In the spirit of the city motto, "Urbs in horto" (City in a Garden), Chicago established its first parks in 1869. The Chicago Park District as it exists today was created in 1934 and holds sway over 8,200 acres of open space, including 31 beaches, 40 nature areas, and upward of 570 parks. But the park district provides access to more than just the green expanses of its outdoor domain; its facilities harbor the waxed hardwood of indoor basketball courts, the chlorinated splashes of swimming pools, and other features that facilitate active lifestyles. Park administrators offer athletic programming year round, as well as seasonal events such as autumn pumpkin patches and summer's Movies in the Park, part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative, which features more than 750 citywide cultural and arts activities. The park district also oversees many local civic landmarks, including the iconic Buckingham Fountain.
When Ben Shimon first started S3 Leagues, he envisioned recreationally competitive leagues full of people with whom he wanted to be friends. Six years later, they've run 112 leagues total and attracted 15,100 participants. S3 Simply Social Leagues and S3 Singles Leagues hosts dozens of coed leagues year round, such as 16-inch softball, kickball, skeeball, beach volleyball, Whirlyball, and dodgeball at locations throughout the city. After matches, all teams hang out at local sponsor bars for celebratory sips or to plot their comeback in the next game. Each of the leagues meet once a week, with off-field events happening as players' social calendars dictate.
Ivy League Baseball Club believes the best seats in the house aren’t necessarily behind home plate. In fact, in the case of Wrigley Field, they might not even be in the house. Instead, they’re across the street on one of five levels, where fans sink into extra-wide cushioned stadium seats to watch the action from just beyond the center of right field. Like beauty, or a housebroken goat, the fans might be either inside or outside. If they’re wandering the three indoor lounges, which double as spots to host corporate meetings or group events, they’ll enjoy audio-visual equipment and a full-service bar stocked with 16 draft beers. On the rooftop, as many as 205 baseball fans wander a large deck area with food service, luxury restrooms, and a heated bar. Just below, a second outdoor seating area hosts 40 shaded seats and outdoor plasma televisions that show slow-motion replays of players making diving catches or tripping streakers.
Built from the ground up in 2007, the Sheffield Baseball Club, Ivy League Baseball Club, and Wrigley Field Rooftop Club feature full-service bars stocked with premium draft beers and spreads of meaty entrees and sweet desserts. Extra-wide cushioned seats, outdoor plasma televisions, and canopied table areas recall the luxury of watching a game at home, and elevators shuttle guests to and from each of the handicap-accessible clubs' multiple levels. Between pitches, attendees can catch glimpses of Chicago's skyline looming in the distance, where the Willis Tower and Wrigley Building can be seen painting "Go Cubs!" across their exposed bellies.
Typically, it takes months to prepare for a marathon. Without proper endurance training, most marathon runners falter miles before the finish line. Hapilly, the Chicago Beerathon pays nothing but lip service to its -athon suffix, and there are really only a few things a prospective contestant needs to know. First, get a good night's rest beforehand. Second, don't bother pre-gaming, there's enough buzz to go around. Third, don't bother stretching or practicing a victory face—it's not really a competition. And finally, keep some cab fare on hand for afterwards, because at the Chicago Beerathon, every participant is a designated drinker.
Starting at noon and ending at 3 a.m., the Chicago Beerathon is springtime in October for fans of hops, barley, malt, and hiccups. Spiraling out from Wrigleyville to 26 of the city's most joyous venues, beer fans savor 6 ounce pours of craft brew at every stop. With music from live bands and DJs soundtracking the slurry quest, revelers end up with 26 beers in their gullets, leaving only 73 verses of "99 Beers on the Wall" to go.
Visitors can only enter this Wrigley rooftop during Cubs home games, but they usually make their limited time count. As they enjoy an unobstructed view inside the stadium (the building is brand new and so was explicitly designed for watching baseball), they chomp on unlimited hot dogs, burgers, and italian beefs and sip 16 draft beers.