Harry Houdini was legendary for his daring escapes, but he's still never escaped the public's imagination. To wit: AKA Houdini, whose artifacts offer a hands-on glimpse into some of his most infamous tricks. Along with the Appleton-raised illusionist, The History Museum at the Castle's award-winning exhibits focus on other notable Fox Valley natives, including Senator Joseph McCarthy. Dating back to the 1840s, the museum's collection of Fox Valley artifacts includes 35,000 photographs and 20,000 pieces, such as parts of a vintage gas station. At an exhibit tracing the origins of the area's most famous foods, such as frozen custard and fish fries, visitors can even spear sturgeons inside a life-size virtual ice shanty.
These pieces of Fox Valley history are housed inside a Masonic temple listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1923, the temple exemplifies the medieval, Norman Revival style with rough-hewn stone, vaulted ceilings, and fire-breathing dragons guarding its entrance. Designed as a community center, the temple continues to serve that function by hosting the museum's year-round events, including papermaking programs and magic workshops.
At Ellipse Fitness, the only pieces of machinery that you operate are the levers, pulleys, and ball-and-socket mechanisms of your own skeleton. The gyms abstain from treadmills and bikes in favor of a full class schedule and a cooperative group atmosphere. With 35 or more lessons scheduled per week, certified instructors guide students of all experience levels through an ever-changing line-up of strength and cardio drills. These routines incorporate tools such as resistance bands, TRX suspension cords, kettle bells, battling ropes, and kickboxing equipment, though the primary instrument is always the human physique.
In addition to their standard classes, the staff also hosts boot-camp sessions and seminars on mastering your metabolism. Their weight-loss programs encompass weekly check-ins, during which clients receive nutritional resources and gauge their progress by taking measurements instead of stockpiling all the food they didn't eat in a jar. Regardless of its ultimate goal, each Ellipse Fitness regimen involves personal attention and a holistic, full-body approach to wellness.
Sometimes numbers speak louder than letters. And sometimes they come together to tell a wonderfully vociferous story: six large-screen TVs, 700 full CDs, and 2,000 music videos. That's the tale of the tape at Third Base Sports Bar & Grill, where the staff navigates around a pool table and dartboard to serve pizza, burgers, and sandwiches. The menu includes a BLT stack and a philly wrap with shredded steak, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and mozzarella. The team rents out a party room for $15 per hour, which includes a lighting-and-sound system and a dancing stage that actually gets up and dances in front of the floors of the other rooms. The libation department complements the food team by serving Budweiser, Blue Moon, and Miller Lite.
The scene at Deja Vu Martini Lounge is wild and fierce, blurring the lines between speakeasy, jazz club, and upscale lounge. More than 125 varieties of martinis—including specialties such as the seasonal pumpkin-spice martini—enhance the experience at this nighttime hot spot, alongside other inebriants such as wine and beer. Live music permeates the airwaves, and recorded hits from crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye blend with classic decor to pay homage to yesteryear.
Seasoned boat captains and crustacean prospectors Sig Hansen, Johnathan Hillstrand, and Andy Hillstrand gather to share with audience members their tales of struggle and survival during crab season on the high seas, as partly documented by the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Fishing the Bering Sea in the middle of winter demands strong wills—which can come together in times of treacherous weather and 100-foot waves or come to blows about who performs better in the three-legged crabwalk race. Selected audience members will also have the chance to don the survival suits from the Time Bandit. Following the story-swapping and previously unreleased video footage, greenhorns and avid fans will have the opportunity to launch questions at the captains, wave giant foam claws, and learn how to communicate in claw-snap Morse code.