Christkindlemarket Chicago

It’s that time of year again. Grab your warm attire and get ready to celebrate Christmas in Chicago, German style!

For those of you who are not familiar with one of Chicago’s most popular traditions, Christkindlmarket is located in Daley Plaza for a few short weeks in November and December. Vendors from Germany, the United States, and other areas of the world set up shop and create a holiday wonderland.

Christkindlmarket is an old German tradition that began in Nurnberg, Germany. Vendors sell their specialty items from their stalls at these Christmas markets. Patrons walk the market admiring goods and purchasing items to add to their holiday decor and traditions.

Chicago has adopted this tradition and invites vendors from all over to participate. It’s a wonderful experience; you can shop and also speak to the friendly vendors who love sharing stories about their home town and how much they look forward to coming to Chicago to show off their goods. I love coming here and truly enjoy it. I do understand how overwhelming it can seem since it’s in the heart of Chicago during a busy time of year, so here are my tips to making your visit an enjoyable one!

1) Tanya’s Parking Tip

If you are traveling from the suburbs and you have kids under 7, I would suggest skipping public transportation and park your car in a nearby garage. A way to save money ahead of time at a nearby garage is to download the Spothero app. This will pin point areas with affordable parking, for any budget. I was able to find parking a block away for $13 and was able to stay parked for over 10 hours. Make sure you download this before parking in a garage. Sign up with SpotHero and save $5.

2) Christkindl with Kids: Kinder Speil

Kids can play a passport game. Before, you begin stop by the information stand and grab a passport for your kids. This is an awesome experience, you get to look at all the vendor’s goods and your kids are looking for the stands with the passport sign marked. It’s a win for all.

3) Staying Warm

Drink the traditional Gluehwine with or without alcohol. This always reminds me of when I was a kid growing up in Germany and going to the local Christkindle Markets. I had the Kinder Gluehwine (non alcoholic) and would walk the area trying to find an ornament for myself.

4) Eat up

I understand it is a little scary trying different food and it’s tempting to go somewhere else to eat, but I recommend eating at the market. There are lots of items to choose from; it could be a traditional Bratwurst on a bun, or something more extreme like a German favorite Mett (raw pork or beef minced with bacon on a bun). I am not a fan of Mett, but I remember my Mother eating this on occasion growing up in Germany. I decided to have curry wurst with fries. The portions are great and my four year old and I shared the dish and then went to get some dessert.

5) See where the vendors are from?

Take a moment and look outside the stall. There you will see where the vendor is from. I was so happy to find one from my birth town!

I was able to speak to them in German and get to tell them how I came to the United States and how I know the language. The vendors are so happy to be there and love talking about their hometowns. It is not often you can get the authenticity of certain country traditions, but Chicago got it correct by having Germans come here from Germany and showing a little piece of their world with local Americans.

6) Say Danke

Have a little bit of fun and say Danke (pronnounced dahn-ka) which is Thank you or say Hallo (prononnuced hollow) which means Hello in German. It makes the shopping experience more fun.

7) Shop until you drop!

Take notice of all the handmade trinkets and ornaments. My Son and I bought some wood ornaments from Munich and a glass blown ornament from Poland.

I love Christmas and how magical it is, and Christmas time in Germany was really special. I am beyond thrilled that Chicago has brought a piece of home close to me and allowed me to show my son how I grew up, and also share memories of doing the same thing with my parents. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Fröhliche Weihnachten! (Merry Christmas)

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Immersion Virtual Reality Center Opens Today at The Abbey Resort

I am happy to share this press release courtesy of The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa!!

Lakeshore resort announces all-new virtual reality gaming experience, cinema and eatery open for the weekend 

FONTANA, Wis. – October 13, 2017 – The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa is thrilled to announce its all-new Immersion experience center is open to the public, featuring a cutting-edge virtual reality gaming center, big-screen cinema and eatery.

Virtual reality – a type of unique, on-trend and cutting-edge gaming technology – is quickly gaining popularity, and Immersion is the first of its kind in the Lake Geneva area. Resort guests and visitors alike are welcome to go beyond reality and experience the future of gaming in this cutting-edge virtual reality experience center known as Immersion Virtual Entertainment that is located within The Abbey Resort. They can also enjoy movies and games on the big screen in the new Immersion Cinema that comfortably accommodates 30 guests for movies, games and even corporate presentations, or relax with refreshments at the Immersion Café that will serve beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks. These three components – Immersion Virtual Entertainment, Immersion Cinema and Immersion Café – together make up The Abbey Resort’s all-new Immersion experience center.

Immersion uses high-powered gaming PCs and fully immersive VIVE head mounted displays by HTC Corporation that put users right into the gaming action with precise, 360-degree controller and headset tracking, realistic graphics, directional audio and high definition haptic feedback for realistic movement and actions.

Immersion will feature four ten-foot by ten-foot gaming stations, each with its own headset(s) and access to a user-friendly gaming library allowing users the ability to select a variety of games and experiences throughout   their session. For the grand opening, Immersion features games and experience for all ages including outer space explorations, surviving among dinosaurs, trying various professions such as being a chef, virtual 3D painting and more! Immersion will regularly update the gaming library as new games and experiences are made available.

Immersion is open to users ages eight years old and older who are also at least 48 inches in height. Gaming sessions may be purchased in 15-, 30- and 60-minute periods for $15, $25 and $45, respectively. The virtual reality center will be open within The Abbey Resort every day of the year on weekday evenings, as well as afternoons and evenings on weekends and holidays. Additionally, Immersion may be booked in advance for private parties.

For more information about the all-new Immersion Virtual Entertainment and experience center or about The Abbey Resort, please visit http://www.theabbeyresort.com/immersion.aspx.

About The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa

As the only full-service resort located directly on the shores of Geneva Lake, The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa caters to guests ranging from families and couples to weddings and corporate groups. Continuing in its commitment to constant improvement, the resort recently completed major property renovations upward of $50 million, including updates made to guest rooms; restaurants, bars and coffee shop; meeting and banquet facilities; Avani Spa; common and lounge areas including the entryway and lobby; the exterior and A-frame and; outdoor pool amenities. Located just 80 miles from downtown Chicago and 50 miles from Milwaukee, The Abbey Resort boasts a breathtaking setting on 90 acres of beautifully manicured grounds, award-winning dining and banquet facilities, nearby championship golf courses, a wide range of outdoor activities and the on-site 35,000 square-foot Avani Spa.   

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The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa is managed and operated by Hostmark Hospitality Group of Schaumburg, Ill. For more information or reservations, visit http://www.theabbeyresort.com, join Abbey Resort and Avani Spa on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/abbeyresort or follow @AbbeyResort on Twitter www.Twitter.com/abbeyresort.

Abbey’s at The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa

How should I celebrate my son starting kindergarten? I knew I wanted to go away, but not too far from home. I didn’t want us to be in a big city, and I wanted to make sure we could spend quality time together without a lot of distractions. The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa was exactly what I was looking for.

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When we arrived in Fontana, Wisconsin we were immediately welcomed by the wonderful sight of The Abbey Resort. Located on Lake Geneva, the view was spectacular with boats docked and on the lake. When we pulled up to the main entrance, we were greeted by a valet. At no charge, they will park a car and take bags to the room. This allows a stress-free check in and tour of the resort.

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When we arrived at the front desk, the staff was welcoming and very informative. They provided us with an itinerary of events happening during our stay. On the night we stayed, they had two movies and a bonfire for us to enjoy.

Tanyatries FYI: before you leave home download their app. I found this super helpful and it kept my hands free.

Once we opened the door to our room, my son and I couldn’t stop saying, “wow!”. The room was very spacious. It was also very quiet; we could not hear the outside or anything next door to us. Our bathroom had double sinks, and a rain shower head with a deep tub.


Our room was on the first floor and featured a patio with a sliding door. We happened to be located right by two pools: the adults only and family friendly.  Second floor rooms offer a balcony.

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Tanyatries FYI: keep your phone away from your room key. It will disrupt the magnet key preventing it from opening your door.

After we unpacked, we were hungry and wanted to explore. The Abbey offers several distinct types of dining experiences. There is a Bar West which is a sports bar, 240 an upscale restaurant and The Waterfront which is a family friendly restaurant.

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I decided that Waterfront was perfect for a mother and son date night. When we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff who sat us right away. Waterfront has a relaxing view of the lake and the boats. Their menu was full of great options for any appetite. We shared their cheese curds appetizer.  I decided to have their smoked BBQ chicken quesadillas and my son had the chicken tenders and fries. It was delicious.

Tanyatries FYI:  Waterfront has their own pit masters on site.

After dinner, we decided to make smores on the bonfire. There was a staff member there to hand us our skewers; after we were done roasting our marshmallows we went back in and assembled them. If you need assistance they are more than happy to help!
After we ate our smores, we headed back to our room to wind down. We got into our pajamas, relaxed on our comfy bed and watched TV on our big flat screen. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day spent enjoying the resort.

Tanyatries FYI: You can download an app that will allow you to use your phone as a remote.

The next morning, we woke up and enjoyed a light breakfast at Café Latte. They proudly serve Starbucks coffee which was a wonderful plus in my book! My son had a chocolate muffin and a vanilla steamer. After our breakfast, we did some more exploring. We were early risers, up and moving by 6 AM. This allowed us to walk on the pier, see some of the boats and enjoy the wonderful grounds. The grass was lush and green, and the view of Lake Geneva was outstanding.

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After we were done exploring the outside, we went inside and decided to go to the activity center. There we rented a bike and my son attempted to try to ride without training wheels. We didn’t get a chance to leave the parking lot, but if you have an experienced biker you are able to take the bike out on the trails and explore. There is no charge for the bike and it is a great activity if you are into exploring.


Tanyatries FYI: they do not offer bikes with training wheels. If you do not have an experienced biker, you may want to bring their bike.

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After our biking adventure, we decided it was time to walk around some more and take in all the beautiful scenery. The Abbey allows you to pick what type of stay you would like. If you want to be more action and adventure, you can do that by renting a boat or taking their complimentary shuttle to downtown Lake Geneva.  They even offer guided hikes. If you want a relaxing time, you can take it easy lounging near the pool or by heading to the Spa for some pampering. For the type of trip, we planned, going to the pool was just the thing.

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The family pool has three options to choose from. If you have a non-experienced swimmer there is a shallow pool where you could go under a mushroom waterfall, or squirt from their stationary guns. They even have a baby slide. If you want to just sit and relax, there is a hot tub. If you have a more experienced swimmer there is a deep pool that offers basketball hoops, volleyball net, and slides.

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Tanyatries FYI: No need to bring pool toys. They provide balls to play in the pool.

If you are looking for a quick getaway that can be relaxing and stress free I highly recommend The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa. I am so glad I had this time with my son.

Tanyatries souvenirs:

  • If you are travelling with a large group, they do offer suites where there are two rooms adjoining
  • If you have a boat you can bring it with you. Slips are available for rent during your stay.
  • If you want to have more of a home feel, rent a villa. They are all privately owned and managed by The Abbey staff. They each have different layouts and décor. They include full kitchens and washer and dryers. Villas require a minimum stay of 3 nights

VR experience at the Kalahari

My family and I recently stayed at the Kalahari Resort located in Wisconsin Dells. The Kalahari has a lot to offer, from their water park to an Indoor Theme Park. We decided that one of our nights we would experience Arena-The Ultimate Virtual Gaming Experience.  I have never experienced a virtual reality game and was excited and nervous to play.


When you walk into the Arena you are placed in a briefing room. Here you will be briefed on how to play the game, what to expect and how to maximize your fun. There will be a lot of information thrown at you so make sure you don’t get distracted by your company, or you will miss some valuable information that may affect your safety.


After the briefing is over the game master (person in charge of your whole experience) will give you your gear and walk you through how to operate it.  I will say that it is a little heavy so be prepared. Also, if you have long hair, bring a hair tie to pull it back so it won’t get caught in the gear.


Now that you are geared up you are ready to enter the warehouse which is powered by Zero Latency. When you enter the space, you notice the room is a grid and within the grid are colored circles. You will be instructed by the game master where to stand. Once everyone is settled into their spaces you will begin the experience.


When the game turned out I was automatically transformed into a colorful world with dimensions and twists and turns. I will not go into a lot of detail, I do not want to spoil this for you. I will tell you there were times when I was upside down, running on edges and even underwater.


The whole experience was a lot of fun and the 30 minutes we spent on the mission I felt went by it was a lot of fun! helps work on communication skills.  Next time you visit The Dells, make sure you add The Kalahari on your list.

Extra information(courtesy of the Kalahari.com)

  • Free-roaming, warehouse-scale, multi-player, virtual reality gaming experience
  • 2nd location in the United States
  • Multi-player adventures allow up to 6 people to explore, conquer, and challenge one another for high-scores and skill evaluations, all tracking in real-time
  • Multiple games for participants to choose from

 

Meet #33 from the Chicago Bears

I was recently invited to Macy’s semi-annual men’s fashion event with a special guest appearance by Chicago Bears Running back Jeremy Langford.


Guests experienced models showing off the latest fashion trends. Keeping the energy up there was a DJ spinning top 40 songs.


If you needed a break from shopping, there was a virtual reality oculus Google game. It allowed guests to step into their football field or rollercoaster in a virtual experience.


Guests could stop by the Michale Kors Men’s Shop where they could enter and win a Michael Kors shopping spree. There was also a chance to win custom shoes by The Sole Revival. The first 150 guests who spent $35 or more had the chance to have a meet and greet with Jeremy Langford. There he took time to answer questions and receive and autograph.

I had the opportunity to ask Jeremy a couple questions.


Tanya Abbey: “How do you separate being Jeremy Langford Chicago Bears running back, to Jeremy Langford who works for the Chicago Bears?”

Jeremy Langford: “Matt Forte taught me that, you should never take anything for granted and that no matter where you are, you are always representing the Chicago Bears and that you should always show your best. You are a brand yourself and you need to put your best foot forward.”

TA: “How do you find time to wind down and stay humble, you are on a huge stage where everyone pays attention and wants to get your attention at all times. How do you wind down and turn off the public figure and become a private citizen?”

JL: “I stay grounded by keeping my family and friends close, they keep me humble and they don’t let me get away with anything.”

Jeremy also added that he understood that his time in the spotlight is short lived and enjoys every minute of it, because he knows once it is gone he will miss it. The few minutes I got to spend with him, proves just that. He isn’t just a running back. He is a very down to earth person, and is very welcoming and personable. He really enjoys being a Chicago Bear and we enjoy having him represent us on the field.

H2O Go! It’s a blob thing.

My son recently turned three and since he is a summer baby, I thought a slip and slide would be a lot of fun! I went to my local Toys R US and was heartbroken. All the slip and slides were for ages 5 and up. They were not recommended for my son. I was about to give up and get him something else, when I noticed H20GO! Fun Sketching Art Blobz.


Say what now?

Per their description you simply hook the blob up to a garden hose and fill it with water. Once it is filled, water will spray across the top. To add more thrills, water fills through the nozzle on top of the blob, creating a cool surface for playing and sliding across. Plus, the sketching blob includes 5 erasable crayons to use for sketches on the blob.


Tanya tries

In other words, it is a water blob that allows your kids to slide through the sprinkler onto the splash pad. If they get tired of the sprinkler they can still slide around. Once bored with those options, they can color the blob.

My kids have spent countless hours slipping and sliding and jumping and coloring on this blob. We are in love.

This is now sold out in stores! I put a few places you can find it below online. Have a splashing time!!

Amazon

Target

Toys R Us

Walmart

*This is not sponsored no product was exchanged for this post*

THE JOKER is unleashed and makes no apologies

I was recently invited to Six Flags Great America‘s media day to celebrate the opening of their 15th roller coaster officially named THE JOKER Free Flyer Coaster.  Six Flags unleashed chaos into the Yankee Harbor section and placed it next to his nemesis BATMAN.


As you walk towards THE JOKER it is hard to miss it standing at 120 feet tall. This one of the most unique coasters Six Flags has ever build in their history and that is nothing to joke about. I had the pleasure of being able to enjoy this newest attraction by riding it 5 times.

“wait till they get a load of me!”-Joker, Batman 1989

Here are some facts about this chaotic addition.

  1. You will flip head-over-heels at least six times
  2. The vehicles are winged which has you spending on the sides of the track
  3. They seat up to 8 per vehicle (4 on the left and 4 on the right)
  4. This ride allows you to pick your chaos.
    1. the purple side which is the calmer side of THE JOKER. If you ride coaster but aren’t trying to chance fate, this is the side for you.
    2. the green side which is the more chaotic side of THE JOKER. This is for the thrill seeker who doesn’t mind being out of their seat.
  5. There are 90-degree “raven” drops giving you the free-falling sensation

“Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.” Joker, The Dark Knight 2008

The event was officially opened by the Park President Hank Salemi, but was interrupted by The Joker himself he officially opened the attraction with smoke bombs and his signature colors purple and green confetti.

“Come on Mcguiness laugh it up now!”-Joker, Batman Beyond Return of the Joker 2002

Here are some tips on how to enjoy the ride to the fullest:

  1. Wear tight fitting shoes, your legs are free and you don’t want to lose your kicks while you are being flipped
  2. Don’t eat or drink anything before riding.
  3. If you have long hair, place it in a ponytail to avoid getting whipped in the face.
  4. Scream loud and laugh harder
  5. Make sure you take a selfie in front of THE JOKER and use #Greenside or #Purpleside to show off how you took on the chaos

This ride is my new favorite attraction at the park. Even after riding it 5 times, I did not get sick of it.  Remember this is the newest ride and the lines may be long at first, but it is definitely worth the wait.