For more than 50 years, the monks of Marmion Abbey have tended 300 acres of farmland. They started with Christmas trees, and now maintain 120 acres of pines, spruces, and firs that smell exactly like car freshener. On the remaining acres, they tend pumpkin vines and corn mazes, interspersing these areas with scenic picnic groves.
Throughout the year, the monks open their land to the public. In the autumn, they host Pumpkin Daze, a harvest festival with tractor wagon rides and a petting zoo. Around mid-November, they grant access to their tree farm, supplying visitors with rental saws for you-cut trees and bellowing "Timber!" just like Paul Bunyan did when he fell into bed at night. The monks stock their farm store with handcrafted goods that complement the season, whether caramel apples in the fall or quilts in the winter.
The team at Art-4-Kids believes that art plays a crucial role in children’s development, boosting creativity, encouraging self-expression, and helping improve problem-solving skills, concentration, and self-confidence. At their summer and winter camps, youngsters paint, draw, and create projects before leaving the program with a portfolio of vibrant work to call their own. During weekly classes, students dip their brushes into acrylics and watercolors, practice shading with graphite and pastels, and knead clay into unique works of art. The studio also creates colorful birthday memories during its parties, where celebrants paint canvases or ceramics, mold sculptures, or have their faces painted. Grownups can let their artistic instincts run wild too by scheduling a BYOB art night for up to 10 participants, sipping wine and painting their own acrylic masterpieces with step-by-step instruction from an artist.
A sizeable beer list keeps the party going at Stone City Saloon, a sports bar and grill with regular karaoke nights and an outdoor patio for bags-tossing. The kitchen cooks up classic pub food, including a signature spinach artichoke dip, wings, burgers, and sandwiches, while bartenders pour tap brews from makers such as Dogfish Head, Bell's, Revolution, and Three Floyds. Eight- and nine-ball pool leagues gather around the felt several times a week.
Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.
Dirt Runner races don't just challenge athletes—they push them to their limits. Set on rough terrain with a more than 1,200-foot change in elevation, the roughly 5K course is rife with agility and strength-testing obstacles. Those range from complex military-style structures to towering fences that require scaling. After completing the course, participants unwind at post-race festivities with food and music.
Nestled inside its window-laden storefront is Fox Valley Homebrew & Winery Supplies, a cozy, personable shop for home brewers and winemakers. Here, DIY brewers and vintners of all levels can snag equipment and ingredients for their projects in the form of fermenters, wine yeast, and winemaking books that, if stomped on hard enough, produce a floral bouquet with balanced tannins.