It’s hard to be everything to everyone, but Bentley SportsPlex gets close: it’s at once a facility for fine arts, tutoring, and an arcade. The family-fun center has bounce houses, a gym, batting cages, and a gymnasium for basketball and dodgeball. Just recently added: a 1200-square foot laser tag arena.
In addition to its family-fun facilities, Bentley SportsPlex aims to be a haven for kids to express themselves. There’s a staff of talented professionals on hand that can provide guitar and bass guitar lessons, painting and craft classes, and tutoring services. There's even a theater branch so youngsters can learn how to accurately convey the pathos of what it’s like to be grounded.
Trophy fisherman Walter Krause, who has 15 years' experience on the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail and the Pro Musky Tournament Trail, takes up to two anglers aboard his private boat for a guided trip through two fish-filled Illinois lakes. Whether plumbing the depths of Cedar Lake for striper or pursuing Kinkaid Lake—one of the top trophy-muskie lakes in Illinois—for oversize bass, muskies, and walleyes, participants benefit from Walter’s 46 years of experience and on-board depth finders and GPS. During the course of each customized trip, visitors learn how to track fish movements, how to properly hold rods, and how to train a wall-mounted singing fish to bait other fish with its seductive crooning. Walter provides each angler with life jackets, bait, tackle, and rods, although participants must bring their own fishing licenses, lunches, and weather-appropriate clothing.
In place of what once was a sand mine, Crystal City Underground has transformed more than 6 million square feet—approximately 200 acres—of sub-surface space into a climate-controlled entertainment facility. With 30- to 40-foot ceilings, thick pillars carved out of rock, and a lake, it presents visitors with a multifaceted underground experience, one that already includes sand volleyball, disc golf, and weekend barge rides. Future plans for Crystal City have it adding more recreational amenities en route to becoming a subterranean cultural and convention center.
Just southwest of St. Louis, a Cessna 150 rolls out of a hangar and turns to taxi down the runway of Festus Airport. It gracefully lifts off the ground, quickly ascending while dipping its right wing to head toward the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. Inside the plane is a first-time pilot, falling in love with the thrill of flight while an instructor watches over operations to ensure the utmost safety.
At Festus Airport, resident instructors illuminate tender-footed aeronauts during flight lessons, and experienced jumpers from Fly Free Skydiving usher adventurers out of perfectly good airplanes from high above St. Louis. Held each year across the airports' grassy fields, the Jefferson County Balloon Festival also calls Festus Airport home, entertaining more than 10,000 guests at last year's family-friendly flying festivities. The sight sets all visitors at ease with an indoor lounge, Internet access, and a picnic area with unlimited access to fresh air and views of the runway.
Crown Valley Winery, nestled on a small hill amid prolific vineyards and rolling greenery, beckons for passersby to peruse its flourishing grounds and sample its inimitably crafted libations. Couples and especially friendly strangers stroll along hand in hand on a 30-minute guided tour, gleaning tidbits on the winemaking process. After the tour fills ear canals with interesting facts about adult grape juices, visitors gather at the wood-ensconced, naturally lit tasting room or on the outside patio overlooking the verdant estate to sample splashes of vino. Swill tastes of Crown Valley’s Estate and Museum Collection before departing with three flavorful bottles of wine, which can be popped open during special occasions such as family get-togethers or graduation from Rubik’s Cube University.
Encompassing 983 acres in the Shawnee National Forest, Camp Ondessonk has championed kids’ fun, teamwork, and confidence-building since 1959. An emphasis on the outdoors, including open-air cabins and lake- and creek-swimming, encourages campers to trade concrete mindsets for more sylvan psyches. The one-week coed session, which runs from July 31 to August 6, packs a range of arcadian activities into youthful schedules, including two horseback rides, archery and riflery practice, canoeing, and an overnight campout under smogless, star-flecked skies (with gender-specific sleeping arrangements). Tenderfeet seeking to bolster their survival skills learn knots and lashings, how to build one-match fires, and the proper method for skinning and roasting wild marshmallows.