its current cultural milieu. The public is regularly invited to participate in multiple different events each year. Everything from a Youth Breadmaking Workshop featuring star baking chefs from around the world, to a summer camp this year for kids 7-17 with cancer in which some of the hotel’s rooms were transformed into bunk cabins and meeting spaces became the site of campfires, cookouts and talent shows, while kids were taken on adventures like rock climbing, Lake Michigan cruises, swimming at the beach, and more.
In 1893 the Palmer House pastry chef invented, at the behest of Mrs. Palmer, the first brownie for the Columbian Exposition World’s fair in Chicago. Their version of this iconic dessert, which is now legendary and ubiquitous, is still melting sweetly on peoples taste buds today. Made with real chocolate, fudgy yet light-as-air compared to some, it’s rich, apricot-glazed and deeply chocolate – definitely a close-your-eyes food. And when you buy one, you even get the recipe. Start with “14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, a pound of butter…” Then, enjoy working it off at the hotel’s modern fitness center.
Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection Hotels, 200 E. Third St. in Davenport, Iowa, owned by Marriott, is another treasure listed with Historic Hotels of America. First opened in 1914, this beautiful hotel has a fascinating history, detailed in a beautiful hard-bound book full of memories and historical photos. Since 2010, after a $46 million renovation, it has become the landmark destination in the Quad Cities. Their favorite adjective is “Hipstoric.” Their mantra is “Stay. Host. Play.” And they have some gorgeous spaces in which you can do all those things. Intimate private dining rooms, comfortable boardrooms and elegant, gilded ballrooms, in combination with their sleek contemporary decor throughout the public spaces and in all the rooms and suites – complete with luxury bedding, make great spaces for conferences, meetings, special occasions or just laying back. And at affordable rates.
Amenities include a fitness center, complimentary WiFi and a heated indoor pool and hot tub. And as for playing, enjoy The Spa at Hotel Blackhawk or unwind with cocktails while you bowl a few frames at their own indoor Blackhawk Bowl. Consider the world-class cuisine at Bix Bistro or take a quick break for coffee or latte at Beignet Done That Cafe. TripAdvisor awarded Hotel Blackhawk their Certificate of Excellence and AAA awards Four Diamonds. Stay here, host here, and play right in the hotel – or use it as your home base while you drink in the pleasures of the entire Quad Cities region.
The Wigwam, a 440-acre resort oasis in Phoenix’s West Valley, is celebrating the centennial anniversary of its Organization House, the first building on the site. Once housing Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s executives, today it’s the foundation of The Wigwam’s authenticity and historic charm. Travelers are invited to enjoy a special “Centennial Thank You Package,” along with a line-up of epicurean events, wellness journeys, and special promotions. Valid for stays through December 23, 2018, package prices start at $209 and include a two-night stay in an Adobe Traditional Room plus a $100 resort credit towards enriching activities, dining, and wellness experiences at the historic resort. A huge 26,000-square-foot LeMonds – Aveda Salon and Spa, An amazing 54 holes of championship golf (two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trend Jones, Sr.). Delectable cuisine at five dining outlets. Plus entertainment and active lifestyle amenities for guests of all ages.
Meander through the resort’s meticulously manicured landscape of palm trees, rose gardens, citrus trees, and lush greenery – highly unexpected in a desert setting. Guestrooms and suites, most housed in adobe style casitas, feature updated comfortable, contemporary interiors accented by authentic Southwestern décor. Set up meetings in updated spaces. Enjoy shopping onsite. Relax and play in the three expansive swimming pools, bocce ball and tennis courts, along with the spa and the golf club. For more information on The Wigwam, the “Centennial Thank You Package,” or the 100th Anniversary of the Organization House, call (623) 935-3811 or visit www.wigwamarizona.com.
Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50