Snowshoers racing down a trail

Hop to It

Already cutting corners from your New Year’s Resolutions? Not to worry. It’s New Year’s Day again this weekend, as the Chinese calendar ushers in the Year of the Rabbit. Chicago’s Chinatown hosts a celebratory banquet on Wednesday, February 9th, and a parade on Sunday, February 13th. But the festivities start earlier in, of all places, Iowa. Here, a big celebration to ring in the 4709 a day early—plus, three area attractions worth checking out while you’re near Des Moines.

  1. In Ankeny, Iowa (about 12 miles north of Des Moines), the Chinese Association of Iowa launches the new lunar year on Saturday, February 5th. Performing groups from across the Midwest and from China will convene at the Des Moines Area Community College from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate with traditional music and dance performances. The party continues with a reception and banquet in the FFA Center at 5 p.m. Performances are free; tickets to the dinner are $25.
    GO Des Moines Area Community College, 2006 S. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny, Iowa; 515-988-0901,
  2. Improving your golf game on the resolution list? Work on your putting skills at the 26th Annual Skywalk Golf Open Tournament. No, you don’t swing over frozen cornfields: Three 18-hole miniature courses are set up over the city’s 3.2-mile skywalk system, with area businesses vying for “best tee decoration” honors. (“That ‘70s Hole”—complete with a disco ball and shag carpeting—was a favorite from last year’s tournament.) At the 19th hole (situated on the top floor of the Kaleidoscope Food Court), there will be beer! More than 2,000 golfers are expected to compete in singles, doubles, and teams of four. Tee times start at 8 a.m.; $30 per golfer.
    GO 26th Annual Skywalk Golf Tournament, Des Moines Skywalk; 515-286-4949. Click here for details; click here to register.
  3. From the Year of the Rabbit to an afternoon with the fish: If you’ve ever wanted to try ice fishing, here’s a chance to learn the basics—free. From 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 6th, poles and bait will be provided by Des Moines’s 172-acre Easter Lake. Take-home possibilities: Walleye, bass, and catfish, all stocked annually.
    GO Easter Lake Park, shelter 2, 2830 Easter Lake Dr. (enter off Easter Lake Drive and follow the road northeast), Des Moines; 515-285-7612. For a map, click here.
  4. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, there’s a pair of tropical-esque events at the Des Moines Botanical Center this weekend. Hosted by the Heart of Iowa Wine Trail, the 2011 Tropical Wine Festival (515-270-6299, runs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, February 4th. The event features the quaffing of wines from more than a dozen Iowa wineries as a Caribbean steel-drum band plays; tickets are $35. At the Botanical Center on Sunday afternoon, Tina Haase Findlay and Brandon Findlay deliver live blues from 1 to 3 p.m.; $5 admission.
    GO Des Moines Botanical Center, 909 Robert D. Ray Dr., Des Moines; 515-323-6290,

Where to stay: The Suites of 800 Locust (800 Locust St.; 800-320-2580, has a stellar fitness center and offers extras ranging from the “long night” package (Red Bull, Advil, Alka-Seltzer, bottled water) to a rose-petal-strewn room for two; rates start at $209.

Where to dine: Flying Mango (4345 Hickman Rd., Des Moines; 515-255-4111, specializes in all things smoked and grilled and is known for its barbeque. Proof (1301 Locust St., Des Moines; 515-244-0655, offers fine dining with a North African and eastern Mediterranean flair.