Midwest travel: What does the groundhog say?

Déjà vu

Visit the historic town square of Woodstock during Groundhog Days, an annual event that includes the Awakening of the Groundhog ceremony at the historic 1889 Woodstock Opera House followed by the Groundhog Day Breakfast and walking tours of filming sites. In the days before and after Woodstock Willie's official prognostication, expect activities such as a Groundhog Trivia Contest; Woodstock Willie's Wine Party; Groundhog Day Dinner Dance; Groundhog Tales with Emmy-winning storyteller Jim May; a chili cook-off; Groundhog Bowling; a “Switchback” Concert with Celtic music and dancers; and a lot more. Browse dozens of specialty shops on Woodstock Square, dine in charming restaurants and stay overnight. No need to drive — Metra offers train service to the Woodstock station. Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 28-Feb. 2, on Woodstock Square, Woodstock. The Annual Prognostication takes place at sunrise on Groundhog Day, Sunday, Feb. 2, when Woodstock Willie looks for his shadow. Most events are free, but some require tickets that need to be purchased in advance.


Anywhere but here

Has the perpetual picture of gray skies, brown trees and white snow worn out its welcome? The 12th annual Chicago Travel & Adventure Show will offer inspiration and expert information about how to get out of town. Expect lively cultural interaction in the way of performance on the Global Beats Stage and food at the Taste of Travel Stage. Keynote speakers include Rick Steves and Pauline Frommer. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont. One day ticket valid either day costs $16. Two-day tickets are $25.

Foodie Fest

Oak Park/River Forest/Forest Park/Berwyn-area restaurants put their best foot forward during Foodie Fest. Dozens of restaurants and caterers of many different cuisines and price points will be participating. Diners will find prix fixe menus, each with three items or courses, priced at either $10, $20 or $30. Jan. 28-Feb. 11 at participating restaurants in Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Berwyn. For a list, call (708) 613-0550 or see

NOLA north

The 24th annual Steamy Swamp Punk Mardi Gras Bash takes over Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center so you can laissez les bon temps roulez (let the good times roll) Chicago style. Spin to live music by The Heard and Big Shoulders Brass Band while sipping Hurricanes, Swamp Juice, beer, wine, soft drinks and nibbling off the buffet. Requirements include a costume or formal attire with mask and you must be 21 or older. 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago. Admission is $50; tickets must be purchased in advance. There's also an After Bash Party from midnight to 3 a.m. at Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N. Michigan Ave.


Birds' call

Starved Rock Lodge goes to the birds during Bald Eagle Watch Weekend when you can learn about raptors and birds of prey, meet falcons and an eagle and go on an eagle-watching hike. Kids can participate in their own activities like “Art in Nature” with live birds of prey. Bring your video camera to document the Youth Owl Calling Contest. Learn about our state's permanent feathered residents, winter visitors and their adaptations to harsh winter conditions. Get an update on the Osprey Recovery Project, the status of honey bees and learn about landscaping for wildlife. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 30-31, at Starved Rock Lodge and the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center, Utica. Free, but tickets are required for some events.

Where eagles dare

The Mississippi River Visitor Center on Arsenal Island, between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois, offers free eagle watches and clock tower tours this winter. The location is also a good place to view eagles anytime. If you'd like to search on your own, word has it that the best spots are Lock and Dam 14 at Pleasant Valley, Iowa, and Hampton, Illinois. 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 and 30 and Feb. 6 and 13, at the Mississippi River Visitor Center, Rock Island, Illinois. Reservations are required. (309) 794-5338 or

Yep, it's déjà vu all over again during Groundhog Days Jan. 28-Feb. 2 in Woodstock.
Starved Rock Lodge and the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center in Utica, Illinois, offers an Eagle Watch Weekend Jan. 30-31. courtesy of Jacki Pienta
Starved Rock Lodge and the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center in Utica, Illinois, offers an Eagle Watch Weekend Jan. 30-31.
The 12th annual Chicago Travel & Adventure Show provides inspiration and expert information about vacations for 2016. It runs Jan. 23-24 in Rosemont.
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