Travel expert, Marcia Frost, shares ideas for Nearby Getaways for Holiday Happenings.
‘Tis the season for holiday fun and there’s plenty of it on a trip to Hamilton County, Indiana, but first we’re going to make a stop in Chicago to check out the historic Ambassador Hotel.
It may have changed hands a few times, but the Ambassador Chicago has passed its history along from owner to owner.
The famed hotel was built in 1926 and was a hotspot in the heyday of Chicago music, as you can see by the celebrity photos on the wall.
The hotel was renovated about a year ago to mix a bit of modernization into the architecturally beautiful building (such as the iconic chandelier in the entryway).
It still has a boutique feel and all guests are made to feel special the minute they enter.
A visit to the Ambassador is not complete without dinner at Booth One Restaurant. It’s a bit pricey, but you’ll love the atmosphere and it’s one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.
Start with a house cocktail, I recommend the Playboy Club 1970s, with prosecco and passionfruit, or ask for a recommendation from the eclectic wine list. Don’t pass up on the fresh from the oven bread with it.
The Butternut Squash soup, with Dungeness crab and a lime créme fraiche is incredible, as are the lamb chops and the scallops. (If white truffle is available, don’t pass it up-especially in the risotto.) The Roman Style crispy artichoke was my favorite appetizer. For dessert, The Peanut Butter Pie with Concord grape sherbet is a winner.
Breakfast is served each morning in The Library and their egg sandwich is delicious and the pancakes are light and fluffy.
During the holidays, Ambassador Chicago is offering discount packages, room upgrades, cookie decorating with Santa, Holiday History Tea, and New Year’s Eve events in Booth One Restaurant. For details, visit their website.
Hamilton County, Indiana, for Endless Holiday Fun
There is an area just two hours from here that you probably haven’t visited, but there’s no better time than the holidays to make that trip to Hamilton County, just outside of Indianapolis.
We stayed at the Drury Inn in Carmel, Indiana. It’s a very family-friendly hotel, with large rooms, a complimentary hot breakfast, and free evening snacks. They also have a year-round indoor-outdoor pool with a whirlpool.
After dropping our luggage, we went downtown to a local favorite, Bubs Burgers, for lunch. Although we were more than satisfied with their delicious kid-sized burgers, the restaurant is famous for their one pound “Big Ugly.” If you finish it in one sitting, you get to have your picture on the wall.
Downtown Carmel is a great area for shopping and eating. It’s especially decked out for the holidays, and there is a trolley to take you around town. I found some unique stocking stuffers at Silver in the City.
From there, we went to Connor Prairie in Fishers, Indiana. I had been here during the spring one year to explore their outdoor interactive village, but in the winter, they are all set up indoors with holiday programming.
The Gingerbread Village Display was quite a spectacular. Lots of creativity, as well as candy and cookies, went into making each on unique.
After we finished looking at the tasty display, the kids happily gathered around the fire with Mrs. Claus for story time and songs.
We then went upstairs to catch the Tales at the Holidays: Letters from the Civil War play. It was interesting and fun at the same time, even keeping the youngest kids occupied.
The North Pole Workshop is yet another unique thing for children to do. Here they are led step-by-step into making items, such as ornaments that need to be stuffed and sewn.
Another event, Connor Prairie by Candlelight, will also begin this Friday. (See all of the holiday events on their website.)
The Nickel Plate Express Train is running their Reindeer Ride on weekends through December 23rd. It’s new this year and a lot of fun.
We were in the dining car so we had a little more room (and were able to enjoy wine and beer, without charge, while the kids had hot chocolate). The ride takes about an hour and there are also ornaments for children to color and take home, and cookies for everyone.
One of my favorite parts of the ride were the carolers singing as we headed back to the Atlanta station, where we were able to meet Santa. He spent a few minutes with every child and then gave them a souvenir lollipop.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Big Dog Smokehouse BBQ in Cicero. The atmosphere is really fun, with unusual seating, such as a roller coaster car or a Coca Cola bench, and fun finds all over the dining room.
We had brisket and pulled pork. Both were excellent, as was the corn bread, but the portions are small in the Sammich Combos, so order their platters if you are hungry.
Before we left on Sunday, we went to the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, just a few miles from the Drury Inn. This is a fun experience for the whole family, with ice skating, music, food, and shopping. It’s a good place to get ornaments for the tree, and they even had a booth for Hanukkah goods.
Make sure you arrive at the Christkindlmarkt hungry and take advantage of the opportunity to eat European favorites, such as Bavarian pretzels, Belgium Waffles, German potato pancakes, crepes, and, of course, warm Gluhwein.
Parking and admission are free at the market, which will be open Wednesday to Sunday through December 23rd. Check their website for details and special events.
Be sure to Like Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost on Facebook for more information on her trips, and read her stories on her Wine And Spirits Travel blog. You can also follow Marcia @Spiritstraveler on Twitter and Instagram.