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Staycation – July 2013

July 10th, 2013

Last week was our week-long staycation with E. With me not working we had to mind our budget but I think we did pretty good all things considered.

Amur Tiger

Monday we drove up to Milwaukee Zoo since E has never been there and I’ve been wanting to visit again. We expected to pay parking and admission for E since we get in free with our Cosley Zoo membership, but they only asked us to pay for parking which was nice. We packed a lunch which we enjoyed after walking around the zoo for two and a half hours. I have mixed feelings about the zoo because some of the exhibits I absolutely love, like the big cats, and some I find boring, like the gorillas and the indoor penguin exhibit (the outdoor one is nice, though). Here’s the photoset from the zoo.

Cellular One Field

Tuesday we had breakfast at a nearby restaurant because I was craving eggs benedict and rented A Good Day to Die Hard from Redbox. Holy crap was that movie bad! I mean bad as in not good. At all. Seriously, Bruce Willis should be ashamed to have been a part of it. I completely lost interest in it within the first twenty minutes. I love the Die Hard franchise and even enjoyed the previous one with Justin Long in it but this one was awful. Anyway, that evening we attended a White Sox game courtesy of a vendor Joe knows through work who has season tickets. Included in the package was a parking pass which allowed us access to the lot directly across from the gate. Talk about being pampered! I guess that’s how the rich live. *sigh* Since it was a holiday week they were running a special that included discounted food ($1 hot dogs, $2 popcorn, etc) so we got lots of eats, and hot chocolate since it dipped down into the 50’s during the course of the evening, and came out only $25 poorer. You can’t beat $25 for a major league baseball game with great seats and parking!

Wednesday we braved the crowds at Enchanted Castle which is an arcade and indoor amusement park. It wasn’t originally on our itinerary but the week before there was a Groupon I snagged for $26 which included 4 rolls of tokens, 4 rides, and two personal pizzas which based on the register total before the Groupon was applied would normally cost $53. I figured we’d just have to fork over a little extra cash for me to participate and it turns out that was only $6.25 more so I could play Laser Tag because a camp counselor was leaving and gave me his ride ticket for their go-karts. The go-karts were surprisingly fast but difficult to steer. Laser Tag, however, was a lot of fun even though my vest wasn’t working the first three minutes of the game. Despite the malfunction I got the same number of kills as Joe and our team won! This was only the second time I’ve ever played laser tag and while I prefer the two-level playing field at WhirlyBall, I still really enjoyed the experience.

Fireworks in Wheaton

Wednesday evening we drove to nearby Wheaton to watch their fireworks display which was mediocre at best but better than nothing. I think our town puts on a much better fireworks show but E never gets to see it because they do theirs during their Summerfest with a short 10 minute show on a Wednesday night and a longer one that following Sunday night.

Thursday we spent the morning and early afternoon just hanging out at home and then went to my parents’ to celebrate 4th of July. I was surprised at how many people were blowing off fireworks in their neighborhood. Check out the video. You wouldn’t think they were illegal in Illinois from all that racket!

Wrigley Field Sign

Friday we took the train (the blue line, to be exact) into Chicago. We debated whether to take the L all the way into the Loop and then switch to the red line and take it back up to Addison so E could see Wrigley Field, but I realized it would be quicker to get off the L at Addison and take the bus toward the lake. From Wrigley we walked south and stopped at Soupbox for lunch (thanks to another perfectly timed Groupon).

Lincoln Park Zoo Panorama

After lunch we ended up walking to Lincoln Park Zoo but we didn’t stay long because it was ridiculously crowded thanks to the beautiful weather (and the fact that it’s free and was the day after a holiday so more people than usual were off work). From the zoo we walked to the brown line and took that around the Loop so E could see the city up close and then we switched to the blue line to take it back north to where we had left the car at a park and ride lot. We ended up ordering pizza for dinner from Joe’s favorite place (aptly named Joseph’s).

Navy Pier Flags

Saturday‘s plan was to visit the Shedd Aquarium but as it turned out, in true Chicago fashion something was going on in the city and the meters where we like to park were unavailable after noon which meant we’d either have to seek parking elsewhere or resign ourselves to a quick visit to ensure we got back to the car before getting towed. Considering the projected cost of the visit (nearly $60 and that was with Joe and my general admission being free under Bank of America’s Museum on Us program), we decided it would be best to save that visit for later in the year when it was too cold outside to do much.

Swings at Navy Pier

Not wanting to head back home after driving all the way into the city, we found ourselves at Navy Pier which I’m just going to say for the record is not all that. In fact I think it’s one big, boring tourist trap. Seriously, unless you want to blow $100 going on two rides (ferris wheel and swings, and if you’re a kid, a carousel), playing their so-called Chicago-themed miniature golf (which merely have a Chicago-themed sign at each hole; otherwise it’s just a very plain nondescript course), stuffing your face full of over-priced food, or seeing an IMAX movie on their disappointing IMAX movie screen (been there, done that), there’s not much to do if you’re watching your budget. We walked around the entire area, however, trying in vein to feel like paying $25 just to park was worth it. We ended up having some gelato before giving up and heading back home. We stopped for burgers at Hamburger Heaven in Elmhurst for lunch on the way home and then went swimming at our pool.

I did the math and we spent just under $300 for the week. That included any eating out we did as well as all the gas to get around. It’s amazing to me how quickly things add up but it’s worth it if E enjoyed himself which he seemed to do, although ironically the cheaper things seemed to be more enjoyable (like playing with sparklers at my parents’ and going to the baseball game).

Oh, and here’s a weird thing that happened that week: we were on the blue line on Friday when we saw an unusual couple – a very old man with a very young Asian woman in a neon & black spandex dress. We joked he was bringing home his mail order bride since they were coming from O’Hare airport. We didn’t think much more of them until the next day when we were driving into the city and E spotted the same couple, wearing the same exact outfits from the day before, standing on a street corner waiting to cross! What are the chances of THAT? So now I want to know if there was a glitch in The Matrix or what. And I’m still curious if she really is a mail order bride and whether she owns any other outfits. It was just freaky.

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