A bomb has been planted, and each passing tick threatens to steal what is rightfully yours: victory. Laser tag guns and teamwork can stop it, along with the ability to crack the code. There's just one more problem?a rival team dead set on chaos. This type of game, called "Search and Destroy," is just one of a dozen mission types at CMP Tactical Lazer Tag's locations. The CMP empire has spread to four cities in three states: Milwaukee, Des Moines, Frankfort, and Lake Geneva. At each one, the staff breaks up games into different sessions and multiple objective-based tasks, such as rescuing hostages or pulling off a heist so players never have to pay for ice cream again.
Depending on the location, these tactical missions might take place indoors or outside. In Des Moines, The Plaza surrounds teams in two levels with multiple buildings and a balcony, which offers elevated views of opponents. Geneva's The Wasteland, on the other hand, claims to be the "largest dedicated outdoor laser tag battlefield in the world." Stacks of lumber and buildings forged from railroad ties grant precious cover, as does the natural foliage. Regardless of the location, sessions begin in the armory, where players suit up in all the requisite laser tag gear.
The Sylvester family had bartending in its blood. Whether it was Uncle Mickey holding court with 40 years' worth of regulars or Tony Sr. mixing one of his signature Skip and Go Nakeds, they exemplified the easy grace and no-nonsense craftsmanship found in a true barman's barman. That dedication to well-poured drinks carried over to Tony Jr., who has spent the last 35 years training mixologists nationwide through the curriculum of his ABC Bartending Schools. Taught behind fully functional bars, his courses educate students in topics ranging from drink recipes and equipment setup to flair moves and alcohol awareness. His schools also emphasize employment; after graduation, students can take advantage of a nationwide job placement service to land gigs in Miami nightclubs, Las Vegas casinos, or the bar cars of Chicago's El trains.
Creepy Hallow Halloween Fun Park, like a friendly man that transforms into a ravenous werewolf, boasts two very different sides when entertaining customers. During the day, revelers of all ages frolic through pumpkin patches and enjoy hayrides after bouncing inside a moonwalk and visiting friendly animals at the petting zoo. But as the sun goes down, the ghosts and ghouls come out in full force. Blood Shed haunted house entices those brave enough to enter its halls and escape with their lives, while haunted hayrides put riders on a crash course with all manner of horrors. On the zombie-hunt paintball ride, customers, with weapon in hand, can wreak a terrible vengeance upon undead hordes.
A horse can find any variety of activity to while away the time at Downtown Equestrian Center, from grazing in the 3-acre grass paddock to leaping over oxers in the outdoor arena. During one-hour lessons, instructors supplement riding basics, such as grooming, tacking, and communication, with more nuanced elements including posture, etiquette, and equitation. Beyond training and boarding services, the ranch also hosts several family-friendly pursuits, from one-week summer camps to meetings of 4-H, named after horses’ four favorite things: hocks, hooves, Henri Matisse paintings, and hay.
Chicago Blu welcomes diners into its family-friendly eatery with live music and hearty bar fare. The menu revs up stomach engines with starters such as spicy southwest rolls stuffed with cheese and chicken and served with tangy ranch or sweet chili sauce ($7). Wrap tonsils around the Southside blu burger—a pretzel bun cradling a half-pound of charbroiled beef topped with bleu cheese and grilled onions ($8.50). Those who put pork on a pedestal can commission a replica of The Thinker made of bacon or can opt for a BBQ rib platter served with coleslaw and fries ($8.50/half rack, $16/whole rack). Entree salads can give grazers their fill of greenery ($9+), and a beer or a glass of wine from the full bar lubes up digestive tracks for the death by brownie dessert ($6).
Across two floors and 6,700 square feet, KidsWork Children's Museum's prompts hands-on play with scores of new exhibits. A table-top interactive computer, or SMART table, stimulates kids' brains with interactive puzzles and games. A weekly music class on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. invite kids to make some noise with instruments made from recycled materials. Interlocking wooden builder boards encourage open-ended play; there's also a floor piano, an interactive ATM, and story time at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. The museum welcomes field-trip groups and birthday parties to explore its innards as well as special-needs families, members, and walk-in visitors.
While large groups are welcome, each child is celebrated through hands-on play. Just look at the gigantic, three-dimensional Pinscreen exhibit, a jumbo version of the classic toy that uses sliding pins to create a 3-D impression of whatever you press into them—in this case, your entire body. Along with the Lincoln-Way North Key Club, the Frankfort Fire Department helped construct the three walls by painstakingly inserting nearly 200,000 pins by hand. Their effort resulted in one of the museum's most popular interactive displays. More than that, it reflects the sense of community, curiosity, and creativity that the museum strives to engender in its patrons.