It’s spring break and you’re going nowhere. Staying put. Kicking around the greater Chicago area.
Stop sounding so glum. You may not have warm sunny beaches (but you might, you never know in March) but you certainly can have fun — adventure even. An escapade without the airfare, excitement while sleeping in your own bed, and family time without the boredom of an endless car ride.
It starts with a theme. If you were in Vietnam, what would you have for breakfast? Papaya? Buy one, cut it up, and serve it with lime wedges. What would a day of touring include? Temples, monkeys — Chicago has those.
What music would be on the radio or playing in the street? Get a CD or download tunes to your iPod. And when you get home after your great adventure, relax with a movie or book that takes place in your exotic locale.
Then plan each day’s adventure. You could choose a different country for each day or if that sounds overwhelming, then one or two for the week. If your spouse suggests that the grass skirt and coconut bikini are just a tad over the top, ease up a little. But I think better to go for it! Make it memorable by making it as far out of the every day as you can.
Here are some of my ideas based on dream vacations. Feel free to steal, swap, and add your own ideas in the comments section.
Vietnam is all about beaches, temples, monkeys, and street food. The jungle setting and warm sand are tough to replicate, but all the rest, we’ve got.
Brookfield Zoo— check out Tropic World and the Fragile Rain Forest. APEril at the zoo has a lot of special events for the primate lovers in your clan.
Hai Yen (1055 W. Argyle St.) – On your way home, stop by Argyle Street for some authentic Vietnamese food.
Ba Le Bakery (5018 N Broadway) – Just around the corner and a great place to try the national sandwich of Vietnam: banh mi. Yum!
The Beach by Alex Garland, Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam by Sherry Garland
Anything by Vietnamese pop singers Hong Nhung and Trinh Cong Son
Good Morning, Vietnam (Special Edition), Apocalypse Now – The Complete Dossier (Two-Disc Special Collector’s Edition) (not appropriate for children)
Orchids (think of all those beautiful leis) and snorkeling are two highlights of a Hawaiian vacation.
Lincoln Park Conservatory — Go because it smells like Hawaii; orchids and that moist tropical air.
Shedd Aquarium —The dolphins are back in a cheesy show, perfect for feeling like a tourist and they’ve got gorgeous reef exhibits that make you feel like you’re walking through a reef rather than snorkeling through one.
Aloha Eats. Authentic mix plates and SPAM musubis for the brave.
Hawaii: A Novel by James Michener
Anything by Don Ho or “Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii”
Blue Hawaii, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Unrated Widescreen Edition) (not appropriate for children), 50 First Dates (Widescreen Special Edition)
Key West has a long, colorful history of pirates and drag queens. Its proximity to Cuba flavors the food, drinks, and music.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum — It may not have parrots and five-toed cats, but the butterfly haven is a perennial favorite.
On a nice day, go for a bike ride along the Lake Shore Drive path and pretend you can see Cuba.
Key Lime Cove Water Park
El Cubanito–Go to Logan Square for traditional Cuban sandwiches and their steak sandwich.
Anything by Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard or Ernest Hemingway
Everything by Jimmy Buffett
To experience drag queens and pirates, you’ll need some help from the movies. The Birdcage (not appropriate for children); The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Extra Frills Edition) (not appropriate for children); Peter Pan (2-Disc Platinum Edition)
Key Limes (Think key lime pie or lime rickeys)
Here are some ideas for soaking up local Mexican culture:
Start in Pilsen for neighborhood flavor and shopping. Kids will love picking out Mexican candy at Dulceria Lupitas (1730 W. 18th Street) Watch out for the tamarind-flavored candies unless you have a really adventurous palate!
National Museum of Mexican Art – They offer free guided tours, but don’t go on Monday. They’re closed.
Don Pedro Carnitas–Stay in Pilsen for lunch. Try Don Pedro’s slow cooked pork tacos.
Kristoffer’s Café–Rick Bayless loves their tres leche cakes.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Sigo Siendo Yo: Grandes Exitos by Marc Anthony or any mariachi music