This giveaway is presented in partnership with Cotopaxi!
It’s no secret that I love Chicago and one of my favorite things to do is explore. Whether it’s trying new restaurants, hiking a new trail, or hitting the newest fitness class, I love to check out new things. If I can combine that with fitness, even better! That’s why I was so excited to find the Cotopaxi Questival Adventure Race.
Different than a traditional 5k or running race, Questival lets you “spend 24 hours with your closest friends, in your favorite city, checking a bunch of amazing experiences off your bucket list?” Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Questival is a 24-hour adventure race that invites you to build friendships, push yourself, experience your surroundings, and have a whole bunch of fun. Your team of 2 to 6 people will do exciting, unpredictable, and downright good things you never thought possible. We guarantee it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
I’ve been using it for about a month, and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a great bag to wear when I head out to tour Chicago, packing up to organize a road trip with friends, or even piling my belongings into it to settle in for a long night at the rock show.
The bag features some really great details, including a Velcro key loop, adjustable straps, and a card holder inside the zipper pocket on the front of the bag. Since it’s built for a hydration bladder, I picked up this one on Amazon, and it’s worked great! If you’re an outdoorsy type or even someone who just carries a lot of stuff around, I highly recommend this bag. (Did I mention you get it for free if you do the Questival race?!)
Weird Chicago provided free tickets, but all opinions are my own.
If you follow me on social media (or remember this post from last year’s gift guide), you probably know that I love true crime. After a recent dive into a new podcast (holla at my ladies!) and living with Dani, I’ve grown interested in paranormal phenomenon as well. I’d heard of Weird Chicago before, and I’ve always wanted to do a tour of Chicago’s biggest crime stories. (Honestly, the only one I’m really familiar with is the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – mostly because the scene of it is across from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.) I was really excited to see their Haunted History tour, and Dani and I jumped on the chance to go!
Our tour guide, Krystal, was energetic and engaging. She said that they can change up the spots they go based on the people on the tour and what’s going on in town. Since there weren’t any little kids on our tour, she added a stop where we could grab a drink at a bar – and it turned out it was a place I’d had an experience many years ago. One of the coolest parts of the trip was that Krystal gave us tips on the best way to shoot paranormal photography. She also asked if anyone was a medium or clairvoyant because some of the sites are very active and people who are sensitive have gotten sick in the past.
As a note – you can bring drinks and snacks on the bus, so I highly recommend that. (There’s a Walgreens and a McDonald’s near the pickup, if you need a quick place to run in.)
The first stop was on the Chicago Riverwalk, a beautiful paved walkway that’s super popular for tourists and locals. It’s also the site of the Eastland Disaster. Krystal told us the story, and I was shocked that I’d never heard of it before. In 1915, a company chartered this steamship (along with three others) to take their employees as a reward for great work. The ship’s infrastructure failed, resulting in a huge disaster: 220 people died, including many full families. (We were also there on the 102nd anniversary of the disaster, which was a coincidence.) People have reported seeing faces in the water and hearing cries for help – cries so real that emergency services are still called weekly for reports of drownings.
From there, we boarded back up on the bus and Krystal started telling us about how cemeteries (vs. graveyards) came about. She explained the history of how Chicago’s first cemetery came to be, and told us we were going there. I was really surprised when she told us what it was, because it’s a place I really love – Lincoln Park (including the Lincoln Park Zoo.)
It’s a great park now, so it was really surprising to learn that there are still thousands of bodies buried in the park. Even though people at the time were supposed to move their family’s remains after the city realized that having a burial site so near to the lake wasn’t going to work, many didn’t move them at all. There’s only one remnant left that symbolizes what the park used to be: the Couch Mausoleum. She told us that the most haunted place in Lincoln Park is actually the Zoo (which is one of my favorite places in Chicago!)
Since we were in Lincoln Park, I had a pretty good idea what the next stop would be, and I was right. Lincoln Park is just a skip and a jump from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company… across from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre site. Even though I’m aware of it, I didn’t know that much about it. Krystal used volunteers from the group to illustrate all the people who were killed, and it was really interesting to hear the history and full story of what happened. There’s a retirement community next door, and one of the first floor apartments had so many complaints from residents that they would hear knocking and yelling constantly. I got very nauseous at this location, it was very weird. It came on quickly and I had to lean up against the fence to keep my strength. (One of the major characters in this story was a dog, so maybe that’s why I was so affected.)
We headed downtown to the theater district to a nondescript alley by the Oriental Theater. Krystal told us it is referred to as Death Alley. In 1903, the Iroquois theater that was there at the time had a fire break out – not unusual at the time for theaters due to the heavy materials and lighting they used. It was billed as the world’s first “fireproof” theater, though, and they opened with a few important shortcuts taken – including no fire alarms and no fire escapes from the balcony. Hundreds of lives were lost (some due to fire, some due to people being pushed from the balcony out to the street) and today, it has a suicide rate of three times that of other places.
Finally, we wrapped up our tour at the Congress Hotel. I’ve actually stayed at the Congress Hotel once in 2009 for a conference. I was young, and “enjoying” the conference amenities, if you know what I mean, when I thought it would be a great idea to enter a stairwell that was marked “CLOSED – DO NOT ENTER.” It was so creepy. Cobwebs and dank smell that told you the door hadn’t been cracked for years. I was the only one in the stairwell, and I kept hearing scratches against the wall and a clanging sound on the steps. I hightailed it out of there, and I hadn’t thought about it again until we pulled up. Krystal told us stories about some of the ghosts that still live in the hotel (including one room that the hotel doesn’t rent out unless you request it – and even then, you’re waiting a year to get in) and it’s kind of cool to hear the backstory of some of these “residents.”
It was a really great experience and made me want to learn even more about the city’s history. If you’re a tourist, a transplant, or even if you’ve lived in Chicago your whole life, I highly recommend checking out one of Weird Chicago’s tours!
The holidays are stressful enough without throwing travel drama in, but more often than not, there’s some travel involved in getting to your destination. Thankfully, technology makes things a little easier now, whether it’s enabling faster phone calls to be made, or tapping in an alternate route in a GPS app. I’ve made heavy use of tons of travel tips both to make the trip easier as well as rerouting or rebooking when flights are delayed, so I’m sharing some ideas here as we get ready to head out for another round of holiday travel!
If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, the airline won’t comp you a hotel room, but agents will have vouchers with specific discount codes for the airport hotels. It’s worth waiting in line to grab those, and the sheet will have all the steps to redeem the discount. (Pay attention to why your specific flight is canceled, and don’t assume that it’s based on weather – in my only canceled flight story, the agent rebooked me and tried to push me away with the discount code, but I had overheard that my flight was canceled due to mechanical issues. They bussed me out to a fancy five star golf resort, where my total bill for the day and a half was $14.53 for pizza that I had delivered – which I ate in the super luxe hotel robe.)
We’re just a few weeks out from Christmas, and in the crunch for wrapping up the holiday shopping lists! If you’re feeling stuck on gift ideas, I’ve put together a week of ideas to help you get inspired. Travel is one of my favorite pastimes, and something I love getting gifts for – planning and going on a trip can be stressful, so this is an area I think a lot of my fellow travel friends prefer receiving things for. (Buying your own travel shower gel? Super boring. Get a fancier one as a gift? More exciting!) Here are some things I’ve seen floating around that would suit any road (or air) warrior.
PurseN Travel Pillow: When I was a couple years younger and just starting to travel, I thought those memory foam neck pillows were so silly. Why not just wad up a hoodie or scarf and use that? Now, however, I find myself jealous of those who walk around with these upon their necks, imagining the comfortable sleep they’ll get – especially as I find myself in window seats less and less. The PurseN pillow in particular has me lusting – it includes zippered pockets so you can tuck away things you want to reach quickly, like earbuds, Dramamine or sunglasses.
When I was growing up, New Found Glory was one of my favorite bands – I have no shame about this. One of my favorite songs, “Dressed to Kill,” includes the line you’re always on tour, and you’re never home. It’s no secret that I always thought that I’d grow up to be a roadie, tucked away in a bus bunk or folded up in a van too small to carry adults, gear, instruments and luggage, but that’s not exactly how things have turned out. I am still super lucky that I have a job that lets me work remotely, so I certainly still get to do my fair share of travel! The past few months have been especially busy – many drives between Chicago and West Michigan, plus Montreal, Nashville and a flight to Boston. All that travel can definitely take a toll on your state of mind – it’s definitely fun and I know I’m super lucky to have this kind of lifestyle, but it can be hard to feel like you have a hold on what you own and where it is. Here are some tips on how to keep your head on straight when you’re bouncing from one place to another! Read more…