When he shuts up his workshop at the North Pole after another successful holiday season, Santa Claus doesn't simply hibernate until next December. Instead, he packs up his sleigh and heads to his summer home at the Fox River Valley's Santa's Village Azoosment Park. Open from May to October, the wonderland greets guests with three separate amusement experiences. The fun begins in Santa's Village, where quaint alpine building and expertly manicured pathways awaken feelings of nostalgia in hearts young and old. There, visitors can zoom down the original Santa's Tree House Slide, hitch a ride on the Kringle Convoy, or snap a picture at a recreation of Santa's North Pole home. They can also tap into the amusement rides including the antique carousel, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and Dracor the Dragon's Coaster.
A renowned lover of animals, Santa has also filled his park with a menagerie of creatures both familiar and exotic. After visiting Rudolph and company at Reindeer Ridge, visitors can grab a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh on their way to see the denizens of Parakeet Paradise, Tortoise Island, or Old MacDonald's Farm and Petting Zoo. In addition to grabbing up-close peeks of everything from a red-tailed boa to a fennec fox, visitors can also take in an exotic animal show that educates audience members about the park's wild residents.
Always in the holiday spirit, the park welcomes groups looking to add a spark to reunions, birthday, or group outings. This accommodating spirit even extends to the park's rule book: parking is free, and picnic baskets are encouraged.
Village Vintner Winery & Brewery poses a gastronomic triple threat, operating as not just a restaurant and winery, but also a fully functioning brewery. A battalion of stainless-steel machinery ferments the hand-selected wheat and barley that make up the vanilla-cream ale, the German-style hefeweizen, and the Vintner Hop Rocket, an 8.2% ABV varietal culminating from six types of hops and mad, mad science. At the tasting bar, guests can sample these brewery end products, along with Village Vintner’s expansive selection of homemade red, white, and fruit wines. The main restaurant area houses a wood-fired pizza oven, which bakes the pesto pizzas and smoldering baby back ribs that complement potables.
A spirit of good-natured fun permeates the copper-hued premises, as evidenced by a free monthly wine and mug club. Live music is a common occurrence on Friday nights, and Wednesdays star Chef Rob’s pork special.
A bowler since the age of 5, owner Jerry Morano spent his formative years watching his dad bowling with the guys. At the age of 20, Morano bowled his first perfect game and over his professional bowling career played a total of 26 perfect games and won five Professional Bowling Association regional titles. During that time, he was working for a major auto company and it was his dream to retire and own his own alley someday. That dream came true when he bought Liberty Lanes Bowling Center in 2008.
Morano quickly fell in love with the bowling alley’s 24 retro-style wooden lanes. As families and friends send balls careening toward the pins, an automatic Brunswick Frameworx system keeps score impartially and refrains from remarking on each bowler’s form. Between frames, bowlers can refuel at the snack bar, which serves french fries, pizza, and chicken fingers. At the bar, patrons can pair 16-ounce cans of Schlitz with games on three pool tables and two electronic dart machines.
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.
Raging Buffalo's adrenaline junkies have turned their athletic addiction into a successful enterprise by offering snowboarding and wakeboarding lessons to beginners and experienced riders. In the summer, their instructors take to the wake for lessons that start at the wakeboard school?open since 2001?before taking students on 15-minute riding sessions. When winter comes, the instructors dry-dock their boards in local bear caves and show students how to navigate the drifts with snowboard lessons at their ski park, which opened in 1992. Additionally, Raging Buffalo plays host to a variety of events, from rail jams to USASA competitions.
Dylan's Pub welcomes in familiar neighborhood regulars as well as new friends with frosty brews, entertaining bar games, and tantalizing feasts of sandwiches, wraps, and pizzas. Guests tuck in to lunches and dinners of sauce-slathered wings and barbecue pork sandwiches, or greet the day with weekend breakfasts of omelets, french toast, and biscuits. Nightfall finds crowds of revelers sipping skinny cocktails or cold beers as they challenge each other to bouts of NTN trivia, golf, bowling, darts, pool, and chariot racing. Live entertainment in the form of DJs, dueling pianos, and bandaroke entertain the masses, and upstairs, a private-party room provisions up to 100 guests with big-screen TVs, a jukebox, and piped-in DJ music.