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Top Destinations for Art in Chicago

 

Chicago -- one of the Midwest’s great cultural destinations -- is “second city” to none when it comes to the art scene.  From classical to avant-garde, here are some of Chicago’s must-see’s for art lovers.

Art Museums in Chicago 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
(312) 443-3600
Daily: 10:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Open Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.
 

Art Institute of Chicago from south resized 600When Ferris Bueller took the day off in Chicago, one of his destinations (after his stops at the Sears Tower, Chicago Board of Trade, and Wrigley Field) was the Art Institute of Chicago—one of the largest, most comprehensive, and best loved art museums in the world.  (It ranked #1 -- above the Louvre -- in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for top museums.) With five centuries of global art in over one million square feet of exhibit space, the Art Institute calls its collection  “encyclopedic”—meaning it strives to offer examples of every category of world art; but it’s probably best known for Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, American, and modern art.  It’s worth the trip just to gaze at Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (the one Ferris’ friend, Cameron Frye, obsessed over) or Monet’s Water Lilies.  Other visitor favorites: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist.  Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounts, guided tours, and special dining options (choose from lunch, afternoon coffee, or wine and cheese served in the Millennium Park Room). 

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
(312) 280-2660
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(Extended hours during special exhibitions)
Closed Monday

contemporary art resized 600Since its founding in 1967 by a group of Chicago collectors and patrons, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) has aspired to showcase the most thought-provoking art of our time.  One of the nation’s largest museums of its kind, the MCA is dedicated to visual art created since 1945, striving to “boldly interweave” painting, sculpture, film, video, and performance. The mobiles of Alexander Calder, the surrealist art of René Magritte, the pop art of Andy Warhol, and the neo-Dadaist paintings of Jasper Johns are among the museum’s permanent collection, which contains some 5,700 works.  Through its nearly 50 years, the MCA has earned an international reputation for presenting ground-breaking exhibitions—including a Robert Irwin installation in 1975, the first American exhibition of Frida Kahlo paintings in 1978, and a retrospective for Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz in 1982.  Along with its permanent collection, the MCA brings in touring exhibitions, like its current offering, David Bowie Is: a multi-media “immersive journey” into Bowie’s artistic life.  For a treat, grab lunch or a snack at Puck’s Café—a collaboration of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and the MCA.  Your order is made fresh and delivered to your table, where you can savor the food, the colorful art, and views of Lake Michigan in equal measure.  Groups are invited to book a private guided tour, led by museum educators and adapted to the interests and knowledge base of your group.  

The National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 West 19th Street
(312) 738-1503 
Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Monday

Mexican Art MuseumThe National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) houses the largest collection of Latino art in the nation, and is the only Latino museum to receive accreditation from the American Association of Museums.  Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood (also known as the Mexico of the Midwest), NMMA defines Mexican culture as sin fronteras (without borders), and seeks to showcase the diversity and quality of Mexican art from ancient times to the present. With more than 7,000 objects, the NMMA’s collection features photography, ephemera, folk art, ancient artifacts, prints and drawings, paintings, and sculptures.  Groups are welcome year round, and can reserve a 45-minute tour of the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions (offered in English, Spanish, or bi-lingual)—a great way to learn about Mexican culture through the artwork on display. 

• • •

Outsider Art in Chicago

Outsider art—sometimes called intuitive, visionary, or folk art—can be loosely defined as work created by self-taught artists and/or artists who are not part of the mainstream artistic establishment.  Chicago is teeming with it.  You’ll find outsider art in galleries, studios, coffee shops, and book stores; it’s also on viaduct walls, the sides of buildings, under overpasses, and on the street.  It’s no wonder that Chicago has gained an international reputation for attracting and supporting this unique category of visual art.  Here are a few top venues.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
756 North Milwaukee Avenue
(312) 243-9088
Tuesday - Saturday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Open Thursdays until 7:30 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday

This 12,000 square foot space, in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, houses 1,100 works, and is the only non-profit organization in the United States solely dedicated to exhibiting self-taught and outsider art.  Established in 1991, Intuit serves as an exhibit space, a resource for scholars and students, and a provider of educational programming.  Of particular interest to aficionados is the Henry Darger Room Collection, a permanent installation replicating the living quarters of the most celebrated outsider artist of all time – a reclusive hospital custodian from Chicago whose death in 1973 unearthed a 15,000-page original fantasy manuscript along with hundreds of drawings and watercolor illustrations.  Groups can book a customized tour, complete with an introduction to Intuit, an overview of self-taught and outsider art, and a tour of current exhibitions. 

The Flat Iron Arts Building
1579 N. Milwaukee Avenue

The Flat Iron Arts Building (a unique wedge-shaped structure at the intersections of Milwaukee, Damen, and North Avenues in the heart of Wicker Park) houses a community of working artists specializing in visual arts, music, and performance.  The building is open to the public, so you’re welcome to wander the three floors of studios and galleries, where you can watch artists at work or buy a one-of-a-kind piece of art.  The best time to go is on the first Friday of the month (“First Fridays”), when resident and guest artists greet the public, display their work, put on spontaneous performances, and serve refreshments from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Several commercial galleries are dedicated, at least in part, to showcasing the work of outsiders and/or lesser-known and emerging artists, including those from Chicago.

Judy Saslow Gallery
300 West Superior
(312) 943-0530
Tuesday-Friday: 11:00 a.m. - 6 pm
Saturday:  11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Established in 1995 to showcase the art of European outsiders, the Judy A. Saslow Gallery now exhibits contemporary art by established, emerging, and outsider artists along with a stunning collection of tribal artifacts and jewelry from around the world.

Carl Hammer Gallery
740 North Wells
(312) 266-8512
Tuesday - Friday:  11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Opening receptions from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. on first date of scheduled exhibitions
Closed Sunday and Monday

The Carl Hammer Gallery specializes in contemporary, outsider, and non-mainstream art by American and European artists, including pieces by Lee Godie and Henry Darger.

Packer Schopf Gallery
942 West Lake Street
(312) 226-8984
Tuesday - Saturday:  11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Before teaming up with Chicago attorney and investor William Schopf in 2006, Aron Packer collected and sold folk art, and has always been drawn to such ephemera as hand-carved canes, original tattoo drawings, sideshow banners, and handmade quilts.  This sensibility is evident at the Packer Schopf Gallery, where Packer describes the collection he curates as “obscure, idiosyncratic, and the road not obviously taken.”

Project Onward
Bridgeport Art Center
1200 West 35th Street, 4th Floor
(312) 940-2992
Tuesday - Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

When art critic Roger Cardinal coined the term “outsider art” in 1972 (as an English equivalent of the French “art brut,” which literally means “rough art” or “raw art”), he may have been imagining something like Project Onward, a nonprofit studio and art gallery for professional artists with mental illness and developmental disabilities.  Project Onward occupies 13,000 square feet of studio and gallery space, where 45 member artists create, exhibit, and sell their art.

• • •

Public Art in Chicago

If you visit Chicago to see art, don’t overlook the world-class collection of public art on display throughout the city, especially in the downtown city center known as the Loop.  In fact, the Loop has been compared to an “open air museum of sculpture,” featuring the works of Picasso, Calder, and Miro alongside many lesser-known treasures -- all adding to Chicago’s distinctive character. 

A walking tour can be completed in around two hours and will take you past the Chicago Board of Trade, the Sears Tower, and Millennium Park.

Navigate North: Charter a Bus to Marquette County!

 

Barry picAs the Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the Marquette County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Barry Winslow is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Marquette County.

By Barry Winslow

It seems so often the first image that pops into our minds when thinking of getting away to vacation is sitting on the beach in a swimsuit, rum punch in hand, relaxing in the hot sun’s rays. Granted, this would be a nice vacation, but there’s a whole different sense of serenity when you navigate north. That’s right; I’m talking about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and more specifically, Marquette County.

A comforting sense of being at peace is the most immediate buzz one experiences even before arriving to Marquette. This sense of satisfaction occurs when driving through the pristine Upper Peninsula. Away from the pressures of everyday life and far removed from the hustle and bustle, it is up north that one can truly relax and enjoy the serene beauty of nature.

FCR 17236(1)The business nucleus of Marquette County is that of its largest city, Marquette. With a population of 22,000 people, Marquette is the most populated city in the Upper Peninsula. Don’t let the word populated deter you, as most anything from surfing to shopping to skiing is just moments away. In fact, that’s the real beauty of Marquette. Outside of the city’s absolutely gorgeous setting; nestled on the shores of Lake Superior and backed by the Huron Mountains, Marquette is a small city with a huge personality that has most  anything to offer to every age group.

By far and away Michigan’s best kept secret, Marquette is a north coast playground. Well worth every second of the three hour drive from the Mackinaw Bridge, Marquette is home to some of the best restaurants and events the state has to offer. Sure, chain restaurants like Red Lobster, Culver's and Applebee’s are available, but Marquette takes pride in its wide array of excellent local dining. A popular choice is the Vierling, an original eatery that places emphasis on fresh and homemade lunch and dinner options. A go-to option is most definitely the Lake Superior Whitefish, fresh from the lake just a block away, as well as their delicious homemade soups and salads. Doubling as a brewery too, the Vierling became one of the state’s first brew houses, opening a 5-barrel brewing system in 1995. The brewery, called the Marquette Harbor Brewery, specializes in producing delicious ales and lagers.

Speaking of beer, Marquette County is home to five microbreweries. Blackrocks Brewery, Ore Dock Brewing Company, and the Vierling/Marquette Harbor Brewery all reside in Marquette’s city limits and all produce unique beer options, but smaller towns in the county also boast a brewing presence. Jasper Ridge Brewery & Restaurant is located in Ishpeming and their food and beer is well worth the twenty-minute commute from Marquette. Harvey, a small town due just south of Marquette is also home to their own brew pub, Chocolay River Brewing Company, which opened its doors in September.

FCR 13460There’s plenty to do in the county outside of food and drink too. There’s always something going on to take part in, especially large festivals throughout the year. Summer brings residents and travelers together at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. This harbor-side park in downtown hosts multiple festivals like the International Food Fest in July, Harbor Fest in August, and the U.P. Fall Beer Fest and the Marquette Area Blues Fest in September. Winter is also a popular season, as the city hosts the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in January and the UP 200 Sled Dog Race, an Iditarod qualifier, in February.

It’s hard to leave out historic landmarks in the county, such as Presque Isle Park, the National Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, the Landmark Inn in downtown Marquette, Northern Michigan University, Marquette Mountain Ski Area, the Vista Theatre in Negaunee, and the U.S. Olympic Training Site on NMU’s campus, but it just goes to show that there’s a true northern retreat awaiting in Marquette County, Michigan; you just have to navigate north.

*Photo credit: Aaron Peterson

How Campus Shuttles, Bike Lanes, and ZipCars Are Helping Colleges Save the Planet

 

zipcar resized 600When it comes to transportation at America’s colleges and universities, lets just say:  Cars were then, campus shuttles, bike lanes, and ZipCars are now.  When it comes to saving the planet, these and other initiatives mean that college campuses may be the greenest of them all.

For the last two decades, U.S. colleges and universities have been leading the green movement with sustainability initiatives like organic gardens and farms, “living machines” to manage wastewater, LEED- (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified buildings, and policies that promote renewable energy and carbon neutrality.  There have also been widespread efforts to decrease student, faculty, and staff reliance on personal vehicles.  According to a recent report from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)—“A New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation”—the effort to reduce driving on campus does more than just cut down on carbon emissions.  It’s also “saving money for universities, improving the quality of life in college towns, and giving today’s students experience in living life without depending on a personal car.”

What’s in it for colleges to reduce driving?

It helps the environment.  One of the main reasons to cut down on driving is to reduce the environmental impact of cars.  Less driving means fewer emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.

It alleviates congestion.  Having a lot of cars on campus results in traffic congestion; fewer cars means less congestion.

It makes colleges better neighbors.  In a college town, the seasonal influx of thousands of students with cars can strain relations with the neighboring community.  For universities that want to be good neighbors, cutting down on traffic, noise, and emissions is a step in the right direction.

It reduces the demand for parking.  Parking lots and garages are expensive, and they consume a lot of land that could be used for other purposes … like green buildings or open spaces.  Plus, on-street parking is notoriously awful in college towns; reduced demand would open up more space for sidewalk cafés and bike lanes and ameliorate the agony of searching for a parking spot.

It keeps campuses safe and pedestrian-friendly.  Walking and biking are healthy, safe, and inexpensive alternatives to driving; and, according to Walkable Princeton, less reliance on personal cars improves the quality of life in college towns. 

It responds to student preferences.  Young Americans are leading the trend toward less reliance on driving.  The PIRG report found that “young people often prefer communities that are served by multiple transportation options rather than depending solely on a personal car.”  And everyone knows it’s a lot cheaper to go to college without a car.

Universities that are serious about reducing driving are taking steps to help students and faculty get around without cars.

What Can Universities Do to Reduce Driving?

bike2Promote biking.  Biking is booming at American colleges and universities.  The League of American Bicyclists designates institutions of higher education as “Bicycle Friendly Universities”—awarding platinum, gold, silver, or bronze status to schools that promote cycling by providing bike lanes, bike paths, bike racks, and bike sharing services.  Schools get extra credit for offering bicycle safety classes, bicycle repair and maintenance facilities, showers and lockers for commuters, summer bike storage, and special riding events.

Promote walking.  Colleges and college towns are, by their nature, supposed to be pedestrian friendly.  Walkscore (which ranks cities and college towns in terms of bike friendliness, transit friendliness, and walkability) points out that “cars are expensive; walking is not.”  Walking is healthy for walkers and the environment; driving is not.  Walkable campuses combine accessible transit with safe, pleasant walkways and proximity to residence, dining, academic, and social venues.

Encourage car sharing and ride sharing.  Membership-based car sharing services (like Zipcar) are cropping up at hundreds of universities.  In the case of Zipcar (which is owned by Avis), the company rents cars to college kids as needed (by the hour or the day), thereby virtually eliminating the need to have a car on campus.  Ride sharing initiatives like Zimride match riders with drivers—whether it’s for a one-time trip out of town or a daily commute.  Some universities offer incentives to carpoolers and vanpoolers, such as free or reduced parking, reserved spots, and other rewards.

Offer free or reduced access to public transportation.  Public and private universities (like the University of Michigan and Duke University, for example) have partnered with their area transportation authorities to provide transit options for their students and faculty—either free of charge or at reduced rates.  Students at Duke get a free GoPass, allowing them to use Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) and Triangle Transit buses (covering the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area) free of charge with a swipe of a card.  An agreement between the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA), allows students, faculty, and staff to ride fixed public transportation routes free of charge.

campus shuttleProvide shuttle buses.  Many institutions provide free, university-run shuttle buses for students, faculty, and staff.  The best shuttle services offer frequent trips, plenty of pick-up and drop-off locations, and a schedule that runs from early in the morning to late at night.  State-of-the-art campus shuttle buses are handicap accessible, equipped with GPS for real time tracking (online and via smartphones), and have bike racks.  Many of them run on biodiesel fuel blends.

At Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Bronco Transit (operated by Indian Trails) shuttles students to and from residence halls, academic and administrative buildings, campus events, and off-campus apartments starting as early as 7:05 a.m. and running as late as 12:32 a.m. daily. Students also ride Kalamazoo’s Metro Transit buses for free, a perk that gives them access to off-campus dining, shopping, entertainment, Bronson Hospital, and the downtown transit station.  With GPS tracking onboard Bronco buses, the same free smartphone app that lets students check football scores and dining hall menus also lets them track the whereabouts and arrival time of the next shuttle bus.  All buses are outfitted with exterior “buscycle” racks for riders with bikes. 

In upstate New York, students at the University at Buffalo-SUNY (UB) can ride the UB Stampede (operated by First Transit) 24 hours a day.  The bright blue shuttle buses make many stops throughout the two sprawling campuses (North and South) and surrounding community, with pick-ups every five to ten minutes.  Although 68% of UB’s 29,850 students have their own cars, most drivers park in a commuter lot and ride the Stampede for the rest of the day.  Buses run on a blend of standard diesel and biodiesel, have sport exterior racks for up to three bicycles, and are equipped with GPS systems for real-time tracking. 

Princeton University’s free shuttle service, TigerTransit (operated by First Transit) runs on a fixed schedule throughout the campus and surrounding community with routes from early morning to late at night.  The Saturday Shopper bus—also free—goes to various popular shopping centers and grocery stores like Target, the MarketFair Mall, and Trader Joe’s.  TigerTransit also connects with Princeton, New Jersey’s local “freeB” bus service and New Jersey Transit, where students qualify for discounted train, bus, and light rail passes.

Thanks to campus shuttles—and other initiatives aimed at saving the planet—American colleges and universities may very well be “the greenest of them all.”

Charter a Bus to Ann Arbor!

 

Maricat EggenbergerMaricat Eggenberger is the Communications Manager with the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. She’s a proud Michigander that has lived in Ann Arbor for three years.  She loves to travel, anything eco-friendly and the little adventures in life.

By Maricat Eggenberger

The home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a city with small-town charm and the excitement of a big city. With something for everyone, you can take your taste-buds on a flavorful adventure, satisfy your cultural cravings or explore the outdoors of ‘Tree Town.’

The University of Michigan Football StadiumEach season in Ann Arbor is packed with fun events and activities to enjoy. In the fall, don’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime experience of catching a game at the University of Michigan Football Stadium.  Fondly referred to as ‘The Big House,’ the stadium seats 109,901 fans.  Not visiting in the fall? You can book a tour of ‘The Big House’; you’ll be able to walk on the field, walk through the locker rooms and even tour the suites!

Summers in Ann Arbor are a wonderful time to experience outdoor festivals; the Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival are popular events taking place right in downtown.  Dine al fresco at one of Ann Arbor’s downtown restaurants. Check out the campus of the Wolverines and duck into the U-M Museum of Art, Kelsey Museum of Archeology, the Natural History Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Library. Don’t forget to walk through the Law Quad; you’ll feel like you are on the set of the Harry Potter movies at Hogwarts.

Planning a visit in late May will ensure you’ll be able to see hundreds of peonies in bloom at the University of Michigan Arboretum. A year-round 123-acre park at the edge of the Huron River and just blocks from downtown Ann Arbor, the ‘Arb’ as locals call it is a perfect place to hike beautiful trails.

Ice skate Ann Arbor’s outdoor ice rinks or cross-country ski the trails of nearby metro parks during the winter. Or, check out one of the Ann Arbor area’s world-class performances from the University Musical Society, whose performances take place at the historic Hill Auditorium. Catch a show at the intimate Purple Rose Theatre, in nearby Chelsea, founded by actor Jeff Daniels.

Main Street   LenaA few other tips for visiting Ann Arbor….

  1. Visit Zingerman’s Delicatessen, located in historic Kerrytown. Take your pick from their extensive sandwich menu and taste specialty meats and cheeses at the Deli!
  2. Stroll one of America’s Best Main Streets, full of outstanding restaurants and unique boutiques.
  3. Wander around the ‘Diag’ of the University of Michigan campus, located at State Street and North University.
  4. Kayak the cascades of the Huron River! Rent kayaks or canoes from Argo Canoe Livery, just blocks from downtown Ann Arbor.
  5. Keep your eyes open for fairy doors! They can be found all over downtown on the outsides of shops and restaurants.
  6. Check out Ann Arbor’s breweries! With four located right downtown, stop by for dinner and some great local beer.
  7. Eat your way through Ann Arbor. We guarantee you won’t regret it.

Top Child-Friendly Educational Destinations by Charter Bus: Chicago

 

Looking for child-friendly educational destinations?  Chicago is accessible by charter bus and offers world-class learning opportunities for student groups of all ages.

Every day in Chicago, children of all ages marvel at the mysteries of the universe, immerse themselves in four billion years of life on Earth, and witness 200,000 years of human ingenuity, imagination, and innovation first-hand.  Here, kids can explore a Caribbean reef, descend a mineshaft, and travel a billion light years through space – sometimes all on the same day. 

And no, they’re not playing video games.

They are experiencing the magic that happens in four world-class museums—all located along a 10-mile stretch of the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, all dedicated to science, and all, as you may have guessed, exceedingly child-friendly.  Three of the institutions—the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History—are nestled together on a 57-acre plot of green space in Grant Park, officially known as the Museum Campus.  The fourth—the Museum of Science and Industry—is a few miles south on Lake Shore Drive. 

Adler Planetarium
1300 S Lake Shore Drive
(312) 922-7827
Monday - Friday: 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday:  9:30 a.m. - 4:30 pm. 

Adler Planetarium Front resized 600Founded in 1930, the Adler Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, offering interactive high tech exhibitions, a world-renowned collection of astronomy artifacts, and facilitated educational programs.  But kids say the sky shows—six in all, in the world’s most technologically advanced theaters—are the best part of the Adler Planetarium experience.  “Cosmic Wonder” (30 minutes) describes how humankind, over time, pieced together an understanding of the cosmos. “Undiscovered Worlds” (30 minutes) explores the search for life in other galaxies.  “Night Sky Now!” familiarizes students with the constellations, planets, and other objects they can find in the actual night sky.  The newest sky show, “Welcome to the Universe,” simulates the thrilling sensation of space travel and accompanies the newest permanent exhibition, “The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time.” Another popular exhibit, “Planet Explorers,” lets kids experience how it feels to climb, crawl, and fly through space. 

The Adler Planetarium can accommodate K-12 field trips, Scout badge programs, and adult groups.

Shedd Aquarium
1200 South Lakeshore Drive
(312) 939-2438
Open daily 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Shedd Aquarium Chicago August 2005The largest indoor aquarium in the world, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 species living in diverse salt water and fresh water habitats (15 million gallons of water in all).  There are beluga whales, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, piranhas, penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, turtles, iguanas, and pretty much any sea mammal, amphibian, or fish you can think of.  Shedd’s main purpose is to educate, and it offers many hands-on learning labs (complete with downloadable teachers’ guides) for student groups of all ages—for example, Camouflaging Critters, Amazon Survival, and Lakeshore Ecology.  One of the most exciting and memorable options for groups (ages five and up) is overnight.  Here’s a typical itinerary (from the Shedd Aquarium website):

6:30-8 p.m.     Check-in, dinner, and time to explore the Abbott Oceanarium
7:30 p.m.        Event orientation and aquatic show
8-9:30 p.m.     Planned activities in the aquarium galleries, exploration of Wild Reef
9:30 p.m.        Caribbean Reef dive presentation
10 p.m.           Set up sleeping space, late-night snack, movie and game room open
11 p.m.            Lights out! 
6:30 a.m.         Rise and shine, explore aquarium galleries
7 a.m.              Breakfast
7:30 a.m.         Explore Abbott Oceanarium
8 a.m.              Explore Wild Reef
8:30 a.m.         Depart

If you plan right, your morning departure would allow you to visit another museum before heading home.

The Field Museum
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
(312) 922-9410
Open daily 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

FieldMuseum“The Field Museum inspires curiosity about life.”  These are the first words of the 120-year-old museum’s mission statement and it pretty much says it all.

Since it would be impossible to cover the whole 400,000-square-foot Field Museum in a day, here are a few of the most important things for kids to see.

The museum’s most celebrated resident is 65 million-year-old “Sue,” the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found.  Evolving Planet is the dinosaur exhibit—a journey through four billion years of life on Earth.  Underground Adventure “shrinks” visitors to the size of a bug to let them explore what goes on beneath the soil.  Three of the most popular permanent exhibitions are Inside Ancient Egypt, Africa, and The Tsavo Lions; current special exhibits include The Machine Inside: Biomechanics, which investigates the marvels of natural engineering, and Extinct Madagascar: Exploring the Island’s Past, which imagines the fantastical creatures that used to roam the island.

The Field Museum’s Student Programs offer teachers and students a way to explore a specific topic and practice scientific practice skills on-site. 

The Museum of Science and Industry
5700 South Lake Shore Drive
(773) 684-1414
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Museum of Science and IndustryRight across the street from Lake Michigan, with nearly 2,000 hands-on exhibits and live science experiences, the sprawling, three-story Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is one of Chicago’s most visited and best loved museums.  Among its 1.4 million annual visitors, 340,000 are school kids, making MSI the area’s top field trip destination.  Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounts, special itineraries, group activities, tours, and lunch options.  With a goal of providing school groups with hands-on, real-world exposure to science, MSI offers on-site Learning Labs—facilitated, multi-disciplinary learning experiences that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for science and technical subjects. 

Not-to-be-missed exhibits:  Coal Mine takes visitors on a guided tour into the depths of a simulated coal mine.  Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle is a giant dollhouse filled with intricate hand-crafted miniatures (like tiny chandeliers with real diamonds and the world’s smallest bible).  Visitors to the U-5 Submarine (a real German submarine captured during World War II) get to climb through the hatch to explore the sights, sounds, and strategies of war at sea.

There’s also the Idea Factory (limited to ages 10 and under) where kids can play with water cannons, blocks and cranks, and the five-story, domed, wrap-around Omnimax Theater—the only one like it in Chicago.

Chicago offers countless iconic experiences for children:  the view from the John Hancock Building, a ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, a game at Wrigley Field, Millennium Park, Lake Michigan, and the giant pandas at the Brookfield Zoo, to name a few.  But before they grow up, every kid should witness the magic of the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once.

Charter a Bus to Holland!

 

Sally LaukitisAs a native of Holland, Michigan and Executive Director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau, Sally Laukitis is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Holland.

By Sally Laukitis

When people think of Holland, Michigan, they usually think of our annual Tulip Time Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Holland each May, and gives us the chance to share our Dutch heritage with people from all over the world.  With the blooming of millions of tulips, three parades, headline entertainment, klompen dancing, and much, much more, there truly is something for everyone! (The Festival always begins the first Saturday in May; in 2015 it runs from May 2 - 9). But there is more to Holland than tulips….We’re a year-round destination as well!

Holland is home to Windmill Island Gardens, featuring DeZwaan, a 260-year-old authentic windmill that was brought over from the Netherlands fifty years ago.  You can tour the mill from late April through mid-October. Our female miller, who trained in the Netherlands, grinds the area’s winter wheat into whole wheat flour. You can even purchase a bag to take home with you! Over 100,000 tulips bloom on the Island each spring; in the summer and fall Windmill Island Gardens is overflowing with stunning annual and perennial gardens.

HollandNelis’ Dutch Village, another popular attraction, is a recreation of an 1800’s Dutch town; “kid-friendly”, it boasts a petting zoo, imported Dutch carousel, pedal pumper cars, and a street organ that used to be pulled through the narrow streets of downtown Amsterdam. For adults, the Thirsty Dutchman Pub offers imported Dutch beers and cheeses, and for those who like to shop, the import shops are a real treat! (The park is open late April through mid-October; the import shops are open year ‘round.)

Beyond the “Dutch stuff”, downtown Holland is an award-winning shopping and dining destination, with over 100 shops, galleries and eateries, and features two micro-breweries, a beer bar with 70 craft brews on tap, and a wine-tasting room. (Holland is also home to two artisan distilleries.)

Holland Farmers Market resized 600In summer, downtown Holland comes alive with the Thursday Night Street Performers Series, featuring over 30 genres of buskers – from musicians to magicians and aerial acrobats; Tuesday night brings free American Legion Band concerts in the beautiful waterfront Kollen Park, while the Friday night free concert series, also in Kollen Park, features a different type of music each week.

Fall brings Live Mannequin Night – the downtown storefronts literally come alive with “real people” posing as mannequins; GrooveWalk, in the fall and spring, brings live music downtown, with 10 genres of music in 10 different locations.  The Groove Express, complete with musicians, takes folks from venue to venue should they decide they don’t want to walk!

When winter arrives, you can “shop till you drop”, thanks to our ‘snow-free’ downtown! Holland’s unique snowmelt system pumps warm water through more than 125 miles of plastic tubing that is coiled beneath downtown’s streets and sidewalks, keeping downtown virtually snow-free! The snowmelt system extends to our Farmers Market, so the Market remains open through mid-December.  With over 90 vendors, the Holland Farmers Market is one of the best in the State! (In the summer, a Marketplace Chef Series occurs every Saturday at 10, with local chefs showcasing their culinary skills using the market’s fresh produce, while Wednesday brings the ever-popular Children’s Market activity.)

Holland is also host to an annual Dutch Winterfest celebration, a fun-filled downtown event featuring Sinterklaas, the Dutch St Nicholas, an open-air European Christmas Market called the Kerstmarkt, a lighted Santa Claus Parade, and an “Up on the Rooftops” homes tour, giving folks a peek at the living spaces above the shops lining downtown’s bustling main street.

sunsetOf course we can’t talk about Holland without mentioning Lake Michigan!  Holland is home to beautiful white sand beaches, with Holland State Park being one of Michigan’s most visited state parks; you can walk out onto the pier and watch the boats going through the channel, and if you’re lucky, you may even spy an ocean-going freighter or a cruise ship coming into port.   If you’re up to the challenge, you can climb 272 stairs to the top of Mt. Pisgah, a dune adjacent to the State Park, for spectacular views of Lakes Michigan and Macatawa, as well as “Big Red”, Holland’s bright red lighthouse. Tunnel Park, a smaller county park, is two miles to the north, and boasts a great beach with a dune climb and playground. A concrete tunnel built through a sand dune leads you to Lake Michigan’s sparkling waters.   

No matter what the season, you’ll find plenty to do in Holland, and with over 1,500 hotel rooms, B & B’s, and other lodging properties, you’ll have plenty of reasons to extend your stay! For more information, log onto www.holland.org.

Charter a Bus to Grand Rapids!

 

Kelly Headshot CroppedAs the Director of Marketing for the Experience GR team, Kelly McGrail is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Grand Rapids.

By Kelly McGrail

Grand Rapids has been earning a lot of attention lately. It was named Lonely Planet’s top U.S. travel destination for 2014. It’s been voted Beer City USA in two nationwide polls. And the city's annual ArtPrize event was the lone American representative on Time magazine's list of top five festivals in the world. Yet for all this acclaim, Grand Rapids still has the power to surprise visitors with unexpected delights. Check out the city’s clean, safe downtown — where more than 150 restaurants and shops, five museums and an assortment of nightclubs and performance venues are located within a 10-minute walk of five top-notch hotels.

ArtPrize

Art PrizeEvery fall, downtown welcomes more than 1,500 artists and 400,000 visitors to ArtPrize, the world’s richest, most radically open art competition. Select ArtPrize pieces remain on permanent streetside display alongside dozens of other significant artworks – including La Grande Vitesse, the mammoth Alexander Calder sculpture that has come to symbolize the city’s artistic spirit. Downtown is also home to two excellent art museums, and of course there is the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park – one of the world’s 100 most-visited art museums – just a 10-minute drive away.

Artisan Foods and Craft Breweries

The culinary arts are also prominent in Grand Rapids. The city sits in the middle of one of the world’s finest growing regions, and local chefs take full advantage of the agricultural bounty. Visitors can pick their own produce at family farms or shop at dozens of farm markets – including the Downtown Market, a year-round purveyor of fresh ingredients and artisan foods.

Craft beers are another drawing card. The metro region is home to a “Beer City Ale Trail” of 30-plus craft breweries, including the world’s third-best brewery (Founders Brewing Company) and America’s best brewpub (HopCat).

Arts and Culture

A rich performing arts scene runs the gamut from one of America’s largest community theaters to Michigan’s only professional ballet company. Live music abounds, spanning every genre, in nightclubs and parks and downtown gathering spaces – often free, often outdoors.

Shopping for Treasures

Visitors can practice their shopping skills at two huge shopping malls – each surrounded by thriving commercial districts – as well as a bevy of neighborhood boutiques offering one-of-a-kind goods, often crafted by the artist whose name is on the door.

Family-Friendly Vacations 

You certainly don’t have to leave the kids at home when you visit – Grand Rapids has been named the best place in America to raise a family, and opportunities for all-ages fun range from a classic urban zoo to a dedicated children’s museum. Minor-league baseball and ice hockey teams emphasize kid-friendly promotions, and the twice-yearly Meijer State Games of Michigan provide Olympics-style family entertainment.

The Great Outdoors

fishingWhile Grand Rapids teems with big-city excitement, outdoor recreation is never far away. Fishermen cast their lines in downtown’s Grand River. Hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails – and dozens of challenging golf courses – are within five minutes of downtown.

Just 30 minutes from downtown are the beaches and resort towns of Lake Michigan, named one of the world’s top 25 shorelines. Spend a day at the beach and a night on the Grand Rapids town – or vice versa!

To learn more about chartering a bus to Grand Rapids, please contact Mary Manier, Director of Sales at MManier@experienceGR.com or call 616-233-3554.

Corporate Team Building Retreats: Are They Still a “Thing”?

 

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, chances are you’ve attended or, depending on your perspective, been subjected to a corporate team building retreat at some point in your career.  Do any of these old standards strike a chord?

CORPORATE WORKSHOPS

Trust Fall

Close your eyes … cross your arms across your chest … relax your body … and now, releasing all of your fears, doubts, and paranoia, simply let yourself fall, backwards, into the waiting arms of your trusted new co-worker, What’s-His-Name. 

Shipwreck

Shipwreck:  You and 12 of your colleagues have been in a shipwreck.  (It’s always something.)  The good news is, there’s a life raft.  The bad news is, there’s only enough room on the raft for six of you.  Who gets to stay? 

Minefield

You’ve stumbled upon a minefield and there’s no turning back.  Oh, and by the way (did we mention?) you’re blindfolded.  Now you must cross the minefield with only your teammates’ verbal instructions, from the sidelines, to guide you to safety.

• • • 

Welcome to “team building,” which can either be a fun and welcome reprieve from the workaday routine of the cubicle … or your worst nightmare, depending on your personality and perspective. 

Teamwork is every manager’s goal.  Still, we can’t help but wonder:  in this day and age, is “team building” still a thing?”

Indeed it is.  But first, a little history.

Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, Harvard Business School Professor Elton Mayo set out to identify the factors that influenced productivity in the workplace.  To learn what made assembly line workers tick, Mayo focused on a group of women employed by the Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory in Cicero, Illinois.  After observing the women under a variety of circumstances, Mayo concluded that the most important factor—more important than money, more important than working conditions, more important than perks—was teamwork:  a sense of group identity, a feeling of social support, and the cohesion that comes with increased worker interaction.

Managers have been tweaking Mayo’s findings for 85 years, but the basic tenets of the so-called “Hawthorne Experiments” still hold up.  On-the-job productivity and performance improve when workers:

  • share a common purpose;
  • cooperate and collaborate to achieve common goals;
  • take pride in their accomplishments;
  • feel they have some control over the decisions that affect their work lives;
  • sense that their managers care about them.

Teamwork:  Everyone wants it, but how do you get it?

team building 001An entire industry has grown up around the idea of corporate team building.  There are even trade groups—like the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators—for professionals who specialize in helping companies build teams.  One thing we’ve learned since the Hawthorne Experiments is that teamwork does not just “happen.”  A company has to actively foster it.  To do so, managers through the ages have turned to team-building retreats—often facilitated by a hired consultant—as a chance to step back, take stock, and focus on relationships, away from the office.  

While there’s no one formula for the “perfect” team building retreat, there are some guidelines that can help make your retreat a success.

If you’re going on a retreat, go on a retreat.

A retreat, by definition, should be a getaway—a chance for workers to escape from the day-to-day responsibilities and distractions of the office environment.  Therefore, whether it’s for a few hours or a whole week, a retreat should be off-site, where people can focus their full attention on the team building at hand.  Transportation to the venue sets the tone for the entire retreat, so it’s best for the group to travel together and even better if no one has to drive.  Many companies find charter buses to be a cost-effective, comfortable, and convenient option for groups.

Find the right spot.

Location matters.  The venue doesn’t have to be elaborate or pricey, but a retreat should be in a setting that is conducive to creativity and openness.  To that end, the setting should be pleasant, with a seating arrangement that allows participants to see, hear, and interact with one another.  (A circle works well.)  There should be natural light, room to move around, and good food—factors that have been proven to contribute to the energy and good will that fuel any successful retreat.  If possible, stay overnight.  There is something magical about “sleeping on” a topic or problem and waking refreshed to tackle it anew.

Focus, focus, focus.

Successful team building retreats have a clear purpose—not just an amorphous desire to build a team.  Unlike recreational outings (which serve their own important purpose), team building retreats require well-defined goals that are tied to the actual work of the organization.  With a clear focus, a team building retreat can help the group look at challenges and opportunities from a new perspective, and go back to work with new energy and ideas. 

Set an agenda and share it with participants ahead of time.

Your team building retreat needs an agenda, complete with:

  • the purpose of the retreat and desired outcomes;
  • team building activities;
  • meaningful discussion topics;
  • plenty of time for fun;
  • a follow-up action plan.

Don’t overload the agenda.  Leave time for people to socialize or go for a walk in the woods.  Distribute the agenda in advance to (a) head off confusion, speculation, or even resistance; (b) generate enthusiasm and buy-in before the event.

Choose meaningful team building activities.

scavenger huntTeam building activities don’t have to be cheesy or awkward.  There are thousands of creative options that actually relate to real-world problem solving, decision-making, negotiation, and collaboration skills.  For example:

  • Build a dollhouse or bicycle and donate it to a charity.
  • Perform improvisational comedy sketches.
  • Go on an all-day scavenger hunt.

Build in follow-up.

Have you ever come home from a training session or retreat all fired up, only to have your enthusiasm fizzle once you get back to work?  To avoid this all-too-common outcome, be sure to leave the retreat with clear next steps and a plan for tracking follow-up.

Elton Mayo revolutionized our understanding of human resources. When a group of workers become a cohesive team, their productivity and job satisfaction increase.  When people invest the time and energy to work on their professional relationships on a retreat, away from the office, it changes the way they relate to each other at work—for the better. And that’s a good thing.

How to Turn Any Bus into a Party Bus

 

party resized 600

Any bus can be turned into a party bus. No one wants to hear, “Are we there yet??”

Whoever claimed that “getting there is half the fun” probably never supervised a group of restless school kids on a long bus ride.  A bus ride can be excruciating . . . unless you turn it into one big rolling party!  Read on to learn how to turn any bus into a party bus.

It’s not just children’s bus trips that can be magically transformed by the whimsy of an unexpected party. For example:

Work-related bus trips.  An impromptu party might be just what the doctor ordered for a work group traveling together.  A few silly games and a cupcake can go a long way toward setting a tone of camaraderie and team spirit before the retreat, conference, or work session begins.

Group Tours.  An onboard party is the perfect icebreaker!  In the case of group tours where participants don’t all know each other, a party gives participants a chance to get acquainted and can warm things up for the adventure ahead.

Club Outings.  Start your outing early with an onboard party, and make your annual get together even more memorable.

To turn an ordinary bus into a party bus, you must, simply, infuse it with all of the things that make a party a party.  Let’s break it down.  What are the elements of a party?

People.  A party needs people – preferably people who enjoy each other’s company, though that’s not a prerequisite.  (A party can go a long way toward helping people enjoy each other’s company!)

A theme.  If you’ve ever thrown a child’s birthday party, you already have a handle on this concept.  Sprinkle a little Hello Kitty, Yo Gabba Gabba, or Angry Birds into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a party.  A party theme could also revolve around famous book characters, the Roaring Twenties, or hippies (think love beads, tie dye, and peace signs).  Even those funny noses and fake mustaches can be theme enough under the right circumstances.

balloons 310660 640Entertainment.  Wherever there’s a magician, clown, or one of those guys who twists balloon into animal shapes, there is a party.  A fabulous storyteller, puppeteer, musician, or hypnotist can also entertain your party guests, depending on the age and interests of your group.

Party decorations.  Hang some crepe paper streamers, blow up a few balloons, pin up a banner, and—boom!—it’s a party.

Party hats.  Silly as they are, party hats and “blowout” noisemakers can create a festive mood instantly.  Set them on every seat or pass them out as people board, and they will quickly get the idea.

Games.  Games and parties go together like pin the tail goes with on the donkey. Okay, so, pin the tail on the donkey might not be the ideal game to play in a moving bus, but there are lots of other great games that lend themselves to the venue.

  • Categories

Start with a steady cadence of six beats:  two pats on the thighs, two claps, and two finger snaps:  Pat-pat, clap-clap, snap-snap.  Once the cadence is established, the first player calls out the word, “Categories!” (followed by two beats of clapping and two beats of finger-snapping), then “Names of …” (clap-clap, snap-snap), “Animals …” (clap-clap, snap-snap).  The next player must pick up with the name of an animal at some point during the next six-beat cadence.  So it might go like this:

Player #1:       “Categories” / clap-clap / snap-snap
                        “Names of” / clap-clap / snap-snap
                        “Animals” (clap-clap, snap-snap)
 
Player #2:        pat-pat / “Elephants!” / snap-snap
 
Player #3:        pat-pat / clap-clap / “Rabbits!”

And so on. Anyone who fails to answer in time is “out.”  The last remaining person is the winner of that round and gets to establish the category for the next round.

  • I went to the store and bought . . .

Starting with the letter A, the first player says, “I went to the store and bought apples.”  The next player says, “I went to the store and bought apples and bananas.”  The third player says, “I went to the store and bought apples, bananas, and cereal.”  And so on.  Variations on this one might be, “I went on a picnic and brought …” or “I went on vacation and took …” or something related to your group’s interests like, “I went to book club and we read …” 

  • Travel Bingo

bingo 159974 640Travel Bingo is just like regular Bingo, except that instead of numbers, the Bingo cards are filled with pictures (or names) of things you might see on a typical bus ride: a gas station, barn, bridge, police car, American flag, humorous billboard, and so on.  As the players spot items, they mark them off or cover them up on their card until the first player gets five in a row (or an “L” or a picture frame or whatever you’ve specified) and calls “Bingo!”  Travel Bingo requires a little pre-trip preparation.  Download a free, printable Travel Bingo card (or create your own) and make enough copies for all your passengers.  Pack enough markers for everyone, or (if you want to reuse the cards) give everyone an envelope full of sticky notes pre-cut to the size of the squares on the BINGO card.

Cake.  It’s not really a party without cake, now is it?  For your party bus celebration, cupcakes might be more convenient than a cake that requires cutting . . . the fancier the better.

That’s all there is to it.  Combine these basic elements -- people, a theme, decorations, entertainment, party hats, games, and, above all, cake -- to transform an ordinary bus ride into a party on wheels.


Top Shopping Destinations by Charter Bus: Chicago

 

It’s no secret:  Chicago is a world-class shopping destination—home to 30,234 high-end retailers, specialty boutiques, couture houses, international brands, chain stores, and outlets—and it’s just a few hours from mid-Michigan by motorcoach.  If your heart is beating just a little bit faster right now, maybe it’s time to ask yourself:  Who needs New York when you can shop Chicago? 

Upscale Shopping in Chicago

798px Along the Magnificent Mile banner1 resized 600

Photo by: Bert Kaufmann, from Wikimedia Commons

The Magnificent Mile

A few blocks from the western shore of Lake Michigan, near downtown Chicago, there is a magical place: a shopper’s Valhalla known as The Magnificent Mile.  This mile-long stretch of North Michigan Avenue, extending from Oak Street to the Chicago River, houses retailers from A to Z (quite literally, from Abercrombie & Fitch to Zara).  The “Mag Mile” is home to such high-end department stores as Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue, plus the massive flagship Crate and Barrel store with its four-story circular atrium and four levels of furniture, housewares, and accessories displayed in ever-changing, artful, drool-worthy room vignettes. 

You’ll also find dozens of hot designer boutiques like Giorgio Armani, Cartier, and Gucci (where you can pick up those leather high-top sneakers you’ve been wanting for a cool $1,100).  Tucked within The Magnificent Mile are three distinct high-rise malls: 900 North Michigan ShopsThe Shops at Northbridge, and Water Tower Place, each with its own anchor department store, signature shops, specialty services, and eateries.  Whether you’re a window shopper, shopper-on-a-mission, or a confirmed shopaholic, a shopping trip to Chicago is pretty much synonymous with shopping The Magnificent Mile.

Oak Street Shops

Oak Street—at the north end of The Magnificent Mile in Chicago’s tony Gold Coast neighborhood—is considered the city’s most prestigious shopping district, the Midwestern equivalent of Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue.  A mix of couture houses, luxury brands, international boutiques, upscale restaurants, and private homes coexist on one quiet, tree-lined street.  Shop Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermès, Prada, and many more—all on one walkable street.  Many of the shops on Oak Street are former residences converted into retail spaces; even the newer buildings are designed to incorporate the aesthetics of the neighborhood. 

Trendy Shopping in Chicago

Wicker Park/Bucktown

1280px Wicker Park Historic District A Chicago ILJust west of the downtown loop, tucked between hipster Logan Square and historic Lincoln Park, you will find one of Chicago’s trendiest and most eclectic shopping destinations, Wicker Park/Bucktown.  In the 1800s, the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood was an enclave for German, Norwegian, Polish, Irish, and Jewish immigrants.  Today, the gentrified district is a haven for independent specialty boutiques — a bohemian mix of vintage clothing stores, emerging designers, and international trends in apparel, accessories, and home décor. 
Photo by: Andrew Jameson, from Wikimedia Commons

  • Vintage

Kokorokoko, at 1323 North Milwaukee Avenue, specializes in fashions from the 1980s and ‘90s.  Vintage Underground, at 1834, West North Avenue, features 3500 square feet of vintage jewelry, clothing, and accessories.  Stop! Look! Oddments, 1305 North Western Avenue, offers rare books, vinyl records, “outsider art,” antiques, jewelry, and architectural salvage.  Silver Moon, 1755 West North Avenue, owned by a stylist for Aerosmith, offers a collection of daywear and formal attire, including fabulous vintage bridal gowns.

  • Boutiques

Robin Richman, 2108 North Division Street, presents unique clothing, accessories, and art objects in a space that feels as much like a gallery as a store.  Roslyn, at 2034 North Damen Avenue, displays women’s wear collections in a rustic setting (exposed brick, hardwood floors, antique furniture), complete with framed biographies of each featured designer.  Tangerine, 1719 North Damen, a mother-daughter enterprise, sells “fun, feminine clothes and accessories” you won’t find anywhere else, in a friendly and comfortable environment.  Una Mae’s, 1528 North Milwaukee Avenue, offers a “hipster-chic” selection of men’s and women’s apparel, accessories, and gifts—both vintage and new.  Trillium, 1744 West Division Street, owned by Michigan transplant Erica Cook, carries women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, and shoes—“classic looks that anchor a wardrobe with a touch of panache.”

  • Gifts and Accessories

One Strange Bird is a storefront art center featuring handmade gifts, apparel, and “brazenly unique” art and accessories in a studio space where you can often watch artists at work while you shop.  Elevenzees, 1901 Division Street, is a charming mother and son boutique, offering gifts for the home, stationery, bath and body products, baby things, and unique accessories selected from local artisans and international brands.  Rudy's Roundup, 1410 Milwaukee Avenue, describes itself as a “modern day general store,” carrying new, vintage, and handmade jewelry, accessories, paper goods, housewares, and gifts.  Stitch, 1937 N. Damen Ave., carries modern furnishings and an edited collection of accessories, specializing in leather handbags, hand-crafted jewelry, and unique housewares from emerging designers and selected artisans.

Outlet Shopping in Chicago

800px Gurnee Mills wide resized 600You can find plenty of outlet shopping in and around Chicago.  There’s Chicago Premium Outlets Mall, Gurnee Mills Outlet, and Prime Outlets – all topnotch shopping experiences, where you may even find several stores not commonly found in other outlet malls around the country.

But for discount shopping at the outlet mall of all outlet malls, plan to travel 15 miles northwest of downtown Chicago (30 to 45 minutes by bus, depending on traffic) to Fashion Outlets of Chicago (FOC) in Rosemont.  This new indoor mall—open since August of 2013—houses 130 outlet stores (some of which are the first to hit the Midwest) in 530,000 square feet of space, all under one roof.  For starters, you will find Bloomingdales the Outlet Store, Neiman Marcus Last Call, and Saks OFF 5th Avenue.  Then there’s Gucci, Prada, Barneys New York, Elie Tahari, Halston Heritage, Michael Kors, Perry Ellis, and St. John, alongside 100 other retailers—many that you’d expect to find at an outlet mall, others that will surprise and delight you.  As you shop, you’re surrounded by interactive visual art (thanks to the mall’s partnership with The Arts Initiative) in an airy contemporary environment.  To further enhance your shopping experience, FOC offers package delivery and shipping services, lots of special events, incentives for groups, 17 eateries, and up to 75% off of retail on everything your heart desires.  And if that aforementioned heart happens to be beating a little faster than usual right now, you know what you need to do.  FOC awaits. 

Whether you’re a fashionista, hipster, or treasure hunter, Chicago is a veritable shopper’s paradise just a few hours from mid-Michigan by motorcoach.

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