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Plan a visit to the American Writers Museum in Chicago

SOPHY Hyde Park Opens in Chicago

Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue Has Placed a Classic 1928 Ford Model A Inside its hotel to Honor the Chicago Motor Club Building's History.

The World’s first Virgin Hotel is officially open in Chicago and is officially upping the ante on the hotel game.


Where to stay

SOPHY Hyde Park

SOPHY Hyde Park, the new 98-room boutique hotel located at 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, opened on October 1, 2018. Developed by The Olympia Companies and SMART Hotels, SOPHY Hyde Park is managed by Olympia Hotel Management and aligns with Olympia’s expertise in developing and managing independent, award-winning boutique properties that evoke a strong sense of place and become an integral part of the community.


For locals and visitors alike, Hyde Park holds a unique place in the history of Chicago. This historic neighborhood, home to the University of Chicago and one of the most culturally diverse areas in the city, has a rich legacy of intellectual, artistic and cultural innovation that continues to this day. The developers and designers of the first boutique hotel in Chicago’s South Side took inspiration from this unique heritage when creating SOPHY Hyde Park. The name SOPHY is rooted in the Greek word “sophia,” meaning wisdom and dedication to excellence through the pursuit of knowledge. It pays tribute to Hyde Park’s unique legacy and is reflected in both SOPHY’s architecture and design. The hotel is located close to the University of Chicago campus, the Museum of Science and Industry, the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the future Barack Obama Presidential Center.

Designed as a four-diamond property and engineered to achieve LEED Silver certification, SOPHY Hyde Park is a preferred hotel of the University of Chicago. Chicago-based GREC Architects are the architects of SOPHY Hyde Park while the design firm of Stonehill Taylor is responsible for all of the hotel’s interiors.
The design of the guestrooms, which include standard rooms and larger suites, was inspired by the fine arts legacy of Hyde Park. Each room is anchored by an 8 foot abstract painting by local artist Joey Korom, rendered in fabric, and is finished with books, ornaments and even a record player with a selection of local musicians on vinyl. With hardwood floors, area rugs, custom lighting and a comfortable seating area, these unique hotel rooms aim to inspire guests to build on Hyde Park’s amazing legacy. Categories include Deluxe King Room, Deluxe Double Queen Room, Novel Suite, Dorchester Suite and Opus Suite.

Mesler Kitchen | Bar | Lounge, which means “to mix and mingle,” is a reflection of Hyde Park’s diversity. Mesler will offer Brunch seven days a week instead of a traditional Breakfast and Lunch service. There will be a daily “Hyde Park Social” period between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, followed by Dinner and then a late-night lounge menu seven day a week, as well as room service. The cocktail program at Mesler is inspired by Hyde Park’s legacy for innovation, art, mathematics, science and astronomy. Chef Bradford Shovlin, the newly appointed Executive Chef of Mesler, is a Detroit native and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and previously worked in Chicago at the Michelin-starred North Pond under Bruce Sherman and with Suzy Crofton at Crofton on Wells.

A 15-foot, double-sided fireplace connects and separates the hotel reception area from the 40 seat Mesler lounge. The restaurant artwork includes pieces designed specifically for the hotel by students at nearby Hyde Park Academy High School. The overall décor is inspired by literature and the scientific discoveries that Hyde Park has witnessed over the last century. An outdoor lounge area accommodates 24 guests and there is an indoor private dining room for up to 14 with its own outdoor patio and fire pit.

Opening rates at SOPHY Hyde Park start at $289. For more information, visit

SOPHY Hyde Park is a 98- room hotel in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood. Developed by The Olympia Companies and SMART Hotels, and managed by Olympia Hotel Management, SOPHY features Mesler Kitchen | Bar | Lounge, a fitness center and a private dining room. The hotel is located near the site of the future Barack Obama Presidential Center, the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science & Industry. SOPHY Hyde Park is a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection.

Location: SOPHY Hyde Park
1411 East 53rd Street
Chicago, IL 60615

Hampton Inn Michigan Avenue

Chicago’s new hotel, Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue, officially opened on July 9, 2015, in the heart of Downtown Chicago, situated at 68 E. Wacker Place. The hotel’s owner, Integrated Motor Club LLC, an affiliate of Murphy Asset Management (MAM), has invested substantially into the exquisite transformation of one of Chicago’s finest Art Deco buildings, the historic 1928 Chicago Motor Club Building. Located just one block south of the Chicago River, Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue’s prime location merges the business of the Loop with the high energy nightlife of Chicago’s popular River North and Streeterville neighborhoods. Crescent Hotels & Resorts, LLC of Fairfax, VA has been selected as the management company to operate the hotel.

Paying homage to the landmark’s contribution to the United States’ car culture, a significant amount of the renovation budget has been dedicated to preserving the 33-foot high lobby featuring a 29-foot mural of popular road destinations, designed by John Warner Norton. As one of the few remaining Art Deco lobbies in Chicago, the space includes two balconies on the mezzanine level overlooking the lobby, one of which has a 1928 Ford Model A on display as a tribute to the history of the building. Jack’s Place, a 67-seat cocktail bar is located on the first floor, making the hotel one of only a few Hampton Inn hotels nationally to have a lobby bar.

Standing 17-stories high, Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue boasts 143 guestrooms, each featuring complimentary WiFi, a 42-inch flat-screen HDTV, an ergonomic desk and a coffeemaker. The LEED Certified hotel will offer guests state-of-the-art cardio equipment in the 24-hour fitness center, a 24-hour business center, and two versatile meeting rooms with the latest A/V technology. The design team drew heavily from the historic Art Deco stylings of the original construction by preserving and restoring original design elements while incorporating streamlined forms, metallic tones, jewel hues, and rich wood textures that recapture the majesty of the building’s former occupants, The Chicago Motor Club.

Known as one of Chicago’s finest Art Deco-style skyscrapers, the former Chicago Motor Club Building was completed within 265 days in 1928. More than just a social and sporting group, the Chicago Motor Club wielded power in advocating for city improvements, including the widening of North Michigan, the installation of a public parking garage in Grant Park, and the transformation of Wacker Drive into a double-decker motorway.

Hampton Hotels, including Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites and Hampton by Hilton, is an award-winning leader in the mid-priced hotel segment, serving value-conscious and quality-driven travelers. With over 1,900 properties totaling more than 195,000 rooms in 16 countries and territories, Hampton Hotels is part of Hilton Worldwide, a leading global hospitality company. All Hampton hotels offer a friendly service culture, defined as Hamptonality, delivered by more than 50,000 Team Members and backed by the 100% Hampton® Guarantee, reinforcing its commitment to providing excellent service to business and leisure travelers alike. For more information visit, or for more information and connect with Hampton Hotels online at, or

Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is a AAA Four Diamond luxury hotel located in downtown Chicago. With 687 guestrooms and 62,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel provides contemporary elegance and gracious hospitality. Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is also home to eno wine room and aria restaurant and bar, taking guests on an “east meets west” culinary experience. In addition to uniquely inspired dining and stylish accommodations, the hotel features an exclusive lifestyle spa. mySpa affords eight treatment rooms and provides the perfect urban sanctuary from the busy and bustling Chicago streets. For more information on Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, call 312-565-8000 or visit

About Fairmont

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts connects guests to the very best of its destinations, providing travelers with memorable travel experiences, thoughtful and attentive service and luxury hotels that are truly unforgettable. Each Fairmont property reflects the locale’s energy, culture and history through locally inspired cuisine, spirited bars and lounges and distinctive design and decor. With more than 65 hotels globally, and many more in development, the Fairmont collection boasts some of the most iconic hotels in the world, including The Plaza in New York, The Savoy in London, Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City. Fairmont is owned by FRHI Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel company that operates more than 125 hotels and branded residential properties under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands.

For more information or reservations, please visit

Virgin Hotel

Made Its Debut in Chicago in January, 2015 -- And rolls out The Red Carpet for Guests

A milestone in the history of the Virgin brand with Virgin Hotels as begun as the hotel open the doors to its first property, Virgin Hotels Chicago. The new hotel brand will join a stellar portfolio of hospitality companies led by Virgin Group and its founder Sir Richard Branson, and offer the same excitement, heartfelt service and smart innovation that Virgin is known for.

Since the brand’s inception, eliminating fees and surcharges have been top priority, along with creating an experience that allows guests to feel that Virgin Hotels is their place in the city. A champion of the customer, the hotel brand offers free Wi-Fi (at unlimited bandwidth) and has eliminated early check-in fees, late check-out fees, room service delivery charges, business center transactions, and other services that have caused frustration for travelers.

Virgin Hotels Chicago is located in the heart of Chicago's Loop district in the historic Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash Ave. The 26-story Art Deco building, a Chicago landmark, offers 250 guest rooms, including 40 one-bedroom suites and two Penthouse Suites.

Several of the building’s original features remain intact and are showcased throughout, like a beautiful 1920s oak Cigar Bar that serves as the hotel’s front desk, ornate brass elevator doors, and the original mail slot and chute serving all floors.

At the heart of Virgin Hotels Chicago is The Commons Club, a dynamic space where guests can dine, drink, work and mingle, as well as attend the nightly hosted Social Hour. The vibe is one of a private members club, without the fees, where guests and locals alike are welcome. The two-story space it occupies was the original bank floor with its beautiful coffered plaster ceiling.

The Commons Club menu, created by Chef Rick Gresh, features a variety of internationally influenced small plates, from Stuffed Potato Tots to a Cauliflower Caesar to Cider Mussels to a Lobster Flatbread. The dinner menus Large Plate options also embody unique and flavorful compositions, like the Fatty Noodles, a delectable combination of lobster, udon noodles, Sriracha, furi spice and rapini or the Eye of the Ribeye, Chef Gresh’s one-of-a-kind black truffle tattoo technique adorned on a Ribeye served with bone marrow mac n cheese. The Commons Club is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The hotel will have four additional dining options, including Miss Ricky’s, a 23-hour, All-American diner and a rooftop bar and lounge, all opening between February and April of this year. Seating from 12 to 108, Virgin Hotels Chicago has three modular spaces on the third floor to accompany any type of social event, dinner or meeting.

Virgin Hotels Chicago will feature a two-chamber room layout, with small touches that make traveling for business or leisure an easier experience. All guest rooms are divided into two spaces by sliding doors, complete with a peephole. The dressing room includes a full vanity, make-up desk and mirror, an extra-large shower with a bench, and his and hers closets designed by Poliform. Slide open the privacy door and guests will enter the lounge with a red SMEG mini-fridge, LG Smart TV, custom designed table that swivels and a Poltrona Frau task chair. Tired of searching for an outlet, guests can look no further than their bedside to find ample outlets for their smartphone, computer or other electronic devices.

Virgin Hotels has also taken working from bed to another level. The brand’s patent pending, ergonomically designed bed is the ideal space for setting up shop while on a long business trip, or to pop open your computer and stream a movie. Plush bedding rounds out the experience creating ultimate comfort whether guests are working, recharging or playing.

Virgin Hotels is a lifestyle hospitality brand that combines heartfelt service, straightforward value and a seamless, personalized hotel experience with the track record of innovation and smart disruption that Sir Richard Branson’s global Virgin Group has pioneered for over 40 years. Each property will intermix a passion for food and beverage with music and culture, fusing with the local landscape and providing a vibrant and inclusive environment for travelers and locals, alike. Chicago opened in January 2015, with New York, Nashville and others to follow. For more information, please visit

The World’s first Virgin Hotel is officially open in Chicago and is officially upping the ante on the hotel game.

The hotel is offering the same excitement, heartfelt service and smart innovation that Virgin is known for but is shaking up the hotel industry how we know it.

A few highlights include:
·         The Design: The hotel was restored from a 1920’s bank and Chicago historical landmark. In fact, it took two years to restore the original fixtures which you can find throughout the hotel.
·         The Technology: Not only does the hotel feature cutting edge technology, but their app “Lucy” is a game-changer for the hotel industry. She’s your concierge, room service, bell hop, thermostat and tv remote all-in-one.
·         The Fees: There are no hidden fees or surcharges. In fact, even the mini bar is stocked with street prices. Say goodbye to $8 bottles of water. Virgin has them for $2.
·         The Scene: Virgin has teamed up with a number of Chicago locals to help avoid tourist traps and find your scene based on your likes, interests and…horoscope. Virgin’s crystal ball will show you everything from hidden speakeasies that were frequently by Al Capone to BYOB dim sum to skydiving.
·         The Commons: A dynamic space where guests can dine, drink, work and mingle. The vibe is one of a private members club, except there are no added fees, and guests and locals alike are welcome.
·         The Ride: Did you mention you have to the leave the hotel? That’s ok. Virgin has a Tesla Model S house car to bring you wherever you need to go. Just ring the concierge or give your girl “Lucy” a shout.

For more information, or to make a reservation, please visit

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel -- Chicago Unveils Design For Brand's U.S. Debut in Acclaimed Aqua Tower          

The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago opened November 2011, unveiling the first look at the design vision for the upper-upscale Radisson Blu brand in the United States. The flagship hotel is located on the first 18 floors of the 81-story Aqua Tower, recently named "Skyscraper of the Year" by Emporis.

MacArthur Genius design award honoree Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects designed the architecturally acclaimed Chicago icon. For the hotel interiors, U.K.-based designer Jim Hamilton of Graven Images presents a thought-provoking, contemporary style synonymous with the Radisson Blu brand vision that is unique to Chicago, to North America and to Radisson.

Inheriting a Design Legacy
Throughout the world, Radisson Blu hotels stand as individual design statements reflecting individual markets. Since Arne Jacobson's game-changing Royal Hotel Copenhagen rose as the world's first designer hotel in 1960, Radisson Blu hotels have been recognized for their sense of adventure and innovation. Witness the floor-to-ceiling wine tower complete with "wine angels" at the Radisson Blu Zurich; the giant, cylindrical aquarium at the Radisson Blu Berlin; and the Euro-coin architecture of the Radisson Blu Frankfurt. For the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, Hamilton created subtle and overt design references to the city.

The Lobby
Upon approaching the hotel, a transparent, blue glass box frames the main entrance, and attracts guests to catch a glimpse of a series of interlinked public spaces. Floor-to-ceiling street-level windows reveal monolithic brick piers that form a gateway to the lobby lounge just below the deep blue theatre curtains. 
The brick piers extend into the lobby where the use of negative space composes a series of building silhouettes-an oblique reference to the Chicago skyline. The same brick walls are studded with backlit glass blocks, symbolic of city lights witnessed from a distance.
Across the lobby, a wall-to-wall screen of interconnected Egyptian brass medallions, produced by Randa Fahmy, hangs in front of a mirror that serves as a curtain for a dramatic, 50-foot-long fireplace. Delicate overhead teardrop light fixtures cast a glow on gold elevator doors as well as an oversized handmade rug that offers an abstract aerial depiction of Chicago, as imagined and drawn by Hamilton.
The hotel check-in area was deliberately moved to the left of the lobby in its own distinctive space to imbue the lounge area with its own sense of calm. For check-in, mirrored desks sit in front of a weathered steel wall accented by brightly colored light fixtures resembling blue shards of lightening.
An internal lobby corridor or "street" boasts a martini bar with plush, oversized captain's chairs. Bookending the martini bar, a cantilevered, flying staircase weighing 20 tons bridges the ground level to Filini, the onsite, two-story, contemporary Italian restaurant and bar. A long, linear, cast-iron and steel ramp connects the corridor to an art gallery and meeting spaces in the rear. Perhaps most striking, however, is an immense structural "I- beam" that runs the length of the mezzanine level and serves as a perch for overhanging restaurant banquette seating boxes.

Filini and Filini Bar 

Lining the corridor, a series of steel-grate floor fixtures, which reflect the pattern found on protective city tree covers in Chicago, transitions the lobby into the Filini bar. The bar utilizes the same tree cover pattern, but on a larger scale, for a massive black and white, hand-pieced mosaic floor. Here, banquette-style booth seating is fitted with countertops embedded with flickering LED lights resembling small candles.
Upstairs, a glass wine wall greets guests. A delicatessen wall is outfitted with cabinetry shelves designed to showcase the premium products served at Filini. Three-dimensional, pyramid-shaped wall and exhibition kitchen tiles create a sense of movement. A variety of other seating, including banquettes and communal tables, are lined with silver leather cushions and complemented in many instances by oiled oak tables. The juxtaposition of materials in the space creates a modern yet cozy aura conducive to a contemporary Italian eatery.

Gallery and Meeting Spaces                

Past Filini, and en route to more than 28,000 square feet of the city's most compelling meeting and event facilities, a gallery is dedicated to Chicago artists. Hamilton lines the walls with visual and graphic works in all mediums, including sculpture, painting and photography. Hamilton hand-selected the pieces from Chicago's River North neighborhood, an area recognized as the largest arts district in the country outside of Manhattan.
A pre-function space, resembling a boat hull with off-center pillars and cleverly slanted walls, covered by woven metal hangings, announces the hotel's grand ballroom. At more than 12,000 square feet, the space showcases 20-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Lake Michigan and The Park at Lakeshore East. An undulating ceiling is accented by dramatic spheres of LED lights of various sizes and lengths.
Around the corner waits an additional 20,000 square feet of junior ballrooms, executive boardrooms and breakout rooms. Lining the hallways, a series of oversized, monochromatic photographs honors Chicago architectural history. Carpets have been carefully customized to reflect the tree-grate pattern, while sleek cabinetry of gray, oiled oak conceals state-of-the-art audio-visual abilities that can support any meeting or business function. A large conference room boasts a wall of windows overlooking sweeping views of Chicago's Millennium Park. Expect vistas like Frank Gehry's renowned Millennium Park band shell. Walls are sketched with famous Chicago streets and iconic storefronts from various Chicago neighborhoods. These same sketches reappear throughout the hotel in guestroom hallways.

For the guestrooms, internationally-renowned designer Christian Lundwall offers fashion-inspired rooms in two different styles to suit every taste: "Mansion House" and "Naturally Cool." Both styles are unique in palette and inspiration, offering an equally impressive sense of design, quality and functionality.
The "Mansion House" room design is defined by sophisticated strong lines, deep rich timber finishes, flashes of chrome and a clubby, yet refined aura. "Naturally Cool" is a contemporary design featuring splashes of color, a soft, sensual white bed, metal lamps, wood flooring, and dramatic paper art versatile enough for any setting or climate.

A Commitment to Sustainability
The hotel will be pursuing LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in the coming months, reflecting its ongoing commitment to responsible business practices and environmental stewardship.

About Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago 

Marking the debut of the Radisson Blu brand in North America, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago opened Nov. 1, 2011. The hotel features Filini, a contemporary, 150-seat Italian restaurant and bar that offers simple and authentic dishes as well as anexpansive Italian wine collection. For details go to or call +1 (312) 565-5258.

Hotel Palomar: A Sleek Urban Sanctuary

The modern sky-rise hotel in the River North area features 259 luxurious guest rooms, 5000 square feet of meeting space and a signature Kimpton restaurant fronting on State Street.

The Elysian: Luxury in the Gold Coast

This ultra-luxury property in the Gold Coast features exquisite, residential-styled guest rooms and suites averaging 889 square feet. Fireplaces, terraces, private bars and advanced technology provide a home-away-from-home feeling in a sophisticated and timeless setting. Opening date to be announced.

JW Marriott: A Burnham original

Located in the former Continental & Commercial National Bank building designed by Daniel Burnham in 1914, this 610-room hotel features exquisite architecture and elegant décor. The $396 million restoration of this historic landmark blends Burnham's distinctive style with 21st century sensibility, providing downtown Chicago with a hotel of distinctive pedigree.

What to See & Do

With its stunning architecture, acclaimed museums, lakefront parks and vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, Chicago is a city of world-class status and unsurpassed beauty. New tours, exhibitions and hotels, and an array of Tony award-winning theater productions make Chicago the perfect year-round destination.

Explore Chicago’s 31 miles of lakefront, 48 museums, 77 neighborhoods, more than 200 theaters, and over 6,000 restaurants. For more information about planning a trip, call 1.877.CHICAGO or visit

American Writers Museum

American Writers Museum has been awarded the 2019 TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. It is the country's only museum dedicated solely to American writers and authors and is a top Chicago attraction. It is also the first museum solely devoted to celebrating American writers and their works. Opened to the public in 2017, its mission is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, and our daily lives.

Several permanent exhibits, interactive displays, and specially curated installations (including Laura Ingalls Wilder: From Prairie to Page which highlighted how Ms. Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series shaped American understanding of the time period, The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road featuring a display of the original scroll manuscript, and Bob Dylan: Electric featuring Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics and poetry and an electric guitar used at his first ever “electric” concert at Newport Folk Festival in 1966) offer visitors of all ages a one-of-a-kind experience.

“American Writers Museum is honored to join premier attractions around the world with the TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence honor,” said Carey Cranston, American Writers Museum president. “We’re committed to providing American Writers Museum guests a memorable one-of-a-kind experience. This recognition will enhance the museum’s reputation as a destination to celebrate American writers and their work.”

The TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travelers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

Located in the historic former International Harvester Building at 180 N. Michigan Ave, American Writers Museum sits among the Chicago Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Theatre District, and several cultural and artistic icons.

Hours; Open seven days a week. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children ages 12 and under. Visit or call 312-374-8790 for more information.

Location: American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Avenue - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60601

Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue Has Placed a Classic 1928 Ford Model A Inside its hotel to Honor the Chicago Motor Club Building's History.

On April 2, 2015, scaffolding & a lift placed the antique car at its new home on the second mezzanine of the lobby in one of Chicago’s few remaining Art Deco buildings.

Hampton Inn Chicago Michigan Avenue, located in the Chicago Motor Club building at 68 E. Wacker Place, further enhanced its historic footprint as it carefully installed an original 1928 Ford Model A on the second floor of the 33-foot high lobby. The car arrival was a key milestone in preparation for the hotel’s Grand Opening in May. Representatives for the hotel’s ownership, Integrated Motor Club LLC, an affiliate of Murphy Asset Management (MAM), and the Chicago Art Deco Society were in attendance for remarks on the exquisite renovation.

In addition to the 1928 Ford Model A, the lobby showcases the original 29-foot mural of popular road destinations, painted by John Warner Norton, which was carefully preserved throughout the renovation to pay homage to the building’s rich historical significance and contribution to U.S. car culture.

The installation event kicked off the official social media naming contest for the car. Enthusiasts are encouraged to submit their name entry through the hotel’s Facebook ( or Twitter ( accounts using the hashtag #1928HamptonInnspiration. The winner will receive 200,000 Hilton HHonors™ Points and a custom engraved plaque with their name to be placed near the car.  

Art Institute of Chicago

Daily: 10:30–5:00
Thursdays until 8:00

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's days.
Children under 14 always free
Members always free

The Loop Riverfront Buses are Launched in the Quad Cities

Called The Loop, these bright orange retro-style buses snake along both sides of the Mississippi River year-round giving tourists and residents a way to hop from city to city and easily take advantage of the area’s many entertainment venues, attractions, and restaurants.  For more information, call 563-344-4110 or visit

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk

In the summer of 2010, Lincoln Park Zoo unveils its newly renovated man-made pond which has been completely transformed and restored into a natural revitalized ecosystem. A haven for native birds, frogs, turtles, fish, insects and mammals, it also serves as an outdoor classroom for students of all ages. A boardwalk surrounds the entire pond, providing new opportunities for the public to enjoy and experience nature. This revitalized 14-acre outdoor wilderness classroom features naturalist interpreters and a wide range of educational programs and mobile labs designed to promote hands-on learning about the city’s native wildlife and the importance of preserving wetlands and freshwater ecosystems. Admission is free.

The Ledge at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower Skydeck

provides never-before-seen views of Chicago and a new Chicago experience where visitors can see the city literally beneath their feet. From 103 floors over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River, a series of glass bays extend out more than four feet from the side of the building, providing visitors with unobstructed views - 1,353 feet straight down. The famed Skydeck also offers additional attractions including new interactive and educational museum-quality exhibits that celebrate the city.

Renzo Piano Modern Wing Opens at The Art Institute

The newly-opened, 264,000-square-foot Modern Wing designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano houses the Art Institute’s collections of 20th century European painting and sculpture; contemporary art; architecture and design; and photography on three floors of galleries. The $300 million project also features an outdoor sculpture terrace; a garden courtyard; and a 600-foot-long pedestrian bridge, the Nichols Bridgeway, linking the museum directly to Chicago’s popular Millennium Park.

New Half-Day Bus Tours Explore Chicago Neighborhoods

Discover Chicago’s diverse communities with these new half-day bus excursions that highlight the history, traditions and people of Chicago.

· Jefferson Park, Portage Park & Six Corners

· South Chicago

· Wicker Park & Ukrainian Village

· Bucktown, Humboldt Park & Logan Square

· Daniel Burnham’s Chicago

Chicago Museums Showcase World-Class Exhibitions

Chicago is world-renowned for its diverse collection of museums which bring to life a variety of subjects, including Chicago history, modern art, African American culture, astronomy, natural history and much more. A variety of exhibitions will be on display throughout 2010 including:

Tony Award Winning Theaters Call Chicago Home

Four Chicago theaters, Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, have all received the prestigious Regional Tony Award, more than any other city in the nation. 2010 highlights at these theaters include:

66 East Randolph Street: Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
Mondays – Fridays, 11am – 7pm; Saturdays, 11am – 4pm

Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand offers edible local products, all produced within 250 miles of Chicago, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season; a full range of condiments, preserves, seasonings and other dry goods items; baked goods and seasonal items as available. The Farmstand is the perfect place to find locally produced holiday gifts, and to buy ingredients for preparing holiday meals.

The Art Institute

Daily: 10:30–5:00
Thursdays until 8:00
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's days.
Children under 14 always free
Members always free

City of Chicago residents with Chicago Public Library cards can borrow a "Museum Passport" card from any library branch for free general admission to the eleven members of Museums in the Park, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute's modern wing celebration with free admission and open access to inaugural exhibitions, music, performances, lectures, gallery talks and family programs

Free Evenings are free to all. City of Chicago residents with Chicago Public Library cards can borrow a "Museum Passport" card from any library branch for free general admission to the nine members of Museums in the Park, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a museum in Chicago's Grant Park, located across from Millennium Park. Visitors can enter the museum via the Michigan Avenue entrance or the Millennium Park entrance on Monroe Street.

Art Institute News Briefs

Never Before Installed Sol LeWitt Drawing: In 2006, the Art Institute acquired four wall drawings by Sol LeWitt. With drawings from each decade, this acquisition includes a work never before installed: LeWitt's Scribble Drawing of 2006. The work can now be seen in Gallery 136. A short video of the installation process will be available to download on the museum's Web site.

Art Institute Book Club: "Reading Between the Lions" is the new book club initiated by the Art Institute's Membership Department. The inaugural selections this spring include The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, in celebration of the Winslow Homer exhibition; and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, in celebration of the Edward Hopper exhibition. Members are encouraged to read the books, download discussion guides and sign up for e-newsletters, and share their thoughts about the books and the exhibitions in their local book clubs.

Buckingham Fountain

One of the largest fountains in the world, Buckingham Fountain, and its surrounding pathways and landscape have undergone a $25 million renovation. Visit the famed icon and catch the impressive water display that takes place every hour for 20 minutes. Water is shot 150 feet into the air to create a majestic sight and is accompanied by a light and music display. The fountain runs daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Chicago For Kids--

an audio tour and interactive website, allows children to explore Chicago’s most popular destinations while participating in games and learning about the rich cultural history of Chicago. Kids can download the audio tour to their iPods or mp3 players and take it with them while they check out “the Bean” at MillenniumPark or do some shopping with mom and dad on Michigan Avenue. The tour is available in multiple languages and can be downloaded at

Museum of Science and Industry

Fans of the blockbuster Harry Potter movies will enjoy Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry. Featuring displays of props and costumes used during the filming of the movies, the exhibition allows visitors the opportunity to experience a piece of movie magic.

Chicago Cultural Center

The main components of a healthy and balanced diet are fruits and vegetables and what better place to buy your fresh fruits and vegetables as well as condiments, preserves and seasonings than at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand. Located at 66 E Randolph Street in downtown Chicago, the farmstand features local products grown or produced within 250 miles of Chicago. The farmstand also hosts programs and activities such as lunchtime demonstrations and discussions between local growers and Chicago residents.

World's Largest Tiffany Glass Dome Restored

The restoration of the world=s largest Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass dome - located in Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street - has been completed with awe-inspiring results. An initiative of the City of Chicago, which owns the landmark Cultural Center, the project restored the dome to Tiffany=s original vision and allows it to be seen as it was in 1897, when the building opened as the first Chicago Public Library.

Approximately 38 feet in diameter, the Tiffany dome spans more than 1,000 square feet. It contains approximately 30,000 pieces of glass in 243 sections within an ornate cast iron frame. The body of the dome has a “fish scale” pattern. The center, called the oculus, shows the signs of the zodiac. The interior stained glass dome originally was protected by an exterior translucent glass dome, which allowed much-needed natural light into what was then the library's general delivery room. The lower portion of the room is covered with white marble and glistening mosaics, also designed by Tiffany.

During this project, the concrete and copper exterior dome that had been added during the 1930s was removed, once again allowing natural light to shine through the glass. Now, natural light pours into the room, changing the subtle colors of the restored glass minute-by-minute, while all of the room's decorative elements glow and harmonize. In addition to cleaning and repairing the art glass, the ornate cast iron framework of the dome was given a new application of its original finish. Delicate rosette lighting around the cornice of the dome, which had not been used in decades, also was refurbished, creating an elegant transition between the upper and lower portions of the room.

New for visitors

This summer, with its newly-restored Tiffany dome as the focal point, the Chicago Cultural Center will be revealed as a work of art in its own right: an essential cultural heritage destination on the basis of its landmark architecture and unique interior spaces.

New signage, displays and printed guides will help visitors experience the decorative treasures of the building's interior, discovering the exquisite craftsmanship that makes this one of the world=s most beautiful public buildings. Through both docent-led tours and self-guided exploration, the public will discover an extraordinary building where, from its inception, the arts have been created, nurtured, and celebrated.

With more than 800,000 visitors in 2007, the Chicago Cultural Center is Chicago's fifth most visited cultural attraction. More than 780 free public programs, exhibitions and events were held in the building last year.


The cost of restoring the Tiffany dome was approximately $2.2 million. Funding was obtained from several sources: $1.829 million from the Central Loop TIF; $298,230 from a HUD Grant; $109,940 from a State of Illinois Museum Grant; $5,000 from AMEX/NTHP Partners in Preservation; and approximately $31,000 in private donations.

The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of General Services retained Holabird & Root as the architects for the project, with Wight & Co. as the general contractor. More than 60 artisans and consultants worked on the project, including Botti Studios, DesignLab Chicago, Historic Surfaces/Evergreen, Primera and RestoricLLC.

For more information about the project and photos, visit

Chicago's lakefront beaches

The Chicago Park District manages the city's 29 lakefront beaches for the enjoyment of Chicago families and visitors. Chicago's lakefront is also home to the lakefront trail, volleyball, soccer, concessions, golf courses, harbors, bird sanctuaries, and natural areas. Admission to Chicagos beaches is free and open to the public. Lifeguards are on duty daily between Memorial and Labor Day weekends. For more information, please visit .

Chicago baseball

Chicago boasts two Major League baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox. No summer trip to Chicago would be complete without a visit to Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs) or U.S. Cellular Field (home of the Chicago White Sox). Enjoy a history lesson while at Wrigley Field, the nations second oldest major league baseball park. U.S. Cellular field offers unique entertainment and authentic ballpark food with a twist. Both ballparks are accessible by rapid transit, which is part of the overall experience. For more information, please visit or .

Garfield Park Conservatory - Sugar from the Sun

The Garfield Park Conservatorys new permanent exhibition, Sugar from the Sun, features 1,850 plants, 200 tons of stone, and 3,900 linear feet of steel. Built in the former Sweet House, this ground-breaking immersion experience will plunge visitors into the life of the Conservatorys tropical collection - from mangos and bananas to oranges and papayas. Visitors will use all five senses as they experience how a plant uses air, water and light to make sugar -- the energy source not only for plants, but for all life on earth. The Conservatory is free and open to the public seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, please visit .

Avenue Q

Avenue Q, an award-winning Broadway musical about trying to make it in New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account, is opening at Chicagos Cadillac Palace Theatre on May 22nd. This Tony award winning musical was largely inspired by the PBS program Sesame Street and features puppets as most of the main characters. Be among the first theatre-goers to see this performance during its run in Chicago. For more information, please visit .

Affinia Chicago

is inviting travelers to hit the town and celebrate with a special getaway in honor of the City’s birthday. The Celebrate Chicago package includes: a gift tin of Chicago’s signature Garrett's Popcorn; four ride vouchers to explore Navy Pier; a $10 Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Card so you can live like a local during your trip; and two complimentary cocktails at the rooftop lounge C-View.

Outdoor Recreation

Take in the city’s 26-mile lakefront along scenic Lake Michigan by spending the day at one of Chicago’s 23 swimming beaches. Admission is FREE and open to the public, with lifeguards on duty from 11am - 7pm daily. Not ready to jump in the water? Enjoy a number of other outdoor activities including biking, running, fishing, volleyball, soccer and golf, or explore the 8,100 acres of green space that includes bird sanctuaries, nature conservatories and historic lagoons.

Discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and public art --

that provide the backdrop for hundreds of FREE cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours and family activities at Millennium Park. This new kind of town square is a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike. Pack a picnic for the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Great Lawn and interact with the iconic Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain sculptures. Learn about the history, design and plants on FREE Tours of Lurie Garden Fridays from 11am - 1:30pm and Sundays from 10am - 1:30pm.

Historic Navy Pier

is Chicago’s lakefront playground and the Midwest’s top leisure and tourist destination, attracting more than 8.6 million visitors a year. Enjoy 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, eateries and attractions open year-round and always FREE to the public. Bike along the pier or play at Pier Park; the outdoor amusement area features a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, musical carousel and miniature golf course.

Lincoln Park Zoo --

nestled along the lakefront in the heart of Chicago, is one of the country’s last remaining FREE admission zoos. Walk amongst the various habitats, from the interactive Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo to the state-of-the-art Regenstein Center for African Apes, and connect with the natural world like never before at one of the zoo’s newer features, Nature Boardwalk – an oasis of wildlife, native trees, prairie and wetland plants

Chicago’s scenic views and flat landscape
make it the perfect city for exploring by bike. Rent a bicycle from a number of locations around the city, including at the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Millennium Park, or sign up for a neighborhood group tour ride through Bike and Roll Chicago and Bobby’s Bike Hike.

Baseball: A Chicago Tradition

Experience the South Side spirit at U.S. Cellular Field when the Chicago White Sox play the Cleveland Indians. Catch a Sox game May 25, 26 and 27. U.S. Cellular Field is just a short walk from the Red Line “L” train at Sox/35th.


Let a friendly, knowledgeable Chicago Greeter welcome you to the city. Customized for small groups of up to six people, these FREE two- to four-hour visits are offered year-round on foot and public transit. Register 7-10 days in advance and choose a neighborhood or interest to explore, from architecture, history or ethnic Chicago. InstaGreeter gives visitors the stellar Chicago Greeter experience without the need to pre-register – just drop in anytime during open hours. These FREE informal, one-hour guided walks are both fun and informative, and ideal for visitors pressed for time or looking for a more flexible option. Choose from The Loop offered year-round or Millennium Park offered seasonally beginning May 25.

Visitor Information Resources

Visitors and residents entertaining out-of-town guests will find helpful trip-planning tools and tips on Chicago’s top-ranked travel and tourism website, For daily alerts about things to do and see in Chicago, follow Explore Chicago on Twitter at (COTC’s free Twitter Concierge service @explorechicago) and on Facebook at Discover fun itineraries on the Explore Chicago blog at and on Foursquare at

Expert advice and information about the city’s events and attractions are also available at the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture’s Visitor Information Centers located across from Millennium Park in the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street, and at the historic Water Works pumping station, 163 E. Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue.

Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture
The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture markets Chicago as a premier cultural destination to domestic and international leisure travelers; provides innovative visitor programs and services; and familiarizes visitors and residents with the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, cultural attractions and creative industries. The Chicago visitor industry serves 40 million visitors annually, generates $11 billion in direct spending and $616 million in taxes, and sustains 124,000 jobs. For more information, visit

National Vietnam Veteran's Art Museum

The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The Museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans. Located in the Chicagos South Loop neighborhood, the museum houses over 1500 works of art, including paintings, photography, sculpture, poetry and music. All the works in the Museums permanent collection were created and comprised by more than 100 artists who chronicled their individual experiences from the Vietnam War. The Museum is open Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit .

Chicago War Memorials

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who served, fought, and died in defense of America. Within Chicago are more than 30 war memorials located throughout the city, giving visitors an opportunity to honor those who served their country while learning about Chicagos rich history and diversity along the way. For more information, please visit .

Chicago's Hidden Gems and Neighborhood Tours

Guests can taste their way through Chicago's neighborhoods on a mouthwatering Taste of the Neighborhoods Tour.  Formerly known as Neighborhood Sampling, this popular Special Interest Tour takes place every month except in December, as guests go on a culinary safari to numerous ethnic restaurants throughout the city.

To receive a 2008 calendar of upcoming Chicago Neighborhood Tours, call 312-742-1190 or check web site For information about group tours, call 312-742-1190. Gift certificates are also available.


The Chicago Office of Tourism, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, is the official City agency dedicated to promoting Chicago to domestic and international visitors and to providing innovative visitor programs and services.


Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is a world-renowned leader in tree science and education,
working to save and plant trees. The 1,700-acre outdoor museum features magnificent collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission - the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. Central Time until sunset. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through
February. Visit www.mortonarb.orgto learn more.

Try these 5 quick tips for spontaneous outdoor workouts and apps to activate and stay focused on personal goals: 

1. Go for it. On the 9 miles of paved road and 16 miles of trails that wind through the Arboretum’s woods, workouts can arise spontaneously and suddenly you’re struck with the urge to exercise says Mark Sisson, founder of Primal Blueprint Fitness. Chances are it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done, simply because it’s unplanned and random. Pick up your pace and take off,” he recommends. Take off running along the paved road or an invigorating hike on our 16 miles of our trails will energize your spirit and revitalize your body.


2. Climb Something. Celebrate creativity and ramp up the fun by climbing a hill says Meredith Vieceli, a certified nutritionist and triathlon/running coach and creator of There’s two really steep ones: It’s a 70 foot incline up Frost Hill on the East Side and an 80 foot huff and puffing include from under the bridge and up the hill to Thornhill on the West side. And in between are rolling hills not normally found in your neighborhood or park.
When climbing uphill, the push of your legs should be directed to and through your center of gravity, which will add power and momentum. Or try “Step-Ups,” she says. Find a bench or picnic table and step up with the right leg leading followed by the left. Step back again with right leg leading. Be sure to get your whole foot onto the bench. 15 reps with right leg leading and then switch and do 15 reps with left leg leading.


3. On the Run. Picking up the pace isn’t just for competitive types. Shift your walk into a run by using trees (there’s thousands of them along the roads here) as a guide, suggests Vieceli. This is a speed interval workout where you will alternate between an easy, recovery jog pace OR walk to a much faster "sprint" run. After an easy 10 minute warm-up, jog easy from one tree to the next and then run fast (or sprint) to the next.


4. Ready, set, go…sprint. Really want to intensify your workout? Challenge yourself by sprinting up one of our hills, the steeper the hill, the greater the challenge, says Vieceli. After a 10 minute warm up, run up the hill as fast as you can, walk or recovery jog easy back down. Repeat 6-8x and work your way up to 15 repeats. Or try running up the hill backwards if you really want to work your glutes and hamstrings. A few years ago the Northwestern University Women’s X-Country team was doing exactly this at the Arboretum – 10 times!!

5. Fear no Workout with the iMapMyRide (and MyRun, MyWalk, MyFitness or MyHike) apps, recommends Vieceli. Get your pace, distance, calories burned and a live route map for your run or hike, plus there’s geo tag photos and voice feedback to coach you on, she suggests. Links: link to screenshot: Or, need a coach in your ear? Consider Lance Armstrong urging you to get your butt off the chair and run harder, faster and smarter with Nike Coaching Runs These stick-with-it outdoor conditioning apps, including the Run Coach Pro  and RunKeeper motivate you to run harder, faster and smarter, anywhere and anytime.

So it snows! That shouldn’t stop you. The Arboretum offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Bring your own gear or rent some of ours (see below for full information). When the mood strikes and there is more than four inches of snow on the ground, don’t scurry inside. Continue your exercise endeavors on our 1700 acres of health, joy and nature!
Kids' and adults' cross-country skis and snowshoes are available for rent 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Visitor Center Area, on a first-come, first-served basis. Only when there is four or more inches of snow on the ground. 

 Snowshoe Rental
$10 per pair for two hour rental
$14 per pair for all day rental 
Cross-country Ski Rental
(Includes skis, boots & poles)
$15 per pair for two hour rental
$20 per pair for all day rental
 *Quantities limited. 

 There are wonderful skiing destinations across the Arboretum grounds:

Discover new territory on the Arboretum's East Side. Explore 4 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. This trail loops from the Conifer Collection out to Parking Lot 8 and back to the Elm Family Collection. A map of the cross-country ski trail will be available at the rental kiosk and in the Visitor Center.

Blaze your own path across our 1,700 acres or trek along the Arboretum's 16 miles of hiking trails.

Popular Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Spots: 

The Conifer Collection (good for kids and families)

Thornhill Education Center Lawn

Main Trail Loop 4 on the East Side

Spruce Plot near Parking Lot 12

Daffodil Glade at Parking Lot 22

Groomed trails on the East Side (only for skiing)

Please only wear snowshoes and cross-country skis on snow-covered trails and areas. No skis or snowshoes allowed on the roads. Benches are available in various locations. Restrooms and warming stations are located at the Visitor Center, Thornhill Education Center, and Thornhill Shelter (P-21).

Unless otherwise specified, all Arboretum events and destinations including the Children’s Garden are free with Arboretum admission.

Parking is free


First-Ever Indoor Water Resort Opened at the Clock Tower Resort

Rockford residents are enjoying the city’s first indoor water resort, CoCo Key Water Resort, located at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, opened on January 18, 2007.

CoCo Key Water Resort is one of the state’s first major indoor water resorts. Virtual tours of Rockford’s new 60,000 square foot indoor waterpark are now being given at

To make a reservation visit or call The Clock Tower at (815) 398-6000.

CoCo Key is a multi-million dollar attraction with a tropically inspired theme. Brightly colored cabanas, swaying palms, fragrant hibiscus, native artwork and thatched roofs complement the resort’s casual Key West theme.  Dubbed by Nick Jr. Magazine as one of the top family destinations for 2007, it showcases three thrilling water slides, a Coral Reef activity pool, “dip-in” floating movie theater, adventure river, indoor/outdoor spa, Parrot’s Perch interactive play island, outdoor splash pad, Pizza Hut™ and A&W® snack bar, arcade, SunDial Restaurant and Bar, and five event/birthday party rooms.

The event/birthday party rooms feature murals painted by renowned Rockford artist, Lee Rogers.  All four party rooms are open now and so is the resort’s new 10,000 square foot arcade, the Key Quest Arcade. This state-of-the-art arcade features more than 75 games and a swipe and play card system, so guests don’t have to carry around large pockets of change.

In addition, there's the SunDial Restaurant and Bar.  The SunDial’s executive Chef, Michael Sefton, hosted a holiday event and menu tasting when it opened with samples of Chef Sefton’s mouthwatering menu specialties, including Homemade Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes. 

Clock Tower Resort is a one-of-a-kind property featuring 247 spacious guest rooms, 14 loft suites and three whirlpool suites. All guest rooms have been updated with new bedroom packages.  The Clock Tower’s spectacular 50,000-square-foot racquet and recreation center includes: multiple tennis, volleyball and racquetball courts; outdoor pavilion and gardens. The Clock Tower also completely transformed its lobby, ballrooms, meeting spaces and public areas. 

Its 30,000 square feet of versatile conference and banquet space and the new WetRooster Restaurant make the Clock Tower a favorite destination for leisure and business travelers, as well as meetings, events and weddings.

Reservations and consumer information are available at (815) 398-6000 or

Rocky Glen OHV Park

(US 20 & South Main Street, Rockford, IL) is a 120-acre site featuring miles of trails along the Rock River.  In addition, Rocky Glen offers three scramble areas of different difficulty levels.  There is a lake on the property, plenty of open terrain and winding courses full of jumps and mature trees. The park is designed for four-wheel off highway vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles. No snowmobiles, dune buggies, passenger jeeps or SUVs are allowed. You must have your own vehicle; there are no rentals. Cost: Daily ride $20. Kids under 12 years old are $8. Call 815.963.8081 or log on to for more information.

Rock Cut State Park

(7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park, IL 61111)  is the place for outdoor adventure! Two lakes set off the park’s 3,092 acres. Pierce Lake, with 162 acres, is a retreat for fishing enthusiasts. A second 50-acre Olson Lake is especially for swimmers. Rounding out the park’s recreational options are biking, camping, hiking, horseback riding trails and cross-country skiing. For more information call 815.885.3311 or log on to

Rockford is located in north-central Illinois, just a 60-minute drive west of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, at the juncture of I-90, I-39 and US Highway 20. For more information about weekend getaways in the Rockford Region, log on to, e-mail or phone 800.521.0849.

Discover the Secret Gardens of Rockford

Stroll an exquisite Japanese Garden…purchase exotic hybrids from a daylily grower…explore 150 acres of unusual trees, shrubs and perennials.

If you think this sounds like British Columbia or North Carolina, think again! It’s Illinois’ Rockford Region…one of Illinois’ three largest cities, just 60 minutes west of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.  Incongruous?  Well, take another look at the “City of Gardens” and its 10,000 acres of parks and public gardens. Here’s a tiny sample of what you can experience:

Anderson Japanese Gardens was voted the best Japanese garden in North America in 2004, by the readers of the Roth Journal of Japanese Gardening. The 12-acre treasure is open for self-guided tours daily May through October and features waterfalls, ponds, paths, quiet corners and 16th Century Sukiya-style structures, including a guesthouse, teahouse and gazebo.  New visitor center with restaurant, gift shop and art gallery to open in Summer 2007. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and 12 noon to 4 pm Sunday, with special early-morning hours for those seeking a quiet place to meditate or pray.  Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students. Guided tours for groups are available by appointment. Log on to

Ellison Perennials --

is world-famous for creating more than 50 daylily hybrids. Ellison also specializes in hosta cultivars, shade plants and sun-loving perennials. People travel to Rockford from all over the world to buy Ellison’s plants.  The retail gardens are open April through October. Hours are 8 am to 5 pm Monday-Saturday April-July, and 8 am to 5 pm Thursday-Saturday August-October. Admission is free, including several annual events.  (Ellison’s private residential garden is open for group tours by appointment, for a nominal fee.) Log on to

Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden --

began in 1910 as a 150-acre nursery, planted with unusual trees, shrubs and woody plants from the owner’s world-wide trips.  Today, the Northern Illinois Botanical Society (NIBS) operates the site, which showcases spring blossoms, summer flowers, fall foliage and winter evergreens, plus themed gardens, sculptures, mazes and fountains. When an international team of botanists inventoried the site, they said there was only one other place in the entire world with such diverse and mature plant specimens…in France! Echoing the botanical theme are an art gallery, gift shop, library and spacious education center. Hours are 9 am to 4 pm daily year-round. Admission is $2 for people age 16 and up; admission to special events is additional. For more info, logon to

Sinnissippi Gardens --

Rockford’s river-side garden spot includes an annual garden meticulously planted with colorful bedding plants, a floral clock planted each year with thousands of annuals, an accredited rose garden plus a lagoon and fishpond graced by Mute Swans. The gardens are a favorite spot for outdoor weddings and the nature path along the river is a popular jogging and walking site. Admission is free.

For more information about the Rockford Region’s garden spots, log on on to, phone 815.963.8111 or fax 815.963.4298.king site. Admission is free.

Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur Wows Crowds at Burpee Museum of Natural History

The most complete & best-preserved juvenile T. Rex in the world!

After 66 million years underground and 10,000 hours of painstaking restoration, the world’s most complete juvenile T.Rex dinosaur named “Jane” met her public in Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur, a permanent exhibit which opened in June 2005, at Burpee Museum of Natural History. CNN TV dubbed Burpee “The Little Museum That Could,” because the modest museum not only discovered, but also excavated, transported, identified, restored and kept a dinosaur that’s the envy of the world’s biggest and best dinosaur museums.

In the first two months of her opening, Jane saw more than 20,000 visitors, including renowned paleontology experts. “Jane is certainly one of the top paleontological finds in my lifetime,” says Peter Larson, Founder/President, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Hill City, SD.

Ever since her discovery in 2001 by a Burpee team of amateur dinosaur-hunterson an expedition to the southeast Montana Badlands, Jane has stirred world-widedebate among paleontologists. Was she a Nanotyrannus, a “pygmy tyrant” related toTyrannosaurus rex? A juvenile T.rex? Or something else? After much consideration, Jane was found to be a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.

“She was only 11 when she died, at a crucial stage in her life cycle…just before a dramatic ‘superpuberty’ growth spurt transformed her into the massive, lumbering adultwe know as T. rex,” says Michael Henderson, Museum Curator. For three years, Henderson, the leader of Burpee’s “Jane Team,” journeyed throughout the US and Canada, conferring with expert paleontologists and scientists to determine Jane’s identity and her proper place on the dinosaur family tree.-

 “Jane is the gold standard by which every other juvenile T. Rex will be measuredfrom now on,” explained Henderson. “Her skeleton is in fabulous condition and is 80percent complete by bone mass. All the important bones are there.”Diary of a Dinosaur not only reveals Jane’s true identity, but also traces heramazing life story via a 2,000-square-foot permanent exhibit that delights and fascinatesdino-afficianados of all ages. It features colorful graphics, computer-generated animations and hands-on inter-actives.The exhibit’s magnificent centerpiece is Jane herself, a statuesque 7.5 feet tall at the hips and a slender 21 feet long from nose to tail-tip. She is a perfect example of the three qualities paleontologists value most: rarity, completeness and quality of preservation. Her fossilized skeleton is in exquisite condition, from her skull containingsix-inch-long razor-sharp teeth and tiny channels for nerves and blood vessels, to her long, powerful legs and graceful tail. The surrounding exhibit is arranged in four “chapters:”

Jane’s World: A flat-screen TV shows the barren landscape where Jane was found. With the press of a button, it transforms into the lush forest of 66 million years ago, and Late Cretaceous creatures appear, along with Jane.

While Jane Lay Buried: A time-line spans the 66 million years from Jane’s life to her discovery, and interactive stations explore the possible causes of extinction of dinosaurs, the rise of mammals, the spread of grasslands and the Ice Age glaciers.

Discovery: Visitors to a replica of Camp Needmore (the expedition’s base camp) can watch “home movies” about Jane’s discovery and excavation, flip through photo albums, see other Montana fossils and pick up a phone to hear Burpee benefactor Jane Solem talk about how she felt about loaning her name to Jane.

Stories Written in Jane’s Bones: The piece d’ resistance is a fully-restored skeleton of Jane, zeroing in on her prey, a smaller, plant-eating dinosaur called Thescelosaurus neglectus. A pterosaur glides by overhead, and a full-grown T.rex lurks in the shadows.

Burpee Museum of Natural History is located on the west bank of the Rock River at 737 N. Main St. in downtown Rockford’s River District. It began in 1941 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program in two historic mansions. Today, a modern three-story addition includes exhibits such as The First People (life-sized Native American dwellings), Windows to Wilderness (wildlife of the Rock River Valley), a Carboniferous Coal Forest, an Ordovician Sea Floor, life-size skeletal casts of a T. rex and a Colombian Wooly Mammoth, plus many more fossils and mineral specimens. Museum hours are: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for students/children ages 3-17. Wednesdays are free days for everyone. (Admission is always free for members, and the $55 annual family membership fee includes free admission to the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry and more than 200 other science museums throughout the United States.)

For more info, phone 815-965-3433 or log on to

For those who wish to fly, both Northwest Airlines and Hooters Air serve Rockford’s Northwest Chicagoland International Airport, along with several charter airlines. For details, log on to Car rental is available at the airport.


Bald Eagles Here, There, and Everywhere in the Quad Cities

Bald Eagles have captured an eco-tourism audience. Recently, the bald eagle has flown off the “threatened list.” With the Quad Cities area providing eagle education for over 40 years, the opportunities to see these magnificent birds have increased along with the number of visitors looking for them.

For details go to to

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