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Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

So I know that this is the third post in a row about Chicago attractions, and I have a whole bunch of restaurant posts coming up from various parts of Michigan and Illinois, so I’m sure it’s not very good blog structure to do them all in great clumps like this. But this one is written, and those aren’t, so I’m gonna post this one 🙂

Who’s been to Medieval Times before? Show of hands!

Yeah, it’s awesome, right? We have been going down to Chicago for years and hadn’t gone to the Medieval Times in Schaumburg, which was a shame.

The Medieval Times castle in Schaumburg, Illinois. It's actually much bigger than it looks here.

To be fair, both Sam and I had been to Medieval Times elsewhere, as has my sister Jen (high school orchestra trip to Florida…ahh, good times.)

Anyway, that leaves among our merry band Shaylyn and Andrea who hadn’t been, and both really wanted to. So on this trip, we decided it really was about time we experience this as a group. Besides, everything is more fun with a 9-year-old.

It turned out we didn’t need Shaylyn to invoke a childlike sense of roleplay and wonder at Medieval Times. We sat in the red knight’s section, which was fortunate, because he ended up being the total badass champion. We cheered him on with many shouts, screams, cheers and boos and hisses for his opponents. We even led a toast to our knight, and waved his flags and pennants around wildly.

The key really was entering into the spirit of the thing, cheering for our knight and suspending disbelief for awhile to enjoy the storyline and the feats of equestrian showmanship on display.

We had an awesome server, who said his name was Jelly. Sam took on the role of lord of the table quite readily, calling out for Jelly in a booming voice and hamming it up with medieval-inspired quips throughout the fighting. What fun!

A Medieval Times photo of the "Lord Chancellor," or announcer. I didn't get any good photos during the show; they're all dark and hard to see. But I am pretty sure this is the same guy.

As for the rest of us, we were hoarse from cheering on our knight at the end of the night, and pleasantly full with what was actually a decent meal for being served to hundreds of people at once. They’ve really got the particulars down at that place. Of course, you have to eat it all with your hands, but there are plenty of napkins.

For the more macabre-inclined among us, they also have a medieval torture gallery off the main hall, but it cost extra, and we didn’t feel great about taking Shaylyn through it anyway, so we opted out.

All in all, a worthwhile experience, and—I forgot to mention—we got a great buy one admission, get one free deal on the tickets, which is actually what put it on our radar for this trip in the first place.

If you can get a price break on the tickets, it becomes a pretty good deal, but for medieval enthusiasts or if you have kids who are really into knights or medieval stuff, it’s probably worth the admission whenever you go.

So, what was your Medieval Times experience like? Were you as delighted as we were? Which Medieval Times did you go to? If you haven’t been, are you interested?

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OK, so there are a lot of by-the-roadside things I wanted to mention, but they don’t fit as a destination or review type blog post. So I’m going to try a different idea, and talk about a day trip of interesting things — like the drive from Green Bay to Chicago (or vice versa),  which isn’t all that far but makes for a good outing if you like to drive, like we do.

There are essentially two ways you can approach the drive, depending on what schedule you’re on and what your traveling preferences are. There’s the traditional, quick-and-dirty route of U.S. 41 (Route 41 for you old-time road trippers), which has the advantage of being a freeway, and all the conveniences that entails. However, be prepared to pay some tolls right around Chicago if you’re going in or out of the city on the freeways.

The sign looks like a relic of road-trip days gone by, but thats part of the charm.

There’s one stop, newly renovated and more fantastically touristy than ever, that you don’t want to miss on this route, and it’s the Mars Cheese Castle near Kenosha, between Chicago and Milwaukee. It’s been welcoming visitors to Wisconsin for decades, and it’s got a shiny new exterior with all the castle-y things like crenellations and battlements (love those words!). If you want to make a whole castle theme out of it, there’s also a White Castle in Kenosha which has always treated us right.

We often take the U.S. 41 route, especially if we can time it to hit the wee small hours of morning when you don’t have to worry about traffic, cause it’s just plain faster a lot of the time. High-traffic hours are obviously an exception to this around Chicago.

But, if you’re driving during the day, and prefer lower speed limits and more scenic countryside, do what we did on our most recent trip and take the back way, through Lake County, Illinois. Not too far outside the Chicago suburbs, it suddenly turns all bucolic and pastoral and very lovely. In the right season, you’ll find roadside produce stands or homemade crafts for sale, and in any season, plenty of small towns to fuel up the car and stop for a bite to eat. There are plenty of historic sites to see around there, too.

You can hop back on the highways up around Pleasant Prairie, especially if you have kids in the car — because it’s home to the Jelly Belly Factory, which offers free factory tours, free candy, and a serious gift shop. We didn’t go this time, because we’ve been in the past, but if you haven’t, it’ll soon become a family favorite.

Which way do you like to drive? Or is there another route we missed?

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