It may merely seem that swimming and filling the pail with lake water to build a giant sandcastle will las for at least another month but most Chicago-area beach towns will be sending their lifeguards back to school or wherever and swimming without them is not allowed.
The Chicago Park District site explains that “Swimming is permitted in designated swim areas at the beaches when lifeguards are on duty from 11 am – 7 pm daily. Swimming anywhere else along the lakefront is strictly prohibited and dangerous.”
The site notes that Chicago has 26 miles of free lake front and the beach season runs from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Other Lake Michigan towns are likely to have similar lifeguard rules but different price points and admission rules.
From learning more about such aquarium residents as penguins and beluga whales in Animal Spotlights and assisting in cleaning up natural areas on Teen Nature Days to restoring beaches and forest areas during Action Days, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is definitely “on it” when it comes to a variety of Earth Day/Week/Month activities for all ages and dates.
Families(all age groups)
Visit the aquarium and attend an animal spotlight (included in general admission). It goes into the behaviors and adaptations of dolphins, belugas and sea lions. Guests leave with a greater understanding of these Shedd residents plus how to protect our blue planet for these animals and their wild counterparts. Tickets support Shedd’s efforts to care for the aquarium residents and research in wild aquatic ecosystems. For more information visit Animal Spotlights | Shedd Aquarium.
Join free Shedd-led Action Days in local community habitats. Guests support animals from frogs to fish while having fun and helping to restore and protect nearby beaches, waterways, and forest preserves. There are a variety of dates at different locations. For more info and to register visit Shedd Aquarium Action Days | Shedd Aquarium
Three other ways to take action for animals this Earth Day: *reduce the use of single-use plastic
* reach out to state lawmakers to let them know you support plastic reduction and reuse efforts at the policy level
*discuss the importance of caring for our natural environments your friends and family
Plan now to contribute some elbow grease or plant or play with planet Earth in mind during April 2023 Earth Week or April 22 Earth Day.
A couple of Lake County Forest Preserves activities are already full. But there are still activities at both the Lake and Cook County Forest Preserves plus at Brookfield Zoo.
Forest Preserves of Cook County
Participate in a Celebrate Earth Day Play,Paint and Pretend event at Crabtree Nature center, April 22 from noon to 3 p,m,. The activity is free. The Center is at 3 Stover Rd., Barrington. For more information visit Forest Preserves of Cook County/NaturePlay or call (847) 381-6592.
Lake County Forest Preserves
There are a limited number of seats left but “Planting for Pollinators,” is still open April 19 at Ryerson Nature Center, Riverwoods, 3-4 p.m. Visit Planting for registration and address. (Adults)
Get down and dirty to help the planet at “Restoration Middlefork” from 9 a.m. to noon April 22. Visit Restoration Workday. (Age 10 through adults)
The Brookfield Zoo is encouraging families to make a difference for wildlife and the natural world with three events at the zoo: “A Party for the Planet” recycling event, help plant a tree, and “Earth Day Run.”
The recycling event, presented by the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, is April 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Zoo’s main parking lot at 8400 31st St., Brookfield. (Enter through gate on 31st Street, just west of Golfview Avenue.) This is a chance to dispose of electronics, textiles, and used books in an environmentally-friendly way. For a complete list of acceptable recyclables, visit czs.org/PartyPlanet.
Zoo visitors can head to the South Mall at 10:30 a.m. to assist groundskeepers in planting a tree to commemorate the holiday, then spend the day seeing your favorite animals.
Earth Day Run
The annual Earth Day Fun Run, a non-competitive 2.2 miles, begins at 8 a.m. and is for all ages. The fee is $35 per person and includes admission to the Zoo. All participants receive an Earth Day Run commemorative medal and a bookmark with flower seeds to spread in your own garden at home. Proceeds from the event benefit the Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Care and Conservation Fund that supports research and education efforts at the Zoo and around the world. For more information visit czs.org/EarthDayRun.
Even though the weather has been wavering between what has been balmy for February and normal chilliness, maple trees at Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods, IL have been ready to be tapped.
Which means the Lake County Forest Preserves’ maple season starts now with a festival Feb. 25 at Ryerson followed by maple syrup family hikes the first three weekends in March. In addition are a program for seniors and then a Spring Break program the last week in March.
Why tap now?
“You need days above freezing and nights below freezing. The sap was stored in the tree over the winter. Now you get a big rush as the pressure moves it up the tree,” said LCFPD Environmental Educator Jennifer Berlinghof, maple syrup programming coordinator.
Berlinghof explained that the sap travels up the xylem (plant’s vascular tissue that moves the sap of water and dissolved minerals up from the roots).
She noted that even though the current period for the maple syrup temperature change was “anything but typical,” the forest preserves’ staff were able to tap enough to have small tastings for families who sign up for Maple Syrup Hikes.
How much sap?
Berlinghof estimated that 40 gallons of sap are needed to produce one gallon of syrup. To bring home the point, she said that Ryerson has several containers stacked around the district’s evaporator where they boil out the sap’s water content to produce the syrup.
What to expect?
Families who register for the hour-long hikes go past sugar maple trees hear about the process and learn about drilling a hole to get sap. “The trees have already been tapped,” Berlinghof said, but she added that participants could see what it is like by drilling on the logs.
The hikes go to the where the sap is boiled down to syrup and, of course, participants get a taste of the final product.
Maple Syrup Festival
First is the free Maple Syrup Festival at Ryerson Woods, 21950 North Riverwoods Rd, Riverwoods, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Running from 9 -11 a.m., no registration is needed. Activities are inside the Ryerson Woods Welcome Center and outside on the trails. Daisy from WTTW Nature Cat will be there.
Maple Syrup Family Hikes
Hikes are Saturdays and Sundays, March 4 to March 19. They start every half-hour from noon to 2 p.m. from the Ryerson Woods Welcome Center and are led by Lake County Forest Preserves educators. Open to all ages, tickets are $6 per person. Children ages 3 and under are free. Spaces fill quickly. To register and obtain a ticket go to lcfpd maple syrup and scroll to the date you want or call (847) 968-3321. Scout and other groups can make special arrangements.
Spring Break Syruping
Learn about the collecting and making of maple syrup March 28, 11 a.m. to noon at Ryerson Woods. Register at Spring Break Maple Syruping. Limited attendance. Tickets $6, ages 3 and under free.
Senior Maple Syrup Hike
A hike for seniors age 62 and older is March 30 from 11 a.m. to Noon. Free to Lake County residents, tickets are $3 for nonresidents. Register at Senior Series.
Plan now because it seems everything from tree lightings and light festivals are starting early this year.
Remember when we used to think the holiday season began with Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade early on “Turkey Day?” Then the Mag Mile pre-empted that with Mickey and Minnie Mouse turning on Michigan Avenue’s lights north of the Chicago River, accompanied by Santa. Meanwhile, Macy’s was following Marshal Field’s tradition of a Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful holiday windows.
Chicago area’s two big zoos soon added to the holiday places-to-visit calendar with lights and animation. More recently gardens and nature walks such as the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden, got into the holiday spirit with color, lights and movement. Germany said, why not, so entered Chicago’s holiday season with the Christkindle Market.
Macy’s liked Marshal Field’s tradition so continue the Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful, story-telling holiday windows.
Keeping track of what is around, when and where in the Chicago area can be challenging even when suburban and neighborhood residents mark their calendars with local tree lightings and events. So here is a short guide to the main holiday happenings.
Already started early November
Macy’s came out with their Great Tree Lighting, Santa visits, Walnut Room availability and windows theme the first week of November.
What to know: The Great Tree is 45 feet tall and is decorated on a toy-shop theme and is up through Jan. 8 2023. Santa Claus photo ops and wish whispers have to be reserved in advance. Santa is in his toy workshop on the Fifth Floor and reservations to visit him go through Dec. 24, 2022. The windows are already decorated and good for photos through Jan. 1, 2022. For reservations and more information visit Macy’s Holiday Celebrations: Visit Santa & More – 2022 (macys.com)
Macy’s is at 111 N State St., Chicago.
Second week in November
The switch went on and the last installation was done when Lightscape opened to Friends and Family at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nov. 9. Opened to the public (advance tickets needed) Nov. 11, Lightscape casts a fantasy vision over paths, trees, ponds and plantings with lights and music. It continues through Jan. 8, 2023. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Botanic/Lightscape.
Third week and weekend in November
This is a very busy time for holiday events ranging from the city’s tree lighting and a European holiday market to zoo lights and lit paths at an arboretum.
Go downtown for Chicago’s tree lighting Nov. 18 in Millenium Park. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. with a pre-program at 5 p.m. The action is near Cloud Gate on the Grainger Stage. Visitors should enter at the South Promenade on Monroe Street east of Michigan Avenue. Don’t expect the lighting to happen until 6:30 but stay because fireworks follow the ceremony. For more information visit City of Chicago :: City of Chicago Christmas Tree
The German village-style Christkindl Market opens Nov. 18 a few blocks west of Millennium Park on Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. A fun place to find gifts or take a yummy break from work or shopping, the Market is up through Dec. 24. For Chicago information visit Christkindlmarket | Holiday Market 2022 | Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo spreads out just west of Lake Michigan between downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville so visitors sometimes try to couple its Zoolights with another holiday goodie. Presented by Com Ed with Invesco QQQ,, Zoolights is an impressive display at the city’s free zoo and costs only $5 a ticket for this holiday event. Zoo lights is Nov. 19, 2022 through Jan. 1, 2023. For hours, dates and more information visit ZooLights.
Also opening Jan 19 is the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. Running through Jan. y7, 2023, Illumination transforms a mile long path among trees, meadow and gardens into a fairytale land of light, sound and color. The event combines old favorites such as the Enchanted Forest and Treeimagination, with new installations such as Late Nite Electric Illumination, tall, mirrored towers and a finale in the new Grand Garden. For more information visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum
Wait, as the commercials say: There’s more.
Last but not at all least this week is the Magnificent (Mag) Mile Lights Festival’s parade and day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at 401 N. Michigan Ave. Sponsored by Wintrust, the parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Mickey and Minnie Mouse (from the Walt Disney World Resort) lead the parade as they magically turn on one million lights along North Michigan Avenue.
What to expect: floats, helium balloons, marching bands, musical performances, Santa Claus ending with fireworks at the Chicago River. The event will also stream on Nov. 20 on ABC. For more information visit MagMileLights.
A giant helium balloon floats over State Street during a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. (J Jacobs photo)
Fourth week and weekend in November
Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade brings the sounds of cymbals, blares of trumpets and the sight of giant helium balloons and beautiful floats to State Street, that main street, Nov. 24.
The parade goes from Ida B Wells Drive at the south end to Randolph on the north. Figure that bands and entertainment from some of Chicago’s theaters could start as early as 8 a.m. and go to 11 a.m. For more information visit Chicago Thanksgiving Parade.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo starts Nov. 25 and continues on specific dates through Dec. 31 from 3 to 9 p.m. Presented by ComEd and Meijer, the zoo is a blaze with two miles of lights and colors moving to synchronized music.A new feature is a 600-foot “Tunnel of Lights” by Xfinity.
It’s only midway through fall and October which means it is not too late to take a family field trip out into the countryside to find the perfect pumpkin or explore a corn maze or take a hayride. The following three farms offer a variety of activities and a maze of possibilities for all ages.
Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm at the far northwestern (the boonies) part of Waukegan must have a local following because it is out of sight, off the main road but reasonably busy.
After finding Kroll’s with our GPS, we refueled on yummy pumpkin donuts then explored the farm. Youngsters were having fun feeding the hens and llamas while young adults and couples were taking photos of each other behind cutouts of funny figures.
Their next stop was the bench where everyone waited for hayride before wandering through the maze and then going over to the pumpkin patch for the right size large one to carve or small pumpkins to easily carry away.
Kroll’s is a good, low-keyed farm experience. For hours, pricing and more info visit Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm, 13236 W. Townline Rd. Waukegan, IL (847) 662-5733.
All Seasons, a good apple-picking place in Woodstock, turns to fall with fun activities for different ages.
It has a good-size corn maze of 10 acres with two paths – short and easy and long and harder. There is also a good pumpkin patch, pony rides and excellent apple cider donuts to eat on the way home.
All Seasons Orchard is at 14510 IL Route 176 Woodstock, IL, (815) 338-5637 For hours, pricing and more information visit All Seasons Orchard.
Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, has different experiences for different ages in the fall. It turns 28 acres of corn into a large sprawling maze of 9-10 miles of trails.
They are divided into four mazes to cater to different ages and difficulty. The maze is always interestingly themed. This year, 2022, it has a James Bond spy theme.
Among the other activities are wagon rides, zip lining and a picnic food and area.
Ricardson Farm is at 909 English Prairie Rd., Spring Grove, 815) 675-9729. Foe pricing, hours and more information visit Richardson Farm
Yes lighted displays at the Chicago Botanic Garden look spectacular when Lightscape stars and sparkling plants line walkways from Mid-November 2022 to early January 2023.
But the Garden also amazes right now as you wander among art installations, special plant groupings and the Greenhouse Galleries packed with the garden’s past and imagined future.
The art and other special exhibits are part of Flourish, The Garden at 50,” an anniversary celebration up now through Sept. 25, 2022.
Pick up a Flourish brochure at the membership/information desk near the Café, to see a map and information on 10 art installations.
Leaving the building you are walking across a bridge to the garden’s main area. Look right to see a huge nature sign on the opposite bank and then look near it further west in the water to see Casa Isle, an aluminum island house constructed by artist Edra Soto in what the Garden calls its “North Lake.”
A turn south past the lily ponds brings Juan Angel Chavéz’s wood and fabric Adsila sculpture into view.
Check the brochure for other art installations and then go over to the Regenstein Greenhouses for a look back at the garden’s past and thoughts of its future.
Be sure to stop at the plant installations on the path back to the bridge. They are plant groups from different countries.
“What began as an ambitious vision to have Chicago’s own public garden is now 28 gardens and four natural areas in Glencoe, 16 community garden and farm sites in Chicago and Lake County, and dozens of conservation and restoration research sites around the country,” said Jean Franczyk, the Garden’s president and chief executive officer.
“We are thankful to all who have shown up for nature, supported our conservation mission, and inspired us to keep imagining a future where people and planet thrive,” Franczyk said.
Chicago’s warm (finally) weather this Memorial Day weekend is perfect for a day laughing at monkeyshines at two zoos or a pirate-ship sail along the city’s shoreline. (Zoo note: both zoos require masks at their indoor animal houses).
Visiting the 235 acre Brookfield Zoo can be an all-day family event.
Starting May 26, visitors can see the cute tapir calf just born to his mom, Sorghum. He has been staying indoors at the Pachyderm House but mom and baby might wander to their outdoor space on the north side of the building because the weather will be warm. Now is a good time to see the calf with his white stripes. The marking fade by age six months. The South American tapir is related to the horse and rhinoceros.
Beginning May 28, the Butterflies area, closed the past two years, has reopened and includes moths. Located near the North Gate, entry is $4 adults, $3.50 seniors 65 and older and $3 children. Visitors will be able to see the transformation to butterflies in an off-exhibit space.
While wandering the zoo, be on the lookout for such ice-age creatures as a 15 ft tall wooly mammoth and the 18 ft long mastodon. They are among Dino Dan’s 30 life-sized animatonic animals staying at the zoo April 1 through Oct. 30, 2022.
Brookfield Zoo entrances are at North Parking Lot 8400 31st St, and South Parking Lot 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways. Current hours: 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
There are admission and parking costs. Tickets can be purchased ahead on line and are good for the entire day of entry. Adults $24.95, Seniors 65 and older $19.95, Children age 3-11 $17.95, age 2 and younger free. Parking is $15 and can be paid upon arrival.
*Visitors who have a general admission pass with a barcode, a member guest pass, a Chicago Public Library Museum Pass or a Museum Adventure Pass, can bring that to the zoo for entry, no reservation required.
At 49 acres, Lincoln Park Zoo is doable in half a day. Get a zoo map at the Visitor Center near the main entrance at 2400 N. Cannon Dr.
Time the visit to watch Seal Training at 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. near the main entrance . Then, be sure to visit the Pepper Family Wildlife Center.to see Pilipili, a recently born, African lion cub. His name means “pepper” in Swahili.
Lincoln Park Zoo is north of Chicago’s Magnificent (shopping) Mile.There are are several entrances with East gate near the paid parking lot being the main one. View the free parking map for all entrances. Current hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The zoo is free and opened every day. For more information visit Lincoln Park Zoo.
Sail on Tall Ship Windy
For a different sailing experience, take a 75 minute trip along Chicago’s shoreline on Windy, a Tall Ship docked at Navy Pier. Listen to pirate and maritime stories.
Earth Day is April 22, 2022. Here are some ideas on how to celebrate our Planet Earth, but also check with your local park district and forest preserve location.
On the national scene
Join NASA in its live chats with experts or with its virtual trivia games and at the @NASAEarth Twitter Space. See all the activities at Earth Day 2022 | NASA.
The Chicago Park District is doing a cleanup at more than 80 parks including the North Park Nature Center on April 23. To see which park is near you or where you would like to volunteer visit Chicago Park District/EarthDay..