This trip was my first time purchasing a city pass card for attractions. It has always felt like too much of a commitment to me. We had whole week dedicated to going to attractions, so we purchased the Chicago Go Card-the 5 choice Explorer version-from a Travelzoo deal for $100 each.There are at least five different types of cards to choose from and I am sure that every pass works well and in the end they are all similar in price. Most have some sort of deal going at anytime that essentially provides about $10 off. This particular pass had all the museums I wanted (except the Shedd Aquarium), two trade-in locations and seemed simpler than some of the others. The pass is purchased online and then you retrieve the official card from either Chicago 360 (Hancock Building) or the Field Museum. The first of our five attractions was The Field Museum, it was the first time there for both my husband and me.
The Field Museum
We visited mid-day on a Thursday. The Museum was very busy with school field trips. Museums are frequently visited toward the end of the school year and are often a bit more full of kiddos on weekdays than normal.
This is a massive Museum and I can usually only handle 3-4 hours in a Museum. So, we went in knowing that it would be impossible to see everything. Of course we saw Sue, the T. Rex while exploring the entrance hall. The architecture of the building alone is worth the visit. We started with the optional China exhibit (a choice upon entrance is given between China or a 3-D movie). The exhibit was well-done with an good amount of history, interaction and artifacts.
Next we went through the Evolving Planet exhibit, while aimed toward children, the various full dinosaur skeletons and fossils were worth trudging through the groups of kids.
As an add-on we purchased the Terracotta Warriors exhibit pass. We tried to see this exhibit a few years ago in San Francisco but went on a free day and the lines were hours long so we missed it. The exhibit was well worth the wait, especially for anyone fascinated with the great mysteries of history and relatively recent archaeological discoveries.
The Pacific Spirits and Traveling the Pacific Exhibits were very interesting. A section of the world that most people are not exposed to and whose history seems overshadowed by tourism. The Ancient Egypt exhibit was old and beaten up, seemed more like a play ground at this stage of its life.
Finally, we got stuck in what I will call the taxidermy diorama exhibit. There has to be over 1,000 dead animals and very bad exit signs. I appreciate the history behind this sort of natural history museum, but do enjoy them.
Overall the Field Museum was well-worth it. There are so many different types of exhibits that it can easily appeal to multiple generations and education levels.
I am always looking for ways to make travel more convenient and conscious (since something has to make up for the 8 mile per gallon RV). Last Fall I heard about the Hydaway travel bottle at a local economic development event. I drink a lot of water while I travel, but also do not believe in buying bottled water or drinking out of the tiny cups given on planes. I am also not a fan of lugging around a nalgene or other metal/plastic bottle while traveling (small carry-ons preferred!). So, this collapsible cup has potential.
We used it on a recent trip to Chicago, capturing some great Bend water from the airport before boarding. With the increasing amount of drinking fountains that have water bottle fill stations, it is usable for each leg of the flight. I also had the flight attendant fill it on board (pat on the back for not using a plastic cup!).
Pros: light, collapses to fit in a purse, did not leak, holds enough water for a couple hour flight
Con: when it is full it does not fit in a small bag or in the airline seat pocket or just rolls around on the floor. I am going to augment with a carabiner to attach it to my bag going forward. This should also help once arriving at a destination and using walking around a destination.
Hydaway, 21 oz.: https://hydawaybottle.com
Belknap Hot Springs, Metolius River, Oregon-October 2015
Belknap Hot Springs is a personal favorite of mine. Conveniently located about halfway between Bend and Eugene, Oregon; I passed it each time I drove home from college at the University of Oregon and never stopped. I finally took the time after a Duck game a few years ago and now it is an annual trip.
The springs flow from the side of rock wall and the Belknap Hot Springs Lodge and Gardens has redirected them to two pools. The lodge has RV and tent camping, cabins and lodge rooms. I am resisting the urge to post photos of the miles of trails that lead to gems like the Secret Garden- best discovered through your own wanderings. High in the Cascades in the raining forests of the Willamette Valley, these hot springs are a great trip year round. Clothing required and day use options are available.
Located just a bit up river is a man-made rock pool in the river on a forest service trail that captures water from another spring. This is free and clothing optional.
Crystal Crane Hot Springs, "Burns", Oregon-August 2015
Crystal Crane is located in an area of Eastern Oregon that is already surreal. Add in a pond, old motel, soaking tubs and campers ranging from hunters to hippies and you get one bizarrely wonderful experience. We were crazy enough to head out there in the middle of summer. Luckily the springs were actually not as hot as normal that weekend and it was more like soaking in a pleasant bath.
Burns recently reached national notoriety through the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Like the refuge, Crystal Crane is actually pretty far from Burns. Unlike the occupiers, residents and ranchers in this area are great people. While we were there the rooms and camp spots were mostly occupied by antelope hunters, families, weary travelers and a few hippies. Out of all the hot springs in this post, this is the only one not in a traditional pool setting.
In addition to the pond, they have private soaking tubs available for rental. I recommend forking over the additional funds and during busy times you will need a reservation. Since the spot is surrounded by private ranches, there is not great hiking around the property, but there are plenty of great side trips around the Malheur with historical and natural wonders. Day use options are also available and you can tell a variety of local families venture to Crystal Crane for the day.
Caracalla Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany-April 2015
The Caracalla Spa in Baden-Baden is part of a long tradition of baths in Germany, most famously from the Roman and Victorian eras. Luckily, the town is now accessible to even the middle class. Caracalla is the clothing-required, more tourist friendly spa. Friedrichsbad hosts the more traditional no clothing bathing sequence. Originally, this was our destination for our stay over in Baden-Baden, but after the clothing optional hotel spa in Fuessen (see below), I was up for some modesty.
Baden-Baden is a bit more upscale than many of the Black Forest towns with fancier restaurants, shops and its famous casino. There are some great low-key activities. We hiked up to the Altschloss, which is now part of a nature reserve. The hike was great, the castle is appropriately both crumbling and preserved for a truer version of a German castle than those in Bavaria. A bonus of this hike is a great restaurant featuring my favorite mid-hike fair - ice cream and beer. After hiking down we ventured our sore bodies into Caracalla.
Like many places that cater to tourists and locals in Europe, this spa was very busy. Hundreds of lockers give you a preview of the crowds. Once spread out in all the various pools though the crowd is a bit better. The spa is a series of pools from hot pools to cold plunge pools to a floating river. It includes a sauna, steam room and a no-clothing sauna hut for those seeking a dip into nudity.
Narrowing down my favorite pool would be impossible. After two weeks of plane travel, train travel, car travel, hiking and hotel beds standing under the high pressure water fountains as they pound on your shoulders was nearly as good as a massage.
The spas are not resorts, but there are many great hotel options. We opted for Hotel Magnetberg, just up the hill from the spa. It was a great hotel and had parking options.
Luitpoldpark Hotel, Fuessen, Germany-April 2015
When we were looking for hotels for our one-night in Fuessen, the Luitpoldpark Hotel jumped out because of the spa portion of the hotel. After a day of hiking around Linderhof and before hiking up to Neuschwanstein, a little relaxation sounded perfect. While the King Ludwig castles in Bavaria are the definition of a tourist trap, they are well worth the experience.
There was not much information available about how to utilize the spa, so we soon found ourselves in an awkward experience. Apparently the spa here is attached to a the local gym, so most the users were actually locals. Keys and towels were only available at the front desk (which inexplicably took two trips back up to the desk to learn). While the hot tubs were pleasant and the cold showers nice, it was a bit too chilly to enjoy the sun room. We did not brave the steam or sauna rooms. Perhaps if there had been another women in there and not just a group of older German men performing what seemed like their post gym rituals, I would have felt more comfortable. I am not a modest person and have enjoyed a clothing free pool in Germany before, but something about the close quarters made me stay in a bathing suit.
We learned a lot about the German spa experience on this one. Perhaps with a bit more clarification on what to expect I could enjoy something similar in the future. Fuessen is a charming Bavarian village that we enjoyed off-season and virtually free of tourists. As our "splurge" hotel on this trip, it was a lovely stay.
Kahneeta Resort and Spa, Warm Springs, Oregon-February 2015
Kahneeta counts as my first ever hot springs experience. As child I ventured there with friends' families, grandparents and on school field trips. As a teenager I even spent my first spa weekend there with my mother where I actually managed to get her on a horseback ride, we had massages and ate in the nice restaurant where I discovered I really nice restaurants, but I digress.
The Kahneeta Resort and Spa is many things to many people. There is mini golf, water slides, horse back riding, a spa, a casino, hotel, RV park and teepees. With the exception of the casino, it has evolved into a very kid oriented vacation location, which is great for those with kids. We do not have kids, nor do I particularly enjoy listening to their screams of joy going down a water slide. Luckily, in the dead of winter the location is snow and mostly kid free. We were one of only a couple of RVs in at the resort and enjoyed a relatively quiet pool. Unfortunately, the off-season also meant there was not shuttle from the pools/RV park to the main hotel or to the casino. So, we managed a short hike into the hills and along the Deschutes River before a relaxing float.
We are planning staff retreat to Kahneeta this Fall. It checks all the boxes for those of us in RV's, those that need hotel rooms, those of us with furbabies and those of us with kiddos.