Affinity for Affinia
The stylish Affinia hotel will celebrate its one-year birthday in Chicago by offering a gift to its customers with a Birthday Gift for You Contest. It's a chance to win a one-night stay for just $1. Hotel guests, locals, tourists and anyone cruising by the hotel on Thursday, July 2, can try to draw a winning card (marked with a $1 sign) to receive gift certificates valid for a one-night stay in a swanky, customized Affinia Chicago guest room to be redeemed at a future date. Other prizes include cool offers from both C-House, the hotel's American seafood and chophouse, and C-View, the outdoor rooftop lounge on the 29th floor.
Drawing is all day Thursday, July 2, at 166 E. Superior, Chicago. Visit affinia.com or call (866) 246-2203 to make reservations.
Water, water everywhere
The cool, clear liquid has gotten its rightful due in the past few years from the pricey bottled versions slurped by stars to growing concern about the planet's most vital resource. Understand just how amazing water is through the new exhibit "Water" at the Field Museum. See how living things adapt to the extremes of wet and dry environments, learn how water's power is harnessed and appreciate how water impacts nearly everything we do. Bring the little guppies because there are plenty of activities and chances to get your hands wet while learning about clouds, icebergs, oceans and storms.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Gold Pass tickets to "Water" include basic museum admission: $23 for adults, $20 for seniors and students with ID, and $13 for children 3-11. Visit fieldmuseum.org or call (312) 922-9410.
Celebrate with science
Looking for a respite from the fireworks and smoking grill on the Fourth of July? The science-oriented Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is open all day and between animal feedings, butterfly releases (the butterfly haven features 75 species from around the world), "Finding Walden" photo exhibit, guided nature walks and outdoor creation stations, you should have an unruffled day with the family without the crowds. Use real scientific tools to investigate the sights and sounds of the city at the observation station and head indoors for a wilderness walk through re-created prairie, savanna and sand dune environments.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 4, at 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago. $9 adult general admission; $7 students and seniors; $6 children. Visit naturemuseum.org or call (773) 755-5100.
Walk history in Springfield
Celebrate the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial and bring history to life on one of Springfield Walks' award-winning tours. Suitable for all ages, Mr. Lincoln's Bicentennial Springfield Walk uses historical markers to chronicle Lincoln's life in the Illinois town before he was president. Learn about his law practice, his wedding, his barber and dentist, his election night and his farewell from Springfield. Other tours include Lincoln's Ghost Walk: Legends & Lore (which won a Best Heritage Tourism Award); Springfield's Haunted Dead Walk (leave the kids behind for this one); and the R-rated Springfield Walk, for adults only, which chronicles the city's true crime history.
Hours vary by tour Monday to Sunday through Oct. 31, at 209 S. 6th St., Springfield. Ticket prices $5-15. Visit springfieldwalks.com or call (217) 502-8687.
Cheery cherry affair
What did Neil Diamond know a long time ago? "She got the way to move me, Cherry," and you can be so moved at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich., a tasty event held annually since 1926. Travel to the heart of the nation's tart cherry capital and cherry pick among 150 events - 85 percent of them free, including an air show, pie-eating contests, arts and crafts fair, parades and a fireworks finale over Grand Traverse Bay. Get in on cherry cuisine and regional wine tasting, kids' activities, a cherry pit spit contest, tournaments and much more.
Runs Saturday, July 4, to Saturday, July 11. For more information on Traverse City, visit cherryfestival.org or call (800) 968-3380.
Red, white and the blues
The blues may be the soundtrack of the country in 2009, so go with the flow and head to the 25th Annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in downtown Davenport, Iowa. Opening day, take advantage of "$5 Retro Night" to see eight acts and during the course of the event, see three of the five Grammy nominees for Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year - Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Magic Slim and 94-year old Honeyboy Edwards.
Enjoy a kaleidoscopic fireworks display over the Mississippi River, free workshops and hands-on instruction from blues artists and a free photo exhibit of blues artists. The event is one of the longest running, all-volunteer-operated blues festivals in the country.
Runs 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday, July 2; 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4. LeClaire Park, Davenport, Iowa. Visit mvbs.org or call (563) 322-5837.
Worth the trip
Eating, drinking, vacation. Can there be a better trio? Add learning about cooking and you have the third annual Culinary Summer Camp in Seattle, helmed by renowned chef Tom Douglas. Named the 2008 Restaurateur of the Year by Bon Appétit magazine and nominated for the James Beard Award in 2008 and 2009, Douglas offers a week of food, wine and fun by working closely with chefs from his restaurants as well as local and international celebrity chefs via interactive demonstrations and hands-on instruction. Expect culinary field trips, live cooking demonstrations, cooking challenges, lessons, technique tips, wine tasting and general feasting. Guest chef appearances include Takashi Yagihashi, chef of the Chicago restaurant Takashi, Mirko Reeh, chef and owner of Reehstaurant in Frankfurt, Germany and Bruce Aidells, San Francisco chef and award-winning cookbook author. The cost for Culinary Summer Camp is $2,500 per person, which covers meals, activities and tastes throughout the day (dinner is not included), transportation for field trips, recipe books and take-home treats.
Sunday, July 12, to Thursday, July 16; To reserve a space, call (206) 448-2001.