First trip of the year- Illinois and a extended vacation surprise?

 

January 1st, 2018 – January 7th, 2018

Well we started off the new year right, vacation to Illinois, in 2 degree weather!

What started off being a rough night, hours before our flight, ended up turning out good when arriving at the airport and checking in. I know many hate taking red-eye flights, but I personally love them. Why? Well, 1. the airport isn’t busy 2. checking in is a whole lot easier 3. TSA lines are little to no lines, and 4. my kids sleep almost the whole flight, which makes the flight that much easier.

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As we were entering the plane, one of the flight attendants asked my daughters if they would like to see the pilot cabin area. HOW COOL IS THAT! The 2 pilots gave them a quick crash course on how the buttons function and how to fly a plane. They also encouraged them that they could become pilots themselves! I would say it was an awesome experience to quickly see how things worked! They were also given a pin and a pilot’s card. I’m sure my kids will always treasure that memory.

 

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After a 3 1/2 hour flight and a short layover in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we finally arrived in Chicago, Illinois. Our next destination was Bloomington, Illinois, which was about 2 1/2 hours away. Luckily, one of our friends picked us up in Chicago, so we had a nice warm car ride and enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour conversation the whole way there.

 

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Our purpose being in Illinois, was to visit my brother and his family. Now doesn’t it look gorgeous outside? Can you say WINTER WONDERLAND!

Once getting situated at my brother’s house (which is where we stayed at for 2 days) he ordered our first pizza!!!

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Deep dish pizza anyone? So, we wanted to “experience” deep dish pizzas while we were in Illinois, as what everyone tells us to do. So, my brother ordered a deep dish pizza from Rosati’s Pizza. I know you’re probably thinking, that’s not a true deep dish pizza; well when you’ve been traveling for hours and you come hungry, and most of the pizzeria’s aren’t open yet, you don’t care what you have. To our surprise though, the pizza was very delicious with lots of sauce and meat. 1 slice was plenty!

 

 

 

Even with it being around 5 degrees out, my kids wanted to experience playing in the snow with their cousins. Of course they didn’t last long outside, but they did last a bit longer than what I expected.

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Bloomington (where my brother lives), is a very small city. They actually combined 2 small cities together, which is called Bloomington/Normal. There really isn’t much to do there, as what I was warned before arriving. However, they do have a children’s museum, a gymnasium, and a trampoline park for the kids to enjoy (especially during the winter months).

 

 

We did venture off to a city about 45 minutes away from Bloomington called Peoria, which we took the kids to a trampoline park. The funny part is that we later found out that they had the same trampoline park in Bloomington. OOPS!

CHICAGO!!

 

 

Unfortunately, we arrived in Chicago later than expected, but we did come there hungry, and of course we wanted to try what Chicago is famous for; deep dish pizza.

 

 

Pizzeria Uno was the spot we choose to eat (based on reviews), and the service and food were excellent! Talk about a real deep dish pizza! The flavor and the crust of the pizza was delicious.

 

 

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Once we got done eating our late lunch/early dinner it was already dark out, so we couldn’t really experience much, especially with it being cold out. Our friend drove us around downtown. We hopped out at Millennium Park to visit the faces on the Crown Fountain and the famous Bean. Let me just tell you, when we were walking in the park, yes it was cold, but then going up the stairs to see The Bean, OMG, did we experience “the windy city“. Take the wind and how cold it was outside, and you pretty much turn into an icicle. We quickly took some pictures and hopped back into our friends’ car (who had the car nice and warm for us).

She drove us around more of the downtown area so we could experience more of the city. Yes, we didn’t get to fully experience it, but when it’s that cold out and you’re not use to that weather, the views from inside of the car, are just as great!

 

 

We finally checked into our hotel, Hotel Chicago. This was a great hotel, located in downtown Chicago, near the river and many other attractions. They also have many restaurants near the hotel to choose from. The hotel was very clean with a great view of downtown. The only issue we had was the sink in the bathroom was not completely turned off from when the room was cleaned, which made the water leak out and completely drenching the hand towels. Other than that everything was very nice. They do offer snacks, water, and mini alcohol bottles in the room, however, they were very expensive. So if you have kids, make sure they don’t get their hands on them, otherwise, expect to be charged.

 

 

Of course later that night our kids got hungry, so we had to take on the cold without a car this time. Well, I’m sure you all know by now that it didn’t go well. My youngest literally cried the whole time and was not happy with me taking pictures of the views and of us. Luckily, we found a Chick Fil A down the street that was located by the Chicago Broadway Theater.

 

 

As soon as they got done eating we left and immediately went back to the hotel. You know before we got back to the hotel I had to snag a couple more pictures (and yes that’s my husband trying to see how thick the ice is down on the river)!

 

 

As our adventure came to an end, we left Chicago and had our layover in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To our surprise, my husband extended our vacation and booked a 2 night hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. Of course I was wondering, WTH is there to do in Bloomington Minnesota, but I just went with the flow of things. Well, not knowing, Mall of America was located there and our hotel was directly right across the street from it!

 

 

We stayed at Homewood Suites by Hilton. Our room was wonderful and the staff was great! They even let us check into our room early, which was really nice. In our room was a kitchen with everything you need, living room, and the bedroom was separate. Our hotel also provided a free shuttle, every hour on the hour to the mall and even to the airport. It also offered a full complimentary breakfast.

 

 

Mall of America… United States’ largest mall with an amusement park inside. This mall was HUGE to say the least. We didn’t even finish walking around half of the mall. It also had almost every store you can think of (besides any high-end store such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, Gucci, etc.), but everything else you can think of was there. Even a Marshall’s and Best Buy was located inside.

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Every floor had many options of restaurants to choose from. They also had 2 miniature golf courses, bumper cars, bowling alley, a mirror maze, Sea Life Aquarium, and the Crayola Experience. That didn’t even include the Nickelodeon Universe which was located directly in the middle of the mall.

 

 

We decided to do the amusement park the next day so that way the kids could spend all day there, which we did. We also had the pleasure of meeting my husbands older cousin and her family who live about 10 minutes away from the mall. He hasn’t seen his cousin since he was very young, so it was very nice for them to catch up and for their kids to meet and spend time with ours.

I can say many great things about this amusement park. They offered rides for all ages. The cost for the amusement park was $35.99, but if you purchase your tickets online you save $3.00 off on the weekends and $5.00 off on weekdays. So we ended up paying $32.99 per child for unlimited rides. Please keep in mind, the park pass does not include the miniture golf, aquariums, and the other activities in the mall. It is only for the rides that are located in Nickelodeon Universe. There is also a zip line and obstacle course that is not included in the price, but is located in the amusement park. To do the zip line/obstacle course it was $15.99 pp and to only do the obstacle course was $11.99 pp. If your kids love adrenaline and a challenge, they will love this!

If you have little ones, like I do, you (the parent) can be the chaperone and ride with them for free, which is what really made me love this park! Since my youngest was only 42″ and my oldest 48″ some of the rides required for a chaperone to be with them. It was nice that my husband and I didn’t have to pay for tickets or for a pass since it was mostly our kids that were riding the rides all day. Most, actually every amuesement park I’ve ever been too have you pay, no matter what.

 

 

We ended our night having dinner at Cadillac Ranch, which the kids really enjoyed! The food was amazing and we loved watching people ride the bull. Pretty hilarious if you say so myself. After the adults were done riding the bull, they allowed the kids to go on, so we can take pictures.

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To conclude our trip; this trip was amazing! This was our first time ever doing a winter trip and experiencing weather below 10 degrees. It sure was cold, but we all enjoyed our time. We do want to come back when it’s a lot warmer to be able to truly experience it all and more of it. The hotels we stayed at where very nice, clean and the restuarnts we ate at were very delicious and satisfying! We didn’t have any disappointments throughout our trip.

Even the airports were very nice. Minneapolis airport (MSP) was very big with so many restaurants to offer. However, with it being an airport, i’m sure it was expensive. Chicago airport (ORD) was also nice. Not nearly as many restaurants offered as Minneapolis, but if you’re not planning on eating there, then it won’t bother you. Also, the restrooms are a very big concern to me when traveling, and both airports had very clean restrooms. However, the restroom in Minneapolis only had 4 stalls, which was a shock to me. With it being such a huge and busy airport you would think they would have more stalls especially with it being located right at the gates, but aside from that, at least it was clean.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading the adventures we had thus far. Until next time..

All with love,

Christine

 

 

 

 

 

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