Chicago-weenies scare up free fun
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Looking for a different kind of Halloween fun? Take the little goblins to Franken (Daley) Plaza for Chicagoween and bags full of free performances and activity. Midnight Circus performs daily; learn how to carve a pumpkin; see Pyrotechniq's Fire and Ultraviolet kinetic performances; enjoy free arts and crafts and watch screenings of films like "Beetlejuice." Enter the costume contest and enjoy shows from Mad Science of Chicago and Dave Herzog's Marionettes.
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday, Oct. 28-30, at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago. (312) 744-3315 or chicagoween.us.
Dream of genie
The University of Chicago's Mandel Hall transforms into the ancient and exotic Middle East as the University Symphony Orchestra presents "Arabian Nights." The evening of storytelling, special effects and mystical music promises to be a perfect performance for adults and children. The annual Halloween concert includes colorful costumes and dancers from the Hyde Park School of Dance.
7 to 8:15 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Chicago. Donations are $8; $4 for students and children. (773) 702-8484 or humanities.uchicago.edu.
Where would you find the No. 1 hotel in the country? After thousands of hotels were evaluated by 30,000 Conde Nast Traveler readers, the Elysian Hotel Chicago has been selected as the top hotel in the United States for 2011. The hotel is offering a special package to celebrate, which includes guaranteed late checkout, a welcome amenity and the best available rate.
Package available through 2011 at 11 E. Walton, Chicago. (800) 500-8511 or elysianhotels.com.
Belleville, Wis., becomes the U.F.O. Capitol of the World on UFO Day when aliens and humanoids get together for a craft fair, kids' games, alien parade, a food fair and beer tent, and a film festival. Bring along a costume for the Monster Ball and your bravery for a walk through the Forbidden Forest. Belleville is 17 miles south of Madison.
9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, in downtown Belleville. Free admission. (608) 298-3485 or belleville-wi.com/ufoday/index.htm.
A smashing pumpkin festival
There are festivals featuring pumpkin decor and then there's the Pumpkin Festival in Sycamore, Ill., and 2011 marks its 50th anniversary. Thousands of decorated pumpkins are on display on the courthouse lawn along with an art and craft shows, carnival and fun fair, games and a housewalk. Don't miss the adult and kids' pie-eating contest or the parade Sunday afternoon. Pork chop sandwiches, hot apple cider and country cooking will be available.
4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26; 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday, Oct. 28-29; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, in downtown Sycamore. See sycamorepumpkinfestival.com.
Parade of scares
See the gorgeous fall colors by day and line the street at night for Galena's 33rd Annual Halloween Parade as it travels down Main Street in the historic downtown area. The parade promises ghouls, ghosts and floats as well as treats for the kids and other spooky surprises. .
6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, in downtown Galena. (815) 777-9050 or visitgalena.org.
Worth the trip
Every family needs a trip to the sunny beaches of Florida every once in awhile and now it may be easier for families who have members with special needs. The TradeWinds Island Resorts -- the Island Grand Resort and the Sandpiper Suites in St. Petersburg -- have been named an autism-friendly business by the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities.
There's an online guide available for families to review prior to visiting the resorts, gluten-free offerings available at all TradeWinds restaurants, safety kits, special sensory activities for kids with autism and more.
The resorts offer access to beachfront recreation on the Gulf of Mexico, Splash Island Water Park, family and children's programs and dining.
(800) 808-9834 or justletgo.com/autismfriendly