Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
America’s State Park’s First Day Hike
Jan. 1, 1-2:30 p.m. Start the New Year with a 1.5-hour hike through Starved Rock State Park while learning about the history and geology of the park. Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock State Park, IL Rts. 178 & 71, Utica, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Mikkeller Running Club Run
Jan. 2, noon. Choose one of three routes to run before meeting at The Olympic Tavern for beer and snacks. The Olympic Tavern, 2327 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 962-8758, facebook.com/theolympictavern.
Swing Out Rockford!
Jan. 7, time TBA. Forest City Swing’s annual charity event is back for its 13th year. Enjoy live music by The Fat Babies from Chicago, a beginner swing lesson, a photo booth, special performances, social dancing and much more. Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 2001 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, forestcityswing.org.
Sled Dog Demos
Jan. 10, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Join Free Spirit Siberian Rescue as they present sled dog seminars and outdoor demonstrations. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Jan. 15-16, 20, 29-30, noon-3 p.m. Cross-country ski and find hot chocolate waiting upon your return. Skis and instructions for beginners included. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Jan. 15 & 23, 5-8:30 p.m. Cross-country ski on the trails at night to see deer, owls and other wildlife. Enjoy hot chocolate upon your return and look through the telescope. Skis and instructions included. Weiskopf Observatory, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 20-23, viewing hours sunrise until 10:30 p.m., awards ceremony Sat. 1 p.m. Experience snow sculptures created by teams from around the state. Free; donations welcome. Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8800, ilsnowsculpting.com.
Old Tankard Ale Tapping & Sampling
Jan. 21, 6 p.m. Sample ale from Wisconsin Brewing Co. The Olympic Tavern, Rockford, (815) 962-8758, facebook.com/theolympictavern.
Cassville Bald Eagle Days
Jan 23-24, eagle spotting 8 a.m.-noon, educational programs 10 a.m.-3 p.m. View eagles with a staff of volunteers and attend educational programs. Cassville High School, 715 E. Amelia St., Cassville, Wis., (608) 725-5855, cassville.org.
Full Moon Hike
Jan. 25, 6 p.m. Bring cross-country skis, snowshoes or winter hiking boots and take in the beauty of the full moon. Big Hill Center, 1201 Big Hill Court, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
Winterfest & U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 28-Feb. 7, daily. In its 20th year, this competition attracts the nation’s best snow artisits. Also, enjoy music and refreshments. Riviera Park, Lake Geneva, (414) 332-2188, usnationals.org.
Jan. 29, 6-7:30 p.m. Discover evidence of screech, barred and great-horned owls. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Wander at the Wetland
Feb. 3, 4-7:30 p.m. Enjoy the natural setting of the prairies and wetlands as you hike, snowshoe or ski a trail lit by hundreds of luminaries under the full moon. Free. Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 W. Rockton Road, Rockton, Ill., (815) 964-6666, naturalland.org.
First Fridays in Downtown Rockford
Feb. 5, 5 p.m.-midnight. Each month, downtown art galleries, shops, music and theater venues work together to stay open late and provide new art, music and goods. Downtown Rockford. Info: (779) 537-5319, facebook.com/FirstFridaysRockford.
Cross-Country Ski Weekend
Feb. 6-7, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Cross-country ski through Matthiessen State Park with instruction at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day – ski rentals available. Guided hikes commence instead if there’s an absence of snow. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Feb. 6, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Skiing, snowboarding and fun snow activities, including snow sculpting, snowman decorating, toboggan racing and more. Sky lantern release, torchlight parade and fireworks begin at 8 p.m. The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.
Tracking, Scat and Signs
Feb. 6, 10 a.m.-noon. See what the animals are up to by learning how to read their trails. Big Hill Center, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
Winter Night Hike
Feb. 12, 6-7:30 p.m. Hike on the trails just as it starts to get dark and let your eyes adjust to the scenery of the woods in winter. Free. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Bald Eagle Bus Tour
Feb. 13, 8 a.m. View bald eagles feeding, roosting and/or nesting. Reservations req. Stoney Creek Inn, 940 Galena Square Dr., Galena, (815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com.
Ice Golf Classic
Feb. 13, 10 a.m. Golf on the ice in teams of four and enjoy a raffle, food, drinks and prizes. Bring your own clubs. Mid-Town Marina, 285 Fifth St., East Dubuque, Ill., (563) 582-6211, stmarkyouthenrichment.org.
Rockford Boat, Vacation & Fishing Show
Feb. 19-21, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Experienced anglers and guides host seminars on baits, lures and fishing techniques. $7 adults, three-day pass $10, children under 12 free. Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 997-1744, landroproductions.com.
Feb. 20-21, Sat. & Sun. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Join a 13.4-mile hike where you’ll see 18 canyons, frozen waterfalls and six overlooks with a high possibility of spotting bald eagles. Trolley transportation, guides, boxed lunch and specially designed long-sleeved shirt included. Proper footwear with additional traction is required. $37. Reservation req., (815) 220-7386. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill., starvedrocklodge.com.
Dubuque Brewfest on Ice
Feb. 20, 1-4:30 p.m. Sample unique craft beer, wine, liquor, coffee, specialty cheese, sausasge and chocolates at this fifth-annual event. Mystique Community Ice Center, 1800 Admiral Sheehy Drive, Dubuque, Iowa, (608) 763-4002, dubuquebrewfest.com.
Sunday Winter Hike
Feb. 21, 1-2:30 p.m. Hike and identify some of the various tracks, plants and animals around you. Free. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Galena Sock Hop
Feb. 26-27, 7-11 p.m. Get ready for two nights of dancing in downtown Galena. Live music and dance workshops are abailable both nights. Turner Hall, 115 S. Bench St., Galena, (815) 275-5231, galenaswingdance.com.
Rockford Home Show
Feb. 26-28, times vary. The Home Show is the place to see what’s new in the home and garden market while shopping for new products, services, ideas, concepts and expertise on interior and exterior design. $6 adults/children under 12 free. Indoor Sports Center, Loves Park, (815) 871-7469, showtimeproduction.net.
Golden Ball Save the Date
Feb. 27. Enjoy an elegant evening featuring a seated dinner with exceptional cusine, dancing under the “stars” and an auction filled with one-of-a-kind items. Proceeds benefit the Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s Performances and Education Programs. Coronado Performing Arts Center, Rockford, (815) 965-0049, rockfordsymphony.com.
Skunk Cabbage Hike
Feb. 27, 10-11:30 a.m. Look for the earliest wildflower: the skunk cabbage, which blooms under the snow. Free. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Old School Pajama Jammy Jam
Feb. 27, 10:30 p.m. Jam to late-80s/early 90s music in your pajamas and win prizes. The Olympic Tavern, Rockford, (815) 962-8758, facebook.com/theolympictavern.
Sled Dog Demos
Feb. 28, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Join Free Spirit Siberian Rescue as they present sled dog seminars and outdoor demonstrations. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
March 1, 8 & 15, Tues. 6-10 p.m. Compete in an individual-play Euchre tournament for prizes. Must be 18 or older. $15 entry fee. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
First Fridays in Downtown Rockford
March 5, 5 p.m.-midnight. Each month, downtown art galleries, shops, music and theater venues work together to stay open late provide new art, music and goods. Downtown Rockford, (779) 537-5319, facebook.com/FirstFridaysRockford.
Open Snowboard Competition
March 5-6. Compete in Big Air, Rail Jam and Slopestyle snowboarding. Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W. Chestnut Road, Galena, (815) 777-1320, chestnutmtn.com.
Owl Prowl Weekend
March 11-13, 6-8 p.m. Ornithologist Steve Bailey leads an owl program complete with owl specimens, feathers and pellets at 6 p.m., followed by an owl walk where he tries to call in screech, barred and great horned owls. Bring a flashlight. $10 adults/$7 children 10 & under. Reservations req., (815) 220-7386. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, starvedrocklodge.com.
Rockford RV, Camping & Travel Show
March 18-20, Fri. 2-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Take a look at the new 2016 RV models. The show has fifth wheels; travel trailers; class A, B & C motorhomes; pop-ups; toy haulers and even four-wheelers. $7 adults/$10 three-day pass/children under 12 free. Indoor Sports Center, Loves Park, (815) 997-1744, landroproductions.com.
Maple Sugar Festival
March 19, 9 a.m.-noon. Watch as experts tap maple trees and create syrup from sap, then enjoy an all-you-can-eat brunch. Big Hill Center, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.