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Chicago, suburbs offer plenty of cold-weather fun

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Updated: February 18, 2014 6:15AM



In the Chicago area, we don’t let snow and cold keep us down. We strap on our long johns and snow pants and power through until spring.

From outdoor winter festivals to cross-country skiing, there’s plenty to do at this time of year. Most forest preserves and park districts offer outlets for every kind of winter activity you can imagine.

So cash that check Grandma gave you for Christmas and get ready to have winter fun.

FESTIVALS

Polar Adventure Days: noon-4 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 22, Northerly Island, 1400 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago. Free, $3 parking. (312) 742-7529; chicagoparkdistrict.com.

Snow Days Chicago: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 8; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 9. Gateway Park at Navy Pier. (312) 744-3315; navypier.com.

Wonders of Winter: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 1 at Mayslake Forest Preserve in Oak Brook, Ill. Free. (630) 933-7248; dupageforest.org.

Groundhog Daze: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 1-2 at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle, Ill. (630) 968-0074; mortonarb.org.

Naperville Winter Ale Fest: noon-4 p.m. Feb. 22, Frontier Park, Illinois 59 and 95th Street, Naperville. Tickets, $45; napervillewinteralefest.com.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Camp Sagawau in Lemont, operated by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, has a 2.5-mile loop that’s mostly prairie plus more challenging terrain with steep hills. Rent equipment for $15 and take a lesson for $20, equipment rental and lesson combo is $30. (630) 257-2045 or fpdcc.com.

The Fox Valley Park District offers miles of free trails with minimal road crossings; including the Fox River Trail in North Aurora, Ill.; the Virgil Gilman Trail, the Waubonsie Lake Trail or at the Stuart Sports Complex/Jericho Lake. foxvalleyparkdistrict.org.

Nearly 130 miles of challenging and fun cross-country skiing trails await cross-country skiers of all levels in the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Cross-country skiing is also permitted on equestrian trails at Lakewood and Raven Glen forest preserves. (847) 968-3235 or lcfpd.org.

ICE FISHING

Fish ‘n’ Freeze Ice Fishing Derby on Feb. 1 at Blackhawk Pond, 1479 Blackhawk Circle, South Elgin, Ill. $3 or $5. (847) 622-0003 or southelgin.com.

Hampshire South Forest Preserve in Hampshire, Ill., on Lake Patterson within Aurora’s Oakhurst Forest Preserve and on the two ponds within Paul Wolff Campground in Elgin, Ill. kaneforest.com.

Twenty-two lakes and sloughs within the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. (708) 771-1335 or fpdcc.com.

Banana Lake, Sterling Lake and at Independence Grove’s south bay. (847) 968-3235 or lcfpd.org.

Classes are offered by the DuPage Forest Preserve District. Dates include Jan. 18 and Feb. 2, 15 and 16. (630) 933-7248 or dupageforest.org.

ICE SKATING

McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink (Millennium Park): 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago, (312) 744-3316, millenniumpark.org. Free to skate, $10 skate rental. Open through March 9, weather-permitting. Visit website for hours and special events.

Chicago Park District rinks: The skating season runs through Feb. 23 at most rinks, weather-permitting. Skate rentals cost $6; adult admission costs $3. Check the website for hours, special events and rink locations. (312) 742-7529; click Parks & Facilities at chicagoparkdistrict.com.

CityGate Winter Skate: A free outdoor rink is open to the community at the CityGate Centre, Interstate 88 and Illinois 59, Naperville. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. There is no skate rental on-site. For ice conditions, call the Hotel Arista at (630) 579-4100 or hotelarista.com.

Forest Preserve District of Cook County: Ice skating is allowed on six lakes in the county’s forest preserve system; (708) 771-1335 or fpdcc.com.

Flick Park Ice Rink: 600 Glenview Road, Glenview, Ill. (847) 724-3337 or glenviewparks.org. Free outdoor ice rink and sledding hill. Lighted for nighttime activity; closes at 10 p.m.

Naperville Park District rinks: There are several outdoor skating and hockey rinks run by the park district; napervilleparks.org for locations. Call (630) 883-4242 for conditions.

Fox Valley Park District: A green flag means “go” at the park district’s free outdoor skating locations. New this year are two free rinks (one for hockey, one for skating) at Waubonsie Lake Park on Kautz Road in Aurora. Visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org.

The Forest Preserve of Kane County also offers ice skating at Oakhurst Forest Preserve on Fifth Avenue east of Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. Visit kaneforest.com.

In Libertyville, Ill., skate on the lake at Independence Grove or at the man-made rinks at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area and Old School, part of Lake County Forest Preserve District. (847) 968-3235 or lcfpd.org.

SKIING & SNOWBOARDING

Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Ill.: 109th annual Ski Jump Tournament from noon-4 p.m. Jan. 25-26. 100 Ski Hill Road, Fox River Grove; (847) 639-9718, norgeskiclub.com.

Beginning skiers will want to start out on the bunny hill at Villa Olivia in Bartlett, Ill. Villa Olivia offers downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, along with lessons for all levels and rental equipment available. 1401 W. Lake St., Bartlett; (630) 289-1000, villaolivia.com.

At Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle, you can learn to ski and snowboard. 5790 Forest View Road, Lisle; (630) 963-3422, skifourlakes.com.

Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park and Ski Area offers lessons, Ladies’ Nights, half-pipes and more. 1 Alan Drive, Algonquin, Ill.; (847) 836-7243, ragingbuffalo.com.

The Naperville Park District offers one location exclusively for snowboarding: Weigand Riverfront Park, 2436 S. Washington St., Naperville. (630) 848-5000 or napervilleparks.org.

SLEDDING

If there’s no snow to be had, visit Soldier Field, where the Chicago Park District will make man-made snow to coat the 33-foot sledding hill southeast of the stadium at 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive., Chicago. (312) 235-7000 or soldierfield.net.

The famous sledding hill at Swallow Cliff is closed for repairs. Cook County Forest Preserve officials urge sledders to use the hill at Pioneer Woods on 107th Street west of LaGrange Road, Willow Springs, or check the district’s website for 10 other hills, with and without lighting. (800) 870-3666 or fpdcc.com.

The Fox Valley Park District offers sledding at Waubonsie Lake Park, Lincoln Park and McCullough Park in Aurora.

If you’re a daredevil, check out the big hill on Fifth Avenue, just west of Kautz Road, in the Oakhurst Forest Preserve. Sled hills are located at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, Ill., and Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville. Lights allow for winter fun until 9 p.m. daily.

SNOWMOBILING

Snowmobiling is allowed at five designated locations in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Snowmobiles must be registered with both the state of Illinois and the Forest Preserve District (proof of insurance is required). (800) 870-3666 or fpdcc.com.

Nearly 24 miles of trails in the Lake County Forest Preserve District are designated for snowmobiling, including an eight-mile portion of the Des Plaines River Trail near the Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch in Wadsworth, Ill. (847) 367-6640 or lcfpd.org.

SNOWSHOEING

If you have your own, most forest preserves will let you traipse the trails to your heart’s content — as long as there is sufficient snow cover. Many preserves and park districts will rent them out to you, like at the Red Oak Nature Center in Batavia, Ill. For $5, you can rent a pair of snowshoes and poles and explore the many hiking trails along the Fox River. 2343 S. River St., Batavia; (630) 897-1808 or foxvalleyparkdistrict.org.

Take a Snowshoe Hike from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 9 at Herrick Lake in Wheaton, Ill. Hear about the history of snowshoeing and learn how to identify animal tracks. Equipment is provided. (630) 933-7248 or dupageforest.org.

You can also cross-country ski or snowshoe at the Morton Arboretum’s 1,700-acre winter wonderland. Children’s and adults’ cross-country skis and snowshoes are available for rent at the Visitor Center Area when there is 4 or more inches of snow on the ground. 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle. (630) 968-0074 or mortonarb.org.

SNOW TUBING

When 3 or more inches of snow cover the Mount Hoy in the Blackwell Forest Preserve, take an 800-foot plunge down the hill. Inner tube rentals cost $5 per tube. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends through Feb. 23, plus Jan. 20 and Feb. 17. Located at Butterfield Road, one mile east of Illinois 59 in Warrenville, Ill. (630) 871-6422 or dupageforest.org.



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