Free Spirit Siberian Huskies will do dog-sledding demonstrations during Polar Adventure Days Dec. 8, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 at Northerly Island.
♦ Noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 8; Jan. 19, 2013, and Feb. 16, 2013
♦ Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Drive
♦ Admission: free; parking, $3
♦ (312) 742-7529;
Updated: December 5, 2012 11:00PM
Now in their eighth year, Polar Adventure Days have proven to be popular Northerly Island events. Held one Saturday a month in December, January and February, they’re designed to get families outdoors in the winter to explore the nature area’s 91 acres of prairie in the heart of the city. The first one runs from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 8; the other two are Jan. 19 and Feb. 16, 2013. They all feature the same low-key, do-what-interests-you format.
Teish Daniel, center director for Northerly Island, attributes Polar Days’ success to their unstructured nature.
“The kids are playing and having fun, and the parents are actually playing as well and having fun,” she said. “It’s just an easy, fun day where you can come in, park your car, walk in and it’s lots of unstructured playtime for the entire family, indoors and outdoors. So it gets you outside during the wintertime with all these cool things to do — especially the live animals. Live animals are very, very popular.”
Many of the live animals will be there courtesy of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, which typically brings wolves or coyotes, birds of prey and other creatures for up-close, educational interactions. Dog-sledding demonstrations by Free Spirit Siberian Rescue also are a big hit with kids and adults.
Other activities include music from Old Town School of Folk Music’s Dreamtree Shakers, learning about stop-motion animation from the Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, nature-inspired craft activities (led by the National Museum of Mexican Art Dec. 8 and the Art Institute of Chicago Jan. 19), free hot cocoa for the first 400 participants, a toddler play area in the visitor center and free snowshoe rental (first-come, first-served) for trekking if the weather permits (there must be 3 inches of snow).
“We did it once last season at the January event,” Daniel said. “We got lucky and got a huge amount of snow before the event. It’s awesome” when snow trekking is possible. This winter Northerly Island is open for snow trekking or cross-country skiing, weather permitting, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15; Jan. 12, 13, 26 and 27; and Feb. 2, 3, 9, 10, 23 and 24. Equipment ($5 to rent equipment for two hours or bring your own and trek/ski for free) is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ultimately Daniel hopes visitors leave Polar Days with an appreciation for Northerly Island and a desire to return. She’d like people to know “that there’s this great 91 acres of nature space that’s in the middle of downtown. You can see all [of] the city but it’s silent back here; there’s birds. Just to get people outdoors — especially during this season. … It is invigorating to get outside, and to have this huge space where people can do that is awesome.”
With Polar Days events taking place indoors and outdoors, visitors are encouraged to dress in layers appropriate for the weather, especially since it can be quite windy on Northerly Island, Daniel said.
♦ The Museum of Contemporary Art’s monthly family day explores High Contrast through a variety of hands-on activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at 220 E. Chicago Ave. Free for families with children 12 and younger. Call (312) 280-2660 or visit mcachicago.org.
♦ Chicago Botanic Garden celebrates Hanukkah with concerts by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band at 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 9. Tickets are $20 at the door and include admission to the annual Wonderland Express running through Jan. 6. Parking is $20. The garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe. Call (847) 835-5440 or visit chicagobotanic.org.
♦ Enjoy Lake Michigan with jolliest elf of all during a Santa lunch cruise on the Spirit of Chicago Dec. 8. Boarding starts at 12:30 p.m.; the cruise runs from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. Prices start at $26.95 for kids 3 to 12 and $44.90 for adults. Call (866) 273-2469 or visit spiritofchicago.com.
♦ Harold Washington Library hosts Elmhurst Historical Museum’s Sweet Home Chicago: The History of America’s Candy Capital through March 3 on the ninth floor of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State. Admission is free. Call (312) 747-4050 or visit chicagopubliclibrary.org.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.