River turns green and Chicago holds a major parade


Chicago River turns green. (Photo courtesy City of Chicago)
Chicago River turns green. (Photo courtesy City of Chicago)

Plan ahead to watch the Chicago River turned to green then watch Chicago’s big St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

February gave us better weather than the usual cold and snow for many readers. And a St. Valentines Day celebrated with flowers, chocolate and or dinner out broke up the month in the middle.

Now, March is already seeing tulips and hyacinths poking their heads through the soil due to our still unseasonably warm weather. And we have such St. Patrick’s weekend events as turning the Chicago River a charming Irish color of green.

More is coming about other parades and places to be in the next article. But this one is about the river because you should start thinking now about going downtown Chicago to watch this annual event a week from this Saturday on March 16, 2024. The coloration is due to start at 10 a.m. Then the downtown parade starts at 12:15 p.m.

First colored in 1962 thanks to the local plumbers union, the river dyeing is still done by them with a secret, environmentally-friendly dye.

What to know: The dyeing of the Chicago River, now celebrating 69 years, is held the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and is followed by the city’s main parade which starts at Balboa Drive and pipes its way north on Columbus Drive to Monroe Drive. In the parade are politicians, Irish dancers, marching bands and bagpipers.

Where to watch: First colored in 1962 thanks to the local plumbers union, the river dyeing is still done by them with a secret, environmentally-friendly dye. Today, more than one boat is used to drop in the coloring. Best is to find a spot on the Michigan Avenue bridge or just west of it along the river. (The lower Riverwalk will be closed.) You need to get there early because the best spots fill quickly.

You can also watch from a river cruise such as Chicago’s First Lady  (Wendella. is sold out) Afterwards, grab a snack or coffee and head west of Michigan Avenue to Columbus Drive for the parade.

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

Exciting Flyover ‘ride’ comes to Chicago


Navy Pier adds a three dimensional ride. Photo by J Jacobs)
Navy Pier adds a three-dimensional ride. Photo by J Jacobs)

See Chicago in a whole new way.

Flyover Chicago is part thrill ride and part immersive three-dimensional multi-sensory video experience that utilizes cutting edge drone technology featuring impressive aerial views allowing visitors to see Chicago in a whole new way.

Located in the former IMAX theater at Navy Pier.  The attraction’s designers say they immediately realized it was the perfect place to present the newest addition to their Flyover family that includes theater rides in Vancouver, Canada; Reykjavík, Iceland; and La Vegas.

Participants will sit in a moveable seat that pitches, rolls and articulates while viewing never been seen drone footage of Chicago on a 65 foot high domed theater screen. Flying towards, through and over buildings throughout Chicago in a way you have never seen them before. This means you will feel totally immersed in the Flyover experience.

There is no narration but rather a custom designed surround sound soundtrack of music that defines Chicago including rock, blues, gospel, jazz, hip hop, rap, house and more. Fragrances are included to complete your multisensory enjoyment.

Flyover Chicago will open March 1, 2024 at Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL The attraction opens at 11:00 AM Daily. Advance purchase tickets are available online at flyoverchicagonavypier.com

Reno Lovison


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

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

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

November holiday lights

Light up the night at Lightscape

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden)

No sooner does Halloween wave a cold and scary skeleton hand goodby than the Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum beckon with  tickets for their light shows.


The word “Lightscape” really defines the Chicago Botanic Garden’s winter transformation of its paths, garden areas and islands.

Open Nov. 10, 2023 through Jan. 7, 2024, formerly familiar Garden sections turn into plots of fire, fantastically large flowers and colorful, bright beacons. 

For its fifth annual holiday light show some displays, such as the popular Winter Cathedral, return like old, familiar friends. Other sections, such as Evening Island, welcome visitors to new vistas. 

What to expect: food and drink in various courtyards plus an enchanting experience of music and light.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL (847) 835-6801. 

For tickets and more information visit Lightscape | Chicago Botanic Garden

Lightscape 2022 at Chicago Botanic Garden (J Jacobs phto)
Lightscape 2022 at Chicago Botanic Garden (J Jacobs photo)


Light transforms a one-mile pathway at Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum. Opening Nov. 18, 2023, Illumination continues through Jan. 6, 2024.

 A grove of trees comes alive as color change while you watch and lights  make trees dance. Hug a tree to see it light up. Then see the display’s finale on Meadow Lake.

You can warm up by a fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores or stop in a concession tent for a snack and beverage or dine at the Ginkgo Restaurant in the Visitor Center. Stop at the Arboretum Store to purchase a temperature-activated, color-changing ceramic mug available Illumination.

The Morton Arboretum is 41oo IL Rt 53, Lisle, IL  For tickets and more information visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum.

Jodie Jacobs