Shermanstravel Blog

Chicago

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Jenny McCarthy is a Chicago girl at heart, but now, her heart belongs to Boston-born hubby Donnie Wahlberg. And it’s no secret she loves to eat, so we had to ask what her favorite spots are back home as well as in Donnie’s hometown. Check out Jenny’s restaurant recommendations, must-shop stops, and more in our exclusive interview.

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Any good hotel can offer high end amenities, plush mattresses, and fine linens. But to truly capture the tastes and textures, history and culture, and people and personalities of a city is a much harder feat. Sometimes, it’s impossible.

That is, unless the hotel is ingrained in the founding and very being of that city. Then the hotel is no longer just a nice place to sleep within it, but a living part of it and a representation of what makes that city what it is. Such is the case with Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton, a true Grande Dame hotel that is as much a part of Chicago as deep dish pizza and Wrigley Field — and is affordable to boot.

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Free breakfast, iPod docking stations, and coffee makers are nothing compared to some of the whacky hotel amenities we found. From vintage record players to pet psychologists, here are five quirky — and dare we say somewhat outrageous — amenities that can be found at hotel chains across the country.

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In these days of AirBnB and Couchsurfing, travel that highlights the local experience is becoming more attractive. Traditional travel companies need to compete; this is how some hotels are doing just that.

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We’re a fan of pay-as-you wish restaurants, both as a way to avoid marked-up prices and as a chance to give back to the destinations on our travels. Here’s how it works: nonprofit restaurants encourage customers to pay for their meal based on what they’re able to afford, and/or give free meals in exchange for volunteer work at the restaurant. For travelers who do have a meal budget, it’s nice to know that our dollars are going toward establishments that provide resources and job training for the local community, and you can always take it a step further by volunteering as well has making monetary donations if you have the time and desire (free meals are meant for those who really can’t afford to pay). A number of establishments in the U.S. have successfully adopted this model. Here are four across the country to check out the next time you hit the road.

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park-hyatt-maldivesIt’s fairly easy to make travel happen — be it a business trip, a jaunt to see a family member, or a bona fide vacation — when you’ve spare cash laying around. It’s a little tougher when you don’t, but loyalty programs and the ability to collect miles and points have made it possible to enjoy a bit of travel-related adventure, if you’re willing to have patience and put in the effort. Understanding and managing miles and points across various platforms, services, and credit cards is no easy task, but here are a few tips on making the most of those unused travel currencies. Read more

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Exclusive and sometimes quirky, pop-up restaurants offer a festive alternative to the traditional, reservations-needed dining experience we’re accustomed to when we got out for a gourmet meal. These underground experiences can be trick to plan for on vacation, considering the location is often undisclosed until right before the event, and there’s only one seating. But for friendly foodies, it’s absolutely worth pursuing — it’s a great way to interact with locals, taste ingredients sourced from the area, and be a part of the fun experiments that up-and-coming chefs are dreaming up. Here’s how you can secure your place at the table:

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National Skyscraper Day, which falls on September 3 this year, is a bit obscure as most holidays days go. But here’s a related celebration that any traveler can appreciate: a Chicago hotel that’s commemorating the day with a week of $99 rates.

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Private tours come in all shapes and sizes. One can be a scheduled time and date for your group, like a more intimate version of a regularly scheduled public tour. Or it can be an independent adventure based on your interests — think: a public art tour under the guidance of a street artist, or a Rio favela tour in Rio with a rapper. More to the point, “independent” doesn’t need to mean “expensive.” Whether it’s a result of technology that helps connect travelers and locals, or because there’s been a general growth of interest in experiential travel, private tours are now a viable option for any travelers who might want to see their destination in a different way. Here’s a guide for finding one for your next trip:

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Chicago has never been a cheap city to stay in for a night or two. As a continual haunt for architecture fans and foodies alike — not to mention a popular host for conventions — the Windy City is as hot a destination as ever. Fortunately, there are a few hotels that won’t blow your budget, with home-away-from-home appeal as well as posh perks like a rooftop deck. Book one of these under-$170 a night rooms, and you’ll have plenty of funds for a jazz or blues show or some deep dish pizza (we love Giordano’s and Gino’s East of Chicago).

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The David Bowie Is exhibit, the first retrospective of the musician’s career, showed to sold-out crowds at its inaugural run last year at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition brought together more than 300 objects, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork, and rare performance material from the past five decades, and it’s headed for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (its only U.S. stop) from September 23 through January 4. Tickets  for the show are $25 and go on sale July 31, but demand has been so high that they museum has already released a limited number of advance tickets at a premium price ($100). Those tickets are no longer available, but this deal from the Thompson Chicago is.

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Last month The Langham, Chicago launched a monthly Nickel and Dime Anniversary Tea to commemorate the 149th birthday of the original London hotel. The tea service sold out within 10 minutes. Why? Because the price is the same as it was when the hotel first opened its doors in 1865 — one shilling and six pence, or 15 cents. Read more

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Museums can take years, even decades, of planning. These eight concepts have had a long and sometimes bumpy road on the way to becoming a reality, but we’re already big fans and looking forward to the ribbon-cutting dates. If you’re traveling to these cities in the next couple of years, here are the museums of the future to include on your itinerary:

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The movies we watch, the toys we play with, the fun foods we eat — these elements of every day life and entertainment define every society’s culture. To celebrate the American way of life this summer, take a day trip to one of these seven pop culture museums worth the drive.

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In Europe, when temperatures drop, so do the prices. Traveling to Europe outside of the summer season almost always guarantees savings — but this year you can get an even earlier start by jumping on this special offer from Lufthansa. The respected airline, a member of the Star Alliance, is offering low rates starting at $532 round-trip between the United States and a number of European cities, including Istanbul, Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, and even Moscow. Read more

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