Several years ago, during a filming of WTTW's Wild Chicago, Novelty Golf & Games owner Craig's brother stood next to a 10-foot fiberglass chicken and lamented, “This is the world’s loneliest chicken.” Its match had recently been stolen, and every fiberglass fox in the city had a solid alibi.
Shortly after the taping, a viewer called in with a tip: he’d seen the missing hen roosting in a backyard, clearly visible from the window of the Brown Line train. Boarding the "L" himself, Craig confirmed the spotting, and soon enough, the Loneliest Chicken's counterpart was on its way back home in the bed of a pickup truck.
Thus reunited, the two chickens stand proudly today over the 36 mini-golf holes at Novelty Golf & Games, along with the full menagerie of bears, elephants, mermaids, circus seals, and dinosaurs that the course has accumulated over its 63 years. Some of the attractions are as old as the course itself, including a 15-foot fiberglass shoe hand-built over a chicken-wire frame. While the statues are often replicated, Craig and his business partner Cassandra continue to design new obstacles the only way they know how, often sharing margaritas as they sketch their designs on cocktail napkins. “We change things,” they say, “but not for the sake of change.”
The course, after all, has always been a place of innovation. In the 1960s, Craig's mother opened an onsite restaurant and promoted the rabbit statue on the 14th hole to head doorman, earning the eatery its perennial nickname, “Bunny Hutch.” Throughout the years, the family has also acquired popular games, including four pinball machines, Dance Dance Revolution, an authentic photo booth, and a 1950s metal-stamping machine. Though they welcome each new addition, they strive to maintain the course’s classic appeal, insisting that “you can’t improve on perfection.”
On the same token, you can't just sit idly by when perfection flies the coop.
Kids rev up their imaginations inside Exploritorium, transforming into little inventors, climbers, or stars of the stage. Tykes caper through a slew of different interactive spaces, including a two-and-half story play structure chock full of tunnels and slides. A waterfall provides kids with a space to play with water toys, and includes a space for toddlers to sit and play in. Visual creations illuminate a giant light brite, and an engineering station crinkles new folds into little scientifically-minded brains. Nearby, a dress-up area wardrobes kids for stints as princesses and heros, readying them to act out adventures on the nearby stage.
More formal performances occur the third Tuesday of every month. On those days, a storyteller takes over the stage and spins exciting, family-friendly tales. Holidays usher in even more events, such as a Halloween party and an Itty Bitty New Year for families.
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