Midwest travel: Get creative with van Gogh hotel package
Vincent van Gogh's "The Bedroom" is brought to life at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, in a specialty package "drawn up" to encourage you to explore your artistic side. The "Explore Your Inner van Gogh" package includes two VIP tickets to The Art Institute of Chicago to see the "Van Gogh's Bedrooms" exhibit; welcome gifts, including adult and children's coloring books; a $50 credit to Deca RESTAURANT + BAR and/or The Carlton Club Spa; overnight valet parking; and overnight accommodations for two. Feb. 13 through May 8 at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, 160 E. Pearson St., Chicago. Package rates start at $339. Book your artsy encounter at (312) 266-1000 or see ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Chicago.
Poutine on the ritz
When a particular food becomes trendy (think bacon), it's a sure bet that a singular food fest will follow. Poutine Fest showcases Quebec's fast-food favorite -- French fries and cheese curds under a messy cover of gravy. Chicago restaurants will enter their best poutine to try to win the title of "King of Poutine." Entry includes tastes of poutine from each of the participating restaurants plus tickets for craft beer or cider. Profits from ticket sales will be donated to a charity that helps restaurant professionals in need. Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, at the Chop Shop/1st Ward Events, 2033 W. North Ave., Chicago. VIP tickets (11 a.m. entry to the fest) cost $60 each, and include three drink tickets, a taste from each vendor, early admission and a take-home goody bag. General admission tickets cost $50 each and include two drink tickets, a taste from each vendor and a take-home goody bag. (773) 537-4441 or poutinefest.com.
Navy Pier brings the city's various ethnic neighborhoods to its Crystal Gardens for the next six Sundays. The free events launch with a colorful celebration of Chinese New Year. Enjoy Chinese folk music, crafts, traditional dance and food. Subsequent dates showcase the arts and culture of Africa, Italy, Lithuania, the Philippines and Greece. Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Free. (800) 595-7437 or navypier.com.
If films are your thing but jetting to Cannes or Sundance isn't in the stars, get your movie-loving self to Beloit, Wisconsin. The Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) has been called the "next big thing" by Moviemaker Magazine and is listed as one of six alternatives to Sundance by The New York Times. It's 10 days of independent films from around the world that movie buffs can enjoy in more than a dozen venues, ranging in size from 40 to 400 seats. This year's fest offers about 140 films and a chance to meet more than 100 filmmakers from Europe, Asia, and North and South America. In addition to features, shorts and documentaries, there is a free opening-night block party, a silent film showcase and a sing-a-long film. Feb. 19-28 at various venues in Beloit, Wisconsin. Tickets cost $9-$10 per film; $5 for students. The Silent Film showcase costs $25-$28. (608) 312-4256 or find a schedule at beloitfilmfest.org.
Curd-esy of Kenosha
If Chicago's Restaurant Week was a little too rich for your wallet or perhaps you have a special place in your belly for Wisconsin food, get a load of Downtown Kenosha Restaurant Week. The second annual eating event takes place for nine days at more than 20 locally owned restaurants offering multicourse meals at a palatable savings. Special, fixed-price menus are on the agenda for breakfast ($10), lunch ($10) and dinner ($20 and $30). Just visit any of the participating restaurants and ask for the special Restaurant Week menu. Additionally, there will be goodies to take home with Sweets & Treats specials at downtown specialty food shops. Feb. 20-28 in downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin. Visit downtownkenosha.org/rw for menus and details.
Ice, ice baby
The 11th Annual Bayfield Winter Festival takes the season to the limit with outdoor events like a Polar Plunge in Lake Superior's 33-degree lake water; a boot hockey tournament; sledding; the Chilly Chili Contest; a bonfire and fireworks; a free WinterBASH with live music; ice golfing; a candlelight walk on the Brownstone Trail; and the Freeze Your Glass Off Party in downtown Bayfield. Bring your cameras and your coats. Run or Bike On Water allows you to run, ski, skate, bike or skijor on the famed 4.5-mile ice road across Lake Superior to Madeline Island and back. Take the opportunity to see the otherworldly Lake Superior Ice Caves while you're in the area. Friday through Sunday, March 4-6, in Bayfield, Wisconsin. For details, see bayfieldwinterfestival.com or call (715) 779-3335.