Entries in ‘Illinois’ Journal

Best Things To See and Do in Chicago, IL – What a Trip!

Monday August 10, 2009 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

See the View from the Chicago River in Illinois

 My favorite tips and locations for visitors to Chicago, Illinois. The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to Millennium Park, Museum Campus and the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Building.

When I crave Chicago cuisine, I turn to Giordanos, Gino’s East, Pizzeria Due or Lou Malnati’s for Deep Dish Pizza.

To escape work I go to Oak Street or North Avenue Beach.

For complete quiet, I can hide away at Osaka Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park.

If you come to Chicago, get your picture taken in front of The Bean in Millennium Park or on the Museum Campus with Chicago’s skyline in the background.

Eat Deep Dish Pizza on a visit to Chicago

 When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to Nuevo Leon in the Pilsen neighborhood.

For a huge splurge, I go to Table 52, Avec, Blackbird, Aliena or Topolobombo.

Photos ops in Chicago include The Bean, Skyline, the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River.

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Sears Tower or John Hancock Buildings. Both buildings have observatories that are available for views of the entire city.

The most random thing about Chicago is the Baconfest. The folks @ExploreChicago put the reqest for random Chicago things out to the Twitterverse and the Baconfest was decidedly a unique annual event.

In Chicago, an active day outdoors involves walking or hiking or biking or roller-blading the Lakefront Trail.

My favorite walking route is the Lakefront Trail.

Chicago’s best museums, the Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Art Institute, Chicago History Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium to name a few. On our first trip to Chicago in 2002, we brought our children, then ages six and ten, and visited all of the museums listed above. We broke our trip into bite size pieces and the kids gobbled up all of the activities without a hint of complaint.

 For a night of dancing, go to Nacional 27, HideOut or Le Passage.

The Wiener’s Circle is the spot for late night dining.

Take your picture with the Gothic Couple in Chicago, Illinois

 To find out what’s going on at night or on weekends, read Time-Out Chicago, Metromix, or The Reader.

You can tell a lot about Chicago if you take an architecture river cruise.

In the spring you should attend baseball opening day, the Great Places and Spaces Festival, or Farmers Markets.

In the summer you should attend Taste of Chicago, Millennium Park Concerts, neighborhood street festivals or SummerDance.

In the fall you should visit Fashion Focus and Chicagoween.

In the winter you should go to Holiday Events in Daley Plaza or on Michigan Avenue and check out the holiday windows at Macy’s.

A hidden gem in Chicago is the Water Taxi.

For a great breakfast treat or espresso, go to Milk and Honey, Yok, Lou Mitfchells or Ann Sather.

Just outside of Chicago you can visit Oak Park, have lunch at the New Rebozo Mexican Restaurant.

The best way to see Chicago is to walk Lakefront and Michigan Avenue or ride the El around the loop. You can also take a segway tour.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Zoo, Millennium Park, Navy Pier or the Crown Fountain.

What are your favorite things to do in Chicago, Illinois?

Thank you to Karen Vaughn and Sarah Best of the Chicago Office of Tourism for their assistance with this post.

Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) Conference in Chicago, Illinois

Sunday August 2, 2009 at 7:07 AM | 6 Comments

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

Chicago photo by Nancy D. BrownI'm back from Chicago, Illinois after speaking about travel writing at BlogHer and attending the Travel Blog Exchange conference. TBEX '09 was organized by Debbie Dubrow, Kim Mance, Maren Hogan and a slew of behind the scenes volunteers and sponsors.

Jessie Voights at Wandering Educators put together this comprehensive recap.

The program kicked off with speed dating, followed with four informative and educational panels.

Creating a Lively and Successful Travel Blog
Sean Keener – BootsnAll Travel Network
Heather Poole - Gadling
Matt Kepnes – Nomadic Matt
Michael Yessis – WorldHum

This panel provided a behind-the-scenes look at some of the top travel sites and the motivation behind their travel blog. Tips for content were offered, as well as touching on what keeps them bloggging and how to work with blogger burnout.


Jamie Pearson and Pam MandelWorking with Public Relations
Leanne Jakubowski – Social Media Director, Walt Disney World Resort
Kristin Unger – Chicago Tourism Office
Angela Berardino - Turner PR
Pam Mandel – Nerd's Eye View
Jamie Pearson – Travel Savvy Mom

As an accredited PR professional myself, this panel held great interest to me. As a travel writer, I look to social media savvy PR pros for trip planning and press trips. This was a well balanced session including PR folks and travel bloggers who work with PR agencies. The PR people are looking for well connected travel writers. Surprisingly, it wasn't about site traffic, as much as it was about quality content in a niche market.  

On the flip side, the travel writers on the panel talked about the ethics of accepting travel products for review and press trips. They talked about etiquette for engaging PR offices, what PR agencies can and can't do for travel writers, and the importance of both an accurate summary of your site visitors and social media for determining your influence in the market.

Christopher Elliott and Wendy Perrin at TBEX ChicagoTravel Journalism vs. Blogging – is it all just writing?
Wendy Perrin – Conde Nast Traveler Magazine
Jen Leo – LA Times Daily Deal Blog
Chris Elliott – Nat'l Geographic Traveler's ombudsman and columnist for MSNBC.com
Rosalind Cummings-Yeates – Far-Sighted Fly Girl

As a print journalist and travel blogger, I'm often asked how the two writing techniques differ. While it is true that blogging has become more recognized as a legitimate journalistic outlet, it is not the same as having a Journalism degree. Wendy Perrin noted that her CN Traveler column had a three month lead time, while her Perrin Post blog is timely and up to the minute with deals, news, and tips. All of the panelists agreed that blogging is the new frontier in the travel industry and that we are learning as we go.

Podcasting and Video
Chris Christensen – Amateur Traveler
Mark Peacock – Travel Commons.com
Chris Elliott – Elliott.org
(moderated by Kim Mance of Galavanting.tv)

The web is maturing and multimedia is becoming a significant part of how people use the internet. We learned that 30-second to 1-minute videos are optimal. The different types of equipment used for podcasting were touched on, as well as syndicating your podcasts. Finally, we discussed quality video vs. quick video. Here's my YouTube video on Lost Luggage Tips from this Chicago trip.

TBEX 2010
Understandably, the organizers were happiliy exhausted with the results of the conference. When I asked for next years dates, I was told that BlogHer's dates were August 5-7, 2010 and their conference would be taking place in New York. Perhaps TBEX will again follow behind BlogHer? Check back for more details.

In speaking with fellow travel writers and bloggers, a session on traffic and monetization would prove popular. It was wonderful meeting so many fellow travel writers and bloggers in real life.

Travel Writers Share Lost Luggage Tips

Monday July 27, 2009 at 7:07 AM | 12 Comments

"Nancy D. Brown"

Travel writer Nancy D. Brown share tips for how to find lost luggage

 With a heavy heart, I waited for the baggage claim carousel at O’Hare Airport to circle one last time. Surely my duffel bag would magically appear momentarily. Afterall, this was a non-stop United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago. I had checked my luggage in two hours early. How could this be happening to me, and at 1:30 in the morning?

Sadly, I admitted defeat and went over to the steel machine where I was to punch in my luggage identification number and wait for it to spit out the delayed baggage report receipt. Dejectedly clutching my laptop computer, I shuffled off to find the airport shuttle to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. The nice folks at the front desk hooked me up with some toiletries and I went to bed confident that my luggage would be delivered before noon checkout.

As is the case of a lodging editor, I was moving on to review another hotel property the next day. Still no bag. After calling United Airlines 800 number, I was directed to their on-line site (which was down) to check the status of my luggage. I checked into the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and was greeted with a friendly and sympathetic staff. A well-stocked toiletry bag was provided to me, but, alas, no Briggs and Riley duffel bag.

Eventually, I was reunited with my bag, but not before having to purchase a pair of dress pants and no-iron shirt for my BlogHer Travel Panel speaking engagement. I also need to send a shout out to Mary Kay Cosmetics and Public Relations Account Supervisor Jill Kleiner of Coyne. Her agency overnight Federal Expressed their entire make up line to me while I was staying at the Sheraton Hotel. And yes, Cat Lincoln of CleverGirls Collective saved the day when she slipped me some vital Yummie Tummie shapewear undergarments.

Rather than rant and rave, I’d like to offer some lost luggage travel tips from professional travel writers if an airline loses your luggage.

Travel Writers Share Lost Luggage Tips

Jennifer Leo: Los Angeles Times Travel Blog and Editor of Sand in My Bra series

Wendy Perrin: Conde Nast Traveler’s Consumer News Editor and Perrin Post blogger

Sean Keener: Co-Founder of the BootsnAll Travel Network

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates: Freelance journalist and travel blogger

Kim Mance: Editor of Go Galavanting.com

Donna Hull: Freelance Writer and blogger at My Itchy Travel Feet

Lanora Mueller: Writing Travel blogger

Shannon Hurst Lane: Freelance travel writer

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