Time to go tree shopping!

It’s that time of the year again! Soft snow drifts down while families gaze at beautiful trees in anticipation of finding the right one for their home. A great place to find the perfect tree is at Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm, which is just an hour and a half northwest of Chicago. Keep in mind that you will have to go on the Illinois tollway for the drive, but you can save your time and change by using a mobile app to manage your tolls. Try out FastToll app to track all of your tolls and pay from your phone later.

Ben’s Tree Farm, which has been around since 1982, has 9 varieties of organic fir, spruce and pine trees and you can rest assured that the tree you bring in your home is free of pesticides. They offer loads of free perks, like complimentary hot cocoa and coffee, wagon rides to choose your tree, and preparing your tree for the ride home. You can even bring your (leashed) dog to take part in your family’s tradition!

Tree pricing starts at $6 per foot and they also offer wreaths and garlands, which can be paid for by cash or checks.

 Get ready to enjoy a fantastic family tradition!

Let's Go Cubs!

If you aren't a Chicago local, you may not know that the Chicago Cubs haven’t appeared in a World Series since 1945, and haven’t won since 1908, so 2016 is an important year. Some sports pundits are saying the Cubs stand a real chance of taking it all.

But they still have to get past the Dodgers in the National League finals. So far, the series is tied at 2 - 2 with game 5 scheduled in L.A.  and games 6 and 7 are slated for Saturday and Sunday back home at Wrigley Field.

Located on the North Side of Chicago, driving and parking near the stadium can be difficult, especially for out-of-towners. Luckily, there are some park-and-ride and public transportation options. Check out the Cub’s official transportation page to see which option is best for you.

If you’re determined to make a go of it on your own, be prepared for bumper-to-bumper traffic on game day. And chances are you’ll find yourself dealing with tollbooth bottlenecks on the I-90 Tollway. (To save your sanity, consider downloading the FastToll app which allows you to drive through plazas and pay your tolls later.)

Besides tollbooths and traffic, the only thing keeping you from supporting the Cubs might be ticket prices. They ain’t cheap! But hey, what wouldn’t you pay to witness history in the making? 

Morton Arboretum

The annual Fall Color Festival in now underway at Morton Arboretum.

Spanning 1,700 acres of woodlands, wetlands and prairie, the Arboretum ranks in the top ten most visited museums and zoos in the Chicago area. And there’s even more reason to visit in fall.



During the festival, you can go for a stroll on Scarecrow Trail, admire a hand-blown Glass Pumpkin Patch, or learn about Beneficial Bats. Kids can enjoy games and crafts at Tricks and Trees. Adults can sample seasonal beers and ciders at the Cider and Ale Festival.  There’s also the Boo Breakfast and Mystery Dinner at Thornhill Mansion.

And that’s all in addition to going for a walk on the 16 miles of paved and unpaved trails throughout the Arboretum, and just taking in the fall foliage. (To ensure peak colors, check out their Fall Color Report when planning your visit.)



The Arboretum is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to sunset. Admission prices vary but regular price is $14 for adults and $9 for children. Some seasonal activities require additional payment.

They are located 25 miles from Chicago, just west of the I-355 tollway and north of the I-88 tollway. (To save time, consider downloading the FastToll app which allows you to drive through plazas and pay tolls later.)


Make a visit to Morton Arboretum part of your fall family tradition!    




Getting Around Chicago

So you find yourself clicking to reserve a hotel room for a weekend getaway to the Windy City. Before leaving home, here is some information that will help you plan for driving in and around Chicago.



Chicago’s streets are laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid. Apart from a few diagonal exceptions, the streets run directly north/south and east/west. (The intersection of Madison and State Street marks the center of the city, the place where all addresses originate.) Traffic mostly flows at a steady pace, except during rush hour, of course, which is roughly between 7 – 9 a.m. and 4 – 7 p.m. on weekdays.


As in any big city, parking can be a pain. Luckily, there are multiple websites out there which allow you to search parking lots and garages for availability and which allow you to pay in advance to reserve your spot. (Check-out: ParkWhiz, SpotHero, and Parking Panda)


Locals refer to expressways and tollways by given names not by numbers. For example, 1-90 is the Chicago Skyway and 1-88 is the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway. (For a full listing click here)

Paying tolls in Illinois can be confusing. Some plazas accept cash payment, but only exact change. Some don’t accept cash at all. Certain lanes are for I-PASS users only. If you want to save time and avoid fines, FastToll app lets you drive through and pay tolls later. It keeps track of the plazas/ramps you passed through, the amount you owe, and sends reminders of payment deadlines.

Also, Illinois tollways have “oases” which serve as rest and refuel stops. They offer food and retail options, gas and car wash facilities. (Check GasBuddy to make sure you’re getting the best price.)


Safe travels!     




Pumpkin time!

What started out in the late 1800’s as a homestead consisting of 100 acres and a one-room house has now become the present day Sonny Acres Farm — one of the most popular fall destinations for families in the greater Chicago area.

Located a mere 36.6 miles from downtown Chicago, urbanites don’t hesitate to hop on the U.S. 290 tollway to enjoy a day of fresh air and farm fun. (Save yourself some headache by downloading the free tracking mobile app FastToll before your road trip.) 

Sonny Acres Farm offers pony rides and pig races, hayrides and a haunted barn. There is also a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, carnival rides and much, much more.

Onsite parking is free and there’s no entrance fee. They operate on a pay-as- you-go kind of system. All activities cost between 2 and 6 tickets (1 ticket = $1). On Wristband Wednesdays, you can enjoy unlimited rides from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $10. (Make sure to stop at an ATM beforehand because the ticket booth accepts cash payment only.)

This family-owned and operated farm has become a fixture of its West Chicago, Illinois community and is well-worth a visit.