Founder Amanda Scotese, an avid traveler and freelance writer for Rick Steves's renowned travel guides, delegates sure-footed guides to lead sightseers to iconic landmarks and down the back alleys and lesser-known nooks of the Windy City. Tours probe the ins and outs of the Chicago's neighborhoods, such as the Loop, where they fill eyes with the sights of world-renowned architecture and minds with the secrets of the Pedway, an underground walkway that connects buildings throughout the business district with the Ninja Turtles' lair. The Historic Chicago Bar Tour, born of Chicago Detours' desire to spread knowledge of the city's entertainment history, takes tour-goers to three historic bars in an exploration of how the city had fun. Private group Jazz, Blues & Beyond tours explore historic neighborhoods on the North and South sides, and include diversions such as harmonica lessons from a bona fide blues blower. Chicago Detours also offers private-group tours for birthdays, family reunions, and corporate team-building exercises. Private group tour options also include Meat History of Fulton Market and Chicago Neighborhoods and Cultural Diversity.
At iCombat Aurora, groups heroically battle their way through a ravaged cityscape. The buildings aren't populated by enemy soldiers, however, but legions of test subjects plagued by the PHC virus, a biological weapon that induces amnesia and a hunger for human flesh. When traversing the 12,000-square foot space, teams work to eliminate the infected, who lurk in the shadowy corners and emerge only when they hear approaching footsteps or an ice cream truck. Sharpshooters also have the option of squaring off against each other, with one group acting as the military and the other acting as the militia group who spread the virus.
Regardless of the mission, everyone is equipped with replicas of actual weapons that sound, recoil, and flash just like the real thing. In many of the games, combatants wear high-tech targets that keep track of statistics, so teammates needn't worry about keeping score as they brave a post-apocalyptic scene right out of their favorite TV shows and video games.
After undergoing a complete overhaul for the 2013 season, Eleventh Hour Haunted House swallows visitors in 30,000 square feet of strobe lights, fog, and theme park-quality sets—some of which loom over patrons at 20 feet high. Such epic scale has earned the indoor labyrinth a coffin full of accolades, including the title of "Best Overall Halloween Event" from ChicagoHalloweenGuide.com last year. But despite the ominous environments and bloodcurdling characters, Eleventh Hour actually eliminates the scariest part of the season: long waits. Instead of making guests stand in line or rake invisible leaves before heading inside, the haunted house invites them to kill time in a festival area with food and refreshments for sale.
Through St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats, Rich Anderson shares the rich history of the Fox River with tour groups, a history that his 68-year-old business is very much apart of. Rich’s father, Chet, purchased the Honeymoon Queen for $200 in 1945, hoping to offer rides to picnickers in neighboring Pottawatomie Park. Though the boat required exhaustive repairs, it would soon become a regular sight as it ferried school groups, dinner parties, and lazy ducks along the waters. Both Chet and the Honeymoon Queen retired from the waters by the 1980’s, turning over the operations to Rich and the current fleet of paddleboats, which feature open upper decks and spacious enclosed lower decks. Today, as the St. Charles Belle II and Fox River Queen churn the serene waters, guests take in scenic views and learn about the Pottawatomie tribe that lived upon the river’s banks almost 200 years ago.
After braving glowing leopards and sunken ships, mini golfers face a pterodactyl at the 18th hole of a black-lit golf course. Kids toss downsized bowling balls down jungle-themed lanes without the need for rental or clown shoes, and three stock-car simulators pretend to propel faux drivers to speeds of up to 180 mph. Tropical murals brighten the 4,000-square-foot arcade, and two bounce houses host private birthday parties or off-duty astronauts during open-jump times.
To fuel family bonding, groups can gather at Shef Brothers Pizza, a space-themed restaurant aglow with planets inside Fore! Family Fun. The menu dishes up pizza, kid-friendly options, and beer and wine for adults or to pair with cheese that has been aged 21 years.
Nobody lugs around heavy bags full of quarters at Galloping Ghost Arcade, because every game inside the suburban arcade is free. After paying the daily entry fee, guests are free to roam through rows of more than 370 games such as Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Burger Time, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Mario Brothers, Mortal Kombat, Galaga, Double Dragon, Street Fighter, and NBA Jam. As the arcade games burble and chirp cheerily, Twilight Zone pinball machines chatter near cocktail tables with built-in Ms. Pac-Man games. For special occasions, the arcade also offers private gaming rooms stocked with four 42-inch TVs, leather couches, and a choice of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Sega Genesis, Atari, or Nintendo NES consoles.