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Nov 19, 2006


Warm your hands by a blazing hearth on a cold winter’s night; brave the elements with a bracing skate outing; share a steaming Irish whiskey or ice-cold beer with a traveling pub crowd.



– Fulton Lounge: Picture a cold winter’s evening cuddled up by the fire with a cool Brandy Alexander in hand. Does it conjure up a scene from an old black-and-white film? It’s a reality this season at Fulton Lounge (955 W. Fulton Market, 312-942-9500). “We specialize in vintage cocktails,” says general manager Beth Winter (yes, that’s her real name). In this laid-back environment, you can snuggle into one of many chairs or couches around the fireplace and, in addition to the $9 Brandy Alexander, can sample the new espresso martini ($9), made with Patron XO Cafe, Starbucks coffee liqueur, Absolut vanilla vodka and a shot of Guinness. 5 p.m.- 2 a.m. Monday- Friday; 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.

– Magnum’s: The owner of Magnum’s Prime Steakhouse in Lombard is a huge fireplace fan and loves the ambiance so much that the fireplaces are lit even in the middle of summer. So you can be sure to find a place to cozy up near one of five fireplaces in this restaurant when it’s freezing outdoors. 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Monday- Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday; 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday; 777 E. Butterfield Rd., Lombard. 630-573-1010.

– Starved Rock Lodge: In the middle of 2,630 acres of forest, Starved Rock Lodge offers a rustic winter fireside escape. In the lodge’s great hall, sit in carved wooden chairs and warm up near the largest stone fireplace in Illinois. Or get more intimate with your own flame in one of four deluxe cabins ($120 per night) that have wood-burning fireplaces. Visitors get a bundle of logs upon check- in. If that’s not hot enough for you, take a dip in the lodge’s heated indoor pool or hot tub, or try one of the two saunas. Routes 178 & 71, Utica; 800-868-7625.

– Courtright’s: Nestled alongside a 15-mile stretch of forest preserve on two acres of woodland, Courtright’s Restaurant is just 25 minutes from the Loop. Two fireplaces allow visitors to warm to the environment that mingles woods and wildlife. “In the winter, our most requested tables are near the fireplace or the window,” says owner Bill Courtright. The four tables near the 13-feet-high, 9- feet-wide fireplace book up quickly on weekends and require a reservation a couple of weeks in advance. 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Sunday; 8989 S. Archer Ave., Willow Springs; 708-839-8000.


– Russian and Turkish baths: The only Russian bathhouse in the area (the next closest is in Detroit), Division Street Russian and Turkish Baths has operated since 1906. Formerly available to men only, the newly remodeled facility is also open to women. The $20 entrance fee gets you use of the open showers, cold pool, warm pool, eucalyptus-scented steam bath and a hot room. In the hot rooms, a brick oven heats granite boulders, which are then doused with hot water. Massages and plaitzas, a scrubbing with a bundle of leafy oak twigs, are available for an extra fee. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday- Friday; 7 a.m.-10 p.m Saturday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 1914 W. Division St., 773-384-9671.



– Ice rink at Millennium Park: Cold weather permitting, the 16,000-square-foot ice rink in Millennium Park is open until mid- March. Skating is free, skate rental is $7. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week;; Michigan Avenue and Washington Street; 312-742-5222.

– Riverside’s Annual Family Skate: Held every January during the bye week in pro football, Riverside’s family skate is a picturesque event, with no charge for skating, hot dogs or hot chocolate. Participate in competitions or skate casually on the rink, encircled with luminaries. Activities begin at 2 p.m. Jan. 28. Big Ball Park, Longcommon and North Delaplaine Roads, Riverside; 708-442-7025.

– The Watts Center: The Glencoe Park District facility has two lighted outdoor ice rinks opening for the season on Nov. 24. Skating is $5, 3 p.m.-5:15 p.m. Monday-Friday; $7, 1:30 p.m.-4:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; skate rental is $2. The ice rinks are also available for private rentals, $105-$185 per hour depending on the rink. 305 Randolph St.; 847-835-4440.

– St. Charles Park District: The park district has three outdoor ice skating rinks-two for skating and one for hockey. Weather permitting, the rinks are open weekdays from 12 p.m.-9 p.m. Davis Park is for skating (along 10th Street between Horne and Fellow Streets); Timber Trails is for skating (Manley Circle, 1U4-mile north of 17th Street off Dean Street); and Langum Park is for hockey (7th and Fern Avenues); 630-513-5188.


– 11th Annual 12 Bars of Christmas Pub Crawl: When you’re coming in from the cold, even if it’s up to a dozen times in a day, a soothing drink can ease the chill. A fee of $25 gets you an event T- shirt, wrist band and laminated badge that allows access to the Wrigleyville bars included in the pub crawl. Participants can join in at any point and take advantage of $1 to $2.50 drink specials on beer and well drinks, as well as the camaraderie of 2,300 other participants.

Chris Festa, who started the event with friends 11 years ago, says only three people showed up at the first bar that first year. Now it’s a cult event that draws people from 37 states and as far away as England and Japan. 10:30 a.m.-3 a.m. Dec. 9-10. $25; register at; 773-755-3378.



– Wilmot Mountain: If the traffic is light, Wilmot Mountain is an hour or so from the Chicago area. As such, the mountain-a term used loosely-is often icy because it’s packed with ski and snowboard traffic. But there is a great program for kids: Winter Wonderland teaches ski fundamentals with fun games, enabling parents to hit the slopes while Junior learns the ropes. Wilmot Mountain, Wilmot, Wis.,, 262-862-2301.

– Cascade Mountain: Children 12 and under ski free with a paying adult, and should the tykes tire of their ski boots, they can always ride inner tubes down snowy chutes at the resort’s snow-tubing park. Adults can test their mettle on 34 trails and there are more than 30 acres of terrain park for snowboarders. Cascade Mountain, Portage, Wis.,, 800-992-2SKI.

– Cross-country options: Two-plankers can glide on paths at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Spring Grove (, 847-587- 5512), which offers a warming station, or the Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry (, 815-385-1624), where red fox, coyote and migrating birds accompany outdoor athletes. Other options are at


– Evanston Speed Skating Club: Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear the skin-tight outfits that Olympians like Chicago’s own Shani Davis wear when competing. But you can train on the gold medalist’s home track, where he still shows up occasionally. “Speed skating is a low-impact, full-body workout utilizing coordination and strength,” says manager George Babicz, who welcomes skaters of all ages and abilities to hit the ice with him twice weekly. Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., Evanston.


– Windy City Sled Heads: This group teaches safe riding and maintains and marks trails within wooded areas from the I&M Canal up to Fox Lake. “We want to challenge the image that snowmobilers are a bunch of drunks-the guys that run over geese,” says Sled Heads spokesman Paul Gris. “We focus on the ride and then afterwards, maybe, have a couple beers.” The club welcomes newcomers to join for $35, then participate in events like breakfast rides and radar runs- quarter-mile sprints across frozen lakes where man and goose stay safe. 773-545-7005.


– Great sleds: Whether you’re looking for a wooden model like the one Grandpa used to ride or an engineering marvel like The Predator (which features a butterfly racing steering wheel and a foot lever to control speed), hundreds of snow-shredding options are at

– Great slides: While online, lists some of the state’s best hills. Some around here include Soldier Field, 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, 312-235-7000; Blackwell Forest Preserve (dog-sledding’s allowed here too), Warrenville, 630-871-6422; and Goodnenow Grove Nature Preserve, 27064 S. Dutton Rd., Beecher, 708- 946-2216.



– On the Route Bicycles: Between now and March 15, 2007, amateur or professional riders can bring their own bikes here and ride on the roller machines. By joining one of the indoor programs ($225 to $500) you get coaching and the group riding experience. For an extra fee, they’ll store your bike so you don’t have to lug it back and forth; just show up to ride. 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m-6 p.m. Sunday. 3146 N. Lincoln Ave. 773- 477-5066.

– Chicago Bike Winter: Hardcore cyclists should not feel alone in the city. Any day there’s at least 2 inches of new snowfall in Chicago, meet for winter cycling at Handlebar (2311 W. North Ave.). You can join Chicago Bike Winter, a group of like-minded cyclists, and ride through the parks or along the lake. All ages and abilities are welcome. The same group organizes other rides throughout the winter, as well as clinics with information about how to dress, how to maintain your bike and how to ride through salt, slush and other seasonal gunk.


– BASH Sports Academy: You could go home for the holidays, or throw to the cut-off man at second base. BASH Sports Academy offers a number of baseball clinics, classes and private lessons on hitting, pitching and fielding. Owner Jim Price, who opened the 15,000-square-foot indoor facility in August, sees players as young as 6, up to the guys who play in the 55+ leagues. Over Christmas and spring breaks, “camps” will be held by former college or minor- league players. Individuals can rent the Iron Mike automatic machines or the ATEC double-wheel manual-feed machines and hit an unlimited number of balls, $25 for 30 minutes. A yearly membership ($350) allows a player to come in at his/her leisure three times a week to use the equipment. 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 2617 W. Fletcher, 773- 588-2274.


– North Beach Chicago: Even if you can’t dig and spike in the sands at North Avenue Beach, you can still play sand volleyball indoors at North Beach Chicago (1551 N. Sheffield Ave., 312-266- 7842). The two sand courts can be rented by the hour. ($38/hour Monday-Friday before 5 p.m.; $54/hour after 5 p.m. and weekend hours.) Play one-on-one or with a group-just be sure to reserve the court a week in advance. 9 a.m.-12 a.m. Monday through Friday; 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday. The suburban location (1211 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove, 630-434-1290) also has rental by the hour as well as some league play.

– Chicago Sport and Social Club: Winter volleyball leagues hit the indoor sand in January. Five different levels play seven days a week (Monday-Friday nights, weekend days and nights). You join alone or with a team. $75-$500; register at 312-335-9596.


– White Pines Golf Dome: Swing until spring inside the White Pines dome in Bensenville, where the temperature is set to 64 degrees. The area’s largest golf dome measures 300 feet wide, 300 feet long and 100 feet high. Tee off from one of 50 tees on two levels and look out over a “golf course” with three target greens surrounded by two bunkers. Unlimited balls are $10 per half hour, $18 per hour Monday-Friday; $12 per half hour, $21 per hour Saturday- Sunday. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, until May 2; 500 W. Jefferson Ave. 630- 766-0304.


– Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort and Indoor Waterpark: Illinois’ first indoor water park, in Utica, offers 24,000 square feet of liquid entertainment. In addition to the 32-inch, 240-foot- long body slide, wave pool, 240-foot lazy river and an island with a dumping bucket that cascades water from 28 feet up, the facility is the first in the nation to have sound and motion technology that allows swimmers to experience virtual reality adventures like sliding into a shark’s mouth. To enjoy the water park, you must book a stay at the resort. No day passes are available. Illinois Highway 178, Utica. 888-505-4130.

– Pelican Harbor Indoor Aquatic Park: Renovated last September for $1.2 million, Pelican Harbor, at the Bolingbrook Recreation & Aquatic Complex, is a great value for water park lovers. Attractions include a zero-depth pool, the 20-foot Green Monster Water slide, tumble buckets, sprays, a 25-yard indoor lap pool with six lanes and a 10-person whirlpool tub. $6 for residents; $8 non-residents. 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; 200 S. Lindsey Lane. 630-739-1705.

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