Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
Model Garden Railroad Exhibit
Through Feb. 18, Tue.-Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Visitors are transported to a magical, miniature world as six G-scale trains and trolleys run down, around and above the lush tropical setting of the conservatory garden. Miniature Rockford landmarks and willow trestle bridges add to the ambience. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Through Feb. 24, Fri. 9-11 a.m. for beginners; Sat. 9 a.m.-noon; Fri.-Sat. 6-8:30 p.m. Bring your own gear or be fitted on-site. Beginners receive instruction, then go out for a practice run on the south trails. Evening participants may come across foxes, owls and deer. Reg. online. Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Curious George: Let’s Get Curious
Through May 13, except April 1. Visit the neighborhood where Curious George lives with the Man in the Yellow Hat. Operate wheels to help George climb a fire escape, sort and weigh fruits and vegetables at the produce stand and enjoy other fun hands-on activities that explore science, math and engineering. Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
In Full Bloom: The Orchid Exhibit
Feb. 3-March 11, Tue.-Th. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Hundreds of colorful, tropical orchids are on display in the tropical exhibition area. Presentations, workshops and orchid sales. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Chicago Auto Show Bus Trip
Feb. 10, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Hop aboard the bus to McCormick Place to see nearly 1,000 vehicles, domestic and imported passenger cars and trucks, sport utility vehicles, experimental and concept cars. Reg. online. Freeport Park District, 1122 S. Burchard Ave., Freeport, (815) 235-6114, freeportparkdistrict.org.
Kids’ Outdoor Skills: Winter Shelters
Feb. 10, 10-11:30 a.m. Ages 10-13. What kind of structure works best for protection from winter weather? Learn how to build a simple, cozy shelter. Severson Dells Nature Center, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
Teen Tech: Sphero Obstacle Courses
Feb. 10, 3-5 p.m. Ages 13-19. Test drive two Sphero robot balls through a tough, twisty rollercoaster obstacle course. Then make your own course and challenge your friends. Hart Interim Library, 214 N. Church St., Rockford, (815) 965-7606, rockfordpubliclibrary.org.
Feb. 10 & 26, March 10 & 26, 9 a.m.-noon. Join our volunteer Conservation Crew in cutting, hauling and stacking invasive brush. Training and tools provided. Reg. online. Severson Dells Nature Center, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
A Look at Prairie State Geology
Feb. 11, 2 p.m. Raymond Wiggers dispels the notion that Illinois is a flat and geographically boring place during his illustrated presentation that includes scenic vistas of its great river valleys, canyons and lead mines in the Galena region, and soaring cliffs of Shawnee National Forest. Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Feb. 11, March 11 & April 8, 2-4 p.m. Learn beekeeping techniques, tools of the trade and everything else to do with bees. Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Boat, Vacation & Fishing Show
Feb. 16-18, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Meet nationally known anglers at informative seminars, see the newest lures in action in a 3,500-gallon aquarium, fish in the trout pond; kids can practice casting techniques and compete in minnow racing. Many boats on display. Indoor Sports Center at Mercyhealth Sportscore Two, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 987-8890, mercyhealthsportscore.com.
Sky Circus on Ice
Feb. 16-18, see website for details. This three-day event promises family fun with a blizzard run snow slide, expert ice and snow sculptors, hands-on snow carving and kite-making workshops, kite flying lessons, and gigantic kite displays over Delavan Lake. Connor Doran, from “America’s Got Talent,” provides evening entertainment. Lake Lawn Resort, 2400 E. Geneva St., Delavan, Wis., (262) 728-7950, lakelawnresort.com.
Feb. 23-25, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. See what’s new in the home and garden market, talk with experts, attend clinics on home and lawn care; entertainment for kids and adults. Indoor Sports Center, Loves Park, Ill., (815) 987-8890, mercyhealthsportscore.com.
Feb. 24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Crank up your cranium and see how great it feels to solve problems like an engineer. Dozens of Rockford-area engineering professionals invite you to participate in hands-on investigations and brain-bending challenges like those they face in their jobs. High school teams show off their robots. Discovery Center, (815) 963-6769, Rockford, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Merit Badge Class: Nature
Feb. 24, 1-4 p.m. Scouts get a chance to build a bird feeder, make casts of animal footprints and hike the grounds to identify birds, plants, mammals, plants and rocks. Register online. Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 2715 S. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-8146, klehm.org.
Super Science Saturday
Feb. 24, 3-4 p.m. Ages 10-19. Tweens and teens create chemical reactions and perform experiments as they make elephant toothpaste and monster slime. Hart Interim Library, Rockford, (815) 965-7606, rockfordpubliclibrary.org.
March 2, April 6. Enjoy art, music, food and shopping each month in downtown Rockford when galleries, shops, and music and theater venues stay open late. Visit website for complete schedule. Info: (779) 537-5319, firstfridaysrockford.com.
March 3-4, lectures 8:30 a.m., activities 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Family fun celebrating 20 years of fossils and dinosaurs. Participate in make-and-take workshops, explore hands-on paleo stations, venture through unique exhibits and learn with a world-renowned paleontologist. Burpee Museum of Natural History, 737 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-3433, burpee.org.
Sock Monkey Madness Festival
March 3-4, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Rockford is the birthplace of the red-heeled socks that became the basis for Sock Monkeys, created as a toy during the Depression. Make your own monkey with the help of museum staff. Free patches and repairs for well-loved sock monkeys at the Sockford General Hospital; enjoy crafts, games and a treasure hunt; entertainment by the Rockford Dance Company. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
March 9, 6:30-8 p.m. Take a leisurely stroll to look and listen for the call of the woodcock, announcing the coming of spring. Severson Dells Nature Center, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
Cub Scout Event Day
March 10, 9:30 a.m.-noon & 1-3:30 p.m. Go on scavenger hunts, create craft projects, explore artifacts and discover the 1800s village. Scouts may attend as a group or individual accompanied by a scout leader or parent/guardian. See website for requirements for each level Cub Scout. Reg. req. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Kids’ Outdoor Skills: Knots
March 10, 10-11:30 a.m. Ages 10-13. Learn how to tie amazing and useful knots that could save your life or make your life easier. Severson Dells Nature Center, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
Irish Music & Stories
March 10, 10 a.m.-noon. Hear myths and legends, learn about the potato famine and the lives of immigrant laborers in this interactive program, all to the background of Celtic music. Tickets online. Rock County Historical Society, Lincoln-Tallman House, 440 N. Jackson St., Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
Birds of Prey Live!
March 11, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. See falcons, owls and hawks up close and learn about their impressive adaptations and behaviors. Starved Rock State Park, Ill. Rts. 178 & 71, Utica, Ill., (815) 667-4726, starvedrockstatepark.org.
Chicago Flower & Garden Show
March 15, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Prepare for spring with a bus trip to explore this spectacular show, featuring flowers, plants and garden supplies; participate in hands-on workshops and kids’ activities. Reg. online. Klehm Arboretum, Rockford, (815) 965-8146, klehm.org.
Maple Syrup Festival
March 17, 8-11 a.m. Pancake breakfast, kids’ crafts, hay wagon tours; see the maple sap evaporator process. Byron Forest Preserve, Heritage Farm Museum, 8095 N. River Road, Byron, Ill, (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
March 17, 7 p.m. Hear scintillating tales from paranormal experts, listen to audio clips recorded in Tinker Cottage and enjoy a tour with the chance to have your own paranormal encounter. Tinker Swiss Cottage, 411 Kent St., Rockford, (815) 964-2424, tinkercottage.com.
Simply Spring: The Butterfly Exhibit
March 17-May 20, Tue.-Th. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Celebrate the arrival of spring as you’re surrounded by the magical world of butterflies in the tropical conservatory; see the butterflies’ life cycle in action as they emerge from their chrysalises. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Model Train Show and Sale
March 24-25, Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Operating train layouts plus new and used train items for sale. Free Kids Korner play area. Hourly door prizes and free parking. Belvidere North High School, 9393 Beloit Road, Belvidere, Ill., (815) 765-3135, rrvd-nmra.org.
March 25, 1-4 p.m. Create cool forts, castles, robots, mazes and more out of large boxes. Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, (608) 758-6600, hedbergpubliclibrary.org.
Easter Egg Hunt
March 31, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Bring the whole family for the annual egg hunt, meet the Easter bunny and find some treats. Rock County Historical Society, 426 N. Jackson, St. Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
15th Annual Home & Garden Showcase
April 7-8, Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m. Get ready for spring and see the latest trends in landscaping, decks, backyard ponds and waterfalls; discover neat gadgets for the garden enthusiast. Clinics offered on container gardening, beekeeping and gardening with recycled products. Live plant and shrub sale. Forest Hills Lodge, 1601 W. Lane Road, Loves Park, Ill., (815), 871-7469, showtimeproduction.net.