Spring Break Staycation: World Adventures In Your Own Backyard

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It's spring break and you're going nowhere. Staying put. Kicking around the greater Chicago area.

Stop sounding so glum. You may not have warm sunny beaches (but you might, you never know in March) but you certainly can have fun -- an adventure even. An escapade without the airfare and with plenty of excitement, while sleeping in your own bed!

It starts with a theme. If you were in Vietnam, what would you have for breakfast? Papaya? Buy one, cut it up, and serve it with lime wedges. What would a day of touring include? Temples, monkeys -- Chicago has those. 

What music would be on the radio or playing in the street? Get a CD or download tunes to your iPod. And when you get home after your great adventure, relax with a movie or book that takes place in your exotic locale.

Then plan each day's adventure. You could choose a different country for each day or if that sounds overwhelming, then one or two for the week. Make it memorable by making it as far out of the every day as you can.

Here are some of my ideas based on dream vacations. Feel free to steal, swap, and add your own ideas in the comments section!





Orchids and snorkeling are two highlights of a Hawaiian vacation. So, where to go to find them in Chicago?


Lincoln Park Conservatory -- Go because it smells like Hawaii; orchids and that moist tropical air! 

Shedd Aquarium -- The dolphins are back in a cheesy show, perfect for feeling like a tourist and they've got gorgeous reef exhibits that make you feel like you're walking through a reef rather than snorkeling through one! 


Aloha Eats. Authentic mix plates and SPAM musubis for the brave.


Anything by Don Ho or "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii"


Blue Hawaii, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 50 First Dates 



Key West 






Key West has a long, colorful history of pirates and drag queens. Its proximity to Cuba flavors the food, drinks, and music.


Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum -- It may not have parrots and five-toed cats, but the butterfly haven is a perennial favorite. 

On a nice day, go for a bike ride along the Lake Shore Drive path and pretend you can see Cuba in the middle of Lake Michigan!

Key Lime Cove Water Park  - Can't get outside? Enjoy the water at this indoor waterpark!


El Cubanito- Go to Logan Square for traditional Cuban sandwiches and their steak sandwich.


Everything by Jimmy Buffett


To experience drag queens and pirates, you'll need some help from the movies. The Birdcage, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Extra Frills Edition), Peter Pan (2-Disc Platinum Edition) 


Key Limes (Think key lime pie!)



Here are some ideas for soaking up some local Mexican culture:


Start in Pilsen for neighborhood flavor and shopping. Kids will love picking out Mexican candy at Dulceria Lupitas (1730 W. 18th Street). Watch out for the tamarind-flavored candies unless you have a really adventurous palate!

National Museum of Mexican Art - They offer free guided tours, but don't go on Monday. They're closed. 


Don Pedro Carnitas-Stay in Pilsen for lunch. Try Don Pedro's slow cooked pork tacos.

Kristoffer's Café-Rick Bayless loves their tres leche cakes.

Cesars - Home of the killer margarita! I recommend the mango.


Sigo Siendo Yo: Grandes Exitos by Marc Anthony or any mariachi music


The Legend of Zorro  


If you are not one of the lucky ones who get to go on some exotic vaca for spring break, try one of these staycations! Let us know how it is by posting on our facebook page or tweeting at us @Chicago_U !


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  • This ALMOST makes me want to stay in Chicago for spring break... but good suggestions for when I get back and need a stay-cation!

  • All very delicious ideas. Key Lime pie= Best tropical desert ever!

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