Archive for  February 2010

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The Torii Gate

Chicago often gets a bad rap when it comes to winter, but few people know that there is a lot to appreciate in the Windy City during this season.

Jackson Park’s Osaka Garden is truly one of Chicago’s hidden gems. Nestled on an island behind the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago’s Hyde Park, this small Japanese garden is a pleasure to visit in any season. My favorite time to visit is in the winter, after a fresh snowfall has blanketed the area. I often find myself trudging through the early morning snow in Jackson Park, crossing the bridge at the north end of Wooded Island, and passing beneath the garden’s weather-worn but beautiful Torii gate entrance, surrounded by snow-covered pines.

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In addition to the original segment of Rt. 66 that runs south of Springfield, there’s another original stretch in the area around Auburn on Route 4 that’s worth a quick detour.

It’s about 2 miles long, and was part of the alignment until the 1930’s, when route was moved to avoid smaller towns. What makes it unique is that the original pavers have mostly survived since the road was built back in the 1920’s.

More info:

National Park Service: Illinois Road Segments–Route 66

Wikipedia: U.S. Route 66 in Illinois

Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway:

Getting there:

If you’re on Route 4 heading south, keep your eye out for the historic 66 sign as you leave Chatham just before you come into Auburn.  The road will be on your right.  Coming from the south, the road will be on your left shortly after leaving Auburn.

-Scott Troehler

To learn more about Scott, check out his bio.


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A few weeks ago, some friends approached me with the proposition to go skiing for a weekend in Galena, Illinois. I have to admit, I was apprehensive – how would I avoid seriously injuring myself on the slopes when I hadn’t been skiing in almost ten years?

As a kid, my family and I spent a few summer vacations in Galena. My memories of the trips are scarce, except that Galena resembled a quaint little town straight out of the 1950’s. Our stays generally consisted of swimming, mini golf, shopping, dining out and plenty of family bonding time. After a few minutes of contemplation, I realized I didn’t know much about Galena at all. So in the spirit of adventure, I decided I’d embrace the road trip, potential injuries, and bonding time with my fellow travelers.

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Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Take a second and imagine yourself in Millennium Park on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage twirling and dancing the afternoon away with friends. Throughout the month of February, this dream can become a reality with the Chicago Winter Dance Festival.

This event turns dance into a winter activity offering free dance lessons on the Pritzker Pavilion stage with an added bonus of ice skating lessons at the McCormick Tribune Ice rink on the weekends.

Looking for something to do this weekend? After the dance lessons, enjoy swing dance performances on Saturday and learn various ethnic dances on Sunday. I love learning about different cultures, especially in Chicago because it is such a diverse city; this event will not only help you learn a new dance but it will give you a glimpse into another culture.

The weekend fun in Chicago doesn’t have to end when the dancing is done. The Art Institute of Chicago is free throughout the month of February. Take some time and warm up from the cold while browsing through their newest addition, the Modern Wing. Or warm up in one of the many stores just two blocks away on State Street.

Bring your friends and family along and experience the fun in Millennium Park at the Winter Dance Festival, but don’t forget your dancing shoes!

Check out the dance and ice skating times here.

– Jaclyn Howard

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We have had some truly incredible images submitted to our Illinois Black & White Winter Photo Contest. The photos remind me of why I love winter in Illinois so much – the peacefulness of the season, the way the snow encourages us to get cozy and slow down for a few months. I love everything about it and can’t wait to see more of your pictures.

Here are a few images that have been submitted thus far, along with the photographer’s thoughts about the photo. Enjoy.

– Katie

Snow Zebra by Thomas Henneman

On January 9, 2010 I went snowshoeing at the Franklin Creek Nature Area, near Franklin Grove – about ten miles east of Dixon, Illinois.  It was very cold – in the single digits when I arrived – but I was still surprised to have the place to myself.  After circling down to the creek and back, I came out of the woods and into one of the picnic areas – and saw all of these amazing tree shadows spread out across the hill going up to the road.  I knew that  this would be THE photo of the day, so I took about 12 or 15 shots.  This is probably the best; it started out in color, however it really pops in black and white (the only real color in the original was the blue sky).  I cropped it as a narrow, almost panoramic landscape to emphasize the horizontal lines.  By the way, when photographing outside in cold weather, always bring extra batteries and keep your camera inside your jacket, the cold really saps the power!

Icy River by Jeff Lewis

This photograph was taken on the south bank of the frozen Chicago River looking north at the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue.  Despite the cold, Chicago is a beautiful place ALL year round, some might say it’s especially pretty on cold winter nights.  I took this photograph to showcase the beautiful Wrigley building and dramatic ice on the river.

Heavenly Bench by Richard Susanto

For me, one of the joy of photography is being surprised by nature. I took this bench picture in anature park in Willow Springs. It has been a popular picture with my flickr contacts ever since I posted it and it was even selected by the flickr engine on the Explore! homepage.

It was a bright beautiful winter afternoon when I took this photo. The combination of the dark blue sky and the bright white clouds provided a contrast that was too bright for a good picture. I wandered around the park, waited for the sun to be covered by the clouds while looking for a good object when the opportunity came. I was walking close to this bench when the sun peeked behind the clouds and caused a stream of light to fall right on the bench. I took the photo. This is one of those photos which you just know it’s going to look better in black and white. Somehow, the combination of dark blue, bright white and light brown do not look good together on the photo.

It’s funny that even though I have traveled to many places around the world , some of my favorite photos were all taken only minutes from my house. This proves that beauty is everywhere. We just have to look for it.

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