Ninth annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival
Chicago may have slipped to third in terms of population, but it remains the sketch comedy capital of the world. The ninth annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival celebrates the best in local, national and international sketch comedy over two weeks featuring 100 sketch comedy troupes performing 125 shows. Think you're "SNL" material? Sign up for a workshop or attend networking events. Bring little Gilda and Chevy for special children's programming at the world's largest sketch comedy festival. Tickets for each time slot are only $12.50 (35 to 40 minutes in length).
Times vary, Thursday, Jan. 7, to Sunday, Jan. 17, at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 West Belmont Ave. (773) 327-5252 or go to chicagosketchfest.net
What's cooking, good looking?
The arctic air calls for comfort food as well as a way to subdue cabin fever. You can kill two needs with one ladle with the city of Chicago's World Kitchen, now in its second decade of presenting reasonably priced, hands-on cooking classes downtown. The state-of-the-art culinary teaching facility offers the opportunity to learn how to prepare a variety of foods and ethnic cuisines as well as cooking techniques. January classes include a winter soup class; a meet-the-farmer class involving cooking with fresh beef and pork grown locally; beans and legumes; all about cinnamon; and gluten-free cooking.
Class days and times vary at Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Classes cost $30 and require preregistration by phone, online or in person. (312) 742-8497 or ChicagoWorldKitchen.org.
Your cold, cold art
Masterpiece of the Day returns for this year's holiday celebrations at the Art Institute of Chicago. During this last week of 2009, you can take a 30-minute special tour that focuses on a different jewel in the institute's crowning collection. There also will be brief talks so you can learn more about some of the facility's most admired works. The institute also has Holly Days, a popular holiday program where families visit a particular exhibition and then create a work of art inspired by it. The Holly Days festival also includes storytime, a special activity for younger children, gallery walks through the exhibition and a visit by the institute's mascot, Artie the Lion.
Masterpiece of the Day at noon daily through Thursday, Dec. 31; Holly Days runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, Dec. 27-30, at 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 443-3680 or artinstituteofchicago.org
Frigid air in Amana
Beat the blues with a trip to Iowa's Amana Colonies during Winterfest. The list of activities ranges from the sublime (wine walk) to the ridiculous (ham tossing contest and the best beard competition). Enjoy breakfast at the Amana Communal Kitchen then it's time for cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding and snowshoeing to burn some calories. Kids can enjoy the marshmallow roast and an ice cube quest when they sift through the snow at the General Store to find colored ice cubes to win prizes and meet the Winterfest Ice Princess. There also will be knitting, spinning and quilting demos, log sawing competition, live music and theater performances.
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Amana Colonies in Amana, Iowa. (800) 579-2294 or festivalsinamana.com
Thirty teams from around the state will compete to create artwork using 5-ton blocks of snow during Rockford's 24th Annual Snow Sculpting Competition. Creations range from the whimsical to political satire to the abstract. Sculptures are available for public viewing 24 hours a day. Wednesday, Jan. 20, to Saturday, Jan. 23, at Sinnissippi Park, 1401 North Second St. Rockford. (815) 987-8800 or gorockford.com
Grab your snow boots and skis for Learn a Snow Sport Month during January at Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park in Andalusia, Ill. The park boasts 28 acres for skiers and snowboarders.
Beginner ski and board specials from $35 a day and include a beginner hill ticket, rental and lesson. Snowstar is located just minutes from the Quad Cities. (800) 383-4002 or skisnowstar.com
Worth the trip
In Alberta, Canada, Lake Louise's 16th Annual Ice Magic Ice Sculpting Festival turns shadows beneath Mt. Victoria into a magical wonderland of ice art resembling cut crystal. The international ice-carving competition, held on the grounds of the famed Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, features a dozen teams of two carvers each who work within the theme "Podium Bound - Spirit of the Competition" (in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games). Carving teams are given 15 blocks of ice, weighing 300 pounds each, which they must transform into 7-foot tall ice sculptures in just three days. The Lake Louise Inn will also host teams as they compete in a speed event, One Carver, One Hour, One Block. Other events include the Little Chippers Festival where children will have the chance to learn the art and science of ice carving firsthand. The hotel's Ice Magic Celebration Package includes a choice of room or suite, a special guest Ice Magic Reception on Saturday, Jan. 23, and breakfast with rates starting from $380 per night, based on double occupancy.
Friday to Sunday, Jan. 22-24, at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Visit fairmont.com/lakelouise/HotelPackages/SpecialEvents/IceMagicPackage.htm