Escape in Your Own Backyard – No Tent Required

Photo Credit: MJ Tam

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my dear friend Becky wishing me a happy 10-year anniversary of our college graduation day. Some days it feels like just yesterday I was sitting in class with her and other days, when one child is screaming, the other asking me for yet another snack and dinner is boiling over on the stove (if it is even made it that far yet), it’s hard to even imagine those carefree college days. But Becky was scheduled to come to Chicago for the weekend and we were determined to remember the good old days, even just for a night.

So last weekend, finally, the stars had aligned: Becky was in town. The hotel in the city was booked. My husband and children were NOT sick. I was NOT sick. It was not snowing. This was going to be perfect.

As we were in the cab from Union Station to our hotel, I couldn’t help but stare out the window as we passed so many places I wanted to go. It was going to be hard to decide what to do first. After we checked into our hotel, we hit up the closest watering hole. Local Beer? Check. Tasty appetizers? Check. Actually eating and not inhaling my food? Check! Check! We enjoyed our cocktails and then a cool evening stroll down the Magnificent Mile (it is, by the way, far more magnificent when you don’t have to search for every elevator, potty or even set foot in the Disney store) and even peaked in a few shoe stores along the way.

Dinner was next on the agenda. Looking for something slightly off the beaten path, we ended up at Volare (201 E Grand). I ordered the scaloppine di vitello al limone, which was a bit out of the box for me, and Becky had the penne vodka with shrimp. It was delicious and a truly authentic Italian food. We sipped on our Pinot Noir while dining al fresco. It was a beautiful spring night in Chicago and we wanted to take it all in. It was lovely.

Unlike most nights out with friends, this evening did not end with dinner. We headed back to the hotel for a quick wardrobe change and jumped in a cab (it might as well be a time machine) off to a flirtious flashback of our younger years, otherwise known as Wrigleyville.

Oh, Wrigleyville, how I love thee! I always feel like I’m in my early 20s when I’m there. I could review the particular bars we went into, but really, they were all so similar for our purposes we knew we couldn’t go wrong. Just have the cab driver drop you off at North Clark and Addison! The bars (oh yes, we bar hopped) we chose met two requirements: 1) no cover and 2) good music; both of which we could find out quickly at the door especially as the music could be heard at least three blocks away. Once inside, we felt like college coeds again, dancing up a storm, except this time we didn’t know every word to every song (a sure sign you are getting older) nor did we know a single person in the bar. But it didn’t matter. We just wanted to dance and have fun without a care in the world. I can simply say: mission accomplished! Thank you, Wrigleyville.

The next day was equally as fun, but in a more laid back, touristy way. After sleeping in extra late (which was amazing and necessary after a night out), I wanted to show Becky around one of the greatest cities in the world, however we had limited time and no car to see it all. I immediately thought of Wendella Lake and River Architecture tour, which is a sure bet for tourists and locals alike. The 90-minute tour provides amazing views of the skyline and up-close glimpses at some of the most impressive architecture in our country. (As an aside, I’ve taken my kids, my 80-something grandmother and my high-school aged cousin in the past. It’s been a hit with them all.) All in all, it was a fantastic weekend in Chi-town.

If a city escape is not what you had mind, then head west to the town of Geneva for a little rest and relaxation. Known for its charming shops, wonderful festivals and spirited community, Geneva is a sure bet for a relaxing get-a-way with friends.

Last October, four of my local girlfriends and I stayed the night at The Herrington Inn and Spa on the Fox River in Geneva. The hotel rooms were spacious, clean and opened to a private deck with views of a beautiful courtyard and river below (during our stay, we saw three weddings in the courtyard). We arrived on a beautiful fall Saturday and enjoyed a quick bite to eat at one of the many restaurants on West State Street, all within walking distance from the hotel, followed by massages and facials back at the spa. The spa at the Herrington, while not the most spacious spa I’ve ever been to, it fit the bill for the weekend: relax, recharge and have fun — all within a quick drive from home.

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed a delectable breakfast at Nosh (211 James Street). This place is not to be missed. Everything ordered was fantastic! The coffee is great, the atmosphere casual and the food is to die for (just thinking about it makes me want to drive out this weekend just for brunch).  After breakfast, we shopped along Third Street. Each store was more interesting than the next and we all found goodies to bring home to the family.

Whether it is a city escape or a spa get-a-way you crave, just do yourself a favor and book something today. Chicagoland has so much to offer, you really can’t go wrong. Not to mention, you deserve it!



201 E. Grand Ave

(312) 410-9900


Wrigleyville – info on the neighborhood:


Wendella Boat Tours



The Herrington Inn and Spa

15 S. River Lane

Geneva, IL 60134





211 James St

Geneva, IL 60134

630. 845.1570


Shops on Third Street



Maureen O'Shay

Maureen O'Shay, a Florida native, is a former public relations agency manager turned stay-at-home mom who has given up year-round sunshine for Chicagoland's awesome culture, cuisine and crazy weather -- but she wouldn't want it any other way. She is an avid runner and owner of Maureen O'Shay Photography. She resides in the Western Suburbs with her husband and two daughters. You can connect with her on Twitter @MaureenOShay or at

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