Family Fun Review: SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium Detroit

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Detroit

Disclosure: Our family was provided complimentary admission to the SEA Life Michigan Aquarium I  was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

We love aquariums, so when we heard that Michigan opened a new aquarium we were excited to see it ourselves. While we did enjoy ourselves,  we left wanting more.

Nitty Gritty:

Prices:  Adult ticket (13+ years) $23.50, Child's ticket (3-12 years) $18.50; Under 3 (0-2 years) FREE
Location: Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, 4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills, Michigan (You can't miss it!)

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Hills Exterior
Parking: There is a free parking lot.
Stroller-friendly?  Since it wasn't very busy, it would have been fine to bring the stroller. If it was busier, I could see how difficult it would be to navigate.
Crowded: We were here on a Friday evening (one hour before closing) and it was not crowded at all.

What to Expect:


The kids were given glasses and a stamp book.  We all watched a quick show and and were on their way to start their adventure.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Hills


SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Hills Entry


  • Getting "techy." Touch screens were located throughout so that we could learn more about the specific sea creature or fish.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Touch Screen

  • Getting their book "stamped." They were really into this! At times they were more interested in looking for the next stamp station than looking at fish.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Stamp Station

  • Aquariums in all shapes and sizes.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Bubble Aquarium SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Stingray

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Bubble Aquarium 2

  • Visually stimulating. Their use of lights really heightened the mood and made everything look "pretty."
  • The ability to get up close and personal at the touch pool.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Touch Pool

  • Viewing fish at through the different nooks and crannies. The kiddos loved going under tanks and finding "secret" windows to the tanks.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn walking under Tunnel

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn walking under Tank

  • Different colored jellies. The jelly fish tank was my favorite. With a touch of a button, the light would illuminate the jelly fish in a different color.

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Jellyfish

  • Extra energy? We were pretty surprised to find a play area at the end. The kids didn't complain, of course!

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Auburn Playground

We wish

  • The aquarium was bigger. We went through the entire aquarium in about 45 minutes.
  • The ocean tunnel was longer. Having fish and sharks swim above you is always a highlight, but we were a little surprised at how small the tunnel was. We were left wanting more!

SEALIFE Michigan Aquarium Ocean Tunnel

  • Tickets were less expensive.

Tips to enjoy SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium:

  • Visit during the evening to avoid crowds. We went one hour before closing and it was just about the right amount of time to see everything.
  • Try to find discounts! If you preorder your tickets online you save 10%.

Bottom Line:

If you and your family happen to be at Great Lakes Crossing and have some time, try to find discounts. While the presentation of the exhibits was visually stimulating, it made us want to see more, especially with the hefty admission cost.

Read my entire review on


Indoor fun at Spring Hill Mall’s Play area

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Indoor Play Area Review

This week as part of our #100DaysofSummer we're going to do a little exploring in our little neck of the woods - the Dundee area. Join us as we find the hidden (and not so hidden) gems around our 'hood!

Today we're stopping by Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee. Our neighborhood mall provides a great place to escape when we can't jet to the nearest park because of the weather. The mall has improved a bit over the years and even has a great play space when the kids need to run around.


  • A nice-sized play area. Bigger than Westfield Hawthorne and smaller than Woodfield.

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Play Space

  • Soft cushiony floor. Perfect for crawlers.

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Play Space Floor

  • Crawl or climbing fun.

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Play Crawl Climb CollageSpring Hill Mall West Dundee Bear Tree

Tips to enjoy Spring Hill Mall:

  • Bring pennies. They have jumping fountains everywhere and it's always fun making a wish.

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Fountain

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Atrium

The sun shines through in the atrium making the fountain area extra bright!

  • Train lover? This Jolly Express chugs around the mall.

Spring Hill Mall West Dundee Train

  • Great for strolling. It's all one level.
  • Time your visit. They clean the play area from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

Nitty Gritty:

Admission: Free
Location: Spring Hill Mall, 1072 Spring Hill Mall, West Dundee, Illinois. Play area is close to Entrance 4.
Parking: There is a free parking lot.
Stroller-friendly?  We brought our stroller and parked it outside the entrance
Food: Tables around the play area so you can bring a snack or drink. Food and drink is not allowed inside the play area.
Crowded: We were here on a Tuesday afternoon and it was not crowded at all
Nursing Friendly: There are little coves where you can nurse (no doors)
Seating: Plenty of seating for parents/grandparents located around the perimeter of the play area.
Gated:  No. The perimeter is surrounded by the seats but there are openings at each side so I did see little ones escaping!

  • Bottom Line:

Heading to the mall is always a great way to get out. We're pretty lucky to have Spring Hill Mall close with its kid-friendly amenities.

Family Fun Review: Santa’s Village AZoosment Park

Review of santas village azoosment park East Dundee Illinois

What do you get when you combine an amusement park, Santa, and animals? Santa's Village AZoosment Park! Located in East Dundee, Santa's Village AZoosment Park is the ideal amusement park if you have younger kids and don't want to be overwhelmed. And guess what? You can enter to win (4) tickets! Woohoo!

Nitty Gritty:

Location: 601 Dundee Avenue
Admission: $22.75 per person, plus tax. Children age 2 and under are FREE.  Active Military, Spouse and Children -FREE with current active duty status identification only.
Parking:  Free outdoor parking lot
Stroller: Yes, feel free to bring the stroller and/or the wagon
Shade: Yes, plenty of spots with shade


  • Picture perfect moments. Bring your camera because there will be tons of opportunities for photos. Gotta love these big chairs!

Santas Village AZoosment Park Big Chair

  • Definitely picnic worthy. Tons and tons of picnic tables throughout the park. Don't forget to pack a lunch!

  • Just perfect for tiny tots. 
  • Manageable. The park is big enough to spend the entire day, but not so large that it's overwhelming.
  • Getting up close with the animals. A friendly worker strolled around the park and held an animal that kids could view closer and even touch. It was a great opportunity to ask questions and pet the animals. One of our favorite parts of the day.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Snake


Santas Village AZoosment Park Fox

Santas Village AZoosment Park Spider

  • Parents can join in on the fun! Rides where mom or dad can ride with you.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Car

  • Putting out the fire. Whenever kids can play with water, you know it will be a hit. Our 11-year-old buddy would have liked to have more time with the water.Santas Village AZoosment Park Fire Truck
  • Always something new. It never ceases to amaze me - we always find something new to do at the park, although we'll have to wait a few more years to ride this tower ride.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Tower

  • We love all things fish, so this koi pond is always a big hit.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Koi Pond

  • Dedicated petting zoo area. Although we were able to feed animals throughout the park, they added a new area this year where we could feed animals like deer.
  • Fun new mini coaster - the Crazy Worm (or caterpillar as my son would say). This little thrilling ride was my five-year-old son's favorite (and mine too!)

Santas Village AZoosment Park Arms Up

  • Choo choo! The one thing they were missing from the park before -- a train! They finally have one now. The (super) slow train circles the enclosure where reindeer and other animals are located.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Train

We wish:

  • ..they still had the reindeer rides. And althought they replaced it with the train, it was always fun being pulled by reindeers on a sleigh.

Bottom Line:

Visiting Santa's Village AZoosment Park is always guaranteed fun, especially for a family with young children.

Tips to Enjoy Santa's Village AZoosment Park

  • Watch out for Santa! He does make an appearance (usually once you enter the park).
  • Have stuff to stow? After you enter the park, you'll find a set of lockers. You'll need two quarters.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Lockers

  • Get measured before you start waiting in line to go on rides, or fear a melt down (I'm looking at you, bumper cars!)Plus, it's also fun to compare how much they've grown from one year to the next.

Santas Village AZoosment Park Measure

  • Tips to save money.
    • Bring a picnic!
    • Come 3 hours before closing to enjoy general admission for $18.75 per person.


There will be one lucky winner who will win (4) tickets to Santa's Village AZoosment Park. The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond back or the prize will be forfeited.  (Be sure to check your spam and add to your safe sender's list.)

Good luck!

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Have you been to Santa's Village AZoosment Park?

Interested in discovering more things to do in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago? Read my list of more than 100 things to do this summer!

Review and GIVEAWAY: Learn about African culture at C.A.K.E. Village AND win a Birthday Party!

review the cake village east dundee

Quite honestly, I knew only about C.A.K.E. Village since it is located around my neighborhood and I pass it daily. I was immediately drawn to the name CAKE Village thinking that this was all about cake. But little did I know that C.A.K.E. Village is a cultural center when kids and adults can learn all about the African culture!

Nitty Gritty:

Address: 611 E. Main Street, East Dundee
Prices: $7 for drop-in days
Hours: Drop in hours Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10 - 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for field trips.
Parking: There is a free parking lot. Enter through the doors by the flagpole.
Stroller-friendly? Leave the stroller at home. CAKE Village is located on the second floor of the building. There are elevators, however, once you arrive on the second floor, there's about 5 more steps until you reach the entrance.
Food: No food can be purchased here.
Crowded: We were here on a Wednesday afternoon and we were the only ones there.
Nursing Friendly: No designated spaces, but since we were by ourselves didn't have a problem.

What to Expect:

The C.A.K.E. Village, standing for Culture of Africa for Kids Everywhere, is an African cultural center. They have a mini village dedicated to imaginative play and also offer art, cooking, and performing arts classes.


  • Tons of imaginative fun at the mini village!  The kids (5, 3, and 9 months) literally spent hours here and had enough to keep them preoccupied.
  • Keeping busy at the village fruit and veggie market. The kids absolutely adored this area where they could pick up a few fruits and veggies and "pay" for it.

Cake Village East Dundee Market 1

  • Serving lunch at the "restaurant."

Cake Village East Dundee Chop Chop Restaurant

  • Being center stage. Taking up the entire wall, the stage was the first thing that jumped out to the kiddos. My son, currently obsessed with Transformers, couldn't resist the opportunity to "transform" on stage.

Cake Village East Dundee Stage

  • The adorable thatched villages with a dress up area and baby playroom.

Cake Village East Dundee Thatched Village

...where the kids could dress up like an African King with traditional garments.

Cake Village East Dundee Clothing

..or care for babies.

Cake Village East Dundee Baby Playroom

  • Fun for the tiniest tots. My 9-month-old had a little section all to herself....

Cake Village East Dundee Tot Center

  • ....and had fun crawling around. The play area is spotless so I didn't worry about her crawling around the entire space.

Cake Village East Dundee Baby Crawler

  • Safety first! How often do you see covered outlets? Not enough in my experience.

Cake Village East Dundee Covered outlets

  • Ability to offer more cultural classes. Learn more about culture with hands-on experiences. During the summer, they offer the Art-is-fun program where on select days, you can learn a little more about the African culture. For instance on Mondays are Visual Art Mondays, Wednesdays are Culinary Arts, Fridays are Performing Arts.
  • The kids loved the hands-on experiences! We visited on Culinary Arts Wednesday and had a great time learning about cooking. The kids measured, mixed, and scooped.   Since the kids were a little on the young side, we started with something simple like baking muffins. Older children are able to make authentic African dishes. Yum!

Cake Village East Dundee Cooking Class Bowl

  • The kids loved their fabulous teacher, Lande. She was very patient with the kids and went at the perfect pace. She also happens to be the owner. 😉

Cake Village East Dundee Cooking Class Mixing 2


Cake Village East Dundee Proud Bakers

Pretty proud of themselves!

Cake Village East Dundee Proud Bakers 2

  • And although there wasn't a music class or art class scheduled for that day, it was nice to check out the areas and imagine drumming and dancing....

Cake Village East Dundee Music Studio

...or creating a masterpiece in the visual arts and craft studilo.

Cake Village East Dundee Arts and Craft Studio

  • The owner is wonderful! Lande was great with the kids. In fact, my youngest (usually the shy guy), wanted to hold her hand the majority of the time. After chatting with her, I could see how much passion she really has for teaching and (showing) the African culture for kids everywhere.

We wish:

  • We could try all their other cultural classes!

Tips to enjoy the CAKE Village

  • Shoes aren't allowed in the mini village. Bring socks!

Bottom Line:

What a fun way to have the kids learn more about the African culture! We highly recommend visiting this gem and trying one of their Art-is-Fun drop-in classes.

Giveaway Nitty Gritty:

There will be one lucky winner of a birthday party for up to 15 kids at The C.A.K.E. Village.

Party will Include 1.5 hrs of total party time. Choice of candy or cake for dessert. Choice of visual arts (painting, pottery, etc) or dance arts for entertainment.
Winner will need to redeem birthday party by December 31, 2015.

The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond back or the prize will be forfeited.  (Be sure to check your spam and add to your safe sender's list.)
Good luck!

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{GIVEAWAY} Candy Basket from Around the Corner Candy in West Dundee

Giveaway Candy Basket from Around the Corner Candy West Dundee

Have I got a sweet treat for you! The fabulous owners from Around the Corner Candy, Clare and Austen, want to give you a candy basket full of sweet candies from their very own shop.  If you haven't already, read our full review here. We absolutely adored picking out hard to find candies that didn't break the bank!

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Sign

A sign of good things to come.

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Selection

Like a kid in a candy store. Literally.

Giveaway Nitty Gritty:

There will be one lucky winner of a gift basket valued at around $25.
The basket will be similar to the one pictured below.
Around the Corner Candy Gift Basket

The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond back or the prize will be forfeited.
Winner will need to pick up the gift basket at Around the Corner Candy in West Dundee. (A great excuse to visit the shop and the surrounding area we love)

Good luck!

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Sweet Treats at Around the Corner Candy in West Dundee

Around the Corner Candy Old Fashioned Candy Shop West Dundee

This week as part of our #100DaysofSummer we're going to do a little exploring in our little neck of the woods - the Dundee area. Join us as we find the hidden gems around our 'hood!

As a lover of all things sweet, our family's sweet tooth brought us down the street to Around the Corner Candy. As you can imagine, visiting this candy store was a big hit with the kids -- and the adults too!

The super fabulous owners will also give a candy basket to one lucky winner. Go ahead and enter here!

Nitty Gritty:

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Exterior

Location: 99 W. Main Street, West Dundee, IL 60118
Parking: Small parking lot in front of the store and street parking.


  • Hard to find candies. They have nostalgic candies such as flying saucers and chunky bars, candy cigarettes, imported licorice from all over the world, and so much more!

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Cigarettes

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Gum

  • Tons of candy!  The store isn't too spacious, but it seems like they maximed every nook and cranny with candy. Choose from including delectable chocolates, jelly bellys, and candy blox.

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Selection

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Chocolates

  • More than candy -- we saw costumes, socks, magnets, novelty sodas, Ice creams and quirky gift items.

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Wall

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Magnets

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Nostalgic Items

  • Affordable. They had a nice stash of candies for only $1. The boys had a fun time picking out a treat. There was also a 2 cent penny area.

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Dollar Candy Bags Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Dollar Candy Cart

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Penny Post

  • It's popular! The walls of the store are decked with tons of autographs from famous celebritities.

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Autographs

  • All in the family. It's a family-owned business now run by the daughter and nephew of the former owner. After a chat with the owners (see below), it's quite obvious how passionate they are about their shop!
  • Plus who can disagree with this sign?

Around the Corner Candy Dundee Candy Balance Diet Sign

 Tips to enjoy Around the Corner Candy:

  • Make a day out of it! Park your car in any of the free parking lots nearby and walk around. You can't miss Around the Corner Candy on Main Street.
  • It's a little tight inside the store so if you're bringing a stroller it would probably be best to leave it outside.

Did you know?

  • Around the Corner Candy has won the coveted Daily Herald award of "Best Candy Store" for six years in a row?

Gettin' to know the people behind Around the Corner Candy: Clare and Austin

  • Please give a brief history of the store.

My mom liked being her own boss and always wanted to be a part of something that made people happy- hence the candy store. She worked her butt off for many years working 7 days a week and was determined to make it successful. She did so, and it was such an honor for us to be able to carry on her (legacy) of owning the candy shop!

  • You mentioned that your mother used to own the shop. What made you want to continue the business?

My mother (Kim Srajer) opened the shop back in 98'. I've been around it the majority of my life and just loved the idea of owning my own business. My grandfather always encouraged me to take over the business. He said there was nothing like the satisfaction of owning your own business. In fact, my last conversation with him was him telling me how proud of us he was and how he hoped Austin and I would take over the shop. My parents pushed me to explore other options to make sure this is what I really wanted, so I did. My cousin and I started seriously talking about taking over the shop together about 3 years ago, and in January 2015 we both got signed on as co-owners with my mother. We both couldn't be happier and I couldn't ask for better business partners.

  • Most popular candy that you sell? That's a tough question. I can't quite pin point one item. Perhaps one item per category? Old fashioned toffee and malted milk balls for chocolates. Jelly Belly Bean Boozled for kids candies. Albanese 12 flavor gummy bears for gummys. Nostalgic might be wax bottles or candy "cigarettes."
  • Your favorite candy?

Austin's is malted milk balls, Mine is probably (at the moment) the cashew crunch. I believe my mom's is still the chocolate covered peanuts.

  • Favorite thing about East/West Dundee?

It's charm. I love the old architecture.

Bottom Line: 

Every town needs a candy store, and I have to say the Dundee area is lucky to have Around the Corner Candy in their "corner." Now, excuse me as I make a dash to Around the Corner Candy where I can try those malted milk balls, cashew crunch, and chocolate covered peanuts!

Have you been to Around the Corner Candy?

Interested in discovering more kid-friendly activities this summer in the Northwest suburbs? Check out this handy dandy list!


Review and {GIVEAWAY}: New Chagall exhibit at Kohl Children’s Museum – Interactive art for kids

Chagall for Children Exhibit at Kohl Childrens Museum
Disclosure: Our family was provided complimentary admission to the Kohl Children's Museum. I  was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.


I've always been intrigued by art, and it's been such a delight to find that my kids have developed the same fondness. And when I heard that Kohl Children's Museum was bringing back the Chagall for Kids exhibit, we were beyond excited! The exhibit is such a treat - for both kids and parents.

Nitty Gritty:

When:  The temporary exhibit, Chagall for Children, is here until September 6, 2015
Prices: Exhibit is included in the entrance fee. Admission costs $11 for adults and kids; under 1 are free.
Location: 2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview, IL in the Glen
Parking: There is a free parking lot.
Stroller-friendly? On weekends, I always feel better leaving the stroller at home. On our latest visit, we didn't have trouble navigating with a stroller.
Food: There is a Cosi Cafe and plenty of tables outside if you want to bring a lunch instead
Crowded: We were here on a Wednesday morning and it wasn't too crowded
Nursing Friendly: There are little coves where you can nurse (no doors)

What to Expect:

The newest temporary exhibit, Chagall for Childrens, originally developed by Kohl Children's Museum, inspires kids to learn more about art and the famous artist Chagall with interactive features of his famous works of art.

We kicked off opening day with fun activities to celebrate the Russian artist Marc Chagall. Some ways we celebrated:

  • Painting! Armed with paint stick (I really need to get my hand on these), this was a fun non-messy way of getting to paint the cardboard roof and also the clear vinyl house.

Kohl Childrens Museum Painting Roof
Kohl Childrens Museum Painting House

  • A blue chicken! Pink goat! Pink lamb! The most colorful petting zoo all represented from Chagall's works of art.

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall Chicken Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall Animals

  • Kids were encouraged to make their own masterpiece with sidewalk chalk and spray paint chalk. I, myself, couldn't resist participating!

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall Sidewalk Chalk


Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall Sign

  • Interactive! There are 14 stations and each includes a Chagall masterpiece along with information on the painting or art piece. Kids are then challenged to try an activity related to the masterpiece. If the kiddos weren't able to read, they could listen to the information on the phone.

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibit Overview

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibits

  • Here are some of our favorites  --

The Juggler: My tech-loving kids were immediately drawn to this station because of the touch screen. Their mission? To find elements hidden in the painting.

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibit Juggler
America Windows: My little artists learned about the effects of light upon stain glass, BUT truly enjoyed rearranging the puzzle pieces to create their own art.
Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Mosaic
At The Circus: Any kid loves seeing themselves on camera. The experience is amplified when we have the option to don capes and are immersed in a Chagall painting.
 Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibit At The Circus TV Screen
I and The Village: It's all about symmetry at this station, and again, lovin' the puzzle-like pieces.
Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibit I and the Village
  • Interested in learning more about Chagall? There's an interestng timeline along with a little reading nook.

Kohl Childrens Museum Chagall for Kids Art Exhibit Book Nook

  • A learning experience...for me! I honestly did not know much about Chagall and I left with a bit more knowledge about the artist.

Tips to enjoy the Kohl Children's Museum

  • Don't miss out on exploring the rest of the museum; it's always so much fun. Believe me, my kids NEVER want to leave.
  • While you're there, don't forget to sneak a peek at the cutest turtles ever! “Turtle Rock,” features Red-eared slider and Painted turtles. Visit soon! They may leave soon to go back to their home at the Shedd Aquarium.

Kohl Childrens Museum Turtle Rock

  • Head outside. Habitat Park is such a fun place to run around and get fresh air. Besides a great playground, there were fun ways to playincluding "painting" with water.

Kohl Childrens Museum Habitat Park Painting with Water

Bottom Line:

What a fun way to get younger kids excited about art! Not only will the kids appreciate the interactive parts of the exhbit, but parents and adults will leave with a little bit more art education.

Did You Know?

  • Marc Chagall creations can be seen at a couple locations in Chicago. For instance, the actual stained glass artwork of America Windows, can be seen at The Art Institute of Chicago (and also where Ferris Bueller was smooching in front of) and also the Four Seasons mosaic can be found at the Chase Tower.
  • Marc Chagall has been called “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century." He often stated that his work was "not the dream of one people but of all humanity.”
  • Chagall for Children is a traveling exhibit that is owned by Kohl Children’s Museum and has traveled to dozens of other museums over the past 15 years.

Giveaway Time:

Are your kids ready to get inspired by art and Chagall? In fact, two lucky families will have the opportunity to visit Kohl Children's Museum and the Chagall for Kids exhibit.

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Hotel Review: A charming and historic stay at The Dearborn Inn, Michigan

The Dearborn Inn Dearborn Michigan Henry Ford Property

Disclosure: Our family was provided a complimentary stay at The Dearborn Inn. I was not required to express a particular point of view, and all opinions are my own.

Our travels brought us to the Detroit area and since I've heard tons about the Henry Ford, I know we needed to squeeze it into our plans. Since we were on a time crunch, we wanted to be close to the action, hence our stay at the Dearborn Inn, right in the middle of the Fordland, and the perfect way to immerse ourselves in Ford history.

Nitty Gritty

Location: 20301 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, Michigan
Parking: Self parking available for free or valet parking for a charge.
Category: The Dearborn Inn is a category 5 Marriott Rewards hotel at 25,000 points per night.
Rate: About $279/night (for a stay at one of the homes in the colonial village)

Hotel Highlights

  • Location is tops for those looking to visit the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, or Rouge Factory Tour. (Stay tuned for a review.) It's located just down the street, and the hotel even provides a shuttle there. In fact, The Dearborn Inn is located across what used to be the Ford airport and is now a Ford test track. In fact, this hotel has claimed to be the world's first airport hotel.
  • A nice welcome. A red carpet entrance prepares you for the elegant ambiance.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Red Carpet Entrance

  • A grand lobby.  Love the black and white marble tile throughout.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Lobby Black and White Tile

Another view of the lobby with Henry Ford's portrait hanging.

Credit: The Dearborn Inn

Credit: The Dearborn Inn

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Lobby

  • Very well manicured grounds. We loved exploring the grounds which includes a gazebo. In fact, we spied a wedding just across from where we were staying.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Grounds

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Gazebo Grounds

  • A rich history. Hotel is listed on the National Historic Register.  
  • Walking history lesson. We perused the grounds and imagined life as it would have been during Ford's era. For instance, we saw the Dormitory Building that was added in 1933 to house hotel employees.
  • The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Dormitory Rooms..the Alexandria Ballroom was inspired from a room he admired in Alexandria, Virginia.
    Alexandria Ballroom at The Dearborn Inn

    Credit: The Dearborn Inn

  • A charming colonial village. There are 5 different replica homes just a short walk from main inn. Henry Ford was a lover of history, and as an addition to the main hotel, had replica homes created. These homes were built using the same materials as the original homes with careful attention to detail. Here were some of the homes he had built:
    • Barbara Fritchie: A patriot, who labored untiringly for her beloved Union all her life. replica is a small cottage located in Pennsylvania

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Colonial Village Barbara Fritchie Home

  • Walt Whitman: One of the greatest American poets that ever lived; Walt Whitman's original farmhouse in Westchester County dating to 1675.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Colonial Village Walt Whitman Home

  • Edgar Allen Poe: another one of America's greatest poets; the cottage replica is where he lived with his wife and mother

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Colonial Village Edgar Allen Poe Home

  • Patrick Henry: Attorney, politician, and orator made famous with the  "Give me liberty or give me death" speech.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Colonial Village Patrick Henry Home

  • Governor Oliver Wolcott: signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence; home reflects fine living of the day

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Colonial Village Gov Wolcott Home

  • Shuttle available to Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village

Room highlights:

We had the privilege to stay in a suite in Governor Wolcott's home in Colonial Village.
  • Room decked out in colonial decor to stay true to the theme. The master bedroom with two beds, a master bathroom, and huge walk-in closet.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Master Bedroom

  • Spacious living room. Tons of room to move about and lounge.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Living Room

..with desk and decorative fireplace.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Desk

  • Thoughtfulness. Kids were extra excited to find a tray (tray!!) full of cookies and milk.
The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Cookies n Milk
  • Modern bathrooms. Unlike the rest of the room, the bathrooms provided a little bit of modern luxury. There were even two bathrooms with tubs in each.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Modern Bathrooms

  • Fridge available in closet. Always a must when travelling!
  • Same amenities available. Even though we weren't connected to the main building, we were able to take advantage of the same amenities. For instance, we didn't have an ice machine, so we were able to request it when needed.

Typical Room:

  • Regular guest rooms are also outfitted with colonial decor
Guest Rooms The Dearborn Inn (1)

Credit: The Dearborn Inn

 We wish...

  • ..they had an indoor pool. They did have an outdoor pool, but it was a little bit chilly for a dip. There was also a children's pool too.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Pool

  • ..the internet wasn't so spotty.

Bottom Line:

If you're looking for a great location in proximity to The Henry Ford with a loads of charm and a rich history, the Dearborn Inn can't be beat.

Tips to enjoy your stay at The Dearborn Inn:

  • If you're staying in the colonial village, ask to stay on the first floor. Our home had a second level and no elevator. It seemed tight to go up the stairs with luggage. and we didn't see any elevators if staying in rooms on the second floor.
  • Marriott Rewards members who book a room directly on do receive complimentary Internet.
  • Explore the grounds. Who knows? You may even make a new friend.

The Dearborn Inn Henry Ford Grounds Squirrel Friend

Did you know?

  • Henry Ford wanted to create 18 homes in colonial village, but World War II thwarted his efforts and only 5 were built
  • The Dearborn Inn is the world's first airport hotel. Ford saw that there wasn't a hotel located closer to the airport other than Detroit, so he commisioned the famous architect Albert Kahn (see other famous works of his) to design the "airport" hotel.
  • Famous guests include Eleanor Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Walt Disney, and President Ronald Reagan, and even Lassie.

Here's a photo of the hotel that shows what it looked like back in the day compared to today.

Compare the Dearborn Inn before and present

Credit: The Dearborn Inn

Read my entire review on



Family Fun Review: Scottish Festival and Highland Games, Itasca

Scottish Festival and Highland Games Itasca Illinois
Last year, we attended the Highland Games and Scottish Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the Midwest, and we had so much fun learning about the Scottish culture. In fact, it's become one of our favorite family festivals.

Nitty Gritty;

When: Friday, June 19 (4:00pm - 10:00pm) and Saturday, June 20 (8:00am - 9:00pm)
Where: Hamilton Lake in Itasca, IL located at I-290 and Thorndale Avenue

Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on the day you choose to visit. Check out their page for more ticket information.


  • Eat, eat, eat! We were able to try a variety of Scottish food like haggis and scottish toffee pudding.

Highland and Scots Festival Food

  • Seeing animals we don't see very often. We were able to get up close and personal to highland cattle.

Highland and Scots Festival Animals

  • Fun kids activities including a "train," bounce houses, and mini golf.

Highland and Scots Festival Ride

Highland and Scots Festival Bounce

Highland and Scots Festival Mini Golf

  • Lots of room to run about.

Highland and Scots Festival Run

  • Learn about different clans.

Highland and Scots Festival Clan

  • Seeing traditional Scottish games like a Caber Toss (flipping 20-foot, 140-pound tree trunk), the 22-pound Hammer Throw, the Sheaf Toss (flipping a bale of hay over a high bar) and the Clachnert (throwing a 16-pound river s
  • Traditional and unique cultural events like live Celtic music, bag pipes, Highland Dance contests
Credit: Chicago Scots
  • Shopping! Scottish wares, goodies, swords (real and wooden), and even kilts.

Highland and Scots Festival Shirt

  • Proceeds benefit a good cause. Prices may be a little more expensive but rest assured that your money is benefitting the Scottish Home in North Riverside, which provides assisted living and nursing care for seniors since 1910. Their current mission is to build a new structure for Alzheimer's care.

Bottom Line:

We highly recommend attending this festival if you like learning about different cultures. So neat trying different foods, hearing bagpipes played, and watching the Highland Games being played.

Tips to enjoy the Scottish Festival and Highland Games:

  • Bring a picnic blanket or chairs. Lots of grass to lay down, eat food, and relax.
  • Wear your kilt. Believe me, you won't be the only one.
  • Read more about this year's Scottish Festival and Highland Games from the Daily Herald.
Have you been to the Highland Games before?
Highland and Scots Festival Swords
Interested in discovering more kid-friendly activities this summer in the Northwest suburbs? Check out this handy dandy list!

Yapa Events Kids Adventure Hunt: Taste your way through Arlington Heights

Yapa Events Kids Adventure Hunt Review

Disclosure: Our family was provided complimentary tickets for the adventure hunt. I  was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

We recently participated in the fun kids adventure hunt by Yapa Events, International Flavors of Arlington Kids Hunt. As a family travel blogger, I was psyched to show my five-year-old and three-year-old different cultures through this unique kids adventure hunt.

We began our adventure at Run n Tri in downtown Arlington Heights. We met the super-friendly owner of Yapa Events, Joan, and were given a handy dandy binder with a map and clues and the kids were given passports to record the places they visited. And just in case we got lost, we were given Joan's cell phone number as well. And then we were off!


  • Won't break the bank! Kids are $10 and adults and grandparents are FREE.
  • Instructions straight forward. All the clues were pretty easy to follow and some even provided step-by-step details to the next stop.
  • Taste testing! Fun getting to try different foods at each stop.

Yapa Event Taste Testing

  • Learn about the world. Each stop provided facts about each place and culture that could be recorded in our passports. As a geography nerd, I was really excited about this.
  • Learn a little bit about each restaurant owner. Not only did we learn about different cultures, but we got an inside glimpse about each owner's favorite food at the restaurant and some fun facts as well.
  • Discover new places to eat. We are always looking to find new places to eat and I now have a few more to add to our "must try" list.

Yapa Event Stops

We wish...

  • My kids could read. I believe they would have had tons more fun if they could read the fun facts and follow the clues to the next stop.

Tips to Enjoy the Kids Adventure Hunt:

  • Bringing strollers? Best to leave the strollers outside the participating stops.
  • Bring water to keep the kids hydrated.
  • If it's sweltering hot, start the race early since you'll be outside most of the time.
  • If you've still worked up an appetite, you can dine at the last restaurant on your stop (with a discount!)

Bottom Line:

What a fun, unique way to learn about different cultures in our own neck of the woods! If the kids are into scavenger hunts, they will no doubt have a blast. I'd love to take my kids again when they're a little older to figure out the clues themselves. In fact, we're excited to attend their next event where we can learn more about Mexico!

Nitty Gritty:

Ticket prices: Kids $10 each. Adults are free.
Location: Adventure hunts start at Start at Runners High ‘n Tri, 121 West Campbell Street, Arlington Heights.  Instructions and maps will be given to you there.
Parking: Free 4 hour parking on the ground floor of the parking garage, just south of Campbell Street between Vail and Highland Streets.  We opted to do this instead of the 2 hour street parking since the hunt can take longer than 2 hours.

Yapa Event Free Parking

When: Adventure hunts take place on June 15 and 16. Start the Adventure Hunts any time between 10:30 am and 3:30 pm.
Details: Register at Register at

Get to know the person behind Yapa Events: Joan Dubnicka

How did Yapa Events come into fruition?

I loved creating and hosting special events at Little Village Playplace, a children's playplace and birthday party venue I founded and operated in Arlington Heights.  Both the children and adults seemed to really enjoy and value that special time together.  After I closed Little Village Playplace, I started Yapa Events to continue offering special events to families.  Yapa Events' focus is on creative events that highlight the community and local culture.

What do you love most about your job?

I really enjoy the flexibility a small business offers, especially the ability to be creative about the services offered.  I like the challenge of determining what the market wants and how to provide a great service.

Most of your events focus on Arlington Heights. What is your favorite thing about the town?

I do love Arlington Heights!  This village, even though it has a large population, has a very warm "community" feel to it.  AH has so many great aspects - fun events, great downtown with many independent restaurants and shops, wonderful parks and park district, incredible library, access to Chicago via the Metra, and on and on!  Obviously answering with one favorite thing is hard for me.  Maybe the best way to say it is -- my favorite thing about AH is that it is a very warm, friendly community with a  long list of great amenities.

Will you expand to other towns besides Arlington Heights?

I'd like to!  Yapa Events is doing one of our Passport Events - Celebrating Mexico - in Schaumburg in July.

Any fun facts to share about Yapa Events?

Yapa Events provides corporate events, helping businesses build awareness of their business and/or helping businesses show appreciation for their customers or employees through special events.

Interested in discovering more things to do in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago? Read my list of more than 100 things to do this summer!