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posted: 4/15/2012 6:00 AM

On the road: Happy birthday, Mr. President

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  • Bob Palmer and Jack Kirkby display General Grant's birthday cake at the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum during the Grant Birthday Weekend, which runs from Friday through Sunday, April 20-22.

    Bob Palmer and Jack Kirkby display General Grant's birthday cake at the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum during the Grant Birthday Weekend, which runs from Friday through Sunday, April 20-22.
    Courtesy of Galena & U.S. Grant Museum



Take it for granted

Celebrate the 190th birthday of President Ulysses S. Grant in Galena. General and Mrs. Grant will welcome guests into their home, now known as the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, during the Grant Birthday Weekend. Both Blue and Gray will descend on Galena with the 3rd Iowa Artillery and the 45th Illinois Infantry, which both fought during the war. The Rebels will be represented by the 2nd Kentucky Calvary. There also will be a potluck luncheon on Sunday.

Events times vary from Friday to Sunday, April 20-22. A schedule of events is available at or call (815) 777-9129. For information about lodging, dining, attractions, events and more, go to

Terror tale time

If films with names like "Trailer Trash," "Blast of Doom" and "The Ghoul in the Greenhouse" give you a thrill, then get to the Sci-Fi Spectacular at Chicago's historic Portage Theater. Actress Kelli Maroney (star of "Night of the Comet," "Chopping Mall," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High") is the special guest at the all-day festival of sci-fi and horror films. Other events include vintage sci-fi and horror film trailers, vendor tables, free posters and a live charity auction to benefit Vital Bridges.

11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, April. 28, at 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $20-$24 and include come-and-go entry. (773) 736-4050 or

Improv fest

Get ready to laugh at the 15th annual Chicago Improv Festival with more than 75 performing groups from the U.S. and six other countries. See "Saturday Night Live" alums and hopefuls, attend free parties or sign up for classes and workshops to hone your own improv chops.

Monday to Sunday, April 23-29, at the Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $10-$20. (773) 875-6616 or

My kind of town

Why should out-of-town tourists have all of the fun? Take advantage of Chicago's legendary architecture, world-class dining and cultural attractions, and then snooze at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile. The historic hotel offers a variety of packages including: $175 for Chicago's 175th anniversary (a special $175 rate for a one-night stay and continental breakfast for two) and the Go Explore Chicago package from $359 per night that comes with two Go Chicago Cards for free, unlimited access for one day to Navy Pier, Skydeck Chicago, the Hancock Observatory, Adler Planetarium, the Art Institute and the Shedd Aquarium, among other sites, as well as one-night accommodations.

The InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile is located at 505 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, (800) 628-2112 or

Days of wine and noses

Starved Rock Lodge offers a Wine & Shopping Tour for a short spring getaway. Visitors can board a Starved Rock Trolley and travel to the wine-tasting rooms at Cattails, August Hill Winery and the Illinois River Winery and sample award-winning wine, shop and learn how the grapes go from the vine to the bottle.

1 to 3:30 p.m. Fridays, April 20 and 27, at Starved Rock Lodge, routes 178 and 71 in Utica, Ill. Tickets cost $17 per person. (800) 868-7625 or

Dairy home companion

There's no need to wait until summer for a Midwestern food and drink fest. The fourth annual Dairy State Cheese & Beer Festival offers some of the most notable beer and cheese from around the state of Wisconsin. Live music by Beef Tea and The New Chevelles will keep things lively.

1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Brat Stop, 12304 75th St., Kenosha, Wis. Tickets cost $40 per person in advance and $45 at the door. (262) 654-6200 or

Worth the trip

Xanterra South Rim and the nonprofit Grand Canyon Field Institute have teamed up to offer a two-night Learning and Lodging Adventure to experience Grand Canyon National Park. The package includes two nights of lodging in Yavapai West Lodge or Maswik South Lodge, two breakfasts and boxed lunches, dinner, coupons and two days of hiking and touring with an instructor from Grand Canyon Field Institute. The minimum age to participate is 8 and there is a maximum of 10 participants per program.

Sunday to Tuesday through Feb. 26, 2013. Blackout dates are Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving weekend and the winter holiday period from Dec. 16 to Jan. 8. Rates through Nov. 6 are $450 for one adult, $700 for two adults and $229 for children 8-16. From Nov. 11 through Feb. 26, 2013, the rate is $380 per adult, $630 for two adults, $229 per child and $275 for each additional adult in the same room. (866) 471-4435 or

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