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How to eat your way around St. Louis Chef Rick Lewis of Southern and Mike "Pappy" Emerson of Pappy's Smokehouse, both located in St. Louis, talk about their restaurants' specialties. (Amy Tara Koch / Chicago Tribune) Amy Tara Koch for the Chicago Tribune Some cities reveal their charm effortlessly. Walk out of a hotel room in London or New York, and you can easily stroll into a compelling neighborhood, its curated boutiques and trendy cafes smacking of local verve. Other cities...

The most difficult thing about becoming a parent is watching the concept of free time evaporate. In the old days,  “getting ready” was part of the fun of going out. Two luxurious hours could easily be invested in outfit selection and grooming. Your chart-topping responsibility along with your career and social life was looking good and having fun. Then came kids. Just like many other things in life, the simple pleasure of limitless free time...

For parents, back-to-school means back to the drawing board. To plan winter break. With the economy boosted, families are using school vacations as an opportunity to criss cross the globe.  And, they are booking travel earlier and earlier. If you want to use airline miles and score reasonably priced hotel rooms at premier warm weather Christmas destinations-Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico, British Virgin Islands-booking months in advance is essential. But, what if you are a working mom-like...

The San Juan Islands were not on my radar until last March. Not even a peripheral blip. But, an engaging call from a publicist piqued my interest and suddenly a family trip to the Pacific Northwest fell into place. The San Juans were a perfect stop between Vancouver and Seattle. We thought about visiting Orcas; everyone raves about this island. But, it was San Juan Island that I ultimately chose. First, because of Friday Harbor,...

To me, a trip is very much about where I will lay my head.  Hotels are a major part of the travel experience. Without a comfortable (veering luxurious), recently renovated, de-shag carpetized hotel/inn, the destination won’t work. Translation:  no skanky bedspreads, no lumpy mattresses, no flattened- by -age pillows, no dried flowers, no doilies and no staying in a hotel without photos on the website. Another thing: if the term “historic accommodations” is used, it...

I almost never deviate from carry-on luggage. Black dress, black pants, a few shirts and two pairs of shoes. But, last month, I did. And, boy did I regret it. While packing for a nine day odyssey from the Rhone to Paris, I allowed visions of linen clad afternoons in Provence and swanky evenings at the Ritz Paris cloud my instincts. Though my brain screamed, “non!” to that extra dress, heels and snakeskin clutch, my...

An Under Canvas tent that fuses design and comfort. CreditTiffany Rose The notion of nodding off under the stars to the crackle of a fire in the shadow of ancient ponderosa pines sounds dreamy. Here’s the catch. Though I love communing with nature, I detest discomfort. This includes interacting with moist soil and insects as well as partaking in tiresome camp chores like tent pitching, fire making, food schlepping and foraging for makeshift, leave-no-trace toilets. Sleeping on...

LA is known as an adult playground. But, it is also my go-to getaway for a family vacation. The sun shines. Heated pools and hiking trails beckon. Museums abound. And one can magically move from the California Science Center to a dip in your hotel pool in about forty-five minutes. ACTIVITIES Science and art buffs, my girls researched the museums and worked with me to create the itinerary. With just five days, we decided upon the California...

Often dubbed “The Paris of the East” , Budapest’s grand, tree-lined boulevards, landmarks, museums, impressive architecture and artsy café culture holds the allure of the City of Light minus the attitude. WHAT TO DO Hit the Castle District. Take the creaky19th century funicular up the hill to Buda Castle where you can explore the castle, historic squares, museums and catch the dramatic changing of the guard at the Hungarian Presidential Palace. Under the castle is another world,...

FAMILY TOURS IN FLORENCE Florence with kids can be overwhelming. I recommend a family specific walking tour to reduce the chaos and increase the appreciation of this splendid city. Context Travel offers interactive 2.5 hour “urban walking seminars” for families. We met our docent in the sun dappled Piazza della Signoria for a “Symbols and Legends” tour. Our guide Elizabeth wasted no time befriending my daughters. As they perused the Renaissance sculptures, she handed them a chisel...