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Chicago has plenty of treats in store for October

This weekend’s Wisch List newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

For my money, there’s no better month of the year in Chicago than September.
The average temperature is a comfy 75. Along the lakefront, summer’s warmth still lingers while the crispness of fall beckons throughout the city. Football season begins (some years better than others). And baseball can get interesting (you know, on occasion).

All that said, as September fades away this weekend, October in the Windy City isn’t too shabby, either.

Plus, it comes with candy.

And as we jump into the 10th month of 2012 – time flies, doesn’t it? – I have some suggestions on how you can enjoy October in Chicago. As an added treat, they’re all free.

Sunday, October 7: Chicago Marathon

Maybe you’re running 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago next weekend. Or perhaps you’re tired just thinking about the idea of it.

No matter your fitness level, if you’re interested in watching the Chicago Marathon – one of the city’s most impressive sporting events, with 45,000 participants – then there are a number of great spots to do so.

One of them is right at the start. From atop the Randolph Street overpass above Columbus Drive just north of Millennium Park, you can watch as the basic equivalency of an entire Cubs game crowd – including the rooftops – passes beneath you.

Other hot race spots include the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street (where “Elvis” serenades the runners from a stage), Chinatown near Cermak and Wentworth (where a cheering section includes a Chinese dragon and drums) and Michigan Avenue south of Roosevelt Road (where you can watch the runners as they power – or struggle – through the race’s final mile).

For more information, visit chicagomarathon.com.

Monday, October 8: Columbus Day Parade

Early this month, I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona. While there, I stood in the plaza where Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received Christopher Columbus in 1493 when the Italian explorer returned from the New World on his Spanish-funded voyage.

Pretty cool stuff.

Chicago’s Columbus Day Parade doesn’t come with quite that same panache, but it still offers a fun reason to experience the city on a day when the kids are out of school.

This year’s parade celebrating Columbus’ overseas adventures and Italian-American culture, begins at 12:30 p.m. and runs along Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe. For more information, visit explorechicago.org.

Saturday, October 20: Spooky Zoo Spectacular

At Lincoln Park Zoo, kids don’t have to wait until Oct. 31 to don their Halloween costume – and satisfy their sweet tooth.

With the Spooky Zoo Spectacular, children are invited to dress up and celebrate the holiday early while also learning fun facts about animals in the Spooky Zoo Education Zone, making crafts, collecting treats and more.

At 11 a.m., family entertainment events begin. A haunted house, arts and crafts and trick-or-treating will then be held from noon to 2 p.m. For more information, visit lpzoo.org.

October 26-30: Chicagoween

The zoo isn’t the only place in Chicago that’s getting an early start on the Halloween excitement. From Friday, Oct. 26 through Tuesday, Oct. 30, the city itself will host an array of family-friendly events during its Chicagoween celebration.

Among the highlights will be “Franken Plaza,” which transforms Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington) into Chicago’s Halloween hub with a visit from the Midnight Circus acrobatics and juggling act, dancing and more, including my favorite: city fountains that run red. The Monster Bash on Oct. 27 includes a kids costume contest and trick-or-treating.

The Chicago Park District and Navy Pier also have a variety of Halloween-related offerings during Chicagoween. For more information, visit explorechicago.org.