A family walks down a lane cut into a sprawling field of corn, striding confidently until they reach a fork. After a debate, they turn left, and eventually left again. A wooden bridge leapfrogs them to a new path, lined with rows of eerily similar corn stalks. Luckily, it's a balmy day, the blue sky striated with wispy clouds, and they're not in a hurry to emerge from the green ocean of corn.
From an observation deck nearby, the 33-acre cornfield looks like a postage stamp inside the 450-acre farm, which grows soybeans, corn, and more than 50,000 Christmas trees. Homesteaded in 1840, the land is now owned and worked by a third generation of Richardsons. The family wanted to welcome visitors to the farm to enjoy the rural, outdoorsy fun that could only fit on such a sprawling space. They planted the corn maze?among the world's largest?and devised other attractions such as a zipline and paintball gallery. Visitors can also cheer on racing pigs, pet animals in an interactive zoo, and participate in different maze games. In autumn families come to pick pumpkins and in winter they cut their own Christmas trees.
The sudden roar of gunfire rolls over Richmond Hunting Club's facilities, which sprawl across 850 untamed acres. The club's location nearly adjacent to Chain O' Lakes State Park draws sportspeople of all levels who can spend time shooting skeet, boarding a loyal hunting dog at the onsite kennel, paintballing, or stocking up on ammo at the pro shop. Outdoorsy folks who frequent the club often tie up their mountain goat outside and congregate inside the Bar & Grill, refueling weary trigger fingers with buffalo burgers and pheasant pot pies in a classic hunting-lodge setting.
Inspired by the art-deco elegance of the 1940s, Olive Black Martini Lounge entertains guests with a refined roster of classic cocktails, specialty martinis, and soft lighting. Located less than two miles from the Wisconsin border, mixologists wield jiggers and shakers to conjure potions such as the Dark Secret and Pineapple Upside Cake. Selections of authentic tapas dishes settle stomachs after a few drinks, with bite-sized eats such as cajun bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin or seared shrimp served with fresh mango salsa. Meals end sweetly with such succulent desserts, including chocolate fondue.
The experienced handlers at Animal Quest travel to a range of soirees and other events, introducing humans to more than 35 species of exotic and native animals. Based on audience preference, they showcase the natural attributes and behavior of creatures such as an albino Burmese python, a gargoyle gecko, a giant rabbit, and a parrot. Handlers can organize their parties in interactive game shows with the audience or themed performances focused on subjects such as pirates, ninjas, and detectives. They also perform casual, one-on-one animal presentations, where they move freely throughout the crowd.
Since all of Animal Quest's animals are comfortable being handled, the company encourages patron participation—inviting audience members to get up close, touch the creatures, and view slides from the animal's most recent vacation. The critters also perform in television, film, and advertising segments, and on-staff animal behaviorists also travel to homes to train domesticated animals.
Some old-timey types of recreation are best left in the past—jousting, croquet, long pensive walks—but Skate on Grand gives roller-skating relevance to modern-day fun-seekers. A far cry from the roller rinks of yesteryear, its smooth, colorful skating surface comes to life beneath a rainbow of flashing lights and the sparkle of a disco ball. Its arcade also boasts contemporary bells and whistles including video games and an air hockey table. However, the snack bar’s staff recognizes that some things, such as ringing a bell to warn of invading enemy troops, simply can’t be improved upon, and dole out time-tested favorites such as pizza, hot dogs, and root-beer floats.
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.