Category: Travel   view all recent posts
December 5, 2014filed in Travel

Chistmas season: Chicago style

The Christmas season is a favorite time for my family to return to my home town of Chicago. If the idea of visiting the Windy City during the holidays leaves you with visions of unbearable crowds and overrun shops dancing in your head, take heart and read on. It is my pleasure to share with you an insider's guide to some of Chicago's best - and some lesser known - experiences to enjoy with your family. 
OK, I know what you're thinking. "Cheryl," you say, "I thought you were going to take us off the beaten path!" You are right, this attraction is situated on Michigan Avenue and very much ON the beaten path, but is not to be missed. Check the park's website for hours and go early in the day to avoid the crowds. You will be so very glad that you did.
Ice skating in Millennium park | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Ice skating in Millennium park | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

I love to visit this nifty studio and gallery at this time of year to purchase handmade gifts for special people.
Lillstreet Art Center | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Lillstreet holds a holiday open house each year in which various artists take center stage to give hands-on instruction in their respective crafts. When we were there last year, my daughter Emma learned the art of silk screening.
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Lydia learned how to make a crazy cool personalized ring.
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

The girls also tried their hand at making clay ornaments. It truly is a wonderful gem of a place!
Lillstreet Art Center Holiday Open House | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Macy's will always be known to us as Marshall Fields' original store, but no matter what you call it, do not miss their over-the-top holiday displays. Again, this one is very much on the well-worn tourist path, but a visit at night is always a treat.
Macy's State Street | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

The girls are always mesmerized by the holiday scene in the windows at Macy's.
Macy's State Street | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Locate the enormous holiday tree in the plaza outside Chicago's civic center (Daley Center) and you are just steps from the German Christkindlmarket. Here you can shop for beautiful ornaments and sample scrumptiously warm potato pancakes.
Holiday Tree at Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

A visit to Daley always prompts a trip down memory lane for me as soon as I spy "The Picasso", a sculpture I played on as a little girl.

And speaking of wonderful European-style shopping experiences, a visit to the gorgeous Sweden Shop on West Foster is not to be missed, especially during the holiday season. We love to shop for holiday gifts here every year.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

A couple of boxes of their wonderful gingersnaps always manage to find their way into our shopping bag.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

I love finding something special under the tree that the girls have chosen just for me during our visit to The Sweden Shop.
The Sweden Shop | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

We love a Jam Restaurant meal at Christmas time. Coincidentally, this 5-star breakfast place on West Logan is just two blocks from where I grew up.
Jam Restaurant | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Not only is the food utterly delicious at Jam, the eatery's huge floor-to-ceiling windows flood the place with natural light, beating back any trace of gloom from even the grayest of Chicago winter days.
Jam Restaurant | Chicago, IL | Cheryl Hall Photography

Do you and your family enjoy visiting Chicago during the holiday season? 
What are the special places that are on your must-visit list? 
Leave a note in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
July 15, 2014filed in Children, Families, Travel

A Visit to the Present, Past and (oh, my!) the Future

When I heard the news that my nephew was marrying his college sweetheart, I was delighted. After all, it's not every day that someone so close to me falls in love and decides to take the plunge. That in itself is exciting. Then I learned that the ceremony was to take place in Charlottesville, home of their alma mater, the University of Virginia. Lovely! But perhaps most exciting of all? He and his fiancee asked two of my daughters to participate as members of the wedding party. My girls were simply over the moon about it. 
This is the story of my family's happy travels to Charlottesville in the present, past and future. 
In June, the time finally came. The wedding was just days away, and we set off for "C'ville" as the locals call it. The wedding was simply lovely, the setting on UVA's campus was stunning, and Tom, my daughters and I felt honored to be a part of the day.
The central grounds at UVA were the perfect backdrop for some post-ceremony snapshots.

With the excitement of the wedding day behind us, we decided to enjoy more of what this beautiful part of the country has to offer. Of course, no trip to the homeland of Thomas Jefferson would be complete without a visit to, well, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello
This trip to the past starts at the pleasantly designed visitor and education center. A video presentation brings the former president to life and provides background on some of the things you will see on a visit to his home and the area surrounding it. A life-size bronze sculpture of the man himself waits with you at the stop for the tram that will take you to his front door.
We enjoyed the sights at Thomas Jeffersons' Monticello visitor center and garden.

We toured the inside of his home (no photographs allowed!), including the dining room where he entertained many famous guests (a dumb waiter built into the side of the fireplace hauled up bottle after bottle of wine from the cellar) and his chambers (he had his bed built into the center of the room between his private quarters and his study so he could easily get up and off to work in the morning). 
As interesting as the inside of Monticello is, the outside is just as much so. We took our time touring the large, well-tended and charmingly rustic garden that grows along one complete side of the property. Walking along row after row of crops, we marveled at the relaxation among the order, the calm of the space amongst so many daily visitors and wondered aloud to one another, "who in the world eats all the food that is grown here?" 
A favorite part of the day at Monticello for my girls was exploring the hands-on activities tucked away in a shady spot near the main home. Who wouldn't enjoy trying the art of writing with a quill pen and ink?
The Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center offers fun experiences for Monticello visitors of all ages.

Here is one of my girls trying out the camera obscura, a device that led to the invention of photography.
The camera obscura is a popular attraction at the Monticello Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center.

Visiting Monticello was a perfectly lovely and relaxed way to spend a day together as a family. 
I stated up front that this is a story of the present, past and future for my family. 
Remember the wedding? (Present.) 
Remember Monticello? (Past.) 
So what's the story about the future? 
A new fan of UVA and Charlottesville, VA is born.

We had such a lovely time in Charlottesville that all three of my girls have declared their intention to attend college there. Oh, my! I'm not quite ready for that just yet!
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
October 22, 2013filed in Babies, Children, Families, Travel


This past weekend, my family and I enjoyed our traditional autumn getaway to South Haven, Michigan. Situated on the shore of Lake Michigan just a couple hours west of our home in Dexter, Michigan, South Haven is particularly gorgeous at this time of year. We always look forward to revisiting our favorite spots and discovering new sights along the way. Here are 4 must-visit places that top our list. 
STOP #1: Gene the Pumpkin Man 
A trip to South Haven would not be complete without a stop in Kalamazoo along the way to visit Gene the Pumpkin Man. Gene's 130 acre farm has been in his family since 1885, and according to the eye-catching sign on his barn, he's been in the pumpkin business for 56 years.

Gene is a very kind soul. Over the years he and his family have given freely to others in need by providing food and shelter and looking after people who just needed an extra hand. It's that sort of hospitality and giving spirit that bring customers back year after year. I met someone there that has purchased pumpkins from Gene for the last 42 years! 
Add us to the list of loyal Gene the Pumpkin Man customers. It is such a sweet place!

STOP #2: Crane Orchards 
There is a ton of fall fun to be had on the rambling farm property of Crane Orchards in Fennville, Michigan

Crane's has a huge fruit farm with U-pick apples, a great restaurant with every variety of pie you can imagine, and a wonderful corn maze that we love to wander through.

You can test your knowledge of corn trivia with ten numbered stations throughout the maze. Did you know corn silk makes the perfect material for a DIY mustache disguise?

STOP #3: Fall Festival at Stokes Homestead Farm Market 
New to our autumn weekend tradition this year was the Fall Festival at Stokes Homestead Farm Market in Grand Junction, Michigan. We found lots more fun for the kids there - pumpkin painting, a donut toss competition, mining for jewels, and even a spooky nighttime Halloween hay ride through the apple orchard.

STOP #4: South Haven Farm Market 
This is my favorite farmer's market of them all. At the South Haven Farmers Market, local farmers come together right in downtown South Haven to offer everything from apples to homemade maple syrup. What a treat for the eyes to walk through this market on a chilly fall morning!

Our girls' favorite is Happy Jack's Kettle corn. They enjoy watching him make the irresistibly salty and sweet treat right in front of us. We always stock up on Happy Jack's when we're in town.

Our annual family road trip is something we look forward to each fall. What are your family's must-visit places at this time of year? Please share in the comments!  
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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
February 15, 2013filed in Newborns, Babies, Children, Families, Seniors, Travel


Greetings! I'm so excited about the launch of the all-new CHP website complete with the blog you are reading now. Thanks for stopping by! 
This blog will be all about the people, places, and perfectly beautiful things that make my job as portrait photographer, wife, and mom so much fun. Future blog posts will answer frequently asked questions from clients in greater depth than what is found on the Q&A page of the CHP website, share sneak peeks of adorable faces from select CHP portrait sessions, provide inspiration for displaying your photographs at home, and share the inside scoop on enjoying the best of food and good times while traveling the globe with kids. As a Chicago native, I am particularly keen to shed light on some of the hidden gems just waiting for families to discover in the Windy City. 
I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts on the new website or this blog. Include your comment below, stop by the CHP Facebook page, send me a tweet, or a good old fashioned letter in the mail. However you do it, I'd love to hear from you! 

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Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
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