The Winery at Shale Lake sprawls over 212 acres of verdant terrain, with a 10-acre vineyard producing a menu of eight original wines for enjoyment in an array of charming settings. Spin around the 24-acre lake during a 30-minute bike ride aboard any of the Surrey cycles available for rent, or hike the scenic trail to slowly experience nature and the soothing melodies of Bigfoot quartets. Sip on up to five complimentary varieties of wine in the tasting room, built into the barn for a fine equine view through the picture window, and chow on gastronome goodies, including baked brie with raspberry sauce ($6), or white garlic and sausage pizza ($9). Kick back in the winter loft during colder months, playing pool and swirling sippers such as the Fifth Dimension, a sweet red foch wine, and the Beginners Luck, a semisweet chambourcin (all $4.50 by the glass). Live performers burst into song roughly twice a month, so thirst quenchers can enjoy sweet sounds while tickling their taste buds and their friends' bellies on Saturday evenings.
As Halloween approaches, dozens of macabre vistas appear across the country, frightening but somehow also beckoning groups of visitors. The masterminds behind these apparitions? America Is Haunted, a company that has fear down to a science. That starts with the element of surprise, as each location holds its own secrets and scares. Six terrifying mazes, eight mini-shows, more than 300 monsters, goblins, and ghouls including larger-than-life rats, spiders, and gargoyles, as well as interactive experiences, gory vignettes, and costumed actors await throughout each attraction. The escorted journey may begin with a disorienting, technicolor maze where each turn brings guests face to face with some new horror. Other locales might include a maximum-security prison where the inmates run wild or a grocery store where the cereal is all the healthy kind.
The labyrinthine streets of Chicago contain a wealth of bizarre secrets?it just takes the right person to find them. That's where the team of quirky guides behind Weird Chicago Tours come in. As a diverse group of amateur detectives, history buffs, and ghost-hunters, they've acquired the knowledge and experience necessary to lead others into the city's darkest corners. At some stops, passengers disembark and venture inside for a closer look.
Weird Chicago Tours is always devising new tour themes, such as the Roaring '20s Tour: an adults-only exploration of Prohibition and 1920s gangster activity through visits to a former brothel district and a series of bars. The Haunted History Tour recounts some of Chicago's most unusual ghost stories and stops at areas of reported paranormal activity. Other tours prowl sites tied to Al Capone's notorious career and the St. Valentine's Day massacre or grisly crime scenes straight out of the novel Devil in the White City.
Each day, as the sun rises over the Illinois River Valley, light spills across Kickapoo Creek Winery's 14 acres of vineyards. Dr. David Conner originally began planting these vines in 2001. Now joined by his son, Rory, Dr. Connor creates rich, fruit-forward wines using locally sourced grapes in addition to the family's own grape harvests. Each wine brings its own melange of flavors and aromas, whether it's the tropical and citrus notes of the vignoles-seyval blanc blend or the norton's subtle spice and hints of ripe plum. The Connor family also makes wines infused with the luscious fruit flavors of everything from cranberries to peaches; and the selection of dessert wines includes bottles infused with chocolate.
Although the tasting room's samples lure many visitors, Kickapoo Creek Winery also provides guests with opportunities to explore its picturesque grounds. Walking trails can guide visitors past rows of trellised grapevines, a bubbling fountain, and even a bridge overlooking Lake Elizabeth. The grounds also include a handful of places for guests to stop and rest for a spell, such as the partially shaded Ruby Glow Garden with its miniature waterfall of grape juice.
It's more likely that Illinois River Winery founder and winemaker Gregg Kane is out in the field or tinkering in the wine lab than in the chair behind his desk. Thanks to his hard work, the winery's tasting room offers a selection of more than 30 varietals daily, from crisp, dry wines with vibrant acidity to wet wines known for their unique ability to quickly soak into a shirt. During warmer months, grab a glass and head out to the patio, where live music sweetly serenades sippers every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, a USDA–approved big-cat rescue facility, plays motherly host to a roaring family composed of five tigers and a lone lioness with a sultry swagger. Adopting philanthropists can align with their striped or unstriped spirit animal, choosing from noble felines such as the elder Mohan—a white male tiger with blue eyes, a pink nose, and a natural screen presence—or Raja—the relentlessly caring mother of sisters Gracie and Thor.