Chart an art course
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The newest art district in the city offers a self-guided walking tour of more than 30 Pilsen lofts, studios and retail spaces. The venues showcase new art exhibitions, fashion, shopping opportunities and other events in the neighborhood. Visitors also have a chance to meet gallery owners and artists during Chicago Arts District 2nd Fridays. The neighborhood has a number of new restaurants from which to sample, too.
6 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 14. Pick up a map at the information center at 1821 S. Halsted St. Free. (312) 738-8000, ext. 108, or chicagoarts district.org.
Nerd's the word
The second annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival presents everything from stand-up to improv to one-woman puppet shows during one gloriously nerdy weekend. Highlights of the festival include The Best of Hey, I'm A Big Fan: A Night of Fan Fiction Readings; Jack and The Nerds: A Nerdy Cabaret, performing non-hit songs from beloved TV shows and films such as "Battlestar Galactica," "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog," and "Lord of the Rings"; Chi Nerd Fest Stand Up Showcase!; Improvised Star Trek; WHO PROV, improvised episodes of "Doctor Who"; Clown Car to Sicily and Matt Griffo; Lowcarbcomedy; and Improvised Jane Austen.
Wednesday through Saturday, March 19-22, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Individual tickets cost $10 and all-festival passes are $50. For dates and times of performances, visit chicagonerdfest.tumblr.com/. For tickets, call (773) 327-5252 or visit stage773.com.
Two-state Irish parade
The nation's only interstate St. Patrick's Day parade snakes through the Quad Cities during the Grand Parade XXIX. Beginning in downtown Rock Island, Ill., winding to the Centennial Bridge and crossing the bridge over the Mississippi River, the parade then marches into downtown Davenport, Iowa. Crowds line the streets to watch countless bands, Irish dancers, floats, groups and family clans flaunt their heritage. Immediately following the Grand Parade, join a Post Parade Bash at RiverCenter for food, drinks and entertainment. Other weekend events include a St. Patrick's Day Run and a free Kid's Craft Day at John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline, Ill.
Parade begins at 11:30 a.m. and the post-parade bash runs from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15. The bash takes place at RiverCenter, 136 E. Third St., in downtown Davenport, Iowa. The bash costs $15; ages 15 and younger get in free. For hotel accommodations, contact the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 747-7800 or visit visitquadcities.com.
Thirty-two Wisconsin breweries, pouring nearly 130 different craft beers, are showcased during the third annual Heidel House Brew Fest. James Paige Brewing Co., of Stevens Point, Stillmank Brewing Co., of Green Bay, and Northwoods BrewPub, of Eau Claire, make their first appearance, offering samples such as James Paige's Chai Tea Porter, Stillmank's Wisco Disco and Northwoods' Wall-IPA. In addition to the microbrews, Vines & Rushes Winery will offer tastings of local wines from Wisconsin-grown grapes and Ciderboys Cider Co. will serve up hard ciders. Guests can cast their vote for their favorite beer, and the winner will receive the 2014 People's Choice Award. A souvenir tasting glass, appetizers, live entertainment and unlimited sampling are all included in the ticket price. Guests must be 21 or older to attend.
3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Heidel House Resort & Spa, Green Lake, Wis. Tickets cost $35. Advance purchase recommended. (800) 444-2812 or heidelhouse.com/fun/brewfest.asp.
When Irish guys are smiling
Where would Wisconsin's largest St. Patrick's Day parade step off? Milwaukee or Madison? It takes place in downtown New London along with a fine Irish festival. Leprechauns at the local Shamrock Club change the town's name to "New Dublin" for the week before the Grand Parade, which boasts bagpipe and marching bands, clowns, specialty and business floats, Finnegan's Wake and more. St. Patrick's Day in New Dublin is a weeklong celebration that includes weeknight activities, too, including Irish entertainment onstage and an Irish Céili. Corned beef and cabbage is widely served during the week in area restaurants and pubs with some of them offering entertainment, too. The Irish Fest is held under a huge heated big top and features Celtic bands, beverages, Irish food, market booths, Irish caroling, entertainment and plenty of blarney. New London is 20 miles northwest of Appleton.
Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 22. Other festivities take place Monday through Saturday, March 17-22, in New London, Wis. newdublin.com/travel.htm or (920) 982-3891.