Spring events you should know

There’s still time to plan a visit to see Tulip Time in Holland Michigan. ( J Jacobs photos)

The eclipse is here and gone and it was great – maybe beyond most expectations. But there are more interesting and fun events coming this spring.

 First, there are Earth Day walks in your area forest preserves and at the Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum

Earth Day/s April 21-22

The Lake County Forest Preserves Hasting Lake site, 21155 W. Gelden Rd., Lake Villa, has an Earth Day walk April 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. (Shelter A)

This is a chance to visit and explore an area is the western part of the county you may not have visited before. Its for all ages and no registration is needed but adult supervision is required. (No pets but service dogs ok)

Event includes free, guided hikes and crafts. For more information visit Earth Day: The Official Site | EARTHDAY.ORG

 Chicago Botanic Garden

Also, April 21 at 2.p.m. is a 45 minute guided walk at McDonald Woods in Glencoe, IL (or do your own walk here at any time). There is a choice of a short (1/3 mile or longer loop of a 2/3 mile. (walks canceled if heavy rain) Parking and Garden admission charged for nonmembers. For more information visit Earth Day Walk in McDonald Woods | Chicago Botanic Garden


Tulip Time May 4-12

Then, in early May, tulips will be coloring the downtown landscape, parks and Windmill Island in Holland MI during Tulip Time, the towns, big, annual flower festival. Plus, there are traditional dances to watch and other activities during the fest. Tulip Time is worth the trip so book a B’n’B or hotel and get to know the town, its heritage and visit its wooden shoe factories on the outskirts of downtown. For more information visit Tulip Time.

Adler Planetarium or SIU for Solar Eclipse



Photo from Adler Planetarium Eclipse Exhibit 2017
Photo from Adler Planetarium Eclipse Exhibit 2017


In Illinois, the place to be mid-day April 8 is Carbondale. That is ground zero for the full-totality solar eclipse that crosses the United States in 2024.

The town, home to Southern Illinois University, is holding a multi-day festival that includes a program by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in SIU’s Saluki Stadium on April 8.

Mokena, IL, a tiny, arts community near Carbondale, is also holding a festival. This is where WGN weatherman Tom Skilling did his broadcast during the 2017 solar eclipse.

But if you live near Chicago and don’t travel down to Southern Illinois, the other place to be in the state is at the Adler Planetarium.

“This one is different from 2017,” said Michelle Nichols, Adler Planetarium Director of Public Observing. (Nichols will be doing the SIU program April 8.

Enumerating the differences, she said, “The direction is different.” After first talking about how it starts over water she said, “This eclipse goes from Mexico to Maine, Southwest to Northeast.” She noted that the 2017 eclipse went from Oregon to South Carolina. (Northwest to Southeast)

(NASA map readers will note the 2024 eclipse enters Canada in Southern Ontario, and continues through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton and will exit continental North America at Newfoundland’s Atlantic coast.)

“Also, the last was smaller,” said Nichols, explaining that the moon was further. “This is closer and the shadow covers a wider area.”

Another difference is the amount of time the eclipse takes and the area covered.

“This time the moon will be a tiny bit bigger. The shadow will be wider and will take longer in totality,” said Nichols. “In 2017 it was two minutes. This time it will be over four minutes.” she said.

(The maximum length of totality in 2017 was 2 minutes 40 seconds and 4 minutes 28 seconds in 2024.The width of the path of totality in 2017 as about 70 miles and in 2024 it will be about 115 miles.)

“Chicago will go from 12:51 p.m. to 3:22 p.m. with the maximum amount of totality at 2:07 p.m.” she said and added that Chicago would experience 94 percent totality.

Nichols cautioned that safety was very important so the Adler will have solar-appropriate, disposable glasses available on April 8 when it holds a free watching event. “Glasses will be handed out beginning at 11 a.m. until the supply runs out.”

According to Nichols, people who still have their solar glasses from 2017 can use them only if in good shape and not scratched or damaged. (Regular sunglasses won’t work)

Another reason to go to the planetarium is that visitors can watch through telescopes equipped with appropriate filters made with a 3D printer.

“We will have telescopes, about five to ten of them, for people to look through but they don’t have to be up close to the lens. The lens is very wide and they can take a picture of what they see,” she said.

For people watching at home she suggested they make a pin-hole camera with a card to capture the eclipse on paper or the ground so they don’t look at the sun.

Tips: NASA has a time chart of where totality will be when and where. For more eclipse information go to Adler Explore’s Chasing Eclipses. Also visit Enjoy Illinois for Solar Eclipse IL Guide and Solar Eclipse Carbondale and SIU Solar Festival.

 Ed Note: Looking directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing will cause severe eye injury.




Happy Spring


spring flowers (J Jacobs phto)
spring flowers (J Jacobs phto)

We used to think the beginning of the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumn season in the Southern Hemisphere. began on March 21 but that thinking has changed.

The equinox occurs when day and night have equal amount of time with 12 hours each. But in the spring, there are a few more minutes of daylight at the mid-temperate latitudes on equinox day, March 19, this year. However, the exact time of the March equinox is 11:06 EDT.

Weather and astrological sites such as EarthSky and the Old Farmer’s Almanac estimate 2-2 1/2 minutes more of daylight. But location does matter. The difference can be 8-10 minutes.

For sunrise and sunset in your are visit Almanac rise and set which is currently set for Chicago, IL.

As to when, sunrise is the time that the edge of the sun first touches the eastern horizon. Sunset is when the last edge of sun touches the western horizon.

See the expansive Brookfield Zoo Chicago from a Ferris wheel


Ferris Wheel at Brookfield Zoo
Ferris Wheel at Brookfield Zoo (Photo by Jim Schulz/Brookfield Zoo Chicago

Visitors to Brookfield Zoo Chicago can now get a sky-high view of the zoo from a Ferris wheel. Fully installed and available to zoo guests on March 15, the new attraction (open to the end of 2024) celebrates the zoo’s 90th anniversary.

Located east of the Roosevelt Fountain, it towers over the zoo at 110 feet. As the gondolas (there are two dozen of them) move around, guests will be able to see the animal habitats and gardens plus the Chicago skyline.

Plus, illuminated by 350,000 multicolored LED lights, the Ferris wheel can be seen from across the zoo as a location guide at night and during special events.

Rides take between 7 and 8 minutes and riders must be at least 3 feet tall with a supervised adult or 3½ feet tall with no supervision. Ticket cost is $8 per person (Zoo members $6).

To watch the Ferris wheel’s construction visit the video done by Brookfield Zoo Chicago.

The attraction took a year to manufacture in the Netherlands by Lamberink B.V. It was shipped in seven 40-foot containers to the United States which took about a month. Installation at the zoo was by Kissel Entertainment Company of Okeana, Ohio.

The original Ferris wheel was unveiled in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s World Fair). Designed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. as an engineering marvel, it measured 264 feet high, rotated on a 71-ton, 45½-foot axle, and featured 36 gondolas, with a total capacity of 2,160.

About Brookfield Zoo Chicago. Opened July 1934, it is managed by the Chicago Zoological Society as a private nonprofit organization on 235 acres of Cook County Forest Preserves property in the Brookfield, IL suburb of Chicago. It is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 species. For hours, admission and more information, visit www.brookfieldzoo.org.

Brookfield Zoo Chicago main entrance is the North Gate at 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street), Brookfield, IL 60513.

Crane watching in Nebraska


Nebraska cranes at Platte River Watch shed 9J Jacobs)
At Platte River in Nebraska

Sandhill crane viewing

March 2024 is pretty warm for watching the crane migration on the Platte River in south-central Nebraska. But when I and fellow travel writers/photographers went a few years ago, the weather was in the 20s on a trip in 2013 and single digits on another trip in 2016.

So even though we were in the crane blind, a shed where the cranes wouldn’t see us, we had to really bundle up, add blankets and warmers. But the trips were so worth it.

Watch cranes waking up early in a.m. from shed ( Jacobs)
Watch cranes waking up early in a.m. from shed ( Jacobs)

We started at an information building then were taken to a shed with open lookouts for watching and photo shoots, first at night before the cranes landed, then back again in the morning to watch them take off.

Our starting points were the Crane Trust and the Rowe Sanctuary. Both times the sky was darkened by their numbers. We had our own accommodations, but the tours also have places to stay.

This year, 2024, the word is that there are many more cranes filling the skies over the Platte.


Where you start on your crane watching trip (JJacobs)
Where you start on your crane watching trip (JJacobs)

According to Earth/Sky news, wildlife biologist Bethany Ostrom reported in late February that the Crane Trust’s bird count saw about five times the usual numbers.

“Another record week? On February 24, 2024, we estimated 122,700 +9,100 sandhill cranes between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska,” Ostrom said. “On average, this time of year (week 2 of annual count) we see around 27,000 cranes.”

For more information visit Cranetrust viewing/tours

and Crane Season | Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary


Spring Training starts now


Cubs signs are famiiar but different at Sloan Park in AZ (JJacobs photo)
Cubs signs are familiar but different at Sloan Park in AZ (JJacobs photo)


Spring Training which opens the baseball season this week, is a chance to relax in southwestern Arizona among western scenery while cheering on your team.

It’s not too late to still fly to the Scottsdale-Phoenix area which is home to 15 Cactus League teams and their 10 stadiums. But you can also start catching their action on TV this week.

As an example, the Chicago Cubs open today, Feb. 23, at their Sloan Park stadium against the Chicago White Sox. They end Spring Training playing the St. Louis Cardinals at Sloan on March 25-26.

By going to Cactus League Map or Official Cactus Website then clicking on each team, you can find out schedules and more information about the stadiums and the area where they play.

Among the info is that the Cubs are in their 10the year there and that Mesa is an interesting place to visit. Sloan has really become Wrigley Field West on a slightly smaller scale.

You’ll recognize the Marquee and street names such as Sheffield Ave. and Clark Street.

Or if you click on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa circle on the Cactus Lague Map in Scottsdale, you learn that the American Indian Community worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies to construct the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It was the first MLB Spring Training facility built on Native American land.

Headquartering here is a chance to explore Old Scottsdale with its art galleries, Native American stores and the fabulous Museum of the West.  

However, none of the Cactus League teams are far from each other. So, turn, game week into a vacation.



Signs of Spring Training

Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ. (JJacobs photo)
Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ. (JJacobs photo)


Yes, weather has been strange so far in 2024 but Spring must be on the horizon because the annual gathering of baseball teams in Florida for Grapefruit League games and in the Phoenix area for Cactus League matches starts this week. Feb. 22.

Hopefully you can still book airline tickets to your team’s spring location.

Why go? If you haven’t tried it before you quickly find out that Spring Training games are casual. You sit closer to the action and often can interact more with players before and after the games. It’s fun.

Getting game tickets: For Cactus League games such as the Cubs, it is easier to get tickets to watch your team play at opponents’ parks. In the Cactus League that is not a problem because the 15 teams are located within 47 miles of each other or less.

Special events: Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will play each other in the Dominican Republic March 9-10 in Santo Domingo.

Then, March 14-17 the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues will hold MLB Spring Breakout – 16 exhibition games showcasing their team’s top prospects.

Opening Day of the 2024 regular season is March 28

For team stadium locations visit Cactus League and Grapefruit League

Find more information at MLB Official Information | MLB.com

Lake Geneva Winterfest means Snow Sculpting


Winterfest 2023 1st Place Winner North Dakota

2023 1st Place Championship team from North Dakota. “The Nemean Lion” The team also won “People’s Choice Award (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva CVB)

Next week, drive over to Lake Geneva, WI for  Winterfest Lake Geneva

Fabulous snow sculptures created by championship state teams from Alaska to Wisconsin are entered in the annual National Snow Sculpting Championship as part of Winterfest.

It starts with snow delivered to 15 team sites on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park.

Many visitors drive over on Feb. 2 or 3 to watch the sculpting and see the winners on Saturday when work stops and judges rate the sculptures. Visitors can also pick their favorites as People’s Choice. They fill in the time by seeing ice sculptures downtown, shopping and enjoying live entertainment

Some visitors just come in for the day but If looking for a place to stay consider the Grand Geneval Resort and Spa known for its Wisconsin Croissant, also called “Ouisconsin.”

For more information visit Winterfest Lake Geneva

Jodie Jacobs



Four events to look forward to in February


Past winner of Winterfest (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva Chamber)
Past winner of Winterfest (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva Chamber)

Many folks are ready to say goodbye to January’s below freezing temps and heavy snow shoveling. So here are some events to put on the calendar to help.

Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva Winterfest Jen 31-Feb 4

Amazing snow sculptures will be created along Geneva Lake during Lake Geneva, Wi’s US National Snow Sculpting Championship. It is part of the town’s 29th Annual Winterfest that includes several activities.

Although it begins Jan. 31, visitors won’t see the completed sculptures until that first Saturday in February. It takes a while to have the snow delivered to each sculpting team’s worksite and it takes time for them to carve out their masterpieces.

There will be 15 state championship teams competing from all over the US. Look for them sculpting at Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park Judges will rate the work at about 1 p.m. Saturday. In past years, visitors also had a chance to vote for their favorites.

Strolling the downtown to shop, see ice sculptures, watch snow sculpting and enjoy live entertainment fills out the days until the winners are announced. Sculptures are still up on Sunday, weather permitting.

For more information visit Winterfest Lake Geneva


Woodstock IL town square filmed in Groundhog Day (JJacobs photo)
Woodstock IL town square filmed in Groundhog Day (JJacobs photo)

Groundhog Day is back in Woodstock, IL    (but also in Punxsutawney, PA)

Events surrounding the famed 1993 film start Feb. 1 but are celebrated with a redo of the weather predicting creature in Woodstock, IL on Feb 2. Suppposedly, film director Harold Ramis chose Woodstock for filming because the story-line location in Pennsylvania was far from his North Shore home in Illinois.

To see where weather forecaster Bill Murray and his station co-worker, Andie MacDowell fell in love, go to Woodstock, not Pennsylvania, a tourist destination northwest of Chicago with a picturesque square featured in the movie.

If in town early in the morning Feb. 2, you hear groundhog Woodstock Willie say when spring will come. But stay to tour the film’s sites and see the movie. 

For clips visit Groundhog Day utubeFor more Woodstock info visit Groundhog Day/Woodstock. For the Punxsutawney, PA site see Punxsutawney Groundhog ClubFor folklore and background on Groundhog Day go to Farmers’Almanac Groundhog Day.

(Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism site)

Asian (Chinese) Lunar New Year 2024 Feb.10-25

 Learn about the zodiac signs including yours, where the holiday is celebrated and where you can celebrate at Lunar New Year 2024/Animal, Dates and celebrations.

Although called Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year, the festival is also celebrated in other countries such as Vietnam and Korea. 

Here, in the Chicago area, there are dragon parades and other events in a couple of neighborhoods such as Argyle Feb. 17 and Chinatown Feb.  18, plus lots of red decorations (for good luck) in Asian restaurants. This year is the Year of the Dragon.


Football’s Superbowl Sunday Feb 11, 2024

The event will be at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the game doesn’t matter unless you are a fan of one of the teams. But the commercials are usually worth watching. Check top 10 for 2023 on UTube to see what was good last year. Peanuts (the edible kind) and M and Ms were still around.

For Super Bowl LVIII info visit 2024 Super Bowl LVIII Sunday – When, Where & More – NFL.com

Chicago Boat Show is back

Paddle Sport Pool

Just as snow threatens to make January a cold, wintery month, you can look forward to warmer weather at the 2024 Discover® Boating Chicago Boat Show

The show is filling McCormick Place with new fishing boats, motorboats, fishing gear and marine electronics Jan. 10 – 14, 2024.

Tour million-dollar yachts, look for the Discover Boating Beach Club with a paddle sports pool and have fun dreaming about life on the water.

“The show is an annual Midwest boating tradition, attracting thousands of visitors to the Windy City each year to explore the best in boating,” said Darren Envall, Show Manager and NMMA Vice President of Midwest Boat and Sport Shows. “There’s no better place to discover boating, buy your dream boat and plan for your next adventure on the water,” said Envall.

WHERE: McCormick Place, 2301 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60616

Hours: Wednesday, January 10 2 p.m. – 8 p.m, Thursday, January 11 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday, January 12 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday, January 13 10 a.m.8 p.m. and Sunday, January 14 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

INFO and Tickets at ChicagoBoatShow.com; $15 for adults; children 12 years old and younger are free (when accompanied by a paid adult admission).