It is a new year, and many people may already be thinking about the travel adventures they will have in 2014. I know a handful of people who have locked in a Disney trip, and others who are planning trips to the coasts. But what about the middle of our great country? After all, good things usually happen when people meet in the middle.
That’s why when Kendra Thornton approached me to co-write a post about fun places to visit in our respective cities, Chicago and St. Louis, I thought it sounded like a great idea. The two cities have a long history of being friendly “neighbors,” and both offer amazing sites to see for visitors and residents alike. Many of you already know of my loyal love for my Missouri hometown (as exemplified here and here and here). Kendra, a travel industry publicist, is a proud citizen of the Windy City and a regular travel expert spokeswoman. And guys, she has even appeared on The Nate Berkus Show and…wait for it,…THE TYRA BANKS SHOW! So she obviously knows what she is talking about here.
Like any good host, I will let my guest Kendra have the floor first…while I go stand in front of a mirror and practice my Tyra Banks signature smize (smiling with my eyes…duh.):
Fun in Chicago
by Kendra Thornton
Chicago is a wonderful place to live your life and an equally wonderful place to visit. The only major drawback to a Windy City vacation is that it’s difficult to narrow down your many options for dining and entertainment.
Andersonville Is a Can’t Miss • When most people think about shopping in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile probably leaps to mind. But Andersonville is also a must-see for browsing devotees. It’s a great place to purchase souvenirs for your relatives and clothes for yourself. Indeed, this beautiful neighborhood is packed with unique boutiques. Among its highlights is Eva May Design Studio, which sells hats, shirts, and scarves — among other kinds of merchandise. And all of those items are true works of art.
In the Navy (Pier Park) • At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, designer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. introduced something new to the world: the Ferris wheel. Well, Ferris’ original wheel is still up and running at Navy Pier Park. It stands 150 feet tall and affords gorgeous views of the city. You’ll find many more exciting attractions at Navy Pier Park as well. Among them is a children’s museum, a stained glass exhibition, and an array of carnival-style rides.
Gogobot Hits the Spot • Chicago’s accommodations certainly run the gamut. There are historic hotels such as the Drake. There are hotels that target families. And the city offers plenty of choices in terms of affordable lodging. Whatever kind of hotel you have in mind, the website Gogobot will help you find it. It’s an invaluable tool for locating establishments that fit your needs, style, and budget.
Ralph Lauren: More Than Just Fashion • Sure, you know the Ralph Lauren brand for its designer clothing. But in Chicago, “Ralph Lauren” is also synonymous with “outstanding food.” That’s because the fancy Ralph Lauren Restaurant is located next to the company’s flagship store on N. Michigan Avenue. Its seafood is outstanding. Further, you just can’t go wrong with its versions of simple American classics like the grilled cheese sandwich.
Of course, Chicago is packed with so many exhilarating points of interest that your best bet is to summon your most adventuresome spirit and go exploring every day. Maybe you’ll agree with me that Andersonville, Navy Pier Park, and Ralph Lauren Restaurant rank among the city’s worthiest stops. On the other hand, you might discover a few places that you enjoy much more. As the old saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste. Fortunately, Chicago is a metropolis that suits all kinds of tastes.
St Louis is the Cool-is
by Kelly Suellentrop
I have lived here all my life, so I might be a little biased, but St. Louis has more to offer than most of the rest of the country realizes, more than I could possibly cover in this blog. But thanks to years of my own first-hand experience and those of many friends who helped me with this list, anyone could create a nice little St. Louis getaway (or stay-cation) from the following suggestions.
Leave Your Wallet Home, Because It’s Free • One of the incredible things about St. Louis for both visitors AND residents is that the city offers an unheard of amount of free, worthwhile major attractions. And that means anyone can find fun activities regardless of budget. Most notable is Forest Park, one of the jewels of our city. Not only can you bike or walk through the scenic landscapes, but a number of attractions inside the park are also free, including our renowned zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the free seat section at The Muny, where guests can catch a play at this outdoor theater. Other free attractions throughout the city include: Citygarden, Grant’s Farm, Cahokia Mounds, World Bird Sanctuary, Laumeier Sculpture Park, and you can always get a free tour AND a beer on the house at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. While our signature landmark, The Arch, does cost money in order to hitch a ride to the top, gazing at it from the ground is always free, as is the Museum of Westward Expansion underneath it. Right across the street you can take in some free history at the Old Courthouse, where the famous Dred Scott slavery trial took place.
Wear Out the Kids • Make sure your kids hit the hay hard by letting them run wild throughout the city. St. Louis is blessed with numerous parks where children of all ages can play, play, play: Kirkwood, Creve Couer, Castlewood, Queeny, and the gorgeous national historical landmark, Tower Grove, among many others. Faust Park has the bonus of both The St. Louis Carousel and the Butterfly House. Kids can explore things creative and fantastic at the City Museum or the Magic House. Or explore beautiful plant life at the Children’s Garden in the Missouri Botanical Garden. Or hitch a ride on planes, trains and automobiles at the Museum of Transportation. And if you don’t mind traveling a bit out of the city to Ironton, I HIGHLY recommend Elephant Rocks State Park. The landscape is populated with elephant-shaped boulders formed from the mining of red granite, and it is a majestic place for a hike or game of hide-and-seek. It’s also where my husband and I taught our kids the art of parkour.
A Continuous Loop of Fun • The Delmar Loop in University City kills four birds with one stone: food, entertainment, shopping and lodging. This six-block stretch ripe with St. Louis culture is dotted with a wide array of restaurants, from Fitz’s and their legendary root beer to Thai cuisine to Piccione Pastry to Indian food. Throw a couple strikes while sipping after-dinner martinis at Pin-Up Bowl. Or catch a live band at The Pageant or Blueberry Hill, where the legendary musician and St. Louis native, Chuck Berry, performs monthly. Shop the boutiques for some new duds, browse art galleries, or find that rare musical gem at Vintage Vinyl. Then you can retire for the night at the striking Moonrise Hotel. Along the way, you can browse the St. Louis Walk of Fame, as the sidewalks throughout The Loop are decorated with stars honoring famous St. Louisans.
We Will Fill Your Bellies • St. Louisans are like a bunch of Italian grandmothers: we like to feed you. Coincidentally, one of the yummiest areas of the city is known as The Hill, where Italian culture and cuisine dominate. But you can find great restaurants all over the city and county, too many to name here. A longtime favorite and landmark establishment is Crown Candy Kitchen, where visitors have been able to indulge in diner fare, sundaes, and homemade candies since 1913. Other hometown favorites are our signature St. Louis style pizza from Imo’s, Dad’s Cookie Company, Gus’ Pretzels, and their competitors in the county, Pretzel Boy’s. If you want to eat in and cook your own meal, stock up on ingredients at Soulard Market, the largest and oldest farmer’s market west of the Mississippi. But no matter what you eat for lunch or dinner, every meal is complimented by the sweet treat of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, the city’s pride and joy.
Now, it’s time for me to wrap this up. I have some toasted ravioli in the oven and some hungry kids waiting for dinner. Oh, you don’t know what toasted ravioli is? Then you better come to St. Louis to find out. Because it is toasted delicousness.
Thanks again to Kendra Thornton for inviting me join her in this bragging session about two very cool cities.
Kendra Thornton is a travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. She is a long time travel expert who has been packing her bags and traveling the world since she was three months old! She founded Thornton Public Relations, a company that aims to bring strategic and low-cost public relations to start-up and established travel, consumer and technology companies. Ms. Thornton also appears regularly as a travel expert on ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates across the country to share travel trends, tips and deals with millions of viewers every year.
In addition, she has clearly received some expert smizing advice from Tyra Banks herself. (Can you tell which part of the bio I added myself?) You can find Kendra at www.thorntonpr.com and follow her on Twitter @KendraThornton