Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
Through April 30, Sat. dusk until two hours after dark. Get a good look at the stars at the J. Weiskopf observatory. Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Simply Spring: The Butterfly Exhibit
Through June 2, Tue.-Thu. 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 butterfly life cycle in action as they emerge from their chrysalises. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Chug Chug Chuggin’ Along
April 6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Take a turn as an engineer and work the controls of a real model train, then climb aboard your favorite blue engine in the Thomas & Friends exhibit. Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
World War I Re-enactment
April 6-7, see website for times. Over 225 re-enactors portray soldiers and civilians from the U.S. and Europe; visitors experience encampments, tour a 150-yard trench system and watch large-scale narrated battle re-enactments. See tanks, airplanes, weapons, equipment and artifacts; performances of songs from the 1910s. Tickets online or at the museum gift store. Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Home & Gardens Showcase
April 6-7, Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m. See the latest trends in landscaping, decks, backyard ponds and waterfalls, remodeling and gadgets for the gardening enthusiast. Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 987-8890, mercyhealthsportscore.com.
Bijou Theater Silent Films
April 6, 7 p.m. Experience a 1918 movie house with a showing of Buster Keaton’s “Cops” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Rink,” silent films with accompaniment by the Rockford Wind Ensemble. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Just Kidding Family Weekend
April 12, 5 p.m.-April 13 at 3 p.m. The farm is full of baby goats that need lots of TLC and playtime. On this overnight adventure, families care for the goats and maybe see a birth. Angelic Organics Learning Center, 1547 Rockton Road, Caledonia, Ill., (815) 389-8455, learngrowconnect.org.
Thomas the Tank Engine
April 13, 11-11:45 a.m. Read about Thomas the Tank Engine and visit with his friends from the Discovery Center museum exhibit. Rockford Public Library (RPL), Hart Interim Library, 214 N. Church St., Rockford, (815) 965-7843, rockfordpubliclibrary.org.
Into the Woods
April 13, 2-3:30 p.m. Learn how to identify trees and discover why they are important for human and ecological health; make tree art and play an interactive game. Welty Environmental Center, 1201 Big Hill Court, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
Theater Bus Trip
April 14, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Hop on the bus to go back in time for music of the Fab Four and the best of Abbey Road in the show “RAIN: A tribute to the Beatles” at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago. Leave from Read Park, 1200 Park Lane, Freeport, (815) 235-6114, freeportparkdistrict.org.
Kids with Kids Overnight Camp
April 14, 2 p.m.-April 19 at 11 a.m. Be a farmer during spring break as you help run the farm and provide care for the newborn goats and their moms. Geared toward children ages 8-12. Angelic Organics Learning Center, Caledonia, Ill., (815) 389-8455, learngrowconnect.org.
Storytime at RAM
April 20 & May 18, 10 a.m.-noon. Bring your young ones for story time in the galleries with a librarian from Rockford Public Library, followed by an art activity. Rockford Art Museum (RAM), 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 968-2787, rockfordartmuseum.org.
Easter Egg Hunt
April 20, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Children 10 and under meet the Easter bunny, hunt for eggs and take home a bag full of treats. Canned food donations for Echo’s food pantry are appreciated. Rock County Historical Society, 426 N. Jackson St., Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
April 20, 3:30-5 p.m. Learn the basics of using a compass, then practice your navigation skills with interactive games. Ages 8 to adult. Reg. online or by phone. Welty Environmental Center, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
RAM Pop-Up Restaurant Series
April 24, 6-9:30 p.m. Have dinner in the galleries as chefs from local restaurants prepare a multiple-course, prix-fixe menu to enjoy alongside the museum’s current feature exhibition. Cash bar. Res. at eventbrite.com. This month: Greenfire. Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, (815) 968-2787, rockfordartmuseum.org.
Easter Egg Hunt
April 29, 11 a.m. Lots of eggs, prizes and candy for children in preschool through 4th grade. Breakfast with the Easter bunny 7-11 a.m. Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Mother’s/Father’s Day Gift-Making
April 29, 5:15-7:15 p.m. Participants ages 6-14 choose a pre-made clay item to glaze in their favorite colors; then it’s fired and ready to be picked up. Reg. online. Woodlawn Arts Academy, 3807 Woodlawn Road, Sterling, Ill., (815) 626-4278, woodlawnartsacademy.com.
May 3. 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.
Spring Chicken 5K
May 4, 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Spring into fitness with the YMCA’s annual 5K run/walk, open to all ages. Family YMCA of Northwest Illinois, 2998 Pearl City Road, Freeport, (815) 235-9622, freeportymca.org.
Star Wars Day
May 4, 1-2 p.m. Whether you are a Jedi with the Rebel Alliance or on the Dark Side of the Force, come celebrate all things Star Wars. Make X-wing origami, create your favorite characters and more. RPL, Rockton Centre Branch, 3112 N. Rockton Ave., Rockford, (815) 965-7606, rockfordpubliclibrary.org.
May 5, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Decorate and take home a tea cup and plate as well as a sachet, crown and fan. Dress up and learn how to set a table like a real Victorian; enjoy refreshments. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Rockford Peaches Vintage Baseball
May 5, 1 p.m. The Rockford Peaches living history group plays an exhibition game as part of the opening weekend festivities of the Victorian Village. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Remarkable Women of Lake Geneva
May 12, 12:30-4 p.m. Take a narrated cruise to Black Point Estate, an 1888 Queen Anne Victorian “summer cottage,” and learn about remarkable women who have lived along the shore of Geneva Lake. Lake Geneva Cruise Line, Riviera Dock, 812 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva, (608) 248-1888, wisconsinhistory.org.
Pretzel City Wine Fest
May 18, noon-4 p.m. Sample from more than 25 varieties of Illinois wine inside 15 select businesses. Pick up souvenir tasting glass at Hilldale Deli, 30 W. Stephenson St., Freeport. Tickets online at eventbrite.com. Info: Greater Freeport Partnership, 27 W. Stephenson St., (815) 233-1350, Freeport, greaterfreeport.com.
2nd Annual GR815 Beer Fest
May 18, VIP tickets 1-5 p.m., gen. admission 2-5 p.m. Sample beer from more than 26 breweries; also wine, whiskey, food trucks, cigars and music. BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford, (815) 968-5222, thebmoharrisbankcenter.com.
Whiskey on the Rock
May 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Celebrate World Whiskey Day as you choose from more than 80 different whiskeys along with beer and wine. Tickets at Artale Wine Co., 6876 Spring Creek Road, Rockford. Location: Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
‘Pec Thing’ Antique & Flea Market
May 18-19, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Over 500 dealers display antique tools, quilts, yard art, jewelry, furniture, crafts, sports memorabilia, candles, glassware and more. Rain or shine. Winnebago County Fairgrounds, 500 W. 1st St, Pecatonica, winnebagocountyfair.com.
Fort Koshkonong Rendezvous
May 25-26, Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. to 4 p.m. Step back in time to the early 1800s for an authentic re-enactment that lets your family experience life as early Wisconsin pioneers. Rock River Park, 1300 Lilian St., Fort Atkinson, Wis., (920) 563-7781, hoardmuseum.org.
Food and a Flick
May 28, 4-8:30 p.m. Dine at a local restaurant, then take in the latest movie at the Lindo Theatre. Reg. online. Freeport Park District, Lindo Theatre, 115 S. Chicago Ave., Freeport, (815) 235-6114, freeportparkdistrict.org.
Annual Garden Fair
June 1-2, Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. to 4 p.m. Enjoy live entertainment, nearly 100 vendors selling flowers, antiques and art, a food court and beverages from Prairie Street Brewing. Klehm Arboretum, 2715 S. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-8146, klehm.org.
June 7, 6-7 p.m. A flag-lowering ceremony by Company K that would have been performed at a fort or a garrison during the American Civil War. The period-appropriate flag is given to one randomly selected guest. Walk through the first floor of the Lincoln-Tallman House and enjoy light refreshments with members of Company K. Rock County Historical Society, Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
Walking Tour of Lake Geneva
June 8 & 22, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Learn about Lake Geneva’s buildings designed by architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham and William Le Baron Jenney, as well as the colorful past of the downtown and historic Maple Park neighborhoods. Leave from Riviera Dock, Lake Geneva. Tickets at (262) 248-1888, wisconsinhistory.org.
The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin
June 8, 1-3 p.m. Historian Michael E. Stevens shares first-person accounts of early settlers as they describe what it felt like to be a teenager in a wagon heading west or an isolated young wife during the mid-1800s. Lincoln Center, Beloit Historical Society, 845 Hackett St., Beloit, (608) 314-6289, wisconsinhistory.org.
June 10, 17 & 24, 5-8 p.m. Enjoy an evening paddling down the river, depending on water conditions. Reg. online. Severson Dells Nature Center, 8502 Montague Road, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
Nooks & Crannies Tour
June 14, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Glimpse the lifestyle of Chicago’s successful beer baron, Conrad Siepp, and view areas of his Black Point Estate which are normally off-limits. Take trolley from Grand Geneva, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, wisconsinhistory.org.
Wine & Roses
June 20, 6-8:30 p.m. Meander through the Sinnissippi Rose Garden sampling food from Rockford-area restaurants while sipping wines and locally brewed beers. Proceeds benefit Rose Garden Endowment. Call (815) 987-8858 to register. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Murder & Mayhem Bar Crawl
June 28 & July 26, 6:30-9 p.m. Tour downtown Janesville’s bars and saloons while hearing gruesome and scandalous stories from Rock County’s past. Tickets online. Courthouse Park, 51 S. Main St., Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
International Mud Day
June 29, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Kids, are you ready to get dirty? Muddy activities, games, educational experiences and more. Bring a change of clothes for the ride home. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
An Evening with Agatha Christie
June 29, 6-7:30 p.m. The master of mystery writers discusses her literary career, including “The Mousetrap,” the longest running play in British theater history. Brought to life by local historian and actress Chris Brookes. Black Point Estate, Lake Geneva. Tickets/Info: (262) 248-1888, wisconsinhistory.org.