Months of snow-covered lawns and bone-chilling cold have had most of us yearning for spring. Now that it's here, it's time to get out and play -- and play hard.
The season offers a mix of new opportunities, both spirited and sedate. Here are a half dozen things you can check out this spring:
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1. Go up against Goliath
Test out your inner daredevil on a new triple-record-breaking wooden coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
Goliath is the world's fastest wooden roller coaster, at 72 miles an hour, featuring the tallest drop of a wooden coaster, at 180 feet, and the steepest drop, at 85 degrees.
The ride will debut later this spring in the park's County Fair section, following the park's season opening on May 3.
"Six Flags Great America is known for introducing record-breaking and first-of-its-kind roller coasters," said park President Hank Salemi. "All of the ride elements, including an 85 degree plunge down the tallest drop on a wooden roller coaster, make Goliath the most extreme wooden roller coaster in the world."
Info: General gate admission is $64.99, $44.99 for children under 48 inches. Discounts and season passes available online. Visit sixflags.com/greatamerica.
2. Celebrate your inner superhero
Dress up the kids as superheroes and they'll get into the Volo Auto Museum for free during the Superhero Spring Break fest from March 22 to 30. Visitors can check out the new Avengers exhibit, including the Harrier jet, which was destroyed by the Hulk in the film and is now complete after a two-year restoration.
Kids can ride free on the Hulk and Batmobile rides, and on March 22, 23, 29 and 30, parents can snap their children's pictures as they sit in the Batmobile, a first-time opportunity. Also on March 30, kids can meet their favorite Superheroes, courtesy of local group "We are Cosplay."
Info: Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 27582 Volo Village Road, Volo. Regular admission is $13.95 for adults, $8.95 for kids 5 to 12, $11.95 for seniors and veterans with ID, free for military in uniform and kids younger than 5. Visit volocars.com for details.
3. Learning to fly -- indoors
Two new IFLY Indoor Skydiving facilities will soon make their debut in the suburbs. Rosemont's facility is scheduled to open the first week of May, with a Naperville branch aiming for a mid-June opening.
Indoor sky diving replicates the experience of free-fall sky diving minus the parachute or risk, says company spokesman Stuart Wallock. Guests are paired with a certified instructor and can fly from a range of a few feet off the ground to greater heights with experience.
"There is no falling, no jumping or losing your stomach," he says.
People of all ages and capabilities can fly; no experience is necessary. Entry packages begin around $60 for two one-minute flights, which include training, flight gear and a certificate of your experience.
"Everyone gets to fly like a superhero without any strings attached," Wallock says. "Imagine floating weightlessly on a cushion of air and being able to control your movement within the wind tunnel with the slightest of movements. We make the dream of flying a reality."
Info: IFLY Indoor Skydiving, 5520 Park Place, Rosemont, (779) 368-4359, and 1752 Freed Drive, Naperville, (779) 456-4359. Visit iFLY world.com to make reservations or learn more.
4. Give "The Last Ship" a sail
"The Last Ship" will make its world premiere June 10 at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre before moving on to Broadway.
The new musical has an original score by 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting and is inspired by his own childhood experiences. The show is set in an English seafaring town where life revolves around the local shipyard and the hardworking men who construct the magnificent vessels. But Gideon Fletcher chooses a different path, setting out to travel the world. When he returns home 14 years later, the shipyard's future is in danger.
The production features direction by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, book by Tony Award winner John Logan and Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey, with choreography by Olivier Award winner Steven Hoggett.
Info: "The Last Ship" runs from June 10 to July 13 at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago. Tickets cost $50-$95. Visit broadwayinchicago.com.
5. Stroll through the past
View the stunning portraits of some of the biggest names of the last century in an Arnold Newman exhibit that's making its Illinois debut at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda.
"Arnold Newman: Luminaries of the 20th Century in Art, Politics and Culture" is a new national touring photo exhibition that's on display now through Aug. 17. Renowned photographer Arnold Newman developed his own unique approach to photographic portraits and is often referred to as the "Father of Environmental Portraiture."
With a career spanning 60 years, Newman's body of work includes works of Pablo Picasso, Carl Sandburg, Adlai Stevenson, Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dali, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ayn Rand, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy and Woody Allen among others.
"He is considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century," says Katherine Hamilton-Smith, director of cultural resources with the Lake County Forest Preserve District. "The LCDM exhibition is a very rare opportunity to see over 60 fabulous Newman works gathered together in one place."
Info: Lake County Discovery Museum, 27277 N. Forest Preserve Road, Wauconda, (847) 968-3400. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $2.50 for kids 4-17, $3 for students 18-25 and seniors ages 62 and older, and free for children 3 and younger. Discounted admission on Tuesday. Visit lcfpd.org/arnoldnewman.
6. Noshing in nature
The Morton Arboretum in Lisle has a new Chef's Table series this year, with guests able to participate in themed classes each month to learn from Arboretum chef Jean-Louis Clerc. After each class, the group will enjoy their culinary creations during a Q and A session with Clerc.
Upcoming sessions include International Gourmet Delights on April 17, a demonstration featuring a four-course meal inspired by countries like France, Italy and Morocco.
The cooking sessions are just one of several new activities planned for the upcoming months. The museum's version of a supper club, the Whiskey Dinner & Tasting, allows guests to enjoy a whiskey-inspired dinner with three tastings. The new Drive-In Nights feature family-friendly films on the movie grounds. A series of festivals celebrating the world's diverse cultures begins this summer.
"We're excited about the new activities planned for 2014," says Jenelle Hardtke, the Arboretum's special events manager. "This slate of new events offers a great way for people of all ages to enjoy all the Arboretum has to offer, while surrounded by our world-class tree collection."
Info: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle, (630) 968-0074. Chef's table sessions begin at 6 p.m.; cost is $55 for members or $60 for nonmembers. Visit mortonarb.org for more information.