Midwest travel: Warm up your tastebuds for Cider Summit


Cider house rules

The craft beer craze is splintering with festivals dedicated to exclusively tastes and types. Now you can tipple a whole lot of cidermakers' wares. The Cider Summit returns to Navy Pier with owners and cider wizards guiding guests through four-ounce samplings among over 140 ciders. Try regional and international beverages; vote for your favorite entry in the Fruit Cider Challenge; and nibble specially selected food pairings. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., Feb 27, at Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Ave., Chicago. General admission tickets are $35 and include a souvenir tasting glass, eight tasting tickets and a $1 donation to Heartland Alliance. VIP tickets are $40 and include express entry and two additional tasting tickets. All tickets are sold in advance online at

My art will go on

Hotels are taking in more and more fine art, but the Thompson Chicago takes it to another level with its newly launched interactive art program. The program allows you the opportunity to get a personally designed piece of art commissioned by a local gallery artist of your choice. You provide the artist with inspiration or direction, make a cost arrangement and the artist creates it for you over the course of the year. All pieces will then go on display at Chicago's Hyde Park Art Center in December. Call the hotel to get a room at a 20% discounted rate and arrange a meet-and-greet of the artist of your choice during your stay. Through 2016 at Thompson Chicago, 21 E Bellevue Place, Chicago. Call the Thompson Chicago for more information at (312) 266-2100.


Let it flow

Brown County, Indiana, hosts the National Maple Syrup Festival for the second year in a row featuring sugaring demonstrations, historical re-enactments, guided hikes, Sap School, Maple Market, maple syrup flights and a maple syrup challenge course for kids. There will be a pancake breakfast and various maple items on the menus at local eateries. Guests can also make a weekend of it to attend the Brown County Music Celebration on Saturday night at the Playhouse. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 5; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Festival headquarters, Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana. Admission is $10, free for those 6 and under. For details, call (812) 988-7303 or tap info at

Time to chill, girls

Big girls don't cry #8212; they get a massage. Relieve cabin fever with the girlfriends' getaway package at the Osthoff Resort and Apira Spa in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The package includes accommodations in an elegant resort suite; one complimentary Aspira Spa service valued up to $120 per night; dinner for two at Lola's Restaurant ($100 dining credit); breakfast for two at Otto's Restaurant ($25 dining credit); and two massages of your choice ($270 value). Area activities to add on include a visit to the Wesley Jung Carriage Museum; downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing at nearby Sunburst Ski Area; ice skating on the Resort's Reflection Pond; or a class at the resort's signature cooking school, L'Ecole de la Maison. Through March, 2016. The Osthoff, 101 Osthoff Ave., Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Package rates start at $560 per night, plus tax and gratuity.

Put a sock in it

Everyone is slightly whacked due to the long winter, so the 2016 Sock Monkey Madness Festival will fit right into the Midwestern psyche. Explore why the popular Sock Monkey is important to Rockford's history at Midway Village Museum during the all-ages event. It's a celebration of Rockford's Red Heel Sock: Make your own Sock Monkey or accessories to take home; take a photo with the world's largest 7-foot-tall sock monkey; play safari-themed games and crafts; and shop for unique items. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to Sunday, March 5-6, at Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, Illinois. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children 3-17. Parking is free. Go to

Worth the Trip

The Southfork Ranch of TV's #8220;Dallas#8221; fame hosts #8220;Texas' Tribute to Elvis,#8221; attracting fans from around the globe. The three-day spectacle features performances by some of the world's best Elvis tribute artists in competition to be Texas' 2016 champion and be qualified to enter the contest finals, which are held during Elvis Week in Memphis in August 2016. The festival features a variety of Elvis-themed shows, including #8220;Long Live the King,#8221; #8220;Rockin' across Texas,#8221; #8220;Spirit of the King#8221; spotlighting his gospel music and #8220;Elvis Country,#8221; a musical journey though Elvis' country classics. Friday to Sunday, March 4-6, at Southfork Ranch, 3700 Hogge Drive, Parker, Texas, just outside of Dallas. One-day tickets start at $85 for adults and $40 for children; three-day festival tickets start at $185 for adults and $85 for children. Get details at

Commission your own piece of art with the Thompson Chicago. Here is a Cándida Alvarez piece called "slurp," of acrylic, oil, enamel and metallic flakes on canvas. Courtesy of Tom Van Eynde
Southfork Ranch, of TV's "Dallas" series fame, plays host to "Texas' Tribute to Elvis," the state's official Elvis Presley Enterprise licensed festival, March 4-6.
Go bananas at the Sock Monkey Madness Festival at Rockford's Midway Village Museum, March 5-6.
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