thoughtsfromher's Passport
 

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Member since:
22 February 2013

Icon_superoo_orangeSuperoo '13

Icon_pictureBeen to 104 Attractions
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Icon_star160 First to Review
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About Me & My Family

Hi! I'm a working mom of two kids - one's a toddler and the other is a teenager. FUN! {That was sarcasm, of course.} I love exploring and going on adventures with my kids and can always find something to teach them with each experience.
Our Family's Travel Personality
structured, relaxed
We Just Got Back From
Our last family trip was a long weekend getaway to Wisconsin Dells, WI.
Our Favorite Vacation Spot
Disneyworld!
A Place We'd Love To Visit
It would be great to tour London as a family.
Favorite Vacation Memory
I took my daughter on a mommy/daughter solo trip when she was 6 (she's 14 now). We had the BEST time, just the two of us. And now we did it again this year to LA. Love our alone time!
Worst Travel Moment With My Kids:
LOL (I actually just chuckled thinking about this)...My dad was giving us a ride to the airport. We were actually a little early (which ended up being a GOOD thing). We were circling the gates at O'Hare Airport looking for our departure drop-off when it dawned on me...we were at the WRONG airport! We should've been at Midway. My dad rushed us to where we were supposed to be and, miraculously, we didn't miss our flight!
Websites I Like:
http://thoughtsfromher.com - my blog! And I always search Yelp.com when looking for a place to eat...and Trekaroo, of course!

Champaign, IL: More than a college town!

Most people think Illini sports when they think about the Champaign-Urbana area, but my family can tell you that it's family-friendly too!

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346 North Neil
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 09 2013

"Have fun learning about science!"
My entire family visited the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum on a recent trip to the Champaign-Urbana area.   We dropped by on a Sunday afternoon about 10 minutes before the museum officially opened at noon.  A birthday party was just wrapping up while we waited for opening time.   It’s obvious that the museum used to be a theater and we loved the architecture and some of the original details inside.  The museum isn’t very large, but it is situated on 2 levels with various exhibits that incorporate a fun way to learn about science.

The Good:  My toddler son had a great time at some of the exhibits at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum.  Some of his favorites were the train table (of course…it was so hard to pry him away from the train table), the water table (again, a favorite among many kids – but this table was different in that it had different sized plastic pieces that you could configure to control water flow), and a sand table with purple sand!

My teenage daughter and I really enjoyed the Momentum Machine on the lower level.  A small spinning circle teaches angular momentum -  just like you see the figure skaters do on the ice.  You kick off with one leg, hold your leg out to the side, then slowly bring your leg back to your other leg.  You’ll start spinning faster and faster!  We were so dizzy but kept trying it out over and over again!

During the summer months, the outdoor courtyard features a dinosaur dig area where kids can excavate dinosaur bones from the large sand pit.

There were many opportunities at the museum to teach your kids a science lesson.  My son, while only a toddler, had lots of “Why?” questions for us about different exhibits – thank goodness my husband was there to answer many of his science-related questions.

The Bad:  The museum was a tad bit on the small side, and we couldn’t get some of the exhibits on the second level to work – due to missing pieces and such.

Overall:  The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is a great way to spend a few hours.  Children will benefit from the many science lessons found throughout the museum – and they’ll have tons of fun doing it!  Admission is only $5 per person, so it's an inexpensive educational outing for the kids!

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

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3902 S. Duncan Rd.
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 20 2013

"Beautiful apple orchard in Champaign!"
For my family, there’s no better place to visit in the fall than an apple orchard.  We love the fall colors, the cooler weather, and the many activities apple orchards offer for kids.  We recently visited Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch while on a recent trip to the Champaign-Urbana area and had a great time!

The Curtis Orchard farm produces apples and pumpkins and is open from July 20 – December 20 each year.  They are conveniently located right off of I-57 in Champaign.

The Good:  We visited Curtis Orchard the weekend after Halloween and there was still lots to do.  Admission to the Orchard is free, but there is a fee for some of the activities.  My toddler enjoyed the Munchkinland Toddler Area (free), the Giant Slide ($1), and the Playground ($2).  My teenager had to take pictures for her photography class at school and found plenty of beautiful scenery to shoot.

We loved having lunch at the Flying Monkey Café and purchasing some baked goods and apple cider from the Country Store & Bakery.  I was surprised at the size of both the café and the store.  The food in the café was absolutely delicious and reasonably priced.  Dining space is plentiful too!

The Bad:  Unfortunately, when we visited (the first week of November) many of the seasonal activities like the petting zoo and pony rides were already over, and we would have loved to enjoy some of those activities.  Otherwise, we thought the Curtis Orchard was great!

Overall:  I would definitely bring my family back for a return visit to Curtis Orchard – I’ll just make sure to come earlier in the fall season to take advantage of all the amenities that Curtis’ has to offer.

Disclosure: My family received a complimentary gift card to the Curtis Orchard in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

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1356 County Rd. 2900 N.
Rantoul, Illinois


reviewed on: November 20 2013

"Families will love meeting the real reindeer!"
If you’re looking for something completely unique to do in the Champaign area, I highly recommend Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, IL.  Located only 20 minutes from central Champaign, Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch offers activities the whole family will enjoy.  My entire family – my husband and I, our teenage daughter, our toddler, and my mom - visited Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch recently on a recent trip to the Champaign-Urbana area.   We visited on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon and were so excited to see what a reindeer ranch was all about.  I mean, it’s not every day you get to see a real, live reindeer!    

The Good:  We loved the variety of activities offered at Hardy’s.  The whole family can explore the GIANT 10-acre corn maze (you can seriously get lost in there for hours!), a paint ball gallery for older kids, hay rides the whole family can enjoy, a rustic playground area for younger kids, and the main attraction – the reindeer!  

The reindeer tour was a walk through the enclosed reindeer area where we were given some graham crackers and oats to feed the reindeer (they loved that) while our tour guide gave us some interesting facts about reindeer that surprised even me!  For instance, did you know that both male and female reindeer grow antlers and they shed every year – so measuring their antlers won’t give you any clues as to how old they are.  Cool, right?

Hardy’s also has a western-themed banquet hall to host parties and gatherings for up to 150 people.  I thought the weenie roast concept (designed for parties or groups of 15 or more) was great! You can enjoy hot dogs and chips, soda, campfire sticks and a Smores kit in a covered eating area for $16 per person (the Corn Maze, Carts and Hay Ride are included in the cost.)

During the winter months of mid-November through the end of December, Hardy’s is transformed into a winter wonderland offering cut-your-own Christmas trees and the popular reindeer tours.

The Bad:  While admission to Hardy’s is free, there is a small fee for each activity you choose to do.  This, of course, is fine, but it is a little confusing as to where to purchase the tickets when you arrive.  Tickets are sold at the register in the country store.

Also, I typically like to pack a sandwich lunch when my family is out for the afternoon, but you can’t bring your own food to picnic on Hardy’s grounds.  And, unless you’re with a large group, there aren’t any other food options here.

Overall:  Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch is a unique experience not to be missed.  While I wouldn’t block out an entire day to spend here, it’s definitely a great adventure for the whole family.  The best part?  BOTH of my kids loved getting the chance to see and feed the reindeer!

Disclosure: My family received a complimentary reindeer tour in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

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2400 West Bradley Ave
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 20 2013

"We loved the kid-friendly show!"
My toddler is obsessed with our solar system.  He’s three now, but has been able to recite the planets (in order) since he was 26 months old.  So, what better activity for my astronomer-in-training than a trip to the William M. Staerkel Planetarium?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous to take him to a planetarium show because I wasn’t sure he’d be able to sit still through the whole thing.  I’ve never even taken him to the movies before so this would be our first movie experience together.  We had tickets to the “Santa’s Secret Star” show on a Saturday so I was banking on it being kid-friendly.  Thankfully, it was!

The Good:  The planetarium theater itself was beautiful.  Located on the Parkland College campus, the planetarium’s state-of-the-art digital projection system, operated by the (nicest) planetarium director, Dave Leake, proved to be breathtaking.  His storytelling held my son’s attention the entire time – and I’m sure seeing Santa up in the sky didn’t hurt either!

The Bad:  At the time of our visit, campus construction blocked the front entrance of the planetarium, making it a bit difficult to navigate our way inside.

Overall:  We loved the kid-friendly show at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, and would certainly return for another show!

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

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2000 North Neil Street
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 08 2013

"Nice, large shopping mall in Champaign!"
While on a recent trip to the Champaign-Urbana area with my family, I visited the Market Place Mall with my teenage daughter.  For us, it was a nice mom/daughter getaway from the rest of the family while my toddler napped back at the hotel.

The Good:  I was pleasantly surprised to find this large shopping mall in less than a 10 minute drive away from our hotel.  The mall holds many of the trendy shops preferred by teens and has a beautiful (& large) food court.  I was happy with the variety of shops this mall offered and the variety of cuisines offered at the food court.  There’s also a Buca Di Beppo restaurant located off the food court, a family-style Italian restaurant known for its large portion sizes.

The food court is also home to a beautiful carousel (fee charged) and a children’s play area that smaller kids will love.

The Bad:  I’m not much of a mall person so I can’t say I was thrilled walking around (and spending $$$!) in a shopping mall, but by teenage daughter certainly enjoyed herself.

Overall:  I love that this mall is conveniently located off the highway (I-57) and the variety of shops available at the mall and surrounding area are sure to please the whole family.

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2001 North Lincoln Avenue
Urbana, Illinois


reviewed on: November 12 2013

"We loved the spacious rooms and indoor pool!"
My family recently visited the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois for the weekend and stayed at the Comfort Suites hotel. My entire family was along for the trip – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom. The Comfort Suites offers adjoining rooms, making our stay as comfortable as possible.  

Hotel:  The Comfort Suites hotel may not look like much from the outside, but I can assure you that we loved this hotel.  The staff at the front desk was very friendly and accommodating.  They were happy to answer all of my questions.  Aside from the front desk, there is a sitting area located near the entrance.

My favorite part of our stay, honestly, was the complimentary breakfast offered by the hotel.  While coffee is available all day (we LOVED that), breakfast included fruits, yogurt, bagels, donuts, cereal, oatmeal, a waffle-making station, and some hot options like eggs, sausage, etc. (those items varied by day).  This is definitely a great option for families, as dining out for every meal can get expensive.

My kids loved the pool area at the Comfort Suites.  The pool wasn’t very large, but there weren’t a lot of people in the pool when we visited, so we didn’t feel cramped at all.  There was also a hot tub and complimentary pool towels to use for guests.

Room:  I was most surprised at the size of our rooms at the Comfort Suites.  We were fortunate to secure two adjoining rooms – one with a king bed and the other with 2 queens. Each room had a large sitting area with a couch and a small table, and had a writing desk and television.  A great feature for families is that all rooms come with a small refrigerator and microwave.  The room was also very clean and I did not notice any stains or rips in the upholstery.  I also liked the fact that the hotel offers free WiFi to guests, as we needed it for my son to view content on our tablet.

Overall:  We enjoyed our stay at the Comfort Suites Champaign-Urbana. The amenities offered by the hotel is just what my family needed for a comfortable stay.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to any family wishing to visit the Champaign-Urbana area.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary accommodations in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

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2511 Village Green Place
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 20 2013

"Great place for a family meal."
If you’re looking for a great family-friendly place to eat that serves delicious food, you will not be disappointed with Jupiter’s at the Crossing!  I recently visited Jupiter’s with my family – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom – and we loved it!  We’re not from the Champaign area, so I was a little apprehensive about choosing a yummy spot to eat, but I stumbled on Jupiter’s and I’m so glad we did.

The Good:  Our initial thought when we walked into Jupiter’s was WOW…really!  We were so impressed with the modern feel and large space – lots of dining tables, video games, pool tables, and TV’s…lots and lots of TV’s!  Gotta watch those Illini games somewhere, right?

So the space was great, and I was hoping that the food would live up to the fantastic venue.  And I can tell you with absolute certainty that it does!  We ordered chicken wings as an appetizer – SO GOOD, a specialty Gyro Pizza – unique and delicious, my toddler had a personal cheese pizza, and I had the Chicken Bacon Ranch Grinder – a favorite of mine.  All solid choices.

The Bad:  We found nothing to be lacking at Jupiter’s.

Overall:  The venue is spacious, the food is great, the restrooms were clean, and there were video games the kids could play while we waited.  An all-around fantastic choice for a family meal.

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1909 W Springfield Ave # B
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 12 2013

"Long wait times on the weekend, but food is great!"
My family recently visited the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois for the weekend and visited the Original Pancake House on a Saturday morning.  My family – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom – walked in, saw the crowd of people waiting to be seated and almost walked out. Thankfully I was able to convince my husband to wait in the car with my toddler while my daughter and I got our name on the list and waited inside for a table.  Unfortunately, the Original Pancake House does not take reservations, so everyone is forced to wait around inside for an empty table to open up.  Our wait time was a little over 35 minutes.  

The Good:  The food at the Original Pancake House was great!  There were a lot of different pancake options on the menu.  My mom ordered the seasonal pumpkin pancakes and they were delicious!  The rest of us ordered eggs and waffles and everything was tasty.

The Bad:  Obviously the wait time was no fun – especially when visiting with a hungry toddler!  The Original Pancake House tries to accommodate everyone by adding bench seating in the waiting area, but it still wasn’t enough for everyone to have a seat.

Overall:  We enjoyed our meal at the Original Pancake House, however, next time we’ll try to visit at an off-peak time.  This place is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Champaign-Urbana area.

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1917 West Springfield Ave.
Champaign, Illinois


reviewed on: November 12 2013

"Tasty food, but wish there were more options for kids."
Lil Porgy’s Bar-B-Q is located right on University Avenue, near a few other dining options and some strip malls.  I visited with my entire family (husband, mom, and 2 kids) on a Friday night.  Don’t let the outside façade of the building fool you – it might not look like much, but the food is dang good!

The Good:  We loved that the menu was limited to a few items (making it easier to make a choice on what to order).  There’s your ribs, rib tips, chicken, shrimp, and a few sandwich options.  All orders come with bread and French fries, but there are lots of side options too.

The Bad:  I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t a kids menu to choose from, so it made ordering something for my toddler very difficult.  (We ended up just letting him choose what he wanted to eat from our plates.)

The only negative thing I can say about the food is that the mild sauce tasted too sweet (like cinnamon), but the mixed sauce (a mix of the mild and hot) was great.

Overall: Lil Porgy’s Bar-B-Q is great for a quick bite to eat.  The rib tips were very tasty, it was just hard to pick something for a toddler to eat.