Equipped with an average of 10 years of teaching experience, the knowledgeable instructors at Fox Meadow Farms teach bipeds to tame galloping four-leggers on a tree-lined 68-acre property. Encompassing two indoor arenas, eight all-weather paddocks, and a 1/3-mile cross-country course, the facilities provide plenty of space for students to get a feel for the saddle. During the one-hour group lesson, experienced equiners tutor both beginners and advanced riders on how to walk, trot, and parallel park. The farm limits classes to groups of five or fewer to make sure teachers can interact with each student personally.
Johansen Farms started more than 85 years ago, when Hans Johansen and his family immigrated to Illinois from Copenhagen. Upon their arrival, the family started to grow and sell flowers and vegetables, slowly transforming their business from a roadside farm stand into a flourishing plant empire.
Today, sunlight filters into Johansen Farms’ 24 greenhouses, illuminating scarlet petals and verdant tendrils as they rise from beds of moist earth. Within these humid growing centers, gardeners cultivate more than 2,000 varieties of plants and flowers, from blooming annuals to hearty grasses. Guests meander at will, stopping to sniff baby flower buds and eye appetizing fruits and veggies.
At any moment, visitors to Wilderness Falls might run into the resident moose. He isn’t grazing: Maddux the Moose, the family fun center’s fuzzy mascot, spends his time playing its two 18-hole, outdoor mini-golf courses and accepting high-fives and hugs from enthusiastic guests. Maddux isn’t the only fixture that may make guests feel as though they’ve wandered into the woods¬; the two mini-golf courses are pretty rugged themselves. The Bear Course, which hosts the annual Chicago Mini-Golf Championship, leads putters past a 35-foot waterfall, into a dark cave, and across creaking wooden walkways, just like the race all of Harrison Ford’s clones run to determine which one will get to play Indiana Jones. Alternatively, the Eagle Course leads players around winding rivers and on a climb to the top of a 40-foot mountain of rock.
Of course, it’s not all roughing it. In the middle of the greens sits the tented arena that holds Wilderness Falls’ batting cages, including six baseball cages and three softball cages. An arcade lights up the indoor space with the glowing screens of video games, and party rooms hold birthday and team celebrations.
Parent-chaperoned youngsters take their first, wobbling steps on ice skates while the hockey stars they may one day become whiz around the rink, perfecting their technique. Skaters of all skill levels practice side by side during open skates at Rocket Ice Arena. Their nonskating supporters can look on from the Lake Placid Lodge, sipping drinks from the onsite café and using the lodge’s free Wi-Fi to check an app that tells them whether their glass is half empty or half full.
Home to the Sabres Youth Hockey Club, the rink also offers instruction in icebound sports. Their hockey instructors can introduce novices to the sport or train more experienced skaters how to compete on high-resistance synthetic ice. A separate team of instructors specializes in figure skating and synchronized skating, which is the art of synchronizing your feet to go in a single direction. Youngsters can also explore the rink during skate parties, which come with an on-ice instructor, decorations, and balloons.