Monday, October 31, 2016

Groupon Things To Do Makes Saving Money Fun

My family's been huge fans of Groupon for years. As a busy, urban mom of two teens, I've turned to Groupon Things To Do for family activities, gifts for friends, and foodie fun. I've also found Groupons for my favorite spa, because a little "me time" is a rare and welcome luxury, and the discounts on Groupon make it easy to justify and affordable enough to treat friends too. 

All photos of The Logan Theater 
©B. Kenaz-Mara 

DISCLOSURE: Here at ChiIL Mama, we're pleased to partner up with Groupon on this sponsored post. I have been compensated for sharing this information with my readers. As always, all opinions are my own.

Groupon Things To Do makes it easy and affordable to find Things To Do where you live. We adore exploring Chicago and Groupon saves dollars and makes sense. We've found a plethora of perfect places on Groupon for a wide range of tastes. Here are four of my top Chicago favorites that I buy Groupons for repeatedly: Logan Square Movie Theater, King Spa, Jump Sky High and Superdawg Drive In. Groupon keeps my family well entertained, well fed and well relaxed without breaking the bank. 

Like father, like son... these two like movies, and with Groupon's deals we can afford to see more. It's sometimes hard to find places teens are still willing to be seen with their parents, but we all find common ground at our lovely, vintage theater. We've even caught movies there with 3 generations of our family with our Groupons for 2 tickets, popcorn and drinks! 

The Logan Theater has rockin' retro decor, and shows everything from classics, art films and late night camp classics, to first run features and recent hits. They also have real butter for the popcorn, a full bar (and you can bring the drinks into the theatre!) and reasonably priced concessions.

This gem has been our local neighborhood theater since it was built in 1915! A few years back it was old and musty, with lumpy seats, a leaking roof, and mildewed carpets. The only thing going for it was the cheap ticket prices. Now it has been lovingly restored and it's gorgeous, with character to spare! This stained glass lobby window was hidden under wood paneling and the new owners had no idea it was there till they began renovating. Now Logan Theater is a charming mix of vintage and new, with framed movie posters from bygone eras, and comfy, modern reclining chairs with large drink holders. Check out fun finds like this in your home town or mine. Find your particular bliss with Groupon Things To Do, because doing things and still having money in your wallet is pretty incredible.

Get Social:

DISCLOSURE: Once again, we're pleased to partner up with Groupon on this sponsored post. I have been compensated for sharing this information with my readers. As always, all opinions are my own.

WIN 4 Tickets To Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Out Of This WorldTM

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® 
Sets Course for Chicago with 
Never-Before-Seen Genre of Audience-Immersive, 
Character-Driven Circus

Ringling Bros. Out Of This WorldTM  
to Open Month-Long Chicago Engagement, 
Nov. 4th 


Here at ChiIL Mama we're huge fans of circus arts and eagerly anticipate seeing Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® every year when they play Chicago. My own kids have both studied circus arts for 4+ years, trying Lyra, Spanish Web, Trampoline, Juggling, Clowning, Acro, Silks, Chinese Pole and more. They love to see the pros in action. 

We're elated once again to be partnering with FELD to bring our readers a great ticket giveaway. I'll also be out to review and shoot a photo feature on opening night this Friday with my kids and their friends. The elephants have all been retired and the special effects and insane human skills have been amped up. We're particularly excited to see this new genre of circus with floor, air and ICE! Check back soon for our full recap.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® is bringing its newest circus, Out Of This WorldTM, to Chicago, promising fans an experience unlike anything ever seen in Ringling Bros.® history. Set to open at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL, with performances Nov. 4 - 13, before moving downtown to Chicago’s United Center, Nov. 17 - 27, Out Of This World is being heralded as a brand new genre of circus that reimagines the circus experience. The show captivates audiences with its first-ever character-driven storyline, industry-defining production elements, and the addition of mixed-medium performance surfaces that seamlessly transition a nonstop display of artistic athleticism from floor, to air, to ice.

ENTER HERE for your chance to WIN 4 tickets to opening night at Allstate Arena 11/4/16.  

“With Out Of This World, we are redefining Ringling Bros. and modernizing live family entertainment,” said Alana Feld, Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment and Producer of Out Of This World. “The immersive atmosphere created by lighting technology and video projection, combined with a thrilling storyline that will have families cheering for the heroes and booing the villains, will allow fans to connect with the show and our performers like never before.”

The technology in Out Of This World provides a multisensory experience, and video screen production enhancements deepen the connection between the audience, the performances and the performers’ journey through space. Projection technology transports fans to far-off planets throughout the galaxy and transforms the arena into a swirling space-scape.

From the moment the show begins, audiences are transported to outer space as the Simet Wheel performers embark on a gravity-defying spacewalk. Making its U.S. debut, the Simet Wheel requires incredible balance and artistry, which performers demonstrate as astronauts exploring the galaxy. The only performance of its kind in the world, the Simet Wheel combines the skill of tightrope walking with the added challenge of a rotating wheel.

The adventure continues to unfold as Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and Starseeker Paulo dos Santos invite audiences to join their intergalactic journey. Guests follow the duo as they travel to planets of sand, water, fire and ice, battling evil Queen Tatiana on a mission to rescue the greatest and most talented circus stars.

New this year, Ringling Bros. will feature performances on ice, bringing new speed and motion to an already thrilling barrage of simultaneous action. Thrill skaters combine acrobatic disciplines and trick skating in an exciting display of athleticism. The Heilongjiang Provincial Acrobatic Troupe Co. Ltd. performs a variety of impressive feats on ice, including stilt-skating, human pyramid formations and hoop-diving. A talented group of freestyle skaters also makes its U.S. debut, delighting crowds with skilled technique and daring aerial stunts at stunningly fast speeds.

The free, all-new Ringling Bros. mobile app helps keep families connected before, during and after the show. The app allows fans to customize and share memories on social media, as well as unlock exclusive content during Starseeker’s Early Access™, which starts one hour prior to the show. Free to ticketholders, Starseeker’s Early Access provides guests with a peek backstage to see how Out Of This World prepares to launch and meet performers as they interact in the seats, on the concourse and from the arena floor.  

Affordable Family Friendly Fun W/ FREE Parking and Tickets starting at $15

Tickets for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Out Of This World start at $15 and are available through Ticketmaster and the Allstate Arena and United Center box offices, by calling (800) 745-3000, or visiting Parking is FREE with ticket purchase in all official Allstate Arena and United Center parking lots. Service charges, facility and handling fees may apply. For general show information, call the Allstate Arena at (847) 635-6601, or the United Center at (312) 455-4500.

Get Social:
To stay current on the latest Out Of This World developments, follow Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – @RinglingBros.

About Feld Entertainment
Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment productions have appeared in more than 75 countries and on six continents to date and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice, Disney Live! and Marvel Universe LIVE! More information about Feld Entertainment is available online at

Sunday, October 23, 2016


ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List 

NEW For 2016, 
One-of-a-kind sea lion experience 
comes to Chicago for World Pet Association’s Aquatic Experience – Chicago

Photo credit: Aquatic Experience

November 4-6, 2016

Must-sea family programming includes:
Sea Lion Splash live show and exhibit
Fish from Around the World display
Kid's Aquarium Contest
Touch tank…and more!

Disclosure: Thanks to Aquatic Experience for providing press tickets for my family and tickets for our giveaway. I have not been compensated in any other way. As always, all opinions, photos (unless noted), and experiences are my own.

Friday 11/4: 12 pm - 6 pm
Saturday 11/5: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday 11/6: 10 am – 3 pm

Check out our full photo recap of Aquatic Experience 2015 in the slide show here
We've also embedded more of our favorite shots 
at the bottom of this feature.

for your chance to win a family pass, good for 2 adults & 
up to 4 kids! Children 5 and under are FREE.

World Pet Association’s Forth Annual

Aquatic Experience - Chicago

Sea Lion Splash *NEW* for 2016

Photo credit: Aquatic Experience

Photo credit: Aquatic Experience

Sponsored by Aqueon / Coralife / Kent, Sea Lion Splash offers guests of all ages an up-close experience with sea lions, as well as the opportunity to learn about these amazing mammals through a thirty-minute spell binding show hosted by trainer Surfer Joe. Additional educational seminars at Aquatic Experience – Chicago on hobbyist and retail topics will feature George Blasiola, Chris Buerner, Sanjay Joshi, Oliver Knott, Chris Lukhaup, Richard Ross and Julian Sprung.

The only traveling sea lion experience in the United States, Sea Lion Splash, is among the unique exhibits at the World Pet Association’s fourth annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago, Nov. 4 - 6, 2016, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. Show attendees will be able to interact with sea lions up close, as well as enjoying additional must-sea programs including: a touch tank with small sharks and starfish, Fish from Around the World displays, a Kids Aquarium Contest and “everything aquatic under one roof”—from saltwater and freshwater fish to marine plants and mammals.  

Tickets for Aquatic Experience – Chicago, Nov. 4-6, 2016 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center (1551 Thoreau Drive N, Schaumburg, IL) can be purchased in advance or at the door. Daily family passes are $25 and individual tickets start at just $10. Children ages five and under are free. 

Registration for the Kids Aquarium Contest for children ages 5-16 is $5 and includes a 10-gallon aquarium kit plus a wristband for free admission to the show floor with a paying adult. Supplies are limited and go fast! For more information, please visit


There are loads of free raffles all day every day, and larger paid raffles at the end of each day and at the end of the expo. Adults and kids alike have a great chance of going home with a new tank or accessories!

More of ChiIL Mama's Photo Favs:

The Kids Tank Contest is a highlight every year. The kids have to create the design and assemble the tanks without adult help. 

My 12 year old daughter won a blue ribbon for her Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Sharks hockey themed tank! Kids have to bring the fish, plants and themed decor but get to keep the whole tank set up which is provided. It's a great deal and a fun competition every year.

Sage also won a Betta again this year, by throwing a ping pong ball.

Gators replaced the sharks for 2015, and were a fun and popular addition to the expo. Kids even got to hold some of the baby ones! This year it'll be Sea Lions!!

More Favorites:

We dug the creative guys who are refurbishing colorful old iMacs into aquariums!

We also loved these blown glass globes that look like they're melting, paired with driftwood. Striking and creative!

The color changing jellyfish aquariums are favorites of ours too, as are the macabre tanks full of schools of piranhas.

Whether you're an avid fish collector, a novice, or just find browsing and checking out aquatic life fascinating, there's plenty to catch the eye at Aquatic Experience Chicago. Recommended! 

The World Pet Association (WPA) is the oldest industry organization promoting responsible growth and development of the companion pet and related products and services. WPA works to inform and educate the general public in order to ensure safe and healthy lifestyles for our animal friends. WPA is the host of America’s Family Pet Expo, the world’s largest consumer pet and pet products expo, held annually in Costa Mesa, California. The organization also produces SuperZoo, an annual pet industry trade show that showcases a comprehensive collection of exhibits and offers a variety of informative educational seminars, and Atlanta Pet Fair, the Southeast’s largest competition and trade show for the professional pet stylist. For more information, please visit

More of ChiIL Mama's Photo Favs:

 Disclosure: Once again, thanks to Aquatic Experience for providing press tickets for my family and tickets for our giveaway. I have not been compensated in any other way. As always, all opinions, photos (unless noted), and experiences are my own.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

OPENING: Cursed Costumes at Actors Gymnasium

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Cursed Costumes
        A Curse Falls this Weekend

The Actors Gymnasium presents the fifth annual Fall Youth Circus, Cursed Costumes: A Spooky Circus opening October 22. 

This weekend and next, ChiIL Mama will be ChiILin' just north of Chicago in Evanston, IL with The Actors Gymnasium Youth Circus! Both of my kids have been having a blast being in the cast. Come check out this all ages, Halloween themed, circus arts extravaganza. 

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:
Family Friendly Halloween Fun

Are you ever too old for Halloween? Not in this town! At the annual Halloween Block Party, everyone dresses up: grownups, kids, pets, even the mayor! But what will happen when a mysterious curse hits and all the trick-or-treaters turn into their costumes? Having escaped the troubling transformation, two sisters must work together to battle their way through a web of spooky obstacles to get to the haunted house at the end of the block and bring back their neighbors from the spell. 

Come along for the ride as the Actors Gym Fall Youth Circus tumbles and twirls its way through a story of friendship, identity, and growing up. 

The Actors Gymnasium Youth Circus is a performance-based training program that culminates in a fully-produced, original show. This intensive experience pairs professional artists and youth performers to collaboratively create an original new show and includes high-quality training in drama, dance, aerial and circus arts. In the process, students develop skills in collaboration, problem solving, and social interaction with their peers. The Youth Circus is one of our most popular ticketed events each year. 

Here's a compilation video of past Youth Circus shows including the spring show my daughter, Sage, was in.

To ensure a broad education in circus and performing arts, The Actors Gymnasium brings in instructors who specialize in dance and drama, while Artistic Director Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi teaches circus and aerial skills that include juggling, tumbling, trapeze, tightwire, stilts and more. 

"Youth Circus is such a lucky opportunity, one we definitely don't take for granted. Where else can kids be part of the development and execution of a complete work of performance art with such a uniquely talented team of teachers and artists... and to truly feel like part of the 'team' throughout the process." says parent and board member Lauren Sinai. 

10% discount with the code dkenazmara or skenazmara (no caps)!

The show runs October 22, 23, 29 & 30, 2016 with three shows each weekend. Tickets are available now and can be purchased at For group reservations and general questions call 847-328-2795. The on-location box office opens 1.5 hours prior to the start of each performance. 

About Cursed Costumes: A Spooky Circus 
Co-Writers/Co-Directors: Anna Basile and Abby Pajakowski 
Circus Co-Choreographers: Sylvia Hernandez DiStasi and Tommy Tomlins 
Dance Choreographer: Hillary Aarons 
Lighting Designer: Justine Brock 
Sound Designer: Patrick Budde 
Costume Designer: Serena Sandoval 
Props Designer: Clara Wendland 
Stage Manager: Daniel Parsons 
Stage Management Intern: Maddie Lee 

Featuring: Nico A., Abbi B., Emma B., Liam B., Milo B., Audrey B., Emerson C., Griffin D., Molly F., Noah F., Penelope G., Ella G., Noam H., Jeremy K., Dugan K., Sage K., Mia K., Rebekah L., Maya M., Caroline P., Natalie R., Kathryn S., Grace S., Sadie S., Leonardo V.

The Actors Gymnasium is located at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL - just off of the Noyes purple line 'L' stop. The Noyes Cultural Arts Center is owned by the City of Evanston and home to over 20 artists and arts organizations offering music, theater, and visual arts programs and studios. The galleries exhibit local artists, with exhibitions changing every two months.

Actors Gymnasium classes are taught in a 3,000 sq/ft gymnasium space that features a 1,600 sq/ft sprung floor and a fully rigged 24 foot ceiling. All aerial equipment such as the Aerial Hoop, Spanish Web, aerial silks, static trapeze and more are provided, as well as the equipment for ground skills such as unicycling, juggling, tight wire and gymnastics. Starting Fall Session 2015 additionally classes will be taught in Studio 108, a 900 sq/ft classroom space that features a floating sprung White Oak dance floor, a fully rigged 14 foot ceiling, a handstand wall, conditioning ladders, and room length 12 foot mirrors for aerial work.

About The Actors Gymnasium:

The Actors Gymnasium is dedicated to bringing a new physicality to the American Theatre. Encouraging ground-breaking theatrical exploration, The Actors Gymnasium teaches circus arts, physical theatre and multi-disciplinary performance to children and adults; produces original, daring works of circus-theatre; and serves as a talent resource, providing performance opportunities to our students and innovative professional event entertainment for a wider audience. At The Actors Gymnasium, people Learn To Fly - physically, emotionally, and creatively. For more information, please visit

PHOTO RECAP: Six Flags Great America Fright Fest On "Scareroids"

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List for Scary & Scare-Free Fun

Thrills By Day... Fright By Night

Last Sunday the teens and I hit up Six Flags Great America's annual Fright Fest. It's become a fall ritual and a last hoorah before the cold season shutters the park till spring. My son Dugan (15), took my pro camera for the day and documented the adventures of his 13 year old sister and her school friends as they ran from coaster to coaster, cramming in all the thrill rides they could. 

Disclosure: Thanks to Six Flags Great America for providing my family with press comps, so we could come out and shoot and review. We were not compensated in any other way. As always all opinions, photos and adventures are our own.

Check out our full slideshow here:

More favorite shots are embedded below.

Mid afternoon, the friends stayed and the teens and I had to duck out for a few hours for tech rehearsals for Cursed Costumes, a Halloween themed circus arts show both my kids are in at Actor's Gymnasium the final two weekends of the month. 

We returned to Six Flags Great America around 7pm and were back till the park closed at 10pm. 

I took the camera this time and set the teens loose with their friends. They had a blast riding coasters, fleeing screaming from creepy costumed characters, and enjoying their friends. I stalked a few vampires, werewolves and freaks myself and shot them (with my camera). 

The costuming is excellent, with airbrushed makeup and impressive attention to detail, even down to creepy contacts. 

And the monsters put on a high energy show for their shifts, messing with people, hiding for startle scares, and rushing the fearful and chasing them.  

Then I settled in for a show and watched a slew of people get hypnotized by Susan Rosen, Mistress of Mesmerism at The Pictorium. Fun fun. 

We all met back up by the fountain at the end of the night. Fright fest after dark is an exciting mash up of pounding metal, screams, costumed creeps, shows, haunted houses and rides galore. Do note, the haunted houses require extra admission fees or an all access wristband. Shows are included with general admission. Don't miss this. Fright Fest is fantastic Halloween themed fun for all ages. Highly recommended. 

**Click here to check out all the Fright Fest details plus our past photo recap, which includes the 6pm parade (highly recommended) and more.**

The parade is a great climax to an early day with kids before leaving for home. It's also a great starting time for teens and up, as the "witching hour" when the costumed creeps start stalking park patrons, and the music and attitude gets pumped up. Lines do increase as the day goes on, so if you love the big rides with the big lines, come early when the park opens to maximize ride time. It was as bit overcast when we went, with thunderstorms forecast, so the lines were minimal. We got lucky and the rains held off and so did the crowds! It was excellent.

Families with young kids can enjoy daylight trick or treating with non-scary characters and lots of family friendly rides. Do note, there is scary decor up in the park during the day, if your kids are easily unhinged, but nothing will pop out at them, and the creepy costumed characters stay hidden till after the parade.

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Tips: 
DROP OFF: Yes, there is a drop off if your kids are older and comfortable staying by themselves and you want to avoid the $25 parking fee. Stay to the far left as you enter the main entrance to parking and follow the signs. The drop off is spacious and has pull in spaces where you can wait for up to an hour. There are even picnic tables there in a little grove. Do note, unattended cars will be towed, so no parking there and trying to sneak in.

HOURS: We had the hardest time finding the open hours for Fright Fest as it varies by day and by weekend. They're hiding under the calendar, but we'll make it even easier on ya. Click HERE.

BUYER BEWARE: There are many 6 Flags parks across the country running Fright Fests and even some other unrelated haunts with the same name. We came across one poor couple on line who bought tickets to the WRONG park and were desperately trying to sell them for less than cost. Don't let this be you. Tickets are not refundable so make sure your date, location and everything is correct before you hit enter. Check and check again.

BE KIND TO MONSTERS: Sure it's instinct to lash out at or kick something creepy coming at you when you're pumped on adrenalin, but these are actors, and their job is to scare the pee out of you. If you're seriously freaking out, remember they can NOT touch you. Please don't hit or kick the actors even by accident, if you're flailing around. I had this job at a haunted house for 3 seasons and it's a ton of fun till someone gets punched. Don't get yourself ejected from the park. Play nice.

PAY NOW/PLAY NOW: Thinking about a season pass? Do it. Do it now. Then you get Fright Fest free as many times as you want to come this year, and the park for free in 2017. They're at the cheapest rate and best deal they'll be till the end of next season. Win win. No trick, just a treat! 

ChiIL Photo Favorites:
Once again, Dugan Kenaz-Mara gets photo credit for all the daylight hours shots, and I shot the after darks.

Disclosure: Once again, thanks to Six Flags Great America for providing my family with press comps, so we could come out and shoot and review. We were not compensated in any other way. As always all opinions, photos and adventures are our own.