Before opening Windmill Acres, Bruce and Lee Ann spent years exercising their green thumbs. Both raised on fourth-generation farms, the couple started a produce company after they were married. In the fall, Lee Ann painted pumpkins to sell from their farmers'-market stand, a tradition that mushroomed until she needed to hire more employees to paint as many as 6,000 pumpkins every year.
In 1997, the pair opened Windmill Acres, a place where they could combine their talents for horticulture and art. The nursery stocks a bumper crop of seasonal plants, from vegetables and flowers to a beanstalk rumored to be a shortcut back home to Ithaca. A miniature farm houses furry critters that visiting kids can pet while their parents enjoy steaming cups of coffee and talk gardening with the knowledgeable staff. Near the bucolic scene, a gift shop made of reclaimed barn wood showcases jewelry, flowers, paintings, other creations from local artists.
Alsip Home and Nursery, which was named Best Nursery/Garden Center 2010 by the SouthtownStar, has more than 40 years of sowing, growing, and plant-bestowing experience. The expansive greenhouse and nursery houses hundreds of annuals, perennials, tropical houseplants, vegetables, bulbs, and seasonal plants looking for a place to lay their roots. Plant a shrub such as the Magic Carpet Spirea ($6.97) to coat the ground in lush colors that can hide a spare key. Bring some frostable greenery into your garden with a 4.5" Proven Winner plant ($3.99). 'Tis nearly the season to invite a tree into your home to share holiday pies; fresh-cut Christmas trees and trim will soon be available (starting at $19.99).
Each year during early spring, the frost clinging to Indiana's Calumet region thaws, clearing the way for fresh grass, budding flowers, and smooth go-kart tracks. It's along the banked turns of Zig-E's Funland's Rippin' Raceway that drivers experience the cool breezes of the freshly temperate outdoors while careening over a 1/5-mile track. Zig-E's friendly staff is on hand to point visitors in the direction of the new tactical laser tag, bungee trampoline, or toward the waterfall-flanked greens of the 18-hole mini-golf course that blankets the 3.4-acre property. Inside, a year-round arcade is packed with more than 50 video and redemption games that buzz and blip as players pass virtual levels and amass tokens. Throughout the day, staffers at the snack shop reenergize fun seekers with tasty snacks and drinks and tales of the day humans first came down from the mountain to play Laser Tag.