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posted: 12/21/2013 6:00 AM

On the road: Marvel at Wisconsin's Ice Castle

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  • The ice castle in Eagle River, Wis, stays put until the end of February.

      The ice castle in Eagle River, Wis, stays put until the end of February.

  • You have until March 2014 to take advantage of the "Michigan Avenue Madness" shopping package at Hotel Felix Chicago.

      You have until March 2014 to take advantage of the "Michigan Avenue Madness" shopping package at Hotel Felix Chicago.

  • The Winter Carnival, which runs from Dec. 26-30 at Ohio's Maumee Bay Lodge, is jam-packed with family fun at affordable rates.

      The Winter Carnival, which runs from Dec. 26-30 at Ohio's Maumee Bay Lodge, is jam-packed with family fun at affordable rates.

 
 

Chicago

Hotel deal for The 900 Shops

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You still have plenty of time to take advantage of the "Michigan Avenue Madness" shopping package at Hotel Felix. Chicago's first eco-chic hotel partners with The 900 Shops for this package that includes: one $50 gift card to The 900 Shops; one gift bag filled with goodies including discount vouchers from participating stores and restaurants at The 900 Shops; an exclusive 900 Card for discount offers and free gifts with minimum purchase; and one signature gift with $100 shopping purchase during your shopping adventure at The 900 Shops. And, of course, a great room at Hotel Felix.

Available through March 2014 at the Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron St., Chicago. Rates start at $125 per night plus tax, with a minimum two-night stay. (312) 447-3440 or tinyurl.com/n2jawc2.

Animal action

It's time for a short road trip: Your cubs can learn about polar bears, seals, reptiles and other animals that live on the North and South Poles at the Family Polar Party at Lincoln Park Zoo. Humans wear parkas to survive in our frigid habitat and kids will hear about how hibernating bears, chubby harbor seals and coldblooded reptiles adapt in the interactive program filled with fun activities and crafts.

3:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at the Pritzker Family Children's Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago. Cost is $8-$10 per person. Register at www.lpzoo.org/education/programs/family-polar-party or call (312) 742-2056.

Crystal Blu persuasion

Perhaps you need a break from it all. The Radisson Blu Aqua provides a quick-to-get-to escape from holiday stress when you book the Unwind, Blu Style package. The package offers a variety of soothing treats including a jelly bath in one of the hotel's luxurious deep-soaking tubs, aromatherapy scented sticks and a bottle of prosecco wine, in addition to lovely accommodations.

Book the package through Dec. 31 for stays through March 31, 2014, at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago. Rates start at $199 per night. (800) 333-3333 or radissonbluchicago.com.

Midwest

Chuck the post-holiday blues

When all that remains are the carcasses of turkeys and rumpled gift wrap, a certain post-traumatic stress syndrome settles in and it's time to spatula the posteriors off the sofa. Head to northwest Ohio for an after-party at Maumee Bay State Park. Now in its fifth year, the Winter Carnival is a wildly popular weeklong event that begins the day after Christmas when the lodge ballroom is converted into a rec center. The indoor fair offers carnival games like a cupcake walk, a ring toss, a hockey challenge and a bean bag toss, and guests can enjoy the indoor swimming pool, splash garden, children's soft play area, Wallyball courts, game room and fitness center. Venture outdoors for free use of the resort's sleds or explore the Nature Center featuring a boardwalk through a wetland area that attracts many species of birds and other wildlife.

Take it all in from Dec. 26-30 at Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center, 1750 State Park Road #2, Oregon, Ohio. The Winter Carnival is open only to lodge guests who get special rates starting at $94.99 on weekday nights, $109.99 on Friday night and $119.99 on Saturday night. See maumeebaystateparklodge.com or call (800) 282-7275 and use promo code CARNIVAL.

Building castles in the (Northwoods) air

Every winter since the late 1920s, a glittering ice castle is constructed in Eagle River, Wis. More than 3,000, 12-inch-thick ice blocks from a local lake are hauled to downtown Eagle River, the Snowmobile Capital of the World, where the structure is built between Christmas and New Year's Day. A new design is sculpted every year and depending on weather, the Ice Castle normally stands until late February. Located on a major snowmobile trail, hundreds stop to have pictures taken in front of the design, and it's also lit at night to make for spectacular photos.

Dec. 25 to Feb. 28 in downtown Eagle River, Wis. For accommodations and attractions in the Eagle River area, visit eagleriver.org or call (800) 359-6315.

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Cruise the bay on New Year's Day Wisconsin style when the Grand Belle of Lake Geneva offers two tours for a chance to get out of the house and onto the water. The enclosed and heated Grand Belle warms to about 65 degrees and leaves the dock just before noon to watch the Polar Plunge when area residents jump in the icy, 34-degree water along the Williams Bay shoreline to raise money for charity. A second cruise offers another one-hour tour to see winter scenes from the lake while Polar Plungers get on board after their swim. After the boat tours, festivities continue around the outdoor fire pits and inside the Pier 290 Restaurant with food and football.

11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, at Docks at Gage Marine and Pier 290, Williams Bay, Wis. Cost is $10 for either cruise, $5 for children 12 and younger. (262) 248-6206 or gagemarine.com.

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