24 Adventures to Kick off 2024

The new year is in full swing, and so is all the snow and cold that comes with a Midwestern winter. Make the most of it all with some of the best ways to get out and play.

(Fox Valley Ice Arena photo)

Hit the Rink

Hop on the ice this year at the Fox Valley Ice Arena, 1996 S. Kirk Road in Geneva, which hosts public ice-skating sessions for families and individual skaters. Tailored skating lessons cater to every skill level, and a supportive environment helps novices and seasoned skaters find their footing.

The facility boasts youth and adult programs and leagues. Spectators can cheer on the Chicago Steel hockey team or watch figure skaters complete breathtaking maneuvers.

Cheer on Woodstock Willy

In 1992, the city of Woodstock and its Historic Square were featured in the hit movie “Groundhog Day.” Since then, thousands of visitors have flocked to the city each February to celebrate this unique holiday that involves a rodent and its shadow.

This year’s festival gets underway on Feb. 1 with groundhog-related events and a viewing of the feature film that put Woodstock on the map. Groundhog Day itself kicks off with the official prognostication led by the city’s most famous burrowing mammal, Woodstock Willy. The festivities continue until Feb. 4 with dancing, drinks, walking tours and other activities that you and your family will sure as heck fire remember for years to come.

Play a Round of Winter Snolf

That isn’t a typo. Winter snolf is game that combines golf with snow. Assemble your team and brace yourself for a brisk day at Evergreen Country Club, N6246 U.S. Rt. 12 in Elkhorn, Wis. The game, which is open to the public, involves a golf club, a bucket of tennis balls and a sled. Prizes are up for grabs to the teams that take first, fourth and eighth place. The event runs Feb. 3 from noon to 4 p.m.

(Paramount Theatre photo)

A Magical Night of Theater

You don’t need to travel to New York for Broadway-quality show. The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora, brings the magic of the Great White Way to you.

Paramount’s Broadway Series is already under way, with “Billy Elliot, The Musical” running Feb. 7 to March 24. This coming-of-age tale revolves around a young English boy who discovers a newfound love for ballet.

Lincoln Lives

Step into history on Feb. 10 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Algonquin Area Public Library, 2600 Harnish Dr. in Algonquin, as Abraham Lincoln impersonator Kevin Wood delivers four score and seven minutes of fun.

Wood explores the history of the country during Lincoln’s era, from his frontier childhood to the hectic years of 1854 to 1865, all dressed in period attire. Attendees can engage with Lincoln during a 30-minute Q&A session following an hourlong presentation.

An Icy Catch

Experience the thrill of the chill as you step out onto a frozen lake on a crisp morning, lower your line into a hole in the ice and wait to catch an elusive fish.

Lake Grunwald at Grunwald Farms Forest Preserve, 02S035 S. Lorang Road in Elburn, offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Formerly a gravel mine, the lake is a great place to catch bluegill and largemouth bass.

Lake Patterson at Oakhurst Forest Preserve, 1680 Fifth Ave. in Aurora, provides ample fishing for carp, channel catfish and black crappie.

Paul Wolff Campground, 38W235 Big Timber Road in Elgin, has two fishing ponds that are swimming with black crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass.

Hit the Slopes

As the winter season unfolds, Villa Olivia, 1401 W. Lake St. in Bartlett, transforms into a snow-covered wonderland with skiing and snowboarding on meticulously groomed slopes. The snow park caters to beginners and seasoned veterans with tubing hills for an exhilarating descent, equipment rentals and lessons for beginners.

G-League Greatness

When it comes to family fun, a Windy City Bulls game is a slam dunk. The G-League affiliate of the Chicago Bulls features a roster of rising stars who challenge teams from across the nation.

The courtside magic can be found at NOW Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway in Hoffman Estates, where every game offers special promotions and giveaways. The team plays 24 games each year, with the same electrifying entertainment featured at Chicago Bulls games.

(Kurt Eakle photo)

Watch Eagles Soar

Watching American bald eagles soar through the air can be an awe-inspiring sight, especially in a stunning natural setting like Starved Rock State Park. Bald eagles steal the spotlight on
Jan. 27 and 28 during Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock Lodge, One Lodge Lane in Oglesby. The event consists of engaging programs, hands-on experiences and exhibits, and a chance to get up close and personal with incredible birds. Admission is free, and the Starved Rock Trolley ensures an affordable and hassle-free journey between locations.

Starved Rock isn’t the only place to watch birds of prey in action. Rock Falls’ Flock to the Rock 2024, on Feb. 10, invites locals and visitors to witness migrating Bald Eagles near the town’s dams along the Rock River. The lower dam transforms into a hot spot with live bird demonstrations by Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education.

Have a Dino-Mite Time

You don’t have to go back 65 million years to immerse yourself in the world of dinosaurs. The Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 1899 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville, lets you get up close and personal without going extinct.

The museum features a colossal, feathered Dryptosaurus and a chronological exploration of the county’s history from prehistoric times to present day. The museum also features a collection of artifacts from the extensive travels of its namesake and the county’s first official historian, Bess Bower Dunn.

The Elgin Public Museum, 225 Grand Blvd. in Elgin, showcases collections of endangered birds, Illinois fossils and Fox River artifacts, interactive experiences and engaging programming.

Snow What Let’s Putt

Give yourself a mulligan with a day of family fun at the Lippold Park Family Golf Center on Feb. 17 at 10 a.m. For one day only families can explore the 18-hole miniature golf course filled with challenges and a chance to win prizes. Dunkin’ Donuts of Crystal Lake offers free hot chocolate to keep everyone warm in the snowy surroundings.

(Samantha Behling photo)

Find Something Fresh

Indoor farmers markets offer a tantalizing escape during the winter, not to mention they’re a great way to load up on fresh produce, artisanal goods and unique crafts.

In Woodstock, a producer-only market gathers on select Saturdays from November through April at the McHenry County Fairgrounds, 1190 Country Club Road.

The indoor market, which is expected to be the biggest ever this year, features more than 45 vendors from Banford Road Farm to Kelly’s Pot Pies. It also includes a free family art activity and a children’s storytime.

Journey to the historic Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Road in Crystal Lake, for a cornucopia of food vendors, live music and children’s activities. Whether it’s homemade cookies and banana bread from Katie Sue’s Bakery or handmade crystal bracelets and necklaces from Mindwell Crystals, there are plenty of artisan crafts and homemade treats in store.

Ski Down a Mountain

Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W. Chestnut Mountain Road in Galena, offers a winter experience that feels more like the Swiss Alps than the Midwest. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional snowboarder or skier, the resort’s terrain caters to all skill levels, with a 475-foot vertical drop and 19 runs from novice to black diamond.

With multiple lifts ensuring quick returns to the summit, the 20,000-square-foot ski center provides everything from apparel to equipment rentals.

(Samantha Behling photo)

Treat Your Taste buds

Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway in Aurora, serves as a full-service supper club restaurant, music venue and banquet space for large events and weddings. In the restaurant, artisan dishes like Bourbon Salmon, Cheese Ravioli with Two Brothers Vodka sauce and Grilled Skuna Bay Salmon with Two Brothers Sweet Bourbon Glaze delight the palate. After dinner, take a few steps to the Two Brothers Café & Beer Bar for a nightcap.

At the Black Bear Bistro, 107 S. Main St. in Algonquin, Chef Santiago Suarez puts his three decades of culinary expertise on full display with toothsome treats like fried pickles and avocados, creative personal pizzas and delightful mains. Cap the evening properly with tempting desserts like the key lime pie or flourless chocolate cake.

Sink your teeth into regional and seasonal delights at Region Kitchen and Bar, 718 W. Northwest Highway in Barrington. Celebrated chef and owner Dave Perlick serves savory small plates like the Bang Bang Cauliflower and the innovative Clothesline Bacon.

Main courses feature premium meats and seafood, accompanied by enticing sides. Compliment your meal with an extensive wine list or curated cocktails in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Paint and Sip

Blend creativity and camaraderie at Board & Brush Creative Studio, 303 N. Fourth St. in St. Charles. Wooden sign workshops take center stage and, with a calendar full of workshops like a family-friendly Mini Signs event, participants can unleash their creativity under the guidance of expert instructors. As you complete your masterpiece, enjoy the company of friends and sip on your favorite beverage.

Take Control of Your Health and Wellness

Explore a variety of health and wellness topics at The Barrington Health & Wellness Summit on Feb. 28 and 29 at Barrington’s White House, 145 W. Main St. in Barrington. Local physicians and community members come together to cover cancer prevention, mental health, culinary medicine, microbiome and other important topics.

Grub and Golf

Drive to, and at, PrairieFire Golf and Grill, 6734 N. German Church Road, in Byron. Eight private hitting bays feature temperature control and high-tech toys to make the game more interesting. The bays feature engaging games for all skill levels, fire pits and TV monitors while the venue accommodates groups of all sizes in a social setting. While you’re at it, fill a divot in your appetite with PrairieFire’s delicious food and drink menu.