Friday, April 18, 2014

Exhibit Review and Giveaway - Museum of Science and Industry: National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers


Our favorite museum in the Chicagoland area, the Museum of Science and Industry, always keeps it fresh and interesting with new exhibits. This time around they had a new exhibit, National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers that explores five different areas of the world. And as a family that loves to travel, we were excited to check it out!


The Exhibit
From the creators of National Geographic, this brand new exhibit looks at five different areas or eco-zones around the world:  rain forests, polar, oceans, mountains and caves, and savannas. What's great about each section is that there are interactive elements that encourages you to be your own explorer. Throughout the exhibit, it was really neat to see photos, footage, and items from real National Geographic scientists.

Here are some things to expect:



TREK: RAINFORESTHang out in a prep tent for a fun, self-guided discovery about life in the tropical rain forests—the wet, wild and wonderful ecosystem that provides much of the air we breathe, safeguards Earth’s incredible biodiversity and may well hold the key to new life-saving remedies. Try your hand at identifying incredible insects from the Amazon and get “grossed out” with realistic creepy-crawlies while discovering the benefits of biodiversity



DIVE: OCEANS - Kids can get in a undersea submersible and see deep-sea exploration
Can you handle life under pressure? Find out in the oceans eco-zone, where you’ll descend into the deep in a replica 3-D submersible. Mysteries of life under pressure and at great depths are revealed through stunning National Geographic videos. Learn the science behind submersibles and how life forms at varying depths. Get up close and personal with AIR JAWS, an 11-foot long sculpted great white shark—one of the ocean’s oldest and most misunderstood predators. You will learn about underwater creatures’ hunting habits through the use of a Crittercam.


CLIMB: MOUNTAINS AND CAVESDescend closer to the Earth’s core and ascend to its highest peaks. You can climb a mountain and learn about the animals that make their homes there, and explore a crystal cave featuring an interactive activity that will allow users to touch and illuminate a selection of crystals. Meet Carsten Peter, an explorer who takes on Earth’s most challenging caves to share photographs with the rest of the world. Then, ascend into the thin air of the Himalayas, but be careful, you might be caught by a camera trap, the same technology used by explorer Steve Winter to capture photos of the elusive snow leopard




SOAR: SAVANNA -  “float” in a hot-air balloon to check out migration patterns,
Take a hot air balloon ride to witness “Life On the Move.” Through seamless video production, surround sound and other atmospheric effects, you’ll soon have the sensation of flying over the savanna where wild herds still roam. Next, put your animal tracking and migration mapping skills to the test through an interactive activity matching scat samples with the animals that produced them. Meet explorers who document the incredible life cycles and stories of elephants and other endangered mammals of the savanna.




CHILL: POLAR REGIONS - check out a model of an Arctic cabin; Assemble the right mix of protein and carbs in “What’s for Dinner?” Watch a polar bear pace outside a window, and flip through an explorer’s notebook to learn first-hand survival strategies from photographer Paul Nicklen. 




Compare your own “thermogram,” heat loss signature, to a polar bear’s and test out how well different gloves protect your hands from the chill of an ice plate. Guests will learn about penguins and other species native to Antarctica.

Bottom Line:
Overall, we found the exhibit very interactive and interesting. While my toddlers (ages 3 and 2) were only interested in a few sections, I could see anyone else older who read and love solving puzzles would enjoy the exhibit immensely.


Nitty Gritty
When: Now until - September 1, 2014
WhereMuseum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Cost: Tickets are not included with general admission and is an additional cost ($9 adult, $7 kids).
Parking: $20


Interested in checking this out for yourself?

GIVEAWAY NITTY GRITTY:
Win (4) FREE tickets for your family!

I've got four tickets for one lucky family to visit National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers at the Museum of Science and Industry. Tickets will include general admission to the Museum of Science and Industry. I do check each and every entry. Contest ends Saturday, April 26 at 12:00 a.m. Winner will be notified by email.

(1) Lucky family will receive 4 tickets to National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers along with general admission.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, April 11, 2014

Review AND GIVEAWAY! Muller Yogurt by Quaker



Disclosure: Our family was provided a complimentary Müller FrütUp Summer Pack to review. I was not required to express a particular point of view, and all opinions are my own.

Although we are always a family on the go, we always seem to have yogurt stocked in our fridge. Just recently, we had the opportunity to try the Müller FrütUp Summer Pack from Quaker. And I had the two pickiest eaters as my taste-testers - my two toddler sons!

Highlights:

  • Good size - The yogurt comes in a nice size, not too small and not too big! In fact, when the boys had enough I was able to try out the rest for myself.
  • A little different than other yogurts - This yogurt is different from regular yogurt in that there's a delicious layer of “mousse” that is extra sweet, but once you mix it around makes for a nice combination. Or if you prefer you can eat it like my sons - scooping up the delicious mousse! Either way it's a nice refreshing treat!




  • Variety of flavors - Our 12-pack included our favorite flavors like strawberry, orange, and luscious lemon (little too tart). It looks like they have other delicious flavors as well!




Bottom Line:
As they would say: Yum, yum! We dug into it and all I got to say is.....YUM! Yep, we'd definitely get this again! In fact, my sons (and I) couldn't get enough - the whole 12 pack was gone in a matter of two days. I'd love to try their other flavors such as mango and peach passion fruit.

Nitty Gritty:
Website: http://www.mullerquaker.com/products/mullerfrutup/
Price: $9.99 for a 12-pack
Where to buy: Available at Costco

Interested in trying it out for yourselves? Here's your chance! Enter below for (15) coupons* for free Muller FrutUp yogurt and a little surprise too! I will be emailing the winner so be sure to include it in your entry!

*note that the coupons are not valid in Louisiana and North Dakota

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2014 Easter Egg Hunts and Activities


I absolutely love Easter - to me it's the unofficial beginning to Spring. We especially love all the hoppening activities. Check out some of the places around the Chicagoland area that we've been to! Click on the event name for the full review. Plus, those that we might check out!

Kid-friendly Easter activities in Chicago

Soldier Field Egg-travaganza
When: Saturday, April 12 @ 10 a.m.
Cost: This is completely FREE.
What to expect: Run, don't walk, and grab candy on the field. The Easter Bunny also makes an appearance. There are no eggs on the field - only candy.
Recommended?: Yes, but arrive early
Tips: Don't forget your basket! Arrive early.


Schaumburg Bunny Bash
When: Saturday, April 12th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: Pre-registration is $12 per child. Pre-registration deadline is April 11. Pre-registered participants may check-in at 9 a.m. and have their picture with the Bunny taken before the event begins. Day-of registration is $15. Parents and children younger than age 1 are free.
What to expect: Tons to do - bounce houses, free pictures with the Easter Bunny, games, balloon twisters, outdoor egg hunts at Safety Park, trackless train, and pony rides
Recommended?: Yes, no doubt about it. If it's crummy outside, there's many activities indoor to keep the kids occupied for hours.
Tips: Pre-register to check in at 9 a.m. Go straight to the Easter Bunny for your picture to avoid long lines.


Cost: Free
What to expect: A miniature train circling around a park, no egg hunts
Recommended?: If you are in the area, it's worth it to check it out. When we were there, there were no egg hunts
Tips: Bring your camera to take a photo with the bunnyor opt to buy a photo


Credit: Schaumburg Boomers
Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Schaumburg Boomers Stadium
When: Saturday, April 19, 10 a.m.
Cost: $2 per person (participants and spectators) (last year it was free!)
What to expect: Different age groups get to go on the field and get an egg. (last year we had a chance to tour the stadium, but that is no longer available.)
Recommended? Maybe best suited for older kids that can grab eggs fast; my kids were young and too slow to grab an egg.

Our Top Picks

There are tons of events going on! These are our top picks that we may check out! 


Photo: Cantigny Gardens
Easter Hoppenings

Where: Cantigny Park - Robert R. McCormick Museum
When: Saturday, April 19, 11 a.m.
Cost: Event is free; parking $5
The Fun: Egg hunt, crafts, petting zoo, free photos with bunny
More details:  Hundreds of colored eggs will be scattered across the McCormick Museum lawn at this classic annual activity for families and kids. There is a limit of 5 eggs per child. Your child might even find the Golden Egg!  Activities at the museum begin at 10:30, including an Easter craft and a baby animal petting zoo.  Don't forget to bring your camera and basket!


Credit: Chicago French Market
Hop the Bunny Train and Easter Egg Hunt (?)
Where: Chicago French Market
When: Saturday, April 19
Cost: FREE
The Fun: Train rides around the market and an egg hunt, food samples from vendors
More details: Bring the kids and Hop the Bunny Train 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 23. After the exciting ride, the Easter Egg Hunt from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. The Easter Bunny will also make an appearance. Sample the variety of samples from the Market's vendors.

Egg Hunt/Hayride

WhereRandall Oaks Park, West Dundee
When: Saturday, April 12, registered times start at 9; last one at noon
Cost: Event is $5 per person UPDATE - WAITLIST ONLY!
The Fun: Hayride, egg hunt, Easter bunny
More details: Kids ages 2-7 are invited to take a haywagon to the field to search for eggs (up to 2 family members allowed to ride along). Because of the limited space on the hay wagons, preregistration is required this year.

Egg Hunt at Deicke Park

Where: Deicke Park, Huntley
When: April 19 @ 10 a.m. SHARP!
Cost: Free
The Fun: Egg hunt in one of the coolest parks in the area
More details: Egg hunt, one special egg holds a family pool pass to Stingray Bay, children are divided by age group.



Pinstripes Egg Hunt

Where: Pinstripes locations
When: Sunday, April 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Event is $5 per person
The Fun: Egg hunt followed by brunch, and appearances from the Easter Bunny
More details: Beginning at 9:30 a.m., kids can take part in an Egg Hunt around each of the 40,000 square foot venues in search of colorful eggs filled with candy. After working up an appetite, families can head to Pinstripes’ gourmet Brunch Buffet that features an endless spread of holiday
favorites from carved prime rib, fresh seafood, waffles, made-to-order omelets, salad bar, delectable desserts and more. The celebration continues throughout the day as the Easter Bunny makes a special appearance from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for fun photo opportunities and to take part in the festive activities.


Find a comprehensive list of Easter activities click here:


What is your favorite Easter activity?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Chicago





Disclosure: Our family was provided a complimentary stay at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. I was not required to express a particular point of view, and all opinions are my own.

We've heard about the McCormick Place and the huge convention. In fact, we usually go there during the Chicago Auto Show every February. So why would my family and I want to stay at a convention hotel? Well, first off it is more than a convention hotel, and any family would love to stay here.

Nitty Gritty:

Location: 2233 South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Not much to be found walking distance, but we had a car and were no more than a few minutes away from the Museum of Science and Industry (love!) and the Museum Campus and Soldier Field. 
Parking: There is a parking garage connected directly to the hotel. Parking is $34 with in and out privileges.
Category: It is a Category 3 hotel if you'd be interested in using your points.

Hotel Highlights:

  • The hotel is connected directly to McCormick Place. How ideal would it be to stay while a fun convention is in town? (Hello, Auto Show!)
  • Completely renovated in the summer of 2013, and also a new tower added. In fact, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place boasts the fifth largest Hyatt Regency in the world.
  • Easy access to our room with just a wave of our card.
  • As a family that travels, we may sometimes forget a few things here and there. Loved that the Hyatt had complimentary items just for the asking!


Room highlights:
We had the opportunity to stay in an one bedroom executive suite connected to a standard double bedroom.
  • You can dine in or order room serviceThey had one restaurant to choose from. But we were so close to the mall with dining options that we didn't need to dine here or order room service.
  • Beautiful, clean rooms
  • Perfect workstation area

  • Great views (even though quite snowy!)

  • Spacious sitting area perfect for two toddlers (and train tracks)

  • Wish we could have a HUGE walk-in closet like theirs!

  • Cool artwork

  • As we travel more, we've learned that it's the small things that count. Loved having a shower mat. Safety first!

  • Cool furniture and design elements that I wanted to make mine, mine, mine!
  • Decent-sized pool and fitness area

    Bottom Line:

    Our stay at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place was fantastic and we could have easily stayed longer. It was our home away from home! If you are looking for a location within walking distance to attractions, it's probably best to look elsewhere. If you have a car and don't mind driving a few minutes or taking public transportation, then the Hyatt would be a wonderful choice!

        
      Read my entire review on

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Hotel Review: Marco Island Marriott Resort & Spa

      Disclosure: Our family was provided a complimentary stay at Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa. I was not required to express a particular point of view, and all opinions are my own
    The Midwest has had a brutal, brutal winter and for my birthday weekend, we decided to take a fly south to sunny Florida to escape the weather. We decided to stay at the Marco Island Marriott Resort and we wished we never left!

    Nitty Gritty

    Website: http://www.marcoislandmarriott.com/
    Location: 400 S. Collier Blvd, Marco Island, Florida
    Parking: A self-parking lot located across the street for $12/day.

    Location
    • Located in Southwest Florida in the beautiful and well-to-do area of Marco Island, Florida.
    • We flew into Ft. Myers at RSW. It was less than an hour's drive from the airport. We drove through Naples.

    Room highlights

    • Loved our spacious suite which, like the rest of the resort, is decorated in Balinese-inspired decor. 


    • Convenient kitchenette with a larger-than-average mini fridge.
    • Nicely sized bathrooms. In fact, our master bathroom had a huge walk-in shower bigger than our bathroom at home!
    • We loved our terrace with an entrance from our room and from the sitting room! Perfect for having lunch on their outdoor dining table, and also to lay out and soak up the sun. 

    • Awesome views! We were spoiled since our room was located at the top level of the hotel. Made for an awesome sunrise and sunset!



    Resort Highlights: 
    The resort is huge! Check out a resort map here.
    • The white, sandy beach just a short walk away from our room.

    • Tons and tons of seashells. In fact, I've never seen so many in my life!
    • Free chairs and umbrellas for the beach. Check into the towel hut and show them your towel card to receive free chairs and umbrellas. A staff member will haul it to wherever you please!
    • Tons of resort activities. Since our agenda was R&R we really didn't have time to check out all the resort activities, but I was pleased to see that there was so much offered. Lots of the activities were kid-centric, and located at the kiddie pool area. 
    • Fun outdoor pool perfect for toddlers with the zero depth entry, waterfall, and sprinklers (although the sprinklers weren't working when we were there.)
    • Fire dancer show right on the beach as the sun is setting.

    •  Breathtaking sunset!


    • Delicious food at Tropiks, one of their family-friendly restaurants - best breakfast buffet ever!

      We wish...

      • ..parking and internet were included.
      • ..we were here longer!
      Bottom Line:

      If we are lucky enough to be in the area again, we will no doubt stay here again. The accommodations are excellent, the staff superb, the amenities including the beach and pool super fun. Everything we would look for in an ideal family vacation!
        Read my entire review on
         
        .

      Friday, January 31, 2014

      Disney On Ice: Let's Celebrate! Review

      We attended our very first Disney on Ice show and had a great time. I wasn't sure how it would be and if it would be tailored more towards the girls, but we were happy to find a balance of characters loved by both boys and girls.




      Highlights:

      • Happy to see our regular Disney favorite characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Daisy celebrating an Unbirthday Party
      • Really liked seeing the Nightmare Before Christmas gang with none other than Jack Skellington and friends

      • A super cute segment with the iconic classic princesses and their princes. Made me wish I had my own little princess to share the moment with.
      • Here's our favorite photos from the night:



      Nitty Gritty:
      Where: United Center in Chicago, IL
      When: From now until Jan 29 - Feb 9, 2014
      Parking: Gotta love free parking in all official arena parking lots!

      The Dealio:

      Save 40% on all weekday shows and Save 20% on all weekend shows using code MOM. Get Your Tickets Now- http://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/2q2yrx

      Weekday is defined as any show Monday through Thursday or Friday matinee, not including holidays. Discount does not apply to Front Row or VIP seats. No double discounts. Service charges, handling, and facility fees may apply

      Monday, January 20, 2014

      Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate! is coming to town!


      We're really excited for Disney on Ice to visit the Chicagoland area this winter (Allstate Arena in Rosemont Jan 22 - Jan 26 & United Center in Chicago Jan 29 - Feb 9.) My boys are Disney fanatics and can't wait for our very first ice skating show!


      It's one colossal party on ice, with all your favorite Disney friends! Join Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as they celebrate a Very Merry Unbirthday Party with Alice and the Mad Hatter; Mardi Gras with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen; a Royal Valentine's Day Ball with the Disney Princesses; a Hawaiian luau with Lilo & Stitch; a winter wonderland with Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear; a Halloween haunt with the Disney Villains and more in a magical medley of holidays, celebrations and festivals from around the globe. Come join the party when this spectacular ice show visits your hometown!

      Parking is FREE in all official arena parking lots. Visit official arena websites for more information.

      Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL. Jan 22- Jan 26, 2014
      United Center in Chicago, IL. Jan 29 - Feb 9, 2014

      Save 40% on all weekday shows and Save 20% on all weekend shows using code MOM. Get Your Tickets Now- http://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/2q2yrx

      Weekday is defined as any show Monday through Thursday or Friday matinee, not including holidays. Discount does not apply to Front Row or VIP seats. No double discounts. Service charges, handling, and facility fees may apply

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