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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hometowns: Honolulu and Chicago

Recently I was contacted by travel expert extraordinaire, Kendra Thornton, who asked if I would be interested in a collaborative blog post sharing a little bit about why we love our hometowns.


I was skeptical. Why would a TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, former Director of Communications for ORBITZ, and full-time mommy of three be contacting ME? But after asking a few questions and making sure she was the real deal I sucked it up to being an awesome opportunity to share a little bit about this awesome state that I live in, and to learn a little bit about her hometown of Chicago!

I can't say that I know much about Chicago, but I can tell you for certain that it is faaaaaaar away from here! (4,246 miles from Honolulu! Yes, I Googled it!) And since that is pretty much the extent of what I know about the windy city I think it's only appropriate that Kendra takes over from here! My take on Honolulu will be next! Now heeeeeeeere's Kendra!

An Insider's Guide to Chicago 

Chicago, the “Windy City” has so many things to do that it might be intimidating to a first time visitor—it can even be intimidating to a lifelong resident!  However, this assortment of activities and to do’s makes Chicago what it is: a fun, big, culture filled city.  There is an almost endless list of wonderful attractions, shopping, and restaurants.  There are many choices of places to stay while visiting our fair city.  To list them all would need enough pages to fill a book.  However, I can point you to some of my favorites.

On South Lakeshore Drive stands the Field Museum of Natural History.  It is a wonderful place to take children.  It has a balance of educational things to see and fun things for children to do.  They always have traveling exhibits in addition to the wonderful selection of permanent exhibits such as the massive, Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur fossils.  With the traveling exhibits, a visit to the Field museum is never the same experience twice.  

If you enjoy artwork, the Chicago Cultural Center is a must-see.  Located across from Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park in the famous Loop, it is one of my favorite places to visit.  It is one of Chicago's most visited attractions, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  It is home to the world's largest stained glass Tiffany dome, which is 38 feet in diameter and contains over 30,000 pieces of glass. The center is also host to many free public events, and is located right near Millennium Park is you want to venture there as well.

Of course, Chicago is filled with history as well.  Some of the older hotels, like the Drake, are filled with Chicago history.  No matter if you're looking for something historical, or something new and shiny, Chicago's hotel industry has something to meet your needs.  Even if those needs are simply the best nightly rate for you and your family, the information you need can be had quickly and easily.  I find that gogobot is a great resource for finding the hotel that best fits your needs.   

Naturally, you're going to need to eat while you're here.  Among all the wonderful breakfast shops throughout the city, Lou Mitchell's stands out from the crowd.  Some of the best food in town is served here by “Uncle Lou” and kids love coming here.  One of Chicago's most iconic restaurants, it also has the benefit of being reasonably priced.  The fair pricing ensures that you can have a wonderful meal without breaking your budget.  A fun fact about Lou Mitchell's is that they hand out Milk Duds to all the ladies and children who enter.  The reason being that Milk Duds were invented in Chicago and the creator was a friend and customer of Lou's.   

While there is much more to see and do in Chicago, I hope I have given you some ideas.  No matter how you spend your time here, I am sure you will find many ways to enjoy your stay.  The history and beauty of our fair city offers much to do, with even those of us who live here often finding new things to do and see.  I wish you a fun and happy adventure!

So many fun adventures! Thank you, Kendra, for sharing! 

Now, what to say about Hawaii? How hard can it be to write about this state that I love?

Uhhhh, much harder than I thought.

When I actually sat down and started thinking about what to write I couldn't. It wasn't for lack of trying! It's just that....well....I hate to brag but there is so much to love about living here! The weather; the people; the beaches; the food; the music; the culture! I could go on and on! Unlike those that suffer from the occasional  "Island Fever" (the feeling of needing to get off "the rock") I never do!

So what to share? It was agonizing trying to narrow my choices down but I was finally able to. Since I am a full-time mom of two young girls I thought I would share two of our favorite FREE things to do on Oahu. While it is possible, it is highly unlikely you will find these places listed as "must-dos" in travel guides.

#1 The Beach: Baby Makapu'u

When we have a free day and the weather is cooperating (almost always!) we go to the BEACH!  But which one? Living on an island we are surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful beaches. I recently gave a circle-island tour to some friends who were vacationing here. They nonchalantly mentioned, "Yeah, we drove around and saw the beaches, but they all look the same."

Ahhhhh. Yes. I could see where someone not from here might say that.

Water. Sand. Rocks. Repeat. 

But that is where they are wrong. The beaches are not the same, not at all! As a matter of fact, what beach we go to depends on what we want to do while there. Snorkel? Boogie board? Paddle board? Kayak? Play in the tide pools? Swing on a rope into the water? Also, not all beaches have bathrooms, showers or parking.We also have to take into consideration any ocean conditions that might be hazardous such as high surf, man-o-war/jellyfish, strong currents or dangerous shore break.

Hands down one of our most favorite beaches is "Baby Makapu'u" (also known as "Cockroach Bay".) The water conditions (high-tide, low-tide, high-surf, or no-surf) will determine how you will spend your day there! The view is guaranteed to always be amazing! Take a look!

View from Baby Makapu'u - Rabbit Island (Hawaii State Sea Bird Sanctuary) in the distance.
View from Baby Makapu'u: To the left - Makai Pier. Can you make out the hang glider in the sky?
 Almost every day is good for checking out the tide pools:


Or sitting in them:

Or jumping into them when the tide is high and the water is deep!

Or looking for sea creatures.....

Or just hanging out! See how amazingly clear and calm the water can be?


 And there is always room to just sit and enjoy the view.......

Or play a little football.......

Stronger/older swimmers can enjoy snorkeling in the deeper water and/or riding on their boogie boards, surfboards, skim boards, etc.


Wipe outs are inevitable:

But we always have a great time! 

A few things to know before you go:

1) There are no signs marking the location of the beach.
2) Parking is available. Please be sure to secure your valuables and vehicle.
3) There are no showers/bathrooms, however, there is one up the road at Makapu'u Beach Park if you are willing to make the trek.
4) The rocks can be slippery and sharp. Use caution.
5) There is minimal shade. 
6) There are two spigots, one on each end of the parking lot that you can use to rinse off your feet/equipment.
7) There are also trashcans available near the parking lot. Please use them! 
8) This is a popular beach for families so it can get crowded. I recommend going early in the morning or late in the afternoon.


Baby Makapu'u is located in Waimanalo between between Sea Life Park and the Makai Pier. 

Coming from Honolulu/Waikiki: Follow directions to Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo Beach, HI 96795). Pass the entrance to Sea Life Park on your left. Watch for the exit (which will quickly approach) as the road to Baby Makapu'u will be almost directly across from it. Turn right, then at the fork in the road turn left down into the parking lot.

Coming from the Windward side:  Follow directions to Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo Beach, HI 96795). Drive through Waimanalo town. Pass Makai pier on your left (you can't miss it!) After you pass the pier the next road on the left will be the entrance to Baby Makapu'u. Turn left, then turn left at the fork in the road down into the parking lot.

The second place I would recommend has beautiful ocean views but does not require you to get wet!

#2: Cardboard Surfing at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park

Kaka'ako Waterfront Park is located south of downtown Honolulu. It is a free public park where people come to jog, picnic, ride their bicycles, fish, and enjoy the view. It is also home to the infamous body surfing spot, "Point Panic".

The park has large, grassy hills. People of all ages bring their cardboard boxes to try and cardboard surf down the hill. The goal is to slide down the hill as fast and as far as you can!

Here are some pictures from the last time we went!

The kids picked which hill they wanted to slide down first. Some of the kids had larger boxes which they sat in. The other boxes were a bit smaller so they flattened them:

They weren't too impressed with this particular hill so they packed up and went on a search for another. They also swapped out their cardboard boxes for their boogie boards. The leash on their boogie boards made it easier to pull one another:

Big sister pulls little sister....

Little sister laughs when big sister wipes out!

Riding double and being pulled is the way to go!
Wipe out!
Surfing down the hill standing up!

Sliding down on her knees!

Sometimes those little legs get moving a little too fast and cause a wipe out! See the fear and anticipation in their faces?

But the day always ends with lots of laughter, tired legs, and some grass stained clothes!

Things to know before you go:  

1) Free parking. Please be sure to secure your valuables and your vehicle.
2) Bathrooms, showers, and water fountains are available.
3) Lots of shade and picnic tables.
4) Paved jogging path.
5) While there is beach access via concrete stairs, there is no sand at this beach. This beach is mostly used by experienced body surfers.
Location: Kaka'ako Waterfront Park is located at the end of Ohe Street, next to the Children's Discovery Center (102 Ohe St, Honolulu, HI 96813). 

That wraps up two of our favorite family-friendly and free things to do on Oahu! Whether you live here or are visiting, hopefully you will have the opportunity to try both! Many thanks to Kendra Thornton for asking me to be a part of her "Hometown" series and for sharing about her home town of Chicago! You can find Kendra on Twitter at @KendraThornton.