Hi friends! I am just back from 10 days of vacation. Or rather, a trip. I’m not sure anyone would qualify 5+ days in a car, a trip to Sesame Place, a zoo, and downtown Chicago as a relaxing experience, but I wasn’t working so WIN!!
The trip itself was perfect. The girls did surprisingly well in the car. Not to humble brag (because this is LOOK AT ME bragging), but we made it the whole way without any screens. Granted, we listened to the soundtracks from The Lion King, Sing, Trolls, and The Greatest Show so much that “a million dreams are keeping me awake” is now what I meditate on when I can’t sleep. The experience at Hershey Chocolate World was just as chocolate-y as I remember. We did the tour, a tasting, and brought home bunches of chocolate products, my favorite kind. (Pro-tip: try cacao juice. You’ll march in place for a solid six hours, but it’s a tasty non-chocolate treat.) Sesame Place, the end goal of this quest, was perfect. Simply perfect. The lines weren’t long, the characters were everywhere, the weather was sublime. The girls had a great time, which meant Randy and I did, too.
We tried to do historic America things since we were in Philadelphia but turns out 4 and 2 (and 38) aren’t good ages to pay attention to long-winded tour guides. Instead, we visited a lot of parks and the Reading Terminal Market, where I played tour guide and we did a taste test of whoopie pies from the Flying Monkey. (Did I mention this was a great trip??)
On our way home, we spent a night in Chicago. It was the first time we did downtown with kids and it went pretty well. We hit up Navy Pier at night and Maggie Daley Park during the sweltering hot Saturday. (Side note: how do Randy and I keep coming to Chicago on the busiest weekends without realizing it. Last time was St. Patricks Day. This time, Lollapalooza.) Definitely check out that hidden gem next time you bring kids to town. So many secret spots to play!
So the actual activities of the trip were great, but the overall goodness of the trip just knocked my socks off. Yes, goodness.
Friends have laughed at me for how much I’ve let the news, social media, etc. get to me as of late, so this was a grand experiment to turn most of it off. Turns out, when you don’t go on Facebook, turn off The Daily Show, and listen to kids music instead of NPR, the weight on your shoulders immediately lightens. Add to that actual face-to-face interactions with new people and you’ve got a recipe for success. From the guy in Small Town, Indiana with the “nasty white boy” t-shirt to the teenage girls in a park in Dayton to the Vietnamese waitress in Youngstown, Ohio who barely spoke English to the homeless guy in Chicago, everyone was so… nice. To a person, they all smiled and answered when Eggroll walked up and said: “what are you doing?”. They helped us with our needs and didn’t question what we were doing there or why we weren’t doing something to benefit them. They were just nice.
In Philadelphia, we stayed in a suburb called Mt. Airy. It’s northwest of downtown about 20 minutes. The best way I could describe it for my fellow Milwaukeeans is that it was like Bayview, but populated by African-American people. This area (and the whole of the city we took in) were pretty integrated, but this was definitely an African-American majority space. It was lovely. I would highly recommend this proud neighborhood for anyone coming to the area.
I’m not naive. I know we were spending our tourist dollars, so a lot of folks had to be polite. That Philly is where the recent Starbucks debacle went down. That the dumpster fire that is politics continues even when I’m not watching minute-by-minute, but for ten days it was great to simply be in and with humanity in a pretty positive way. Even if you can’t take an out-of-town vacation yet this summer, maybe just turn off the caterwauling and spend time in a new neighborhood. You never know what you mind find. A new restaurant? A new activity? Kindness from a stranger? It’s all worth the trip.