Crossroads Fund’s Youth Fund for Social Change grant offers a $1,000 endowment to Chicago youth activists who want to change policies or structures that pose barriers to equality in their communities. Youth-led nonprofit organizations and young people 26 and under are eligible to apply, with a tangible idea for a project that aims to clean up the environment, combat LGBT-related violence, and improve school attendance. Past grant awardees have organized a youth forum to end gang violence in their neighborhood, and raised awareness for legislation to prevent bullying in Illinois schools.
Thick velvet curtains complement vivid crimson walls and leather furnishings at The Play Room, an upscale cocktail bar where area musicians echo over a menu laden with homemade Italian-American bites. An in-house chalkboard scrawled with daily specials and the correct spelling of the chef’s name, while twisty ribbons of gemelli pasta snake through the Famous Pasta Josephine’s panoply of spicy sausage, pecorino cheese, and house marinara cream. Libations flow from a full-service bar, where expert mixologists concoct specialty cocktails or pour one of a dozen wines in the flickering glow of an on-site fireplace, which casts its gauzy glow over the eatery’s dulcet lineup of local musicians.
For 50 years, Mont Clare Lanes & Banquets has been dismantling boredom with competitive 10-pin games and dismissing hunger with an onsite restaurant. The bowling center houses 32 lanes equipped with a slew of modern conveniences, such as automatic scoring machines, two video screens, and an electric fence at each fowl line. Themed event nights are peppered throughout the week, such as Cosmic Bowling night, in which lanes bathe in the glow of darkened light waves as glow-in-the-dark balls spin to the beats of a live DJ. A full-service restaurant and bar pleases palates with eats ranging from wings to house-made pizzas alongside sudsy brews, and an adjoining banquet room plays host to corporate events, birthday parties, and jubilant Groundhog Day celebrations.
Sandhill Christmas Trees cultivates a festive forest of pines free of pesticides and paint to bestow customers with lush house adornments for the holiday season. Revelers peruse rows of vibrant conifers—plucked from the Earth in mid-November to preserve their freshness—and select the ideal 5- to 6-foot tree destined to uphold cherished North Star or titanium snow-yeti tree toppers. Servings of hot chocolate, cookies, candy canes, and peanut butter–filled pretzels warm up and refuel patrons as they explore the grounds. Though not included in today’s Groupon, Sandhill Christmas Trees stocks a number of wreaths, garland, tree stands, and box-and-rope elf traps as well as delivers sprawling saplings to local residents for a fee.
Whisper Creek’s visionary architects, Greg Nash and Billy Casper, and Orchard Valley’s architect, Ken Kavanaugh, present two championship-style courses of verdant, undulating terrain, flecked with challenging features. Golfers traverse Whisper Creek's 240 acres of protected wildlife sanctuary in GPS-enabled golf carts that provide yardage measurements, record scores, and eliminate the need to ask tiger-head club covers for directions. During an 18-hole round (up to a $68 value with cart), clubs send dimpled orbs hurtling past imported white-sand bunkers, pristine waters, and more than 5,000 character hardwoods. Over on Orchard Valley’s 6,800-yard, par 72 grounds, manicured practice facilities conduct dress rehearsals for the course’s 18 holes (up to a $76 value with cart), which span sand traps and wetlands, including the expansive water hazard on the aptly named "All or Nothing at All" second hole.
My Gym Children's Fitness Center, which currently has more than 200 international locations, began more than 30 years ago as a structured place for children to safely play, acquire new skills, and romp off a sugar buzz. All classes are organized according to age level—starting as young as 6 months—and designed to incorporate the latest physiological and psychological research. Tiny Tykes gets babies moving with help from their parents, Mighty Mites teaches toddlers self-reliance and beginning sports skills, and Champions, a class for kids aged 6–8, emphasizes the importance of using teamwork to master more complex sports skills and achieve group goals such as building a human pyramid to reach the cookie jar. My Gym's energetic instructors are experts at using music, dance, and gymnastics to build youngsters' strength and self-esteem while stimulating their giggle-plexes. The noncompetitive environment fosters creativity and hands-on activities boost children's learning retention and fun quotient.
The staff of artists working at Terra Incognito's 6,000-square-foot arts space pass on their knowledge to students, teaching them to throw clay on the wheel, build shapes by hand, or sculpt perfect teacups with their hands tied behind their backs. Groups work in classrooms furnished with different types of kilns—gas, electric, wood, or sodium-carbonate powered—each designed to handle different projects. Classes on metalworking and basket making expand the school’s scope beyond pottery. The space also functions as a gallery filled with the finished ceramic work of well-known and emerging artists.