Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. Colorful Comedy On Wheels

Memorial Day weekend means it's trolley time again in Chi Town!   We spent the most amazingly cool day with Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co., taking a mega-tour sampling of their 3 day tour, condensed into 8 action packed hours!    My favorite thing about Chicago Trolley is their philosophy that "teaching actors and comedians to drive a trolley provides a better experience than teaching a bus driver to give a tour."  

Our guides tag teamed the driving and the comedy, and they were hilarious and well informed.   The tour was a hoot!   One of the guys said he had a stand up comedy gig later that same night and the other said he had a standing gig as the big bad wolf.   They had the whole trolley cracking up, and between fits of laughter we hardly noticed how much we were actually learning about Chicago history, architecture, and neighborhoods.

Since 1994, this unique company has entertained and informed millions of locals and visitors on all-day sightseeing tours and private charter transportation including weddings,  corporate charters, special event transportation, pub crawls, and more.

My other favorite thing about the trolley tickets is the flexibility.    You can hop on and off at will and each 3 day ticket comes with a tee shirt and loads of valuable coupons.   I'd highly recommend trolley travel, whether you're visiting Chi Town, or local and out on the town.   They're more reasonable than a cab and far more entertaining.     We'll have full features later on a few of the popular tour destinations along their route like Wrigley Field, Willis Tower Sky Deck, The Hard Rock Cafe and The Museum of Science and Industry.   For today, though, we'll get you started with the trolley town low down.

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. is thrilled to kick off another summer in Chicago, with the return of three Neighborhood Tours to the North, West and South, available Memorial Day through Labor Day (in addition to the year-round Signature Tour). New this year, the South Neighborhood Tour has included a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Robie House all summer long.

The best value around, Chicago Trolley tickets start at only $17 and all tickets include a coupon book with more than 20 offers and over $100 in savings including Chicago’s famous Garrett’s Popcorn, Hershey’s chocolate, Corner Bakery’s fresh-baked cookies and more. 

Chicago Trolley Lets You Hop-On to Tour and Hop-Off to Explore
Everything Chicago Has to Offer With Four Tours Available at One Low Price

Hailed by Chicago Visitor's Choice Awards as “Chicago’s Best Tour,” Chicago Trolley is thrilled to celebrate another summer of fun in Chicago with the city’s premiere hop-on hop-off sightseeing tours in classic red and green trolleys and fun-filled double decker buses.  Chicago Trolley explores the culture and diversity of the many worlds which make Chicago a world-class city, from the ancient worlds on display at the Field Museum to the fashionable world of Michigan Avenue.  

Patrons can hop off to find a cool lemon ice in the old world of Taylor Street, wander the wild world of the Lincoln Park Zoo, or soak in the outside world of Chicago’s beautiful lakefront at Navy Pier.  With the one-day Signature Tour ticket or three-day Explore Chicago pass, Chicagoans and visitors can hop-on to tour, hop-off to explore and repeat as desired all day long.

“We like to show our passengers the ‘hidden worlds’ of Chicago’s lesser-known areas as well as the main attractions, so that both locals and visitors can learn something new every time they ride in one of our vehicles,” says Chicago Trolley Vice President, John Curran. “We’ve become more than a great tour. We are thought of as safe, fun, transportation for our patrons to navigate the city during their stay."
 Chicago’s Best Tour

Available year-round and covering 13 miles with 14 stops, the Hop-on Hop-off Signature Tour takes passengers to Skydeck Chicago, the famed museum campus (Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium), the historic Chicago Theater, Millennium Park, Water Tower Place, The Art Institute, Navy Pier and the John Hancock Observatory. The full tour is approximately two hours riding time, allowing ample time for exploration.

As a fun summer extension Chicago Trolley offers an Explore Chicago three-day pass that includes Neighborhood Tours to the North, West and South from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  

The North Neighborhoods Tour travels to Wrigley Field (day games excluded) and gives guests a unique opportunity to purchase an insider tour of historic Wrigley Field. The route also includes stops at the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Blue Man Group’s Briar Street Theatre.  The South Neighborhoods Tour adds a stop at the Museum of Science and Industry, Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Robie House and a tour of the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood, home to President Obama. The West Neighborhoods Tour offers a peek into more of the cultural diversity Chicago offers including stops in Greektown, Chinatown and Little Italy.
Chicago’s Best Value

Chicago Trolley tickets are $17 - $35. All tickets include a coupon book with more than 20 offers for savings at several restaurants and attractions, as well as free treats along the route from Garrett’s Popcorn,  Hershey’s, Corner Bakery and more. Three-day Explore Chicago passes and all children’s passes also include a free Chicago Trolley t-shirt during the summer months, while supplies last.

Tours operate daily with vehicles departing the designated stops every 10-15 minutes beginning at 9 a.m. year round. The last boarding call is 6 p.m. daily during the summer months, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Tickets can be purchased from Chicago Trolley & Double Decker red-vested tickets sales agents posted in multiple locations throughout the city or online at www.chicagotrolley.com. Riders will save 10% off of regular rates when purchasing tickets in advance online.

Groups of 15 or more receive a 20% discount off the regular retail price per ticket. To receive this group rate, tickets must be purchased in advance by calling the Group Ticket Sales Department at 773-890-2046.

For more information, visit www.chicagotrolley.com or call 773-648-5000.
 About Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Company 

With more than 70 vehicles, The Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. connects visitors to the best of Chicago's attractions, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The popular tour and charter company has earned two Chicago Visitor's Choice Awards, including honors for Chicago's Best Tours/Transportation and for Best Service. The affiliated Stagecoach Group companies, including Coach USA and Megabus.com, also provide deluxe motor coach service to destinations throughout North America.

Got Kids? Summer Camp Music Festival Is Fun For All Ages #scmf11

Best of Summer Camp Music Festival 2009

If you've never been to 3 Sisters Park during Summer Camp Music Festival, you may have the impression it's just a major music filled party for the college age crowd.    But Summer Camp is much more diverse than that.   We've met people of all ages and multiple generations hanging out.  We met one 3 generation family with grandma, mom and kids all enjoying camping and music together. 

If you'd like to introduce your kids to great musicians, playful people, and the joys of music festivals, there is a funky, fun kids camp within Summer Camp Music Festival, running 11am-6pm Friday and Saturday.   It's not a drop off zone, but a fun space where parents and kids can come together and play.   These are a few of our favorite shots from 2 years ago, when we took Du-Jay and Sagezilla.    We skipped last year to camp at Devil's Lake as a family, and I was excited to be back this year, but I went solo.    

I had a whole different Summer Camp experience this time around, although I still checked in daily with our friends over at the kids camp, and will have photo filled 2011 adventures up soon.    I haven't had a mom's weekend out in 11 years, so it was great to camp with 3 "grown up" friends for a change!    It was still a working vacation, as I was there with the press.   I came home with over 16GB of fest photos!   But it was refreshing that nobody was waking me at dawn by jumping on my head, or needing an escort to the porta potty in the wee hours.    We've got a bit of editing to do, then we'll have a photo filled recap of the festival up in the very near future.

If you're thinking of bringing the family next year, kids under 6 are free with a paying adult.    Kids 6-12 are half price at the gate (though we wish they'd raise it to 10 and under free like Lollapalooza or 12 and under free like North Coast Music Fest last year!).    Next to Kidzapalooza, which is by far the most outstanding kids area we've seen at any music fest, Summer Camp is still up there, with one of the most family friendly areas out there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Camp Music Festival...Chi Town's Best Bands List #scmf11

All the hippies have cell phones these days.    Makes things easier when you're coming in from different states and want to pitch a tent together.    Sure-snap a photo with your iphone and send it to my Android and I'll GPS my way to your coordinates.    Works a little better than the good ol' days of ....I'll see you out there...somewhere.   Although we all magically seemed to run into each other anyway!

Summer Camp Music Festival has a nifty little schedule app. in case you're a "type A" hippy and need to plan things out.    I'm more of the "all who wander are not lost" school.    I plan a few must sees and then let the rest be serendipity.   I hang out and wander around, listen to the buzz of others new favorite thing, or hear something magical from an unknown on a little side stage that blows me away.

That said, there are a few Chicago favorites I'm making a point to see
 Cornmeal--these guys began rocking Chi Town 10 years ago now.    Just a few years back at Summer Camp, though, they were still the band few knew.    Everyone was all a buzz about them, playing secret sets in the quaint church on the grounds, and look at em now.   They're playing every major heavy hitter summer fest across the nation and just appeared in Relix.

Check 'em out all over Summer Camp--you're bound to wander into them sooner or later, if you follow the great jams.   Or if you want to program it in to schedule app, your droid can poke you in the butt and send you their way.

Here's Summer Camps Band Bio:

Formed over 10 years ago, Cornmeal has grown from humble beginnings into a nationally recognized live music institution. 10 years together is no simple task these days, especially when the last five have seen the band spending over half the year on the road. Heavily influenced by American roots and folk music, Cornmeal blends lightning fast tempos and impeccable harmonies into an unrivaled live performance that continues to expand upon the five-piece acoustic-electric groups’ vast musical repertoire. While steeped in the tradition of the past, Cornmeal continues to forge their own path, pushing the boundaries of bluegrass, Americana and folk for a whole new generation of music lovers. With a rapidly growing fan base and ever-evolving sound, Cornmeal challenges the recipe of the bluegrass sound and live performance.

Get your daily dose of Cornmeal:

  • Thursday 9:30pm-Starshine Stage
  • Friday 5:00pm-Sunshine Stage
  • Saturday 3:30pm-Rock the Earth presents Cornmeal-Soulshine tent
  • Sunday 4:00pm-Sunshine Stage
  • Sunday 1:30am-Campfire Stage
That segues nicely into our next favorite, Van Ghost.

Here's what Summer Camp has to say:

Van Ghost featuring Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band) and Allie Kral (Cornmeal)
For nearly a decade Michael Harrison Berg of Van Ghost was a behind the scenes type of guy. Having poured his energy into his ventures as a concert promoter and band manager, little was left over for personal creative endeavors. That all changed in 2007 when Berg’s close friends encouraged him to revisit the acoustic guitar he put down in his younger days and asked him to perform a song at their wedding. Melding the inspiration from the many talented bands he has worked with and his own passion for music, the singer returned to his roots. He began writing songs, drawing from his life experiences, creating a heartfelt and staggeringly honest perspective. After building up a solid repertoire of folk ballads, gritty Americana tunes and classic rock laced jams, Berg assembled an all-star cast of musicians and named the project Van Ghost.

Check 'em out:

Friday 3:00pm-Starshine
Saturday 2:15am-Soulshine Tent

Finally, we highly recommend joining the lube heads for a few Lubriphonic sets.   These guys know how to funk things up.   Check out some Chicago funk and soul.    They have a new album out that we'll be reviewing soon on ChiIL Mama.

Here's Summer Camp's take:

Digging deep and giving it all in everything they do Chicago’s Lubriphonic specialize in a unique offering of funky rock n’ roll. The septet’s tight and raw sound is immediately familiar, fusing the roots of soul with explosive in-your-face delivery and sensuous R&B dance music.

The Lubriphonic sound is full of precision orchestrations made up of blazing guitars, tight three piece horn lines, soulful songwriting, bluesy vocals and the habit to cut the funk loose. The best description of the band’s sound comes from Relix Magazine: “Superb, adventurous, diverse, simply mesmerizing instrumental work. Steeped in soul, rock, pop, and blues Lubriphonic’s members play with a tenacity and precision that sets them apart from equally proficient bands.”

You can hear 'em live and in the woods:

Thursday 3:30-Starshine
Friday 3:00pm-Campfire Stage

We'll see ya somewhere....out there.

Green Festival 2011-An Eco-Extravaganza

It was great to see Chicago go green post St. Patrick's Day, with the annual Green Festival.    

Du-Jay again enjoyed a people power bike ride with Working Bikes.    It's fun to see the pedaling create enough energy to make a little bike go around the world, spout water from a mermaid rain barrel or play a record!   We also saw our old favorites, Coco Loco, who will also be at Summer Camp Music Festival again.   I wear 2 pairs of their earrings pretty much 24/7 and Sagezilla also has a spiral pair she often wears when not actively doing gymnastics.    We also saw the booth that makes old banners into super cool wallets and bags, like my favorite one that resembles the Chicago flag....and a certain blog header.

We saw some familiar faces like igo car sharing.   We were a little peeved that Du fairly won a free year's membership in their booth game, but they wouldn't give it to us, since he's too young for a driver's license.   As if most of my time in the car isn't spent driving the kids to their activities!    They could have given it to the family and I would have blogged about car sharing for a year.    Instead, they gave him a lousy free bus schedule as a consolation prize.   Ah well.   Their loss.

The kids' area was simple, but fun, with live reptiles, worm bins, crafts and books.   It was fun to see a garden growing in the back of a pick up truck.   It was great to see Green Parent Chicago represented, as we're friends of the founder, Christine, and I freelance write for them as well.    We also saw another old friend, John, who heads up the annual Vegan Mania.

One of our favorite booths demonstrated how one woman's vision of giving the elderly something significant to do to feel useful has turned into a huge enterprise, hand making plastic grocery bags into mats for the homeless to sleep on.   Check 'em out here at NEW LIFE FOR OLD BAGS to donate or see how you can get involved.

We even met a dancing polar bear, who was the hit of the party at the music and culture stage.    Later, that hot polar bear was seen sweating amid the melting polar ice caps.

Want more eco in your life?   On Memorial Day "How to Be a Superhero for Planet Earth" is at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. It's for K - 3rd graders and it's free with admission. It's a fun and interactive program that empowers kids to make a difference for the planet.


Insect lovers across the Chicagoland area will get a chance to watch live Monarch butterflies grow from eggs to fully developed adults this summer when Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago launches its Watch Us Grow: Monarch Butterflies exhibit, Tuesday, May 24. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Sept. 4.

By comparing live specimens with larger than life models, Chicago’s youngest museum-goers will learn about the four stages of butterfly development and explore how animals change and adapt through the metamorphosis process. Exhibit signage explains the egg and caterpillar stages of butterfly growth, and live specimens of pupa and adult butterflies demonstrate the final two stages of growth. This dynamic and interactive exhibit will give kids a chance to get up close and personal with one of nature’s prettiest bugs, which also happens to be the Illinois state insect.

The exhibit is generously underwritten by Anderson Pest Solutions for the third consecutive year. The largest family-owned pest solutions company in the Midwest, Anderson is dedicated to environmental protection and committed to reducing and eliminating the use of pesticides in favor of natural solutions to pest problems. The Museum will also recognize Anderson’s commitment to being “The Natural Choice®” in pest management by building a special bench by the main Museum entrance that will be decorated with beautiful sculptures of insects crawling and resting on the bench.

“We are honored to support the museum in this important exhibit,” said Mark O’Hara, President of Anderson Pest Solutions. “Anderson is committed to maintaining a balanced environment and part of this commitment involves education and promoting an understanding of nature. The Anderson Insect Zoo, which regularly visits the Kohl Children’s Museum, gives kids the chance to get up close, touch and examine some rare and unusual insects. Anderson is proud to support the Monarch Butterflies. I believe that witnessing the metamorphosis of a Monarch is one of those experiences that can fundamentally and positively impact a child’s relationship to nature.”

Dynamic live insect exhibit shows visitors the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, the Illinois state insectWatch Us Grow: Monarch Butterfly exhibit opens at Kohl Children’s Museum 
“The Museum is very grateful to Anderson for their support of the Watch Us Grow exhibit,” said Sheridan Turner, President and CEO of the Museum. “Children have the special opportunity to witness nature’s stunning life cycle happening in front of their very eyes. These insects are beautiful to look at, but they also teach children an appreciation for the life of something as small as a butterfly.”

In recognition for its outstanding exhibits and impact on Chicagoland families, Kohl Children’s Museum was recently named one of the country’s Ten Best Children’s Museums by Parents Magazine. Offering 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8, the museum’s mission is to encourage young children ages birth to 8 to become effective learners through self-directed complex play. Kohl Children’s Museum was ranked sixth out of more than 300 children’s museums nationwide and was the only Chicago area museum recognized.

Kohl Children’s Museum is located at 2100 Patriot Blvd., in Glenview, Ill. at the corner of Patriot Blvd. and W. Lake Ave. in the newly redeveloped area known as The Glen. The Museum can be easily reached by public transportation, including Pace bus and Metra trains.
For more information, visit the Museum’s website at www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org or call (847) 832- 6600. The Museum is open on Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Special members-only hours are from Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Admission prices are $7.50 for children and adults and $6.50 for senior citizens. Children under 1 year old and members are free.

Get Your Calendars Ready...Film, TV, DVD, A & E's First 48: Missing Persons Premier!

June 1-6 at Facets Multimedia
"What emerges from these films --
and from the filmmakers -- are refreshing expressions of humanity"
-Film Journal

Lincoln Hall
2424 N. Lincoln

Once you've gotten all serious with the human rights, check out some alien rights with ET and get goofy with The Goonies.    Shows are all ages and FREE!

In honor of director JJ Abrams highly anticipated upcoming film, Super 8, we’ve decided to do a retrospective of sorts. Combining the supernatural vibe of “The X-Files” with the spirit of 70’s and 80’s sci-fi classics, Super 8 revisits a style of filmmaking not unfamiliar to the films producer, Steven Spielberg. To pay homage to the genre, we will screen "The Goonies" on Friday, June 3rd and "E.T." on Saturday, June 4th. For more information, please visit our listing below:

"Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger" 

A mama friend of ours,edited this excellent documentary.   It keeps popping up at screenings and just aired again on WTTW, Channel 11 (in Chicago).    Check it out if you have on demand or Netflicks.   

The film tells the story behind the headlines of the iconoclastic priest who has recently been banished from the parish he has led for 36 years, St. Sabina.   
For more info about the film and to view the trailer go here:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1474834/

*Sagezilla and Du-Jay's Dad, Dug (Dug Production Sound, Inc.), has been running location sound on this shoot for months, and the first episode is set to air THIS Thursday.    It's all shot in Chicago.   Check it out.

When a person goes missing, every second counts. A&E's new real life series "The First 48: Missing Persons," a spinoff from one of the most-watched nonfiction investigative series on cable, "The First 48," follows the Chicago Police Department's missing persons unit in the first 48 hours of their search for missing loved ones. 'The First 48: Missing Persons' premieres Thursday, June 2 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.

Based in the heart of one of the country's most colorful law-enforcement cities, the Chicago Police missing persons unit gets more than 17,000 calls each year and is the one of the only major police departments in the country that responds to every missing persons call immediately. For the first time ever, the Chicago Police Department gives unrestricted access to ongoing investigations and allows cameras to follow the elite, passionate and dedicated investigators who handle all missing persons and child abduction cases.

Each hour- long episode of "The First 48: Missing Persons" follows the specialized investigation of one or two high-stakes cases, from the moment the call comes in, as detectives search for the husbands, wives, sons and daughters who have disappeared. Just like a homicide on the original series "The First 48", if they don't find the missing person in the first 48 hours, their chances of finding them alive are cut in half.

In the premiere episode, Detectives Selles Morris, Laura Skrip and Jim Corcoran team up to search for a straight A college student. They uncover surveillance footage that shows the 19 year-old sophomore walking toward the lakefront, then disappearing. Their around-the-clock search comes to a shocking conclusion and just when they think they're finished, Detectives Morris and Skrip have to pull double duty. Morris hunts down a father who vanished mysteriously, putting his own family in danger and Skrip has just minutes to save the life of a distraught missing woman who left a note threatening to end her life.

"The First 48: Missing Persons" is produced by Found Films, LLC for A&E Network. The executive producers for Found Films, LLC are Robert Schneiger, Gary Sherman and Conrad Riggs. The executive producers for A&E Network are Robert Sharenow and Laura Fleury.

Click HERE to check out the promo video, detective profiles and more.

DVD reviews and give aways:   keep an eye out in June.   We'll be reviewing/giving away new release Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze) and the Fluffers Live in New York City.    The DVD includes 16 songs in all, including 9 Squeeze songs.

Oldie but goodie now out on DVD:

Brian Eno "1971 - 1977 : The Man Who Fell To Earth" on DVD May 17

Documentary featuring exclusive interviews, archival footage, performance and studio film and more

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno - Brian to his friends, Eno to the rest of us - defies categorisation. Musician, composer, record producer, music theorist, singer and visual artist covers some of what he does, but he's probably best known for his early work with Roxy Music, his production duties for U2 and Coldplay and as one of the principal innovators of ambient music. But however he's pigeon-holed, this remarkable, creative visionary remains amongst the most influential individuals to have ever worked within the music industry.

This documentary film - the first ever about Eno - explores his life, career and music between the years 1971 and 1977, the period that some view as his golden age, others as just one era in a long, extraordinary and very eclectic career.

Featuring numerous exclusive interviews, contributions from a range of musicians, writers [including his official biographer], colleagues, collaborators and friends - plus archive footage, performance and studio film and an abundance of arguably the most exceptional music ever created. 

Also contains many extra features including extended interviews, digital biographies and more.

Still creating:
Brian Eno's new album 'Small Craft On a Milk Sea' was released to rave reviews in November last year.   

Eno has recently released 'Seven Sessions From a Milk Sea,' a series of films of improvised performances from the 'Small Craft...' sessions. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Cruze and A Cruise-Photos From Last Night #gmchiCARgo

The Best of ChiCARgo River Cruze

We had a great time with a boat load of bloggers last night.    It was fun to see so many of The Chicago Moms I'd met before there, and make some new friends, too.   Thanks to all the sponsors for the great food, drinks and goodie bags.   The Uno's Pizza, Garrett's Popcorn, Eli's Cheesecake and cookie dough were super tasty.   

We saw some familiar faces from Chevy and collectively filled a Chevy Cruze with great donations for Ronald McDonald House charities.   And I was thrilled to win tickets for 2 to The Hancock Observatory!    I had a chance to take Du-Jay and a good friend of his to the Willis Skydeck, as a guest of Chicago Trolley and Double Decker a few weeks back.    Sagezilla was at a day long Brownie camp but she was unhappy to miss out.    The older the kids get, the more I find myself saying "It all evens out." when one child gets to do something the other misses out on.    Sometimes it actually does.    She'll be thrilled!

The Wendella Boat Cruise provided so many great photo ops, and Chicago is gorgeous from the lake at dusk.   The evil storms and strong winds forecast for the evening held off till we got home.   Although I must confess, I stayed inside the cozy, lower deck and shot through the windows, instead of braving the unseasonably frigid weather on the exposed top deck.    

I'd still highly recommend it for tourists and locals alike.    Although I detest the word "staycation" and hope to never use it with any seriousness, there's nothing wrong with ChiILin' out in your own town and checking out the cool stuff people travel half way around the world to do here.

Most of all, we can't wait to read and review Melisa Wells' new book.   So much of what comes to our in box is aimed at the toddler set, so as Mama to 8 & 10 year olds, I'm extra jazzed to review a kids' book aimed at tweens and teens.   

I had a chance to chat with Dylan, her good natured, college age son.   He gave me the low down on Camp Wells, their "Mom led" family recreation program, that became the basis for the book.   Amid a sea of blogger name tags proclaiming everyone's Twitter handle, URL and all, my favorite tag of the night was the refreshingly simple one that declared "Melisa's husband".    Gotta love a family with a sense of humor!   Melissa's writing can be seen frequently at the blog, Suburban Scrawl, and now in print with Chicken In The Car And The Car Won't Go.