Champaign, Ill. - Our travel guide, Marica Frost, has a fun family getaway close to home all planned out for us!
Surprise the Family with a Quick Getaway
Vacation time is coming up at Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then February break. For those who can't or don't want to travel, I'm often asked about spending a day in Chicago that's a bit different from the norm.
…A Spot at the Beluga Encounter at the Shedd Aquarium
As one of the Extraordinary Experiences at the Shedd Aquarium, you can get in the water with beluga whales, but this is not what you might expect.
Your Beluga experience at Shedd is not about just playing with the whales, though you will have plenty of time to do that. You will go behind the scenes at the aquarium for an orientation, a lesson on the animal's training, and a walk through their habitat. Once you put on the waiters and get into the water, you'll be led by an expert, who will show you how to engage and feed the whale.
What makes the Shedd Beluga Experience so special is that it is about the animals. The aquarium is a non-profit institution and the whales come first. While they try to stick to the program, if the beluga doesn't want to play, or wants to change up the game a little, that's what happens so no two encounters will be exactly the same.
The Beluga Encounter at the Shedd Aquarium is $250 and includes a photograph of the experience. Aquarium members receive a $50 discount. Certificates can be purchased if you'd like to give the encounter as a gift. For registration and more information, visit the Extraordinary Experiences webpage <http://www.sheddaquarium.org/plan-a-visit/Explore/Experiences/Extraordinary-Experiences/Beluga-Encounter/>.
…At M Burger
When the kids are ready for fast food and you want to keep it less commercial, the Chicago chain M Burger <http://www.mburgerchicago.com/> is your answer. No one needs to dress up or wait for a table and you will get a selection of kid-friendly food made with fresh ingredients.
The M Burger menu is simple: juicy burgers, veggie and chicken sandwiches, and a chicken chopped salad. You can get tasty fries, ice cream, and soft drinks with that. Nothing complicated, just fast food done right.
The Water Tower location, in the same building as the American Girl Place, is not only convenient, but it's the only one that sells beer if you want to have one with your burger. A shake here might be a better option. In addition to very well done chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, M Burger has a specialty shake of the month. It is Pumpkin Pie for November, followed by two choices in December - Peppermint or Egg Nog.
…At JW Marriott
Although the JW Marriott has rightfully earned its place among the luxury hotels of Chicago with a nearly $400 million restoration of Daniel Burnham's landmark building, that doesn't mean it's not family friendly. Its location next to Millennium Park and near Chicago attractions, along with the oversized rooms and indoor pool, make it a good choice for a getaway in the city.
To make the hotel even more attractive to families this holiday season, the JW Marriott Chicago is offering A Night at the Nutcracker package. Starting at $369, this package includes accommodations, to VIP tickets to a performance of The Nutcracker, a commemorative program and poster, a swag bag that includes a signed pointe shoe and a signed photo of a dancer, and a few other surprises, such as welcome cookies.
To book a package at the JW Marriot Chicago, visit their website <http://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-deals/chijw-jw-marriott-chicago/>.