Worth the trip
Singer-songwriter John Oates of Hall & Oates produces the third annual 7909 Aspen Songwriters Festival in Aspen, Colo. Why the name? Aspen is located 7,909 feet above sea level. This year's fest promises 13 performances over five nights with genres from Americana to alt-rock and pop. Artists scheduled to appear include Oates, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr, Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizons and others. Proceeds support the mission of celebrating the art and craft of songwriting while mentoring and developing a new generation of talent. Wednesday to Sunday, March 21-25, at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colo. Full festival passes cost $195 and include all 12 ticketed concert events. Day passes cost $44 for Wednesday, $36 for Thursday, $46 for Friday, $58 for Saturday and $56 for Sunday. See aspensongwritersfestival.com
Getting the short shakes
If you like the idea of Shakespeare but sitting through an entire production may be more than the old neurons can handle, try "Short Shakespeare! The Taming of the Shrew." A 75-minute intro to the Bard, the play features the spirited Kate and macho Petruchio screaming, arguing and finding their way back into one another's heart. Following the Chicago Shakespeare Festival's performance, audience members are welcome to join the cast for a discussion and photo opportunities in the lobby. 11 a.m. Saturdays through April 7 at Chicago Shakespeare's Courtyard Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $16 for students 18 and younger. (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com.
Hail to the chief
The Blackstone Hotel in Chicago's South Loop has long been a player at the highest levels of U.S. politics since opening in 1910. Hosting a dozen presidents and providing the famed "smoke-filled room," the Blackstone's new Presidential Package includes overnight accommodations in the historic room, private check-in, a presidential dinner prepared by executive chef Eric Liebtag and a personalized turndown amenity of favorite presidential treats reflecting your party affiliation. The package is valid through Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 636 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Rates start at $500 based on double occupancy. (312) 447-0955 or blackstonerenaissance.com.
Attend the Expo 72 exhibition, "The Flag and Seal Revisited," and you can participate in a free workshop and printmaking demonstration. The exhibit is displayed in honor of Chicago's upcoming 175th birthday and highlights artwork based on Chicago's flag and the city seal design. Participants will be able to ink and print on paper using an etched plate and a portable press to create their own versions of the flag and seal. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at 72 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Free admission. (312) 744-6630 or explorechicago.org.
Shuffle off to Sheboygan
A two-hour drive from downtown Chicago, the renovated Blue Harbor Resort & Spa in Sheboygan, Wis., is offering special spring break family packages that include admission to its indoor water park, Breaker Bay. Kids will love the 54,000-square-foot water park and game arcade while adults will appreciate the resort spa and upscale amenities. Packages are valid through April 15 at Blue Harbor Resort & Spa, 725 Blue Harbor Drive, Sheboygan, Wis. Prices start at $139 per night. Book the Spring Break Getaway by Wednesday, Feb. 29, and save up to 10 percent on a minimum two-night stay. (866) 701-2583 or BlueHarborResort.com
A horse of a different color
Equine educators and 140 vendors offer all things equestrian at the 23rd annual Illinois Horse Fair. In addition to learning training techniques from experts, the fair will provide breed and sports demonstrations, Stallion Row and Parade, the All-Youth Horse Judging Trials and an equestrian variety show. 1 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 2; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 3; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Springfield. Adult tickets cost $6 for Friday and $12 for Saturday and Sunday; $4 and $6 for children and seniors. Weekend passes cost $20 for adults and $10 for children or seniors. HorseCapades variety show requires separate tickets for Friday and Saturday: $9 for adults, $6 for children and seniors; reserved seating $15 for adults, $10 for children and seniors. (217) 529-6503 or HorsemensCouncil.org/horsefair.
Armed and dangerous
Find the most complete arms and armor display in the Midwest at the new Castle Rock Museum in Alma, Wis. The museum exhibits hundreds of pieces that illustrate the evolution of arms and armor in the context of art and history. 1 to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Castle Rock Museum, 402 S. Second St., Alma, Wis. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and free for children younger than 5 and military personnel on active duty. (608) 685-4231 or castlerockmuseum.com.