Don't fear the reaper
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Visit the Chicago Cultural Center this winter to see "Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection," an eclectic selection of nearly 1,000 works of fine art, artifacts, installations and decorative objects that explore the subject of death from 2,000 B.C. to the present day. The two major components of the exhibition are the "War Room," highlighting war atrocities in notable works from the 17th century to present day, and the "Kunstkammer of Death," a modern-day "cabinet of curiosities" featuring a study of mortality across cultures and spiritual traditions. See works by artists such as Jacques Callot, Francisco Goya, Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer, Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jodie Carey.
8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday now through July 8 at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago. Free admission. (312) 744-6630 or ChicagoCulturalCenter.org.
Don't get fooled again by what looks like a wimpy winter. The Hyatt Regency O'Hare comes to the rescue with a special "Blizzard Rate" of $55 for stranded travelers and suburban commuters. The exclusive rate also includes free parking and some "survival" toiletries like a razor, shaving cream, toothbrush and other emergency supplies.
Rate based on availability and valid for Chicago-area residents and is offered whenever there is more than 3 inches of snow predicted from now until March 31 at the hotel, 9300 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont. (847) 696-1234 and ask for the "Blizzard Rate" or hyattregencyohare.com and enter special offer code BLIZ12.
Cruising for love
Flowers and cards are expected, so surprise your sweetheart Valentine's Day weekend with skyline views and a romantic dinner or brunch aboard the Odyssey or Spirit of Chicago cruise ships. The Odyssey cruise includes a four-course dinner menu and a complimentary champagne toast and a single rose per couple or choose a weekend brunch or buffet dinner cruise. Spirit of Chicago offers a buffet, DJ entertainment, dancing and strolls on climate-controlled decks.
Cruise times vary Friday through Sunday, Feb. 10-12, and Tuesday, Feb. 14. Board at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Prices range from $58.90 per adult and $35.95 per child ages 3-12 for brunch and $74.90 to $99.90 per person for dinner. (866) 273-2469 or spiritofchicago.com or (866) 305-2469 or odyssey.com.
Déjà vu all over again
Groundhog Day is always a big deal for the town of Woodstock where Bill Murray's film "Groundhog Day" was filmed. The celebration includes the Awakening of the Groundhog ceremony at the historic 1889 Woodstock Opera House, a chili cook-off, "Groundhog Day" movie trivia and tours of the filming locations and a host of family activities including storytelling and free showings of the movie. The annual prognostication takes place the morning of Groundhog Day, Thursday, Feb. 2, when Woodstock Willie looks for his shadow.
Event times vary Wednesday through Sunday, Feb 1-5, in Woodstock. See woodstockgroundhog.org.
Test these tubes
Wilmot Mountain has added another feature: snow tubing with daytime top speeds of 38 mph and nighttime speeds exceeding 50 mph. Independent of Wilmot Mountain's runs, lifts and terrain parks for skiing and snowboarding, the new snow tubing facility features more than 1,000 feet of multiple tubing lanes and a covered people mover conveyor lift. Look for the "kiddie" tubing hill for little ones opening soon. Groups of 20 or more qualify for snow tubing discounts. On weekends, there is also live music, sports classes and alpine racing.
4 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; noon to 11 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 11931 Fox River Road, Wilmot, Wis. $25-$35. (262) 862-2301 or wilmotmountain.com.
Traverse Michigan this winter
Everything Midwesterners love about Traverse City, Mich., holds true in winter: restaurants, downtown boutiques, wine tasting on the Old Mission and Leelanau wine trails and outdoor recreation all with fewer crowds and off-season pricing. The Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering a special winter/spring "Traverse City Escape" package that combines special rates at participating hotels and resorts with a wide range of discounts on winter recreation, shopping, dining and entertainment. Packages include discounts on lift tickets, ski lessons and equipment, trail passes and snowmobile rentals as well as shopping, spa services, movies, wine tastings and restaurants.
Special packages valid through May 17. (800) 940-1120 or traversecity.com.
Worth the trip
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times when Charles Dickens was born in a modest house in Portsmouth, England, in 1812, which has been preserved as a museum. To mark the 200th birthday of the famous author, Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum offers a special exhibition showing what life was like in the English town from 1812 to 1870. Expect celebrations in the street including street performers, musicians, food, craft activities, readings and Victorian workshops.
Birthday celebrations will run from Sunday to Tuesday, Feb. 5-7. "A Tale of One City" exhibition runs Feb. 5 to Nov. 4. Visit charlesdickensbirthplace.co.uk.