Colorful orchids match carnival mood at Botanic Garden


Orchid Show wonders includes carnival atmosphere and special effects (JJ Photo)

Imagine a colorful carnival taking over the greenhouse area of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Picture part of a Ferris Wheel. Notice unicycles. The fun is part of “The Orchid Show of Wonders” that this year turns the Garden’s annual orchid display of 10,000 blooms into a delightful entertainment break. 

It’s happening daily  Feb 10 through March 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL

It's all there at the Chicago Botanic Garden - What you might find at a carnival. (JJ Photo)
It’s all there at the Chicago Botanic Garden – What you might find at a carnival. (JJ Photo)

Walk under the Big Top, listen to the music. Look for the Fun House next to the greenhouses with its fattening mirrors. Then go inside the greenhouses to see more carnival style accessories including a tightrope walkers net that caught the flowers. 

Pansy Orchids among different ones to look for in the greenhouses. (JJacobs photo)
Pansy Orchids among different ones to look for in the greenhouses.(JJacobs photo)


Take time to stroll among thousands of colorful orchids then return on the weekend to find vendors selling some of the exotic plants in the Market Place. (Saturday & Sunday February 10–11, 17–18, 24–25 and March 2–3, 23–24 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden.

Jodie Jacobs


The where and what of April solar eclipse across Illinois


Photo taken at 2017 Adler exhibit (JJacobs photo)
Photo taken at 2017 Adler exhibit (JJacobs photo)


Where: as defined by Southern Illinois

The place to be mid-day April 8 is Carbondale, IL. That is ground zero for the full-totality, solar eclipse that crosses the United States in 2024.

The town, home to Southern Illinois University, is holding a four-day festival that includes a program by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in SIU’s stadium on April 8.

Mokena, IL, a tiny, arts community near Carbondale, is also holding a festival. This is where WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling did his broadcast during the 2017 solar eclipse.

Listeners will remember Skilling’s reactions to totality, the darkness the weather changes. Now it’s happening again in Southern Illinois.

Accommodations will be available (if not already booked) in both towns.


What: as defined by 2024 solar eclipse 

But if you live near Chicago and don’t travel down to Southern Illinois, the other place to be in the state is at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.

“This one is different from 2017,” said Michelle Nichols, Adler Planetarium Director of Public Observing. (Nichols will also be doing the SIU program April 8.

She was talking about the unusual circumstance where the Carbondale area is again in the direct path of a complete solar eclipse

Enumerating the differences, she said, “The direction is different.”

After first talking about how it starts over water she continued, saying, “This eclipse goes from Mexico to Maine.” (Southwest to Northeast) She noted that the 2017 eclipse went from Oregon to South Carolina. ((Northwest to Southeast)

(NASA map readers will note the 2024 eclipse enters Canada in Southern Ontario, and continues through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton and will exit continental North America at Newfoundland’s Atlantic coast.)

“Also, the last was smaller,” said Nichols, explaining that the moon was further. “This is closer and the shadow covers a wider area.”

Other differences are the amount of time the eclipse takes and the area covered.

“This time the moon will be a tiny bit bigger. The shadow will be wider and will take longer in totality,” said Nichols. “In 2017 it was two minutes. This time it will be over four minutes.” she said.

“Chicago will go from 12:51 p.m. to 3:22 p.m. with the maximum amount of totality at 2:07 p.m.,” she said and added ghat Chicago would experience 94 percent totality.

At the Adler:

Nichols cautioned that safety was very important so the Adler will have solar-appropriate, disposable glasses available on April 8 when it holds a free watching event. “Glasses will be handed out beginning at 11 a.m. until the supply runs out.”

According to Nichols, people who still have their solar glasses from 2017 can use them only if in good shape and not scratched or damaged. (Regular sun glasses won’t work)

Another reason to go to the planetarium is that visitors can watch through telescopes equipped with appropriate filters made with a 3D printer.

“We will have telescopes, about five to ten of them, for people to look through but they don’t have to be up close to the lens. The lens is very wide and they can take a picture of what they see,” she said.

For people watching at home she suggested they make a pin-hole camera with a card to capture the eclipse on paper or the ground so they don’t look at the sun.

 (NASA and other scientific sites warn that looking directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing will cause severe eye injury.)

Ed Note: The Adler has terrific exhibits up now about eclipses and more information on its website. Go to Explore/Chasing Eclipses and to Eclipses Over Illinois. For other information including safety precautions and a time chart of towns on and near the path visit NASA.

Jodie Jacobs

February means food plus fun and parades

Past Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans (Photo courtesy of New Orleans Visitors Bureau)


So glad to about to turn the calendar to February. On the horizon there is:  

  1. Chinese food to order in or eat out for Lunar New Year beginning Feb. 10 and celebrated most of the month.

In the Chicago area there are a couple of dragon parades and other events on Argyle and in Chinatown

2. We have Super Bowl Sunday to nosh through as we watch and rate the commercials Feb. 11. Some interesting ads are already out on U Tube. See more football info at NFL LVIII

3. We get to try cajon and other Louisiana or Rio delicacies for Mardi Gras, Feb. 13 before Lent begins. Mardi is French for Tuesday and Gras means fat but the French reverse the order so Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday.

4. Of course there is Valentines Day flowers, cards and candy to get or send on Feb. 14. But this is a holiday to eat out at a romantic or fun restaurant.

The Chicago area has hundreds of restaurant choices so if not sure where to go, visit Choose Chicago. The city’s tourism site has compiled some suggestions. It includes two old favorites, Mon Ami Gabi. and Geja’s Cafe,  (fondu). Supposedly the holiday’s origins began in Roman times and continued in England with the Legend of St. Valentine but it has become a Hallmark holiday.

Jodie Jacobs

Groundhog Day is back


The pavilion in Woodstock's square where the band plays (J Jacobs photo)
The pavilion in Woodstock’s square where the band plays (J Jacobs photo)

February 2, known by weather forecasters and some movie fans as “Groundhog Day,” returns every year.

Suppose, just suppose, as in the famed 1993 film, you magically get to repeat Feb. 2 after spending the whole day doing whatever you actually did on Feb. 2. Would you change anything? Think about it. 

Many libraries have the movie and it can be found with a streaming service. A romcom directed and cowritten by Harold Ramis with Danny Rubin, it is worth watching.

Another good choice is to travel to Woodstock, a charming town northwest of Chicago, where it was filmed. Their groundhog, Woodstock Willie, predicts when Spring may come similarly to Punxsutawne Phil in Punxsutawne, PA. that “Groundhog Day” is supposed to be based on in the movie.  

Both Groundhogs whisper their predictions to their handlers. But in Woodstock, IL You can tour the actual film sites and view the film in the local movie house.

Events surrounding the film start Feb. 1 but are celebrated with a redo of the weather predicting creatures on Feb 2.

For Woodstock info visit Woodstock/Groundhog DayFor Punxsutawney, Pa. see Punxsutawaney Club.

Groundhog Day is based on European folklore as to when to plant. For folklore and other info visit Farmer’s Almanac.

Ed Note: Unlike Groundhog Day, Feb. 29, popularly known by calendar keepers as “Leap Year Day,” doesn’t return every year. It only comes every four years. However, Leap Year Day is back this year, 2024.

Jodie Jacobs


Around Town: Chicago Theater Week


Goodman Theatre tops Jeff Equity nominations (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)


Plan now to see shows at discounted prices ranging from $15 to $30 during Chicago Theatre Week, Feb. 8-18, 2024.

More than 100 theaters are participating with performances from drama and musicals to comedy such as improv and shows such as Blue Man Group and Teatro Zinzanni.

For a complete listing and more information visit the Choos Chicago, city’s tourism site at  Theatre Week Events in Chicago | Choose Chicago

Jodie Jacobs

Around Town: Chicago MLK Day events

(Martin Luther King Jr Memorial on Basin Drive, Washington D.C.)

Don’t expect mail this Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the third Monday in January, is both a Federal Holiday and in many states, a State Holiday. This year it also is King’s birthday. Many schools will be closed. But some communities and some museums use the day for special projects.

Before checking on some of the MLK events, here are a few quick facts to know about King. He was a Baptist minister who advocated nonviolent means to end racial segregation. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and famously led the 1963  March on Washington.  He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.


January 13:

The DuSable Black History Museum is holding the free “Been to the Mountain Top” from 2 to 4 p.m.  with Kevin Powell. and see the exhibition “Freedom: Origin and Journey.” DuSable Museum is at 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago., (773) 947-0600. 

January 15:

Hyde Park Art Center is holding “Yesterdays, Todays and Tomorrows” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event includes artmaking, Black folklore material in a pop-up bookstore plus the Civic Orchestra of Chicago Chamber Ensemble performing from 2 to 2:45 p.m. The Hyde Park Art Center is 5020 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago

The Chicago History Museum is holding a Family Event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Chicago History Museum is at 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago. It’s a free day at the museum for Illinois residents. Tickets include the event which features interactive activities, a singalong in the morning and a screening of Mighty Times: The Children’s March, followed by a discussion. 

Art Institue of Chicago is doing a Gallery Cconversation on a Letter from birmingham Jail.  from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Its an AIC free day. The Art Institute of Chicago Michigan Avenue entrance is at 111 S. Michigan Avenue.

January 30

The University of Chicago is holding an MLK Commeration Celebration at 6 p.n.  at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the site of one of Dr. King’s first major speeches in Chicago.

 Jodie Jacobs

Chicago Restaurant Week


First Bites Bash

 First Bites Bash at Field Museum (Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago)

Just as the January calendar and weather look dismal, Chicago Restaurant Week comes to town. The dates are Jan. 19 through Feb. 4, 2024. 

About 350 restaurants from across the city and suburbs will participate, ranging in cuisine from American, French and Italian to Indian, sushi and Mediterranea, plus seafood and steakhouses in between. Dining rates are $25 for brunch or lunch and $42-$59 for dinner. 

This is a chance to try something different from your usual eat-out fare or a restaurant you have been meaning to visit.

As an example Riccardo Enoteca, 2116 N. Clark St., is doing three courses for $42. See the offerings at  Riccardo Enoteca | Choose Chicag0

 So is Kama at 1560 N. Milwaukee Ave. Bucktown/Wicker Park

Just as good is the First Bites Bash at the Field Museum Jan 18 with samples from several restaurants.

Check out the restaurants and First Bites event at Chicago Restaurant Week | Official Guide | Choose Chicago

Jodie Jacobs



Where Holiday Trees Live On


(Photo courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserves)


Keeping the holiday decorations up through the first week of January is pretty common. But when you start to see your real Christmas tree start to shed, then at least that part of the holiday décor needs to change.

Ta Da… Fortunately the Lake County Forest Preserves has a solution: its website notes say “Recycle for a greener tomorrow” and “Turn Your Holiday Tree into Trails.” 

Instead of putting it out to go to the local landfill, drop it off at one of these eight designated LCFP sites: where the trees will be turned into wood chips used for trails and other forest preserve landscaping projects. Just remember to take off the decorations and tinsel first.  By the way, the LCFP has been recycling the real holiday trees for about 20 years. 

The drop-off sites: (open 6:30 am–sunset daily, through February 1, 2024). Note: this offer is not for yard waste or commercial drop-offs. 

Grant Woods Forest Preserve, 25405 W. Monaville Road, Ingleside

Greenbelt Forest Preserve, 1110 Green Bay Road, North Chicago

Half Day Forest Preserve, 24255 Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills

Heron Creek Forest Preserve, 22890 N. Old McHenry Road, Lake Zurich

Lakewood Forest Preserve, 27277 Forest Preserve Road, Wauconda

Old School Forest Preserve, 28285 St. Mary’s Road, Mettawa

Ryerson Conservation Area 21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods

Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve, 15838 W. Route 173, Wadsworth

Interesting Note: Most of the trees are mulched for trails but some are used to create “fish cribs.” These are when several trees are tied together and sunk with a cinderblock in the larger lakes, particularly those that were formerly gravel quarries because they lack substantial underwater vegetation. The fish cribs serve as crucial habitats.

Jodie Jacobs

Holiday gift sources



Art Institue of Chicago has a great gift shop (J Jacobs photo)
Art Institue of Chicago has a great gift shop (J Jacobs photo)


We’re past Black Friday and Cyber Monda but there are still gifts to get so here are some ideas for in person and on line shopping.

In Person

The “One of a Kind Holiday Show is at The Mart this weekend from Thursday through Sunday. The show, which returns in late spring, brings back the fun of shopping without the stress.

There are more than 500 artists (think major art fair plus) that includes clever, hand-crafted, cooking utensils and gorgeous glass items. But it also has food booths of candy, spices and other delectables. Hours: Dec. 7-9, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 10 – 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

For tickets and more information call 800-677Mart or see Attend | One of a Kind Show (

The Mart is at the Chicago River between Orleans and Wells Streets. The show is on the 7th Floor.


On Line – Museum shops

If downtown Chicago, make the trip a museum destination as a two-for so you enjoy an exhibition and pick up gifts. Many of the Cit y’s top museums have on-line gift stores so you can shop at your best time.

Art Institute of Chicago

Among the best museum stores, at AIC you can find items at many price points from a Pablo Picasso scarf for $190 to cute Georges Seurat “Sunday on La Grand Jatte” socks for $16. For more ideas visit  Museum Shop.

 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 

Jewlery, puzzles, home décor are at all price points ranging from a Frida Kahlo puzzle for $19.99 to a Midnight Crescent Petite necklace for $180.00. For these items and more ideas visit MCA Shop.

 Happy Shopping

Jodie Jacobs

Where to spend some holiday time

Chicago is a great place to spend the holidays. But you might want to plan where to go when because there is so much going on in the city and suburbs.

Here are just a few suggestions.



Lincoln P:ark Zoolights(Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Lincoln Park ZooLights (J Jacobs photo)

Sitting just north of Chicago’s downtown Loop and on the west side of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Lincoln Park Zoo celebrates the holidays with more than a million colorful LEDs for the annual ZooLights.

Sponsored by Com Ed and Invesco, ZooLights casts a joyous spell on paths past animal homes and food booths from Nov. 17, 2023 to Jan. 7, 2024. The free daytime zoo now is by $7-$10 tickets at night but is free on Mondays. Festival hours: Sunday–Thursday: 4:30–9:00 p.m. Friday–Saturday: 4:30–10:00 p.m. The zoo closes at 3 p.m. for the festival so it can reopen at 4:30 p.m.  

Tip: best plan is to take a bus.  Number 22, 36, 151, and 156 buses stop along the western edge of the zoo.

Brookfield Zoo Tunnel of Light sponsored by Xfinity. (Chicago Zoological Society photo)

Tunnel of Light at Brookfield Zoo (Photo courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

At southwest suburban Brookfield Zoo, the season is also celebrated with more than a million LEDs Holiday Magic. Those dates are Nov.  24-26, Dec. 30 and dec 1-3 and Dec.7-10, Dec. 14-17, Dec .21-23 and Dec.26-31.

Get tickets for North or South Gate entry Advance tickets needed for South  entry. The zoo open from 3-9 p.m. on Holiday Magic dates. Entertainment is 5-8p.m. with “Those Funny Little People” and “Juggling Elves.”

North Gate: 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street),
South Gate Main Entrance 3300 Golf Rd. 


Christkindl Market downtown Chicago. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Christkindle Market Daley Plaza, (JJacobs photo) 

A fun place to visit during the holidays is the German-style market downtown Chicago at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. or its branches at Gallagher Way Gallagher Way 3635 N Clark Street in Wrigleyville alongside Cubs Park or in Aurora at RiverEdge Park, 360 N Broadway.

Filled with food and gift booths, it’s impossible to walk away without a taste treat or gift.  Visit Christkindlmarket.

For more holiday lights visit November Lights

Jodie Jacobs