Take advantage of several chances to learn about and search the woods for owls: Feb. 2, Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva; Feb. 15 & 22, the Jarrett Center, Byron, Ill.; Feb. 21, Big Hill Park, Janesville; Feb. 25, Beckman Mill Park, Beloit.
There’s so much to do in our region! Here are some exciting recreation events happening this season.
Ski and Scope
Jan. 25, 5-9 p.m. Enjoy a full moon on this evening ski trip, followed by hot chocolate in the Weiskopf Observatory to look at the moon and stars. Skis, instruction incl., all ages. $5/person, $10/family. Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
Eagle Watch Bus Trip
Jan. 26, 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Go to Starved Rock State Park for eagle watching. Live birds of prey demos, nature seminars, exhibits. Depart 7:30 a.m. Gustafson Nature Center, 603 N. Appleton Road, Belvidere; return 6:30 p.m. $20/$25 non-county residents. Registration/prepayment required: (815) 547-7935.
Learn to Snowshoe
Jan. 26, 9-11 a.m. Receive instruction with snowshoes, then go off on your own. Leave every 15 minutes in order of sign-up. Cancelled if below 5 degrees or not enough snow. Cook Arboretum, County Road A and Austin Road/Bluebird Lane, Janesville, (608) 757-5473, co.rock.wi.us/departments/departments-m-z/parks.
Walk on the White Side
Jan. 26, 1-3 p.m. Experience snowshoeing with a trained naturalist and explore Rock County’s outdoors. Cancelled if below 5 degrees or too little snow. Carver-Roehl Park, 4907 S. Carvers Rock Road, Clinton, Wis., (608) 757-5473, co.rock.wi.us/departments/departments-m-z/parks.
Wander at the Wetland
Jan. 26, 5-9 p.m. Ski, snowshoe, or hike the wetlands, on your own or with a guide, under a full moon. Bonfire, luminaries, refreshments. BYO equipment or rent adult/children’s skis and snowshoes ahead of time at Paddle and Trail, Loves Park, Ill., (815) 636-9066. Free/donations accepted. Register by Jan. 24 at Natural Land Institute, (815) 964-6666, email@example.com. Event: Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 W. Rockton Road, Rockton, Ill., (815) 964-6666, naturalland.org.
Bald Eagle Days
Jan. 26-27, 8 a.m.-noon; 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. View eagles with powerful scopes along the Mississippi River outdoors in the morning; attend educational programs all day at Cassville High School. Riverside Park Observatory, 100 W. Amelia St., Cassville, Wis., (608) 725-5855, cassville.org.
Trips to Starved Rock for Eagle Viewing
Jan. 27, Feb. 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit Utica, Ill., to see wintering eagles, frozen waterfalls and the rustic lodge at Starved Rock State Park; side trip to Lock and Dam. $15 each/$25 couple. Depart 11 a.m. from Jarrett Center, Byron; return 5 p.m. Register by noon, Jan. 23, at byronforestpreserve.com.
Jan. 28, 5-6:30 p.m. Go for a walk during the full moon, which should be rising at the start. $5/free for Welty members. Register by Jan. 28. Beckman Mill County Park, Beloit, weltycenter.org.
Special Olympics Winter Games
Jan. 29-31, events daily. More than 400 athletes from Illinois compete in four winter sports. Speed and figure skating at Mystique Ice Center, Dubuque, Iowa. Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W. Chestnut Road, Galena, Ill., (309) 888-2551, chestnutmtn.com, soill.org.
Winterfest/National Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 30-Feb. 5, daily. This snow sculpting competition brings together the nation’s best snow artists. Also music, magic, refreshments. Riviera Park, Lake Geneva, Wis. (262) 248-4416.
Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m. Teams or individuals answer questions in different categories. $25 per/$200 team of eight. Prizes to top individuals and teams; refreshments provided. All proceeds support the BJS. By Friends of Beloit Janesville Symphony. Register: beloitjanesvillesymphony.org. Event: Rotary Riverside Center, 1220 Riverside Dr., Beloit.
Feb. 1-2, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 2, 2 p.m. Monster truck races, thrill acts, Quad Wars, Pro Stadium/Arena Truck competition, more. BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford, (815) 968-5222, theBMOharrisbankcenter.com.
Grand Geneva Winter Carnival
Feb. 2, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Ski school and ski patrol demonstrations, scavenger hunts, snowboard competitions, snow games, torchlight ski parade down the mountain, fireworks. The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 249-4726, grandgeneva.com.
Japanese Snow Viewing Tea Ceremony
Feb. 2, 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 & 2 p.m. Participate in a traditional tea ceremony, led by Kimiko Gunji. Handmade tea bowls by artist Jason Armour on sale. $25/reservation required. Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, (815) 229-9390, andersongardens.com.
Rock Valley Cat Club Annual Show
Feb. 2-3, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Judging in four rings each day. Enter your household cat or any kitten over four months old. Forest Hills Lodge, 1601 West Lane Road, Loves Park, Ill. (815) 877-8358.
3rd Annual Candlelight Hike
Feb. 2, 6-8 p.m. Ski or hike along a 0.8-mile section of Blue/Yellow trail. Campfire; hot chocolate, treats and s’mores sold by Friends of Big Foot Beach State Park. Meet near picnic shelter. Big Foot Beach State Park, 1550 S. Lake Shore Dr., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-2528, friendsofbfbsp.org.
Whooo Goes There!
Feb. 2, 6-7 p.m. Park naturalist Christee Reince talks about different owl species and why they’re such excellent night hunters. Picnic shelter, Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva, (262) 248-2528.
Feb. 2 & 16, 9 a.m.-noon. Search the woods for animal homes, tracks and other signs. Indoor puppet show and live birds of prey demos. Ages 6-12. $7/$9 non-residents. Registration required. Atwood Center, Atwood Park, 2685 New Milford School Road, Rockford, (815) 874-7576, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
Feb. 2 & 23, 1-4 p.m. Basic outdoor survival skills like building a fire and shelter. Indoors, put together a first aid kit. Ages 6-12. Reg. req. Atwood Center, Rockford, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Tasting 2013
Feb. 8, 6-9 p.m. The 21st year for tastings, silent auction, more. Proceeds benefit Freeport Art Museum (FAM). $23/$20 FAM members in advance; $25 at door. FAM, 121 N. Harlem Ave., Freeport. (815) 235-9755, freeportartmuseum.org.
Birds of a Feather
Feb. 9 & 23, 9 a.m.-noon. Atwood staff lead a hike to look for birds and identify trees. Indoor activities include figuring out why different birds have different beaks, and making a birdhouse. Atwood Center, Rockford, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
A Walk Through Time
Feb. 9 & 16, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Experience what life was like for Native Americans. Outdoor activities: archery, honor games, animal tracking hike. Indoor activities: hot cocoa and a cookie afterwards. Ages 6-12. $7/$9 nonresidents. Reg. required. Atwood Center, Rockford, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
Chocolate Sundae Sunday
Feb. 10, 2-4 p.m. Design your own sundae and visit the valentine creation station. Music by the Dixieland Docs. Proceeds benefit museum education programs. $2.50/$1.50 members. Museum admission extra. Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Candlelight Oak Savanna Hike
Feb. 15, 5-7 p.m. Hike or snowshoe through the oak savanna. Enjoy a bonfire on the bluff overlook. Inspired by an essay by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac. Snowshoes provided. Info: (608) 361-1377. Magnolia Bluff County Park, 4002 N. Croak Road, Magnolia, Wis., (608) 757-5450, co.rock.wi.us.
Winter Night Hike
Feb. 15, 6-8 p.m. Hike on the trails just as it gets dark. We’ll make owl calls and seek evidence of other animals, talk about night vision, and take part in activities about what goes on during a winter night in the woods. Ages 6+. Free. Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
Daddy/Daughter Candyland Ball
Feb. 15, 6-8:30 p.m. Dads (or significant adult), dance the night away with your favorite girl(s) ages 10 and under, dress up and feel like royalty for the night. $12/$13 non-residents. Register by Feb. 8: (815) 235-6114, freeportparkdistrict.org. Event: Masonic Temple, 305 W. Stephenson St., Freeport.
Orchids and Olives
Feb. 15, 5:30-9 p.m. Enjoy signature martinis, gourmet appetizers and decadent desserts while strolling the exhibit of beautiful orchids. Nicholas Conservatory, Rockford Park District.
Feb. 21, 10-11:30 p.m. Learn facts about owls and then head out to call a few. Dress for outdoors. Designed for Scouts, but all welcome. $5. Register by Feb. 19 at (608) 361-1377. Big Hill Park, Afton and Welty roads, Janesville.
Feb. 22, 7-9 p.m. Learn about all of the feathered predators and then observe the stars in the sky. Free. Weiskopf Observatory, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Star Wars Open House
Feb. 23, 2-4 p.m. Games, activities centered around Star Wars. Ages 5 to 12. Rockford Public Library (RPL), Main Branch, 215 N. Wyman St., Rockford (815) 965-7606, rockfordpubliclibrary.org.
Cross Country Skiing
Feb. 24 & March 3, 1-5 p.m. Skis and instructions for beginners included; all ages/levels. Depends on snow/weather. $5/person; $10/family Meet at the Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
Keeping Warm in Winter
Feb. 24, 2-4 p.m. Celebrate the birthday of Stephen Mack, the county’s first settler, with traditional foods, winter skills and games. Re-enactors show early 19th century survival skills. Bagpipes, flutes, other era music. Suggested donation $5. Macktown Living History, 2221 Freeport Road, Rockton, Ill., (815) 624-4200, macktownlivinghistory.org.
Full Moon Hike & Owl Prowl
Feb. 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Hike the wetland boardwalk and north woods trail, enjoying the moon and starlight, and calling for owls. $5/free for Welty members. Beckman Mill County Park, Beloit, weltycenter.org.
15th Annual PaleoFest
March 2-3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. This year’s event features lectures by international speakers including Dr. Scott Sampson, from PBS’s “Dinosaur Train!” Children’s activities with paid admission. Burpee Museum of Natural History, 737 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-3433, burpee.org.
Project Flying Wild Workshop
March 9, 9 a.m.-noon. Interactive, interdisciplanry and standards-based activities to help students to understand the importance of migratory birds and their conservation. Geared toward middle school but adaptable to other grades. Educators earn CPDUs. Atwood Center, Rockford, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
The Heat is On! Chili Cook-Off
March 9, 6:30-9 p.m. Great chili recipes, kid’s games, raffles, silent auction. Fundraiser for Evansville Community Partnership. Creekside Place, 102 S. Maple St., Evansville, Wis., ci.evansville.wi.gov.
18th Annual RoRo Expo
March 9-10, Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Rockton/Roscoe Chambers event with more than 160 vendors, live entertainment, clinics, Rockford RiverHawks, local businesses/organizations, food vendors, more. Hononegah High School, 307 Salem St., Rockton, Ill., roroexpo.com.
Maple Syrup Festival
March 16, 7-11 a.m. Tour the sugar bush, see the evaporator and buy real maple. Small fee for breakfast; the rest free. Co-sponsored by Byron Kiwanis. Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
March 16, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Learn about the best-known of all comets, meteors and asteroids. Free. All ages. Register by March 15. Weiskopf Observatory, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
March 16, 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. Bubble celebrity Geoffrey Akins performs. Bubble playground, art and activities for all. Tickets: $4/$3 members; at the door: $5/$4 members. Museum admission extra. Discovery Center, Rockford, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Victorian Light Party Murder
March 16, 6-8:30 p.m. A socialite’s party to celebrate being the first one in Rockford to get electricity is marred by a killer’s presence. $20. Tinker Swiss Cottage, Rockford, tinkercottage.com.
8th Annual Galena Wine Lovers’ Weekend
March 22-24, events daily. One of the largest such event in Illiniois. Wine tastings, winemaker dinners, winery tours, shopping, restaurant and spa specials. Two Grand Tastings to choose from (tickets $35), with more than 300 wines, Fri. 5:30 p.m. & Sat. 3:30 p.m. Various venues, Galena, Ill. Info/tickets: wineloversweekend.com. For info about the Galena area: galena.org; visitgalena.org.
March 22, 4-8 p.m. Products from local farmers, bakers and artisans; home and garden demos by local experts; music. Fee includes one drink ticket (wine, beer, soda). Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Dr., Janesville, (608) 752-3885, rotarybotanicalgardens.org.
Conservatory Crime Scene Investigation
March 23, 5:30-9 p.m. Solve a murder in this interactive CSI cocktail party. Nicholas Conservatory, Rockford, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
Reagan Boyhood Home
April 1, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun 1-4 p.m.. The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home opens for the season. Admission includes video presentation, guided tour and access to Visitors Center and Gift Shop. 816 S. Hennepin Ave., Dixon, Ill., (815) 288-5176, reaganhome.org. Through November.
April 6, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Singing greeting cards, thermometers that turn color, balloons that never lose their helium: all due to nanoscience. Meet real scientists with special demos and hands-on projects. Included with admission. Discovery Center, Rockford, discoverycentermuseum.org.
April 13, 10 a.m-2 p.m. Drop-in event; come anytime and stay as long as you want. Bring a hammer to crack open rocks and a bucket to hold your finds. Fossil ID/guides provided. $2/person. All ages. Register by April 10 at byronforestpreserve.com. Meet at Stone Quarry parking lot, 6845 N. German Church Road, Byron.
Canoe the Rock
April 13, 1-4 p.m. All equipment provided for this unique outing on the Rock River. One adult per canoe required. $20/canoe. All ages. Byron Forest Preserve. Register by April 12 at byronforestpreserve.com. Meet at the Heritage Farm, 8059 N. River Road, Byron.
Spring Night Hike
April 19, 7-9 p.m. Starting at dusk, hike to the woods where guides have seen lots of owls and foxes and heard coyotes. Ages 6+. Free. Meet at Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
April 20, noon-3 p.m. Tour the farm, play pioneer games, make a candle, prepare cornbread over a fire and then eat it with butter and honey. $5/person, ages 6+. Parents attend at no cost. Heritage Farm, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.
April 20, 1-4 p.m. Free planetarium shows, star maps and glittery star crafts; see the inner workings of a telescope and look at the sun with the Rockford Amateur Astronomy Club. Included with museum admission. Discovery Center, Rockford, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Earth Day Hike
April 21, 10 a.m. Celebrate the Earth’s amazing spring plants and animals as they awake from their winter slumber. Free 10+. Jarrett Center, Byron, byronforestpreserve.com.