How are you doing? Things are still roiling all over the globe. What’s been a long year for everyone doesn’t look like it’s ready to quit yet. So, thanks to some help from my dear daughter Creed, I’ve gotten part-way through the pile of books I’ve collected for review. These contain books on Travel, Health, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Philosophy and Science. Have fun browsing!
Drive a few hours and find yourself in a modern, comfortable retreat in Northern Michigan. Complete with waterfall walls, cute spots for gift shopping, beautiful spaces in which to dine, and in the right weather, high level golf courses, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is set in the midst of gently rolling hills and trees galore. Even in winter when you can’t golf, this is a grand place for relaxing and escaping from everyday obligations.
This February they’re turning Valentine’s Day into a weekend-long event and offering our Aerie Restaurant Valentine’s Day menu February 14-15. Check out the Spa special Valentine’s Couples package that includes massages, and customized pedicures, and if you decide to celebrate with the whole family they have kids activities too.
And if you’re off for a spring vacation, consider joining them March 22 – April 7 for special Spring Break rates and activities. Book soon and save 20% off of the prevailing rate. Whether you are looking for relaxation, romance, or a family getaway, get up and go at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. For room availability and rates, call 800-236-1577.
Tip: Don’t bring your work! Don’t open social media. Use the workout room. Swim. Eat. Listen. Share. Enjoy.
P.S. Consider taking a little side trip while you’re there to taste some wonderful wines at Shady Lane Cellars. If you’re lucky, you can meet the beautiful, warm, charming and knowledgeable winemaker Kasey Wierzba while you’re there.
Vacation is a time to bask in comfort and luxury if you’re able and willing to do that. Across the entire country you can find dozens and dozens of Historic Hotels of America, all of which are beautifully preserved and refreshed. They will make you feel like royalty and will gently remind you about the history of the area you’re staying in. Here’s a map of U.S. historic hotels so you can pinpoint if there’s one near where you want to go.
Take the magnificent Pfister Hotel by Marcus Hotels in Milwaukee, WI. There are, according to their website, at least 125 reasons to love the Pfister Hotel. A bonus of this vacation destination is that not only is it loaded with beauty and history, it’s also within driving distance. Why not treat yourself as you make the acquaintance – or get reacquainted with – our fair sister city so close by.
In the fast-growing-in-popularity metropolis of Memphis, TN you’ll find The Peabody Hotel – of twice-daily-duck-walks-through-the-lobby fame. In addition to the famous duck parades past the registration desk, you have your choice of satisfying dining options within the hotel. Among them, the most opulent dining room in Memphis enthralls with Old South splendor and the classic French cuisine of Executive Chef Andreas Kisler. In addition to being the only Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond rated restaurant in the Mid-South, Chez Philippe has been named among Food & Wine magazine’s “Top 50 Hotel Restaurants,” described as “worth a special trip” by The New York Times and included on Open Table’s list of Top 100 “Most Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.” Add to that a boatload of non-stop music and history in the many historic and modern venues, museums and landmarks in the fair city of Memphis, and you’ve got yourself a truly worthy vacay spot.
Closer to home, the Palmer House Hilton will charm you with some of the most exquisite gold-leaf and velvet-curtained surroundings you’ll run into anywhere in Chicago. Did you know that Potter Palmer built this hotel for the love of his life, Berthe Palmer, and that it burned to the ground in the Chicago fire exactly 13 days after its inaugural event? Palmer – who was so discouraged he wanted to leave Chicago altogether but chose to stay because his beloved Berthe encouraged him to do so – went out and negotiated a huge loan from a business associate and rebuilt the new Palmer House – right across the street from the practically still smoldering remains of the original. And that’s just the beginning of the Palmer House story. I have extremely fond personal memories of staying at this fabulous hotel when my college-bound daughter wondered why she’d want to live in Chicago. We lived in Cleveland at the time and visited often to see family but hadn’t really gone “out on the town.” Needless to say, once we settled in at this grand hotel and perambulated our way up and down Michigan Avenue, she fell madly in love with the city and made her college choice accordingly.
You can, of course, also consider treating yourself to a stay at the hotel that anchors the entrance to the famous Magnificent Mile – standing regally on the corner of Michigan Ave. and Oak St. The Drake Hotel is known for many things, including the gorgeous Palm Court and its High Tea service, the legendary Bookbinder snapper (red) soup, and the former Cape Cod Room, known for its wooden bar carved with famous people’s initials – like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. This space closed a few years ago, but has now reopened as a breakfast option for hotel guests and the general public. Called the Cafe on Oak, it features a couple of specialty Benedicts named after MM – biscuit, steak & egg – and JD – muffin, pancetta, tomato & egg, Happily, the bar and many of the original furnishings remain so that history-seeking guests can still get a feel for the original space and this longest-continuously-running hotel in the U.S.
Wherever you go in our fair country, be sure to check if there’s a historic hotel where you might indulge yourself and your loved ones. It’ll be worth every penny.
We don’t often cover events and places in the suburbs, but this combination of music and memories was too good not to share.
210 Live, 210 Green Bay Rd, Highwood, IL. Some say this is the best Chicagoland venue for tribute bands – and that means they’re going to be playing our songs, people. 210 Live offers food, live music, and lively people plus a full bar. See below for some of the soundtrack-of-our-lives events coming up, and then check out everything on their live music calendar.
As far as location, 210 Live is right by the Highwood Metra stop – way up north – but it looks like the last train back to the city is a little after midnight. So if you drive and plan to stay late and/or imbibe, find yourself a hotel nearby. BTW, the club is very close to Fort Sheridan, the dramatically repurposed former military base – and oh, my, do I have memories of us girls (late teens) driving out there to visit sailor friends! Anyway, here are some of the tribute shows:
- The 210 Live May lineup is your chance to re-live your life’s soundtrack with authentic re-creations of the music of Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones and Billy Joel. The tribute shows get underway on Thursday, May 2 as GMiV (Great Moments in Vinyl) presents Led Zeppelin and Physical Graffiti at 9 p.m. Opening the evening at 7 p.m. are the Real Pretenders, veterans of Chicago music scene with a passion for heard driving rhythms, catchy melodic hooks, soul tortured lyrics and loads of passion.
Although the Rolling Stones have postponed their 2019 tour (get well, soon, Mick), you can still get Yer Ya Ya’s out with Hot Rocks’ Rolling Stones Tribute on Thursday, May 9 at 9 p.m. This is an exciting theater-like show with the look, the music and the energy! Performing a variety of ‘Stones’ music spanning more than 50 years of hits, 60’s thru today, rock, country, disco and blues. Clap, sing along and dance to these hard-drivin’ songs. Hot Rocks is the only band ‘officially’ selected to represent the Midwest by The Rolling Stones, Paramount Pictures and Martin Scorsese. Come on out, see why people say, “It’s always a party with Hot Rocks.”
- On Friday, May 10, 210 Live presents the 70s FM Rockumentary. This is a guided tour of the greatest 70s rock music led by Lester “The Nightfly” who tells his tale of being an FM deejay in the 70s. The DJ is on video, but the music is live! This is a unique show, unlike any you’ve seen. Experience the wild lifestyle in this jukebox musical documentary that celebrates rock’s arguably greatest radio era.
A little road trip that can bring back memories in more ways than one… Carpool, anyone?
Memphis is no aging sleeping beauty down South. US News & World Report ranked Memphis number 9, just after Portland and San Antonio, among its best affordable destinations in the US.
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.
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.