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S.M.A.R.T. Series: Explore, Create, Learn in the S.M.A.R.T. Café

DuPage Children's Museum | Naperville, Ill.

Start the day with books and activities that focus on healthy foods and lifestyles through art, math, science, and literacy explorations. Sessions start with a book followed by open-ended projects for all ages.

When: 9:45-10:30 a.m. Tuesdays
Cost: Free tickets required

Cheesy Noodles Mac N’ Cheese Competition

Max's Deli | Highland Park, Ill.

The Mac N’ Cheese competition will kick off at 6 p.m., as esteemed chefs come together from all over Chicagoland to showcase their very own specialty macaroni and cheese dishes, which will be tasted and judged by attendees and special guest judges. Guests will enjoy music by Bizar Entertainment, raffle prizes, beer and wine tastings, as well as Max’s Deli “Make Your Own S’mores” bar for the kids to create their own fun deserts. Attendees are encouraged to bring new or gently used winter coats for a collection for Chicago homeless teens.

When: 6-8 p.m.
Cost: $50 suggested per family

Junior Archaeologists

Oriental Institute Museum | Chicago, Ill.

Learn how archaeologists work in the field and discover artifacts, then
take part in excavating a simulated dig in the Oriental Institute's Kipper Family Archaeology Discovery Center.
Oct. 25, Nov. 2, Dec. 6.

When: 1-3 p.m. Oct. 25; 10 a.m.-noon Nov. 2; 2-4 p.m. Dec. 6
Cost: $14, $10 member; $7, $5 additional

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

Chicago, Ill.

This Chicago tradition began in 1942. The museum's 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. Stroll through the trees, enjoy falling "snow" and savor  performances on the stage. School choral groups perform during the week, and ethnic song and dance performances take place on the weekends. In 2014, the theme highlights temporary exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. Explore new artifacts and experiences in this exhibit, including a section on the making of animated film Frozen and costumes from films such as The Santa Clause and Maleficent.

Cost: Free with admission

Plant Hunters

Morton Arboretum | Lisle, Ill.

The new library exhibit highlights the crucial research that takes place at The Morton Arboretum and brings awareness to the work of other notable plant researchers throughout history. Artifacts rare photographs of turn-of-the-century China taken by renowned plant collector, Ernest Henry Wilson. Visitors can explore modern plant hunting by getting a close look at instruments used in the field and during scientific study. The exhibit also features interactive elements, challenging visitors to identify various plant species while they learn about the state of threatened trees and plants as well as the conservation efforts of scientists at The Morton Arboretum.

Cost: Free with admission

Lionel Train Adventure

Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, Ill.

The new electric-powered locomotive seats 28 children with a coal car, passenger cars and a caboose, courtesy of Lionel. The adventure begins at a red brick train station and embarks on an exciting trip through an evergreen forest. Next, the terrain changes as the train crosses over a quaint country bridge before continuing on through a craggy canyon. The train will pass through a lofty birch forest before returning to the red brick station.

Cost: $3

Snow Much Fun

Chicago Children's Museum | Chicago, Ill.

Build an ice fort, throw snowballs, dress up a snowman and ice skate - all inside.
The "ice" rink has more space to skate in your socks.

Cost: Free with admission

XOXO: An Exhibit About Love & Forgiveness

DuPage Children's Museum | Naperville, Ill.

An exhibit where families can come together in a place that fosters conversations and interactive experiences that bring love and forgiveness to the forefront of families’ minds. Visitors can illuminate a hidden message about love by Holding Hands; answer questions about love and forgiveness, and tie them to a wall for others to read at the Response Walls; write down loving thoughts and press them into Tokens of Love; work together to Balance on a seesaw or connect an infinite Story Puzzle; create Silhouettes using a unique set up of light boxes; build and explore a variety of facial expressions using Empathy Blocks; Release the Negative by drawing or writing down what makes them angry or sad and then cranking it through a paper shredder; speak into Tone Phones and watch how their voice affects shapes projected on a screen.Created by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh with support from The Fetzer Institute.

Cost: Free with admission

Build It!

Kohl Children's Museum | Glenview, Ill.

Exhibit puts an innovative spin on classic building blocks by letting children explore and interact with ten different varieties of blocks in a single space. Stations in the exhibit include Shadow Boxing: kids can build structures and cast shadows using directional lights; It’s all Looking Up!: kids can examine building on vertical and horizontal planes;
Build It, Test It, Shake It: kids can build and test the strength of their structures by using weights to see if they can withstand a downward force; Free for All: Several zones will be set up with surfaces at varied heights and props such as toy animals, people, fabric, cars, balls, faux plants and trees, where children can use their creativity while focusing on STEAM concepts.

Cost: Free with admission

Battle of the Bulge LEGO Display

Cantigny Park | Wheaton, Ill.


See the key moments of the epic World War II battle recreated in LEGO bricks.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Mondays
Cost: Free; $5 parking

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