Reviews & Photos
May 12 2013
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676 North Michigan Avenue,
Located on the fifth floor of the Omni Chicago hotel, Restaurant 676 was a fun culinary experience - even with two cranky toddlers.
Atmosphere - We are a pretty laid back family, so when our family walked in, we immediately felt under-dressed. The restaurant is a little more upscale than what we’re used to. We were also worried that our two cranky toddlers would be too much to handle. Luckily, the waiters and manager were more than forgiving; they loved interacting with our toddlers.
Menu and Food: Though 676 Restaurant is known for their steaks, we were here to check out Omni's limited time street food menu. We sampled 6 different types of street food found all over the world - from Boston to Brazil to Abu Dhabi - all with a twist. With dishes like the crunchy braised lamb tostadas to the Char Kway Teow noodles typically found in Singapore, it was so much fun to "travel the world in just one bite." Though it was hard to just choose one favorite, I enjoyed the Boston sandwich the best (others would agree with me since it happens to also be their most popular dish.) My husband on the other hand couldn't get enough of the Char Kway Teow noodles and said "this is how it should be done" as he was stuffing mouthfuls of noodle into his mouth. Although we were full from sampling the street food, I of course had to leave room for dessert. I went with the waiter’s recommendation - an awesome bread pudding with the signature sea salt caramel. Delicious!
While we loved the different types of food, my toddlers were a little less adventurous. We decided to play it safe and ordered from the kids menu instead. It was nice to see that the Omni offered more than the typical kids menu foods. (How often do you see freshly pureed baby food?) Their food even comes in a cool metal lunch box. What I love most about their menu is that most of the items are from local farms.
Service: The service was great - prompt and attentive, and the management very friendly towards our kids. We had dinner during the kids witching hour, and what could have been a very bad dinner turned out fine. At first we weren't given crayons or coloring sheets; but once I asked I was surprised to find that they had given them a full coloring book instead of the usual coloring sheets.
Pricing: Each dish on the street food menu averaged around $10 for a little larger than tapas-sized portions. I thought that was a fair price given the quality of the items.
Tips: Ask for a window seat - there are gorgeous views of Michigan Avenue. Makes for a great distraction for the kids!
Bottom Line: If you are in the area and want food with quality, locally-sourced ingredients I would recommend it here. If they had the street food menu again, I would come again in a heartbeat. But Omni's menu is always changing and adding special items to their menu. No doubt they are taking hotel dining to a different level!
Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary meal at 676 Restaurant. The hotel did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view. All opinions are my own.
May 01 2013
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Crawdaddy Cove Indoor Water Park
1109 FOURIER DRIVE,
"Perfect for younger children"
On our recent trip to Madison, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites. The main reason we chose this hotel was because of the waterpark. Just as I thought, the main highlight of our stay was of course the Louisiana bayou-themed waterpark, Craw Daddy Cove. It couldn't have been more perfect for my three-year-old and one-year-old; it wasn't too large and overwhelming. My water loving toddlers enjoyed the kiddy area complete with a zero-depth entry pool, several mini-fountains and mini-slides. I thought the huge Crawdaddy shrimp boat would be the main highlight of the waterpark, but found that it didn't have many cool things to play with except two kiddie slides.
Though my tots were to young to enjoy the 55’ open-body water slide, we did see others having a blast. Adults seeking relaxation will find the extra large whirlpool a blessing. Kids that would rather stay dry can still have fun at the game room. If you aren't a hotel guest you could buy a pass for the day - $15 for adults and $10 for kids. The waterpark shows signs of wear but it didn't stop the kids from having fun. Try to bring your own towels - theirs are tiny.
Bottom Line: It would be nice to buy a pass and spend a few hours splashing around but may get a tad expensive.My suggestion - stay at the Holiday Inn and enjoy the facilities to it's fullest!
April 28 2013
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5651 River Road,
"Be one with the birds..."
On our latest trip to Niagara Falls, we had heard about the Bird Kingdom and wanted to see it for ourselves.
We had about an hour left before closing, so we were in a rush to make sure we saw everything. We started by going through their exhibits, a smaller aviary, a room with reptiles, bats and other nocturnal animals, but the main highlight was of course the main aviary room. Once we walked in the room, we could hear birds tweeting about. We started at the top and as we made our way down to the main level, it was interesting to see the birds going about their business. Some birds would be flying overheard; others were perched on trees; others oblivious to the fact we were there. My oldest had fun trying to find the birds; my youngest trying to chase the birds.
Overall, it was a fun time for the whole family to be able to see different types of birds in a more natural environment. Since there are more than birds here, it would be an ideal place for animal lovers as well.
Disclosure: Our family was provided complimentary admission to enjoy Bird Kingdom. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.
April 26 2013
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Omni Chicago Hotel
676 N Michigan Ave,
We had plans to visit the Omni Hotel Chicago to check out their limited-time street food menu. We had no idea that by staying here we had found our new favorite Chicago hotel.
Location: The Omni is located in the heart of the famous shopping street, the Magnificent Mile (at the corner of Huron and Michigan). It is literally just a few steps away from stores like Apple, Niketown, and the Disney store. Water Tower Place with great kid-friendly stores such as American Girl Place and the Lego store is just a few blocks away. In need of culture? The Museum of Contemporary Art is within walking distance and Millenium Park, the Art Institute, and the museum campus are just a short drive away.
Note: Don’t forget this is Chicago - the land of outrageous parking rates. The rates are typical - valet parking with in and out privileges cost $56, or a parking garage a few minutes walk away that costs about $30 for a 24 hr period. Tip: Allow yourself 20 minutes for the valet to retrieve your car.
Hotel: After two hours in rush hour traffic and a toddler who had just thrown up in the car, we just wanted to relax once we arrived.
We encountered wonderful customer service from the moment we stepped out of our car to the minute we checked out of the hotel.
The Omni staff not only welcomed us with open arms, but made us feel at home. After my son's incident, the front desk was sincerely concerned and brought him chicken soup.
Kids: Even before we made our way to the lobby (3rd floor) the staff on the main level welcomed our two toddlers with their own Omni Sensational Kids backpacks. My son, already toting a Thomas backpack, quickly replaced it with one given by the hotel. As you can imagine, the kids were more than ready to dive into those backpacks. Once they did open it they were excited to find all sorts of fun things -
crayons, fun maps, a ball, Frisbee, candy, magnifying glass. As another indication of how the Omni caters to families, we we able to borrow another bag pack full of games. Most of the games catered to older kids but it didn't stop them from enjoying Connect 4, Yahtzee, a coloring book, and card games. We also took advantage of the Omni’s DVD players that are available upon request. No movies? No problem - we could borrow movies from their small library.
The Room: We had the privilege of staying in one of the Omni’s Superior corner suites that provided a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. The real highlight was the gorgeous views of Michigan Avenue from our suite. In fact, above our
headboard was windows opening up to the Mag Mile. It was nice to have a little privacy with French doors hat opened up to the master bedroom. Our king size bed was as comfortable as it looked, though we were surprised to find that the old school television in the master bedroom was not up to caliber of such a nice hotel, and rather preferred the flat screen tv in the sitting area.
Restaurants: The hotel has one restaurant - Restaurant 676 (located on the 4th floor) which we had the privilege of dining at for dinner. (Read my review: http://www.trekaroo.com/restaurants/676-restaurant-chicago-illinois) As a tradition, we ordered room service for breakfast on our last day there. The meals had beautiful presentation and delicious though small portion sizes. Our kids loved the lunch box the kids meal came in which can be purchased.
Amenities: There is a small but nice fitness center (5th floor) that has access to the sundeck.The highlight of course was splashing around in the medium-sized pool. It was no deeper than 3 feet deep, and there were even beach balls and floaties to borrow. Summertime would have been a great time to take advantage of the sun deck; but since we visited during springtime we were satisfied just taking in the awesome views overlooking Michigan Avenue.
We are members of the Select guest program (sign up - its free) so each morning they brought free beverages such as coffee, milk, tea, orange juice to our room. We were particularly thankful to have had the fridge which is available upon request)The best perk? Free wi-fi.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a great location, a hotel geared towards the youngest visitors, and exceptional customer service, then look no further than the Omni Hotel Chicago.
Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary stay at the Omni Hotel Chicago. I received no other compensation besides the hotel stay and meal at the 676 Restaurant. The hotel did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view. All opinions are my own.
April 19 2013
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6151 Portage Road,
On our recent trip to Michigan, we stayed overnight at Kalamazoo for one reason - to visit the Air Zoo. It was definitely worth the stopover.
Nitty Gritty: Admission is $10 for adults; children 4 and under are free. There is plenty of parking. Feel free to bring strollers - lots of room to roam about.
The Fun: After buying our tickets and "walking through the clouds" we came face to face with all sorts of aircraft - planes, helicopters, and even a Blackbird. The fun didn't end there. General admission also granted us the opportunity to go on some of the amusement-type rides that included a ferris wheel, a plane ride, and a couple others. The best part was that adults were allowed on the rides as well. It was really so much fun! There's even an area dedicated for the youngest visitors - little rides, coloring station, and even toys. It was tough tearing them away from this area. Boy were we glad we did - we explored the space section with tons of interactive activities, with another section dedicated to more aircraft.
A short walk leads you to the East Tower, but we'd have to save it for another time.
Tip: Don't forget to check out the murals painted all over the museum. Truly a wonderful and amazing spectacle.
Bottom LIne: For those in the area, the Air Zoo is worth a stop for not only for aircraft afficionados, but for the entire family.