Spring break breakdown: Where to go, what to do in Southland
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY AND JASON FREEMAN | Southtownstar March 26, 2012 10:12PM
Cyclists pass through downtown Frankfort on the Old Plank Road Trail. | File photo
Updated: April 28, 2012 8:13AM
It’s spring break!
With many Southland high schools and elementary schools taking a week or so off either now or early next month, antsy toddlers, tweens and teens suddenly are going to be hanging out at home with plenty of playtime.
So you can’t afford to go to Cancun or Disney World ... and with the price of gas, you may not even be able to get to Grandma’s house.
No worries. There’s plenty of affordable family fun practically in your own back yard. A few suggestions:
If there’s spring in the air, get to the great outdoors. With so many forest preserves and parks, there are plenty of places to picnic and explore. Take a hike, play in the mud, look for animal tracks, catch and release some frogs and insects. And yes, take time to smell the flowers or at least see all that’s blooming this spring.
There are lots of neat nature centers in the south suburbs. To name a few: Little Red Schoolhouse, 9800 Willow Springs Road, near Palos Hills; Sand Ridge Nature Center, 15891 Paxton, near South Holland; Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens, 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights; and Pilcher Park Nature Center, 2501 Highland Park Drive in Joliet. All have great hiking trails.
Biking/hiking/strolling: Stay in your neighborhood, or put the bikes in the car and check out the Tinley Creek Trails, Old Plank Road Trail, Centennial Trail, Fox Valley Trail or Wauponsee Glacial Trail, which takes you all the way down to the Kankakee River. Because most offer several trail heads, you can adjust your distance by where you start/end your ride. Pack a water bottle, slip on a helmet and go.
Ride along Lake Shore Drive — from the Museum of Science and Industry to Navy Pier.
On a slightly larger, more scenic scale, you can do all of the above at Kankakee River State Park or Starved Rock State Park, both only about an hour’s drive away.
The Lake Renwick Heron Rookery is a great place to view cormorants, herons and egrets in Plainfield. A viewing scope is available with a short walk from the Copley Nature Park on U.S. 30.
Go fish! Grab a pole and head out to Lake Sedgewick in Orland Park, Monee Reservoir, Hickory Creek or the Kankakee River. Rock Run Rookery in Joliet and Island Prairie Park in Frankfort Square allow you to catch and release. Fishing licenses may be required.
Go fly a kite ... seriously! Later on, you can attend the “Celebrate Air: Let’s Fly a Kite” program at Monee Reservoir from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21.
Get some culture
Union Street Gallery, 1527 Otto Blvd., Chicago Heights, is open Wednesdays through Saturdays during the afternoons. Free admission.
Vogt Visual Arts Center, 17420 S. 67th Court, in Tinley Park, has a photography exhibit through Saturday. It’s open Tuesdays through Fridays but hours vary so phone first (708) 614-6503.
Governors State University’s Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park features more than two dozen major works of contemporary sculpture on its grounds in University Park. It’s free, it’s outdoors, it’s cool and it’s connected by a trail, so you can walk it or bike it.
Attend the local theater. “Jack and the Beanstalk” by the Drama Group Children’s Theater runs Wednesday through Sunday at Drama Group Studio Theater, 330 W. 202nd St., Chicago Heights. “Little Red Ridinghood” by the Chicago Kids Company performs at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., in Chicago, with morning shows and weekend matinees through April.
Take in a matinee. “The Hunger Games,” which pulled in $155 million for its opening weekend, is playing all day long at numerous Southland movie theaters. Family fare includes Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and “John Carter.”
Get some fun
Children’s museums are always worth the trip. There’s the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, at 5100 Museum Drive, and Kidswork Children’s Museum, at 11 S. White St. in Frankfort. It’s usually closed Mondays but will be open the Monday after Easter.
Moraine Valley Community College has public telescope viewing every month at its observatory. The next one is Friday at 7:30 p.m. in its Nature Study Area.
The Joliet Junior College planetarium has lots of free programs for various ages. At 2:30 p.m. April 7, youngsters can learn about the solar system. “Navigating by Stars” will be at 7:30 p.m. April 10; “Seasonal Skies” is at 7:30 p.m. April 24.
Forest View Farms at 16717 Lockwood, Tinley Park, offers horseback riding on trails and pony rides.
Plant a garden. Start your seeds indoors now. Local garden shops have everything you need, and the experience just might inspire kids to eat more veggies.
Check out your local libraries for some fun programs because there is so much more than books happening there. For example, the Acorn Public Library in Oak Forest is hosting a Lorax Party at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Get some exercise
When was the last time you went roller skating? Here are a few rinks:
Tinley Park Roller Rink, 17658 Oak Park Ave.
Lynwood Sports Center, 2030 Glenwood Dyer Road
Rich City Skate, 4645 Sauk Trail, Richton Park
Not quite ready for spring? Still feel the need for some ice beneath your feet? Strap on the blades and go ice skating indoors:
Oak Lawn Ice Arena, 9320 S. Kenton Ave.
Arctic Ice, 10700 W. 160th St., Orland Park
Southwest Ice Arena, 5505 W. 127th St., Crestwood
H-F Ice Arena, 777 Kedzie, Homewood