February 09, 2018

Hey. Hey. Hey!  Let’s talk about one of my favorite places in the good ol’ USA….CHICAGO!

I LOVE everything about this cultural diverse city that I HAVE to visit at least once a year and sometimes even more!  Our family takes off every year after Thanksgiving for a week to enjoy this amazing city blanketed with Christmas decorations every where you look. I affectionately call this vacation “Our Gross Family Holiday Kick Off” as said in my best Clark Griswold voice. Our Chicago tradition started in 2000 when Mallory was the cutest one-year-old alive and we had just moved to Eau Claire, WI October 2000! Even though we’ve missed a few years due to births or lack of funds in the bank account our Chicago vacation has made our family yearly “budget list” lately and is something we will not give up.  After all it’s become tradition and anyone knows…you don’t monkey with tradition! I secretly hope that my own children, once grown, will take time from their busy adult schedules and continue this beloved yearly tradition with each other or their own families. ( I can dream right? )

Alrighty then…let’s get to it.  Here are my absolute favorite places and traditions that I make sure we visit and experience every year.


Lincoln Park Zoo Lights – We always go opening night and the crowd is HUGH but so worth it!

We always find a new place to eat after visiting the zoo and put a LOT of thought into this dinner.


Our place of choice was Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.  This place is a MUST when visiting the Windy City, but you gotta know how to go about getting a table like a true local.  My tip and what worked for me…I showed up at 3:30pm and put my name on the list and was told it was a 3 hour wait.  I didn’t mind AND you don’t have to stay there the entire time.  So we checked into the hotel and toured the zoo lights, then walked over to the restaurant only to wait another 2 hours outside! It was a warm night so we didn’t mind and I had snacks for the kids and charged phone batteries for them to watch videos or play video games. You can also go inside and order drinks and bring them outside since there is no room to wait inside for your table.


Our Sunday routine is always the same from year to year and it’s something the kids look forward to and talk about throughout the year in anticipation. First off we sleep in until 9am and then dress in our best for brunch at Shaw’s Crab House at 11am. We usually stay at Shaw’s for about 2 hours then take our time walking over to the Cadillac Palace to take in the matinee musical show that’s currently playing. This year we saw White Christmas and it was absolutely fabulous complete with a few Tony award winning actors.

After the theater performance, we always walk down to Daley Plaza and visit the Christkindlmarket to purchase our souvenir mug (it’s a different design every year) filled with tasty hot chocolate, and purchase other goodies such as candied almonds and pretzels, then we stroll along looking at the decorative merchant stalls and shop for our advent calendars.

We then take our time walking over to Macy’s Department store to view their seasonal windows.


After taking in the Macy’s windows we head into Macy’s and start our escalator climb.  Escalators are hard to find in Eau Claire so this is a HUGE treat for the kids as we climb up to the 7th floor to write our Letter’s to Santa! They love cheap thrills what can I say? heehee

We usually head back to the hotel by 5pm, talk about dinner choices (always Chicago Pizza!), relax, let the kids swim, then head out again for dinner that’s normally somewhere we’ve eaten before but can’t get in Eau Claire.


Kids choice. Meaning all four (Mallory didn’t join us this year) three kids have to decide together on our destination for the day and lunch place. They chose to return to one of their favorite places: The Science and Industry Museum.  As a family…we absolutely love this place and always find something new we’ve never seen before. Plus we visit the museums when attendance is low. It’s almost comparable to a private showing!

Our dinner that night was our traditional “Totally Chocolate Dinner” at the Grand Lux Cafe.  What the hell is that you ask?  Well…we basically order all or almost all desserts offered on the menu as dinner.  Ok…Ok…we do actually order a few dinner plates to share after we’ve had dessert first. This tradition started for us in 2003 when Mallory was 4 and Em was 2. Story goes…the server showed up with a tray of desserts after our meal, asked if we would like to order anything and Mallory pointed to and asked for every single dessert on the tray including the baked to order!  I gotta tell you…in that moment time stood still for me and I made a conscientious decision to be that parent that said YES!  Ever sense that one chilly evening back in 2003 the Grand Lux along with the Downtowner in St. Paul are THE only restaurants we order the entire dessert menu for our children!  It’s a beloved tradition that’s talked about frequently in our family and we even ask friends we love to join us sometime to share in the experience.

After our dessert overload we love walking the Chicago streets taking in the architecture and twinkling Christmas lights.


Was spent sleeping in, watching Food Network, breakfast at the hotel, then heading to the Field Museum to experience Jurassic World. Which by the way…was amaze-BALLS!!

We stopped over at Millennium Park and tootled around there for a bit then decided to walk down to the Congress Hotel and have a look around.  This hotel has so much history to it and one amazing doorman named Jose`.

Our dinner choice for our last night was Giordano’s!  Like duh!?

Can’t wait to make more memories this November!

Thanks for stopping by!

My studio opened on Tuesday, and I’m trying to ease into my grove again.  My hope is to continue blogging.  Actually…I’ll make it a priority.

Enjoy your weekend!

xx ~K