Rainbow Play Systems’s expansive showrooms introduce kids aged 2 to 10 to a wonderland of gym equipment, all of which is available for purchase. A multitude of swing sets with spiral slides, trapeze rings, and tire swings exercise tykes while preparing them for the physics portion of the SAT.
Alpine Accessories owner Rick broke into the business more than 30 years ago, when he began working part-time at a ski shop. In 1993 he decided to strike out on his own, operating a mail-order catalog for ski accessories out of his basement and garage. Two years later, Rick set up an online store that quickly outsold his catalog, making it more obsolete than an eight-track tape crammed inside a VCR.
The website’s success led to the first brick-and-mortar Alpine Accessories, which opened in 2003. Eventually, its inventory grew beyond ski accessories to also include ski and snowboarding equipment, apparel, and rentals. Today, Alpine Accessories sells and rents K2 skis, Flow snowboards, and mountain garb such as battery-heated gloves and mittens. The store's five standup-paddleboard instructors have introduced the sport to more than 300 students this summer through its lesson and rental program. In addition, its service department tunes and waxes equipment, so skiers can show off their like-new gear when slushing down the slopes or walking along city sidewalks.
Paintball Explosion began when a group of paintball fanatics decided to make their dreams a reality and set about designing eight different fields of movie-set quality. Located just a 40-minute drive outside of Chicago, the real-life fantasy land they created includes the sci-fi-inspired, concrete environs of Code Black Field as well as the abandoned amusement-park setting of Biohazard Field.
The expansive facility also sports indoor and outdoor speedball fields for adrenaline-fueled fastness. Between matches, gamers can prepare at heated buildings with locker rooms and showers. With an onsite sports bar and grill, Paintball Explosion makes the paintball haven a place where enthusiasts can discuss the forces of velocity, wind resistance, and the physics of splatter.
Multicolored holds dot the climbing walls inside North Wall, granting visitors a variety of gripping surfaces and seemingly limitless routes during their scaling expeditions. Since 1994, the rock-climbing haven has been beckoning climbing enthusiasts to its sprawling confines, where it offers classes and private lessons for climbers of all abilities. Participants can even join teams, in which they can boost their skills for competitions or leisurely scrambles up the noses on Mt. Rushmore.
Play It Again Sports bedecks kids and adults alike with high-end, wallet-friendly athletic armor so that they can kick, swing, and punt with gusto. Scores of gently used merchandise, perfect for replacing equipment that children have grown out of because of rampant milk abuse, arrive daily and boast brand names such as Adidas, Taylor Made, and Easton. At the Frankfort location, pint-size puck handlers can improve their speed and whittle their hockey sticks with Bauer Supreme One 20 youth skates ($49.99). Crystal Lake's elliptical trainers and exercise bikes sculpt calves into steel, and Downers Grove's Wilson Evolution basketballs ($49.99) keep droves of neighborhood kids active. Each Play It Again Sports store encourages customers to bring in their own old or outgrown equipment to sell or trade for referee signal-decoder rings.
Dolphin Swim Club’s faculty of professional First Aid– and CPR-certified lifeguards help children aged 2 and older learn how to swim in a safe and encouraging environment. They lead lessons within a pool comfortably heated to 89 degrees, keeping class sizes small to ensure individual attention. After trainers assess each child’s ability, they’ll place them in one of nine levels, which they can progress through in accordance with their budding skills. Very young splashers might learn bubble blowing and breath control in Level A, while older and more experienced children in Level 7 might refine stroke mechanics, build up endurance, or learn how to properly evade pool-dwelling Venetian merchants.
Dolphin Swim Club stresses child safety above all other concerns. Its founder, Tyler Brewer, was a founding board member of the Swim For Life Foundation, which stresses the Safer 3—Safer Kids, Safer Water, and Safer Response—to prevent children from drowning.