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Explore Your City

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Have you met Kendra Thornton?  She's 37 and a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mom, she was the former Orbitz Director of Communications where she was able to travel a great deal. She now lives in Chicago with her family, where they are her number one priority in everyday life.

Kendra wrote this guest post to share a little bit of her favorite things to do in Chicago.

As big as Chicago is, there is never a reason to be bored in this bustling city. From food to entertainment, the options are seemingly endless. When planning a trip here, prepare well to avoid getting lost among all the choices. The following are a few of my favorite places in Chicago.

1. Chicago Skyline

The architecture as structure of Chicago is one of my favorite parts about the city. The skyline is absolutely beautiful, and the way the city lights up at night is like something out of a fairytale. If you ever visit Chicago, I highly recommend staying in a hotel in the heart of the city, so you can truly take in all it has to offer. The site gogobot offers great deals on hotels, so you won’t be spending out of your budget! A few nearby attractions include the Chicago Water Tower, the Hancock Center and Millennium Park.

2. Food

Most folks enjoy a good eatery, and while in Chicago it should be one of the first things you search for. Luckily, the city is filled with historic, and equally delicious, spots such as  Lou Mitchell’s. “Uncle Lou,” as he is known, started up a restaurant that serves some of the most classic food in town. Like most diners, this one also happens to be affordable, so you can’t go wrong when trying this spot. And it is a fun restaurant for kids, with their traditional handout of Milk Duds! An interesting tidbit behind this is the fact that the candy was created in Chicago and the owner was a customer and friend of Lou’s.

3. Shopping

For your retail needs, Chicago is known for some of the trendiest shopping venues around. A popular option is Oak Street, located a block north of the "Magnificent Mile" on N. Michigan Avenue. Oak Street boasts some of the most exclusive venues for the most fashionable shoppers. Within its one block sit stores such as Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo and Barneys. Sofia Vintage and The Daisy Shop offer collections of vintage clothing. Oak Street also features jewelry retailers and a variety of restaurants serving international cuisine. Many of the buildings in this area are old town homes and brownstones that have been converted to modern boutiques, adding to the city’s historical feel.

4. Recreation

Chicago is filled with entertainment and sightseeing, and Navy Pier Park is one of the best places to do both at the same time! It may seem like a touristy area, but I am a local and I love to frequent the area. One of the attention grabbers at the park is its 150-foot tall Ferris wheel, which provides excellent views of the city and is a perfect way to relax and soak it all in. The Ferris wheel is modeled after the world’s first, which debuted in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This event was held to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas. The park also includes a miniature golf course, remote controlled boats and other various rides!  Redevelopment of the pier is starting right now, but it is still open for the public to enjoy!

Kendra and her adorable family enjoying a Chicago Cubs baseball game this past summer

Rather than share the city of Birmingham I'll share the beautiful Lake Martin, Alabama area with you!

Hey, y'all!  My name is Ricki Jill Treleaven, and I live in Birmingham, Alabama.  Alabama is known for her beautiful lakes and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.  When family and friends come to visit, they want to play golf and hit the lakes!

We have a little cabin on Lake Martin, and we enjoy the lake throughout the year.  In the spring, summer, and early fall, you'll find us enjoying water sports.   Skiing, wake skating, wake surfing, knee boarding, and tubing are favorites of ours.  We also enjoy the occasional sail when the wind is right in spring and fall.

When we get tired of skiing and just want to float and watch people, we cruise over to chimney rock and watch folks jump.  Lake Martin's float through restaurant, Nibblers, usually cruises the chimney rock area.

My favorite place to shop is Eclectic Pottery in Eclectic, Alabama on the shores of the lake.  I have bought several lovely pieces, and they are known for their pretty and practical berry bowls.

Eclectic Pottery

Kids of all ages enjoy Chuck's Pizza, and Family Karaoke Night is a favorite on the lake.  Chuck's also hosts the annual 'Lil Calypso Art Festival in June. For fine dining, The Springhouse Restaurant at Russell Crossroads offers gourmet Southern Vernacular cuisine.  The best time to eat there is on football weekends and boating through the mist to Springhouse.  

Lake Martin has over 80 miles of horseback riding trails.  The Russell Forest Trail System affords gorgeous views of the lake, and it's so much fun to pack a picnic lunch for the trail.  Our mild winters provide the perfect weather for trail riding.

Lake Martin is a little over an hour's drive from Birmingham, and about a half an hour from Montgomery.  The lake is also in between two courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Capitol Hill and Grand National.  There are also four golf courses on the lake.

Scenes around Lake Martin

What kind of weekend getaway is your cup of tea?  A city or lake retreat?

You can follow Kendra on Twitter @KendraThornton.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill


  1. Loved reading about what to do in your area of Alabama.

    It is fun to explore your own city. A few weeks ago we were riding our bikes downtown to watch The Color Run, look at vintage cars at the Car Show and just enjoy cruising along the ocean. We saw a bunch of people carrying bright yellow papers and looking a bit confused. Not one to be shy, I asked what they were doing. They had signed up for a City Scavenger Hunt. They said these scavenger hunts are offered all over the state and anyone can sign up. The group we spoke to wanted helping finding, "Perry Mason's birthplace". We knew right what they were looking for and it was within view. They needed to find the law offices of Erle Stanley Gardner.

  2. Such a fun family and wonderful post

  3. What a fun post. I like getting out in nature...don't care as much about being in a big city. Love your photos and learning more about you. The berry bowls sound like something I would like, too. Sweet hugs!

  4. Looks like a lot of fun, Ricki. I love handmade pottery so I know I would live that shop. xo Laura

  5. Aha! Maybe your blog is where Kendra found me! You know this post just makes me want to visit you even more!

  6. Awesome!! Love your post on Lake Martin, it is so beautiful there!!

  7. Thanks for the information, Ricki Jill. I'm going to be in Birmingham for Christmas, I'll have to check out some of your suggestions. Any good antique shops? You know I can't resist!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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