Midwest travel: Kids can build their own 'Forts' at Chicago Children's Museum


'Forts' for days

The fort is a simple thing of childhood glee, constructed with blankets and pillows and sometimes pets. The new "Forts" exhibit at the Chicago Children's Museum allows kids to imagine and build their own hideaways, establish territories, make up rules, hide in protected nooks, peer into mirrors, play with props, light up fort interiors with lanterns and tell stories. The open format and loose props result in endless possibilities. The "Forts" experience will change throughout the day, shaped by new visitors. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday through Sunday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday from May 26-Sept. 17 at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. The exhibit is included in the museum admission, which is $14 for adults and kids and $13 for seniors. (312) 527-1000 or

The 33rd Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28, launches Chicago's street festival season.

Belmont-Sheffield bash

Dust off the flip-flops and shorts! Celebrating its 33rd year, the Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest launches the city's outdoor street fest season. Hop on the Red Line, exit at Belmont and you're at the popular street festival in the heart of Lakeview. Crafters and artists display their creative handiwork, and wall-to-wall entertainment includes Trader Todd's Karaoke and lots of tribute acts covering ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, boy bands and more, plus tasty food from neighborhood restaurants. Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28, at 3200 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.

Holy mole

If Cinco de Mayo passed you by, say "si" to Pilsen's Mole de Mayo festival. The eighth annual fiesta pits local chefs and restaurants against one another to determine which version of the Mexican sauce is mas delicioso. In addition, the outdoor festival offers a number of the city's finest food vendors, an open-air Mercado/Market that will be filled with wares of local Pilsen businesses and crafters, and two stages of live entertainment that include music, a DJ and dancing. The lucha libre wrestling ring is also a huge attraction that is located in the heart of the festival. 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 26; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 27; and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 28, at Ashland Avenue and 18th Street, Chicago.


Chocolate lovers won't want to miss ChocolateFest in Burlington, Wis., Friday through Monday, May 26-29.

Choc-full of fun

Burlington becomes "Chocolate City USA" every year when more than 35,000 visitors come to the Wisconsin town's ChocolateFest. Enter the Chocolate Experience Tent to see a chocolate carving competition, cooking contests and demos plus sample everything from Mexican chocolate bars to regionally crafted chocolate. Multiple live music stages will be blasting country, blues, classic rock, Top 40, folk and family music. Plus there will be games like Giant Choco-Jenga. Expect plenty of food and drink vendors hawking sausages, burgers, pizza, lemonade, and lots of food on sticks like cheese, chicken and alligator. Don't miss the fireworks at 9 p.m. Friday, May 26, the Chocoholic 5K run/walk at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 28, and the Memorial Day parade at 9 a.m. Monday, May 29. Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday, May 26; 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28; and noon Monday, May 29. Chocolate Festival Grounds are at State Road 36, Burlington, Wisconsin. Tickets cost $7 online or $8 at the gate for adults (13 and older) and $2.50-$3 for kids 5 to 12. (262) 763-3300 or

Riverwalk Boat Tours and Rentals in Milwaukee offers a 4.5-hour cruise on Saturdays in summer that takes you to three riverside stops to sample drinks including at MOTOR Bar & Restaurant at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Take me to the river

Launching Saturday and continuing through the summer, Saturday 3 Pub Cruise is an afternoon boat ride aboard captained vessels, either the Brew City Queen II or Milwaukee Maiden II, that takes you to three riverside stops to sample drinks. The cruise stops include MOTOR Bar & Restaurant at the Harley-Davidson Museum, The Twisted Fisherman and The Hot Water Wherehouse in Milwaukee. Your ticket gets you a 4.5-hour cruise between all three locales and drink tickets. Meet at designated boarding areas for cruises starting at 11:30 a.m. (from The Twisted Fisherman), 11:40 a.m. (from MOTOR Bar & Restaurant) and 12:10 p.m. (from The Hot Water Wherehouse) Saturdays throughout summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tickets cost $34.

The Coffee Pot Inn, adjacent to the Coffee Pot diner, is a three-bedroom upper flat in downtown Kenosha that is now open for booking. Courtesy of Harold Rail

Warm up your cup

Kenosha, with its museums, uncrowded beaches, craft breweries and old-school taverns and restaurants now offers an unusual and charming lodging option. The Coffee Pot Inn is a bright, three-bedroom upper flat in the heart of downtown Kenosha that works for families, couples or even a girlfriends' getaway. The fully furnished space features three bedrooms (sleeping up to six people); one bathroom; a full kitchen and dining room; living room; enclosed sunroom; and an outdoor area to grill and hang outside. Proprietors are BFF's Janis Barnhill and Julie Zorn, who also own The Coffee Pot, a little diner that originally opened in the 1930s, serving what could be Kenosha's best breakfast. There is free delivery service to the inn from The Coffee Pot (during diner hours). Plus, it's an easy walk to shops, galleries, the beach, bars and restaurants. The Coffee Pot Inn is at 4910 Seventh Ave., Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rates range from $149-$229 per night (plus tax) depending upon the number of guests and dates. (262) 653-8849 or

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