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Weekend Spotlight: A 'Frozen' Sing-Along, Groundhogs, Kids Workshop and More

Looks like we'll be getting some snow this weekend, so this Go West guide to sledding hills, places to snowshoe, ice skating rinks, etc, will come in handy. Additionally, here are some of the event highlights over the next few days. As always, check out the Go West Calendar for many more events that might better fit your family's budget, interests or schedule.

FROZEN SING-ALONG: I guess I'm not the only one with a kid singing "Let It Go" around the house on a continual loop. Disney is releasing a special "sing-along" version of its mammoth animated hit "Frozen" in 1,000 theaters nationwide starting today. Lyrics will be shown onscreen (accompanied by a bouncing snowflake) and theater-goers will be encouraged to sing. According to Fandango, the sing-along with be shown at Randall 16 IMAX in Batavia, Charlestowne 18 in St. Charles, Regal Cantera in Warrenville, Studio Movie Grill in Wheaton, AMC Showplace 16 in Naperville, the Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora and the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, among many other Chicago-area theaters. Check your local theater website for times and ticket info, or here's a link to Fandango

DISCOVERY DAYS: Hickory Knolls Nature Center in St. Charles has special "Discovery Days" scheduled every Saturday in February. They'll be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and don't require registration. This Saturday, the them is "Survival" -- in which participants will learn how to build a fire, create shelter and identify wildlife tracks. The activities will be outdoors, so dress for the weather. This Saturday's event is free, others require $5 admission; check the Go West Calendar or this page for details.

KIDS WORKSHOP: The monthly Home Depot Kids Workshop is this Saturday at stores in locations including Geneva, Aurora, Bartlett, Naperville and South Elgin. This is a free, hands-on workshop, designed for kids ages 5 through 12, offered from 9 a.m. to noon. In addition to the newly constructed project kid, each child receives an orange apron, a commemorative pin and certificate of achievement. This month, the project is a "Home Depot Race Car."

CHEAP MOVIES: The "Kids Dream Winter Film Series" kicks off this weekend at Marcus Theatres in Elgin. This weekend, "Despicable Me 2" will be shown at 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday with tickets only $2. These movies are also shown at Marcus Theatres in Orland Park and Gurnee 

ANIMAL ENCOUNTER: The Red Oak Nature Center holds an "Animal Encounter" nearly ever month. This Sunday, your family can learn more about groundhogs on Sunday starting at 2 p.m. The event is free and no registration is required ... be prepared to possibly meet a live critter! 


Winter Guide 2014: Visiting a Suburban Museum or Zoo for Free

Last week, we brought you an updated "Visiting a Chicago Museum for Free” post. But we can't forget the 'burbs! While nearly every major Chicago museum offers “community free days,” that is more rare among suburban institutions, so the list below is a bit less definitive than the Chicago one.

Please make sure to check the museum’s website, or give the museum a call, before your visit to make sure nothing has changed since this list was compiled. And if you know of a spot that should be on here, please let us know!

Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st Street, Brookfield. 708-688-8000.  Admission to the Hamill Family Play Zoo is free through Feb. 28, 2014. but you still must pay general admission and a $10 parking fee at the zoo. Currently for 2014, the Brookfield Zoo had free admission on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 27, only during regular zoo hours. 

Cosley Zoo, 1356 North Gary Avenue, Wheaton. 630-665-5534. It caused a bit of a stir in 2010 when this formerly free zoo (part of the Wheaton Park District) started charging admission. Residents of the Wheaton Park District are still free. Otherwise, adults pay $3, but children up to age 17 are free. 

The 'summer kitchen' at Kline Creek Farm, which is always free to visit. Photo by Tara Burghart. 

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Winter Guide 2014: Forty-six Ways to Keep Kids Occupied Indoors on Cold Days

This has been a winter for the record books, right? So I asked Go West readers how they keep their children occupied indoors on these bitterly cold days. Here's what they said:

Photo by Nick Treby on Flickr.

  1. Kinetic sand
  2. Play-doh
  3. Painting
  4. Fort building
  5. Tunnels
  6. Make mazes
  7. Treasure hunt
  8. Radio flyer scooter races
  9. Starfall.com
  10. Decorate cards to send to friends and family, for holidays or "just because"

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Winter Guide 2014: Father-Daughter Dances in Chicago's Western Suburbs

These "Father-Daughter" and "Mother-Son" dances are just such sweet traditions. Most are sponsored by park districts and many are held in the winter. We'll bring you a list of "Mother-Son" events soon. Many of these dances sell out in advance, so if you are interested, make sure to register right away.

The following list is in rough chronological order. Know of one we missed? Please note it in the comments section!

Feb. 1:

AURORA: The Fox Valley Park District hosts a "Daddy Daughter Dance" on Saturday, Feb. 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Prisco Community Center. It's aimed at girls ages 2 to 11 years olds. This event features a buffet-style dinner. Cost is $30 per couple for residents ($15 for each additional child) and $45 per couple for non-residents  ($22 each additional child). For more info, call the Prisco Center at 630-859-8606 or click here. Note that registration ends Jan. 29.

Photo by carinasuyin on Flickr.

Feb. 7:

OSWEGO, OLDER GIRLS: The Oswegoland Park District offers two events, for two different age groups. The event for older girls is called "Daddy Dancing With the Stars" and it is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Oswego East High School. Girls (ages 6 and up) will help their dads make a dinner and then get to dancing. The event will feature a "dance off," and everyone will go home with a silent auction prize. The cost is $20 per person for residents and $25 per person for non-residents. For more info, call 630-554-1010 or click here.

WEST CHICAGO: The West Chicago Park District sponsors a "Daddy Daughter Sweetheart Dance" on Friday, Feb. 7, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Wheaton Academy The event is aimed at girls ages 5 to 14 accompanied by their dad, grandfather, uncle or guardian. The night will include dancing, a dessert buffet and a photo to take home. The fee is $20 for pair of residents, or $24 for a pair of non-residents. Each additional child is $10. For more info, call 630-231-9474 or click here and go to page 10 in the guide.

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Winter Guide 2014: Visit a Chicago Museum for Free

With this bitterly cold winter we're having, a day spent inside one of Chicago's world-class museums sounds like a great option. But visiting these museums -- especially with a few kids in tow -- can get pricey.

Many Chicago museums offer community free days or regular days during a month when visitors get in free. Note that these days are often quite popular, so you might be fighting some crowds. And also make sure to check the museum’s website, or give the museum a call, before your visit to make sure nothing has changed since this guide was compiled. 

Here's a list of the published discount dates for Chicago sites in the winter of 2014, and for some spots, the whole year:

The Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. 312-922-7827. Free general admission for Illinois residents in 2014: Jan. 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29. More updates to be posted soon under "special offers" on the home page.  

Museum of Science & Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. 773-684-1414. Free general admission for Illinois residents in 2014 on: Jan. 17, 20-24, 27-31; Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25; March 10; May 5; June 1-6; September 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29; Oct. 6-7; Nov. 3, Dec. 8. The museum is also free for all children ages 3-11 on every day in February 2014. More details here!

Admission to the Chicago Children's Museum is free on the first Sunday of every month and on Thursday evenings starting at 5 p.m. Photo by naydeeyah on Flickr.

Shedd Aquarium, 1200 South Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s Museum Campus. 312-399-2438. Free general admission for Illinois residents in 2014 on the following dates: Jan. 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; Feb. 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 24 and 25. More dates are likely to be posted soon.

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