New releases get an old-fashioned treatment at McHenry Outdoor Theater, a 1950s-style drive-in screening two back-to-back movies every night. With a special focus on family films, the starlit screen shines across comforts including a concession stand vending burgers, brats, pizza, and hot dogs, and a dog-friendly policy to ensure everyone has someone cuddly to grab during the scary parts. While the story unfolds on screen, the theater pumps the sound through complimentary radios, and approximately half the viewing spots are equipped with vintage speakers that complete the timeless slice of Americana. Besides new releases, which are regularly updated every two weeks, the theater might show anything from golden oldies to alternative comedies to classic blockbusters.
Located less than 90 minutes from Chicago amidst Illinois's largest concentration of natural lakes, the Chain O' Lakes State Park Riding Stable sits on a 2,793-acre park neighbored by a 3,230-acre conservation area. There, horseback trail rides explore undulating hills and thick forest populated by deer, eagles, and the much-sought-after Keebler elf. Horse-drawn wagon rides—led by seasoned drivers along wooded trails—furnish especially colorful views in autumn, and the stable staff can curate optional cookouts at wooded picnic sites.
Single-seat Formula K go-karts sidle beside two-seaters on Kristof Entertainment Center's family-friendly driving track. After letting the wind tussle hair, friends and families compete on the 18-hole scenic miniature-golf course replete with challenging holes and flanked by waterfalls, fountains, and castles. In batting cages, baseballs and softballs hurl toward bat-wielders, and players send bowling balls careening toward pins across lanes during regular or cosmic bowling. Sports skills are further tested at seven billiards tables that leave ample opportunity for sinking in eight-balls, and the arcade's classic redemption games such as skee-ball facilitate fun and prizes. After exhausting all one's rounds of play, Kristof's Bar reenergizes visitors with Pepsi products and snacks while broadcasting sports on its many televisions.
In 1848, dairy cows grazed on the 30 acres that now host the Volo Auto Museum’s five showrooms. The mooing of heifers has given way to the imaginary roar of 200 collector cars and 100 gleaming autos that once graced movie and television sets—including a Batmobile from the 1966 TV series, a Herbie from the latest movie, and one of the first General Lees. After ogling the television and movie collection, guests can wander among vintage and antique vehicles and reminisce about the days when we still had to go places in person.
Nearby, the military exhibit’s realistic scenery surrounds vehicles ranging from a WWII BMW motorcycle with sidecar to a 1967 Bell helicopter shot down in Vietnam. After examining older artillery and artifacts, visitors can gaze at cases holding items retrieved from Saddam Hussein’s palace and from captured Iraqi soldiers. Those below driving age can explore kids’ attractions, including SpongeBob’s boatmobile.
Guests traverse the vast showrooms on foot or via a 1915, Victorian-style trolley, free on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Trolley tours begin by exploring autos that used to be stabled by the rich and famous alongside their unicorns. They then venture into the old dairy farm’s 19th-century barn, where activity by Civil War ghosts has drawn investigators from the Discover Channel’s Ghost Lab. Before leaving, visitors can refuel with an Angus-beef patty at the Betty Boop Burger Bar and Beer Garden or drop into four antique malls.
Booming top 40 hits echo throughout Just for Fun Roller Rink’s two vast arenas, amping up the entertainment as skaters glide and showcase moves in open-skate sessions and parties. The glittering of disco balls and the surreal glow of black lights transform the colored wheels of rental roller skates, speed skates, or roller blades into vibrant blurs as they spin across polished floors. While smooth movers hold hands and stack themselves into speedy human pyramids, video-game enthusiasts can get their fix at the arcade games along the side of the rink, and food enthusiasts can whet their palate with pizza, hot dogs, and snacks. Come Saturday night, the rink transforms into a live-music venue for local bands, and on holidays and special occasions such as New Year's Eve, Halloween, and Insomniac-Appreciation Day it puts on all-night celebrations.
Owner and head instructor Netta Schleden harnesses her training at the British Horse Society to enhance horses and their riders alike. Eleven lesson horses hold riders aloft during safety-oriented riding lessons, while a team of sale horses allows riders to select their very own steed for engaging mounted police officers in high-speed chases. Equidream's boarding house lavishes steeds with twice-a-day feedings in clean and secure lodgings. The grounds' 2 acres of grass pasture are fit for blissful galloping, and 10’x12’ stalls allow ample space for horse yoga.