Joe Montalto was riding high after his first-place finish in the Illinois state wakeboarding championship. It was one step away from national recognition and sponsorship, and he hit the water hard to prepare. Joe was mastering a front flip 180 when he missed the wake and landed in the flat water, tearing his ACL and ending any chance he had at competing professionally. After such a career-altering accident, no one would have blamed him for leaving the sport, but he defied expectation. After years of rehabilitation with his wakeboard, Joe still rides the water regularly and spends each summer inducting new riders into the sport he loves with his company, Ride Lab Wakeboard School. He and his cousin, Cody Jarosch, lead groups onto the water to catch their first jump inside the wake. He also coaches competitive boarders for more serious competition, hosts summer camps, coaches collegiate clubs in between private lessons, and demos Ronix gear for anyone. In addition to his wakeboard lessons, Joe designs clothing bearing Ride Lab's insignia and shoots and edits film for his riders.
Costumed actors hide inside Heaps Haunted Corn Maze, ready to scare all those who dare enter. Alternatively, the flashlight maze is completely unhaunted and challenges visitors instead with a series of dead ends, switchbacks, and branching paths that they must navigate armed only with a flashlight. After walking through the maze of their choice, guests can unwind during a half-hour moonlight tractor ride, staying in the mood by singing the Scooby-Doo theme song under their breath.
Chicago Premier Boat Rental & Leasing's team helps their customers experience the joys of water sports without having to purchase their own vessel. With hourly rentals and leasing options, the team of boating enthusiasts hands groups the controls of 21-foot Regal 2100 LSRs, which boast 250-horsepower gas engines, open bows, and satellite radios tuned to the area's best carp DJs.
As the vessels speed along the Des Plaines River, water-sport equipment such as skis and tubes lets trailing passengers skim across the water's surface. Captains can navigate past the McKinley Woods County Forest Preserve or venture toward Lake Michigan. Additionally, Chicago Premier Boat Rental & Leasing's fleet of Cessna planes can help a new pilot sail through the sky with the ease of the fish who invented the jetpack.
Big Fish Bar & Grille's owner lures diners with seafood specialties made from fresh fish, which fill the lunch menu and dinner menu. Begin comestible voyages by knocking back an order of oysters Rockefeller ($14) while basking in the waterfront restaurant's vistas. A golden crab cake, cloaked in seasoned breadcrumbs like a baker playing hide and seek, rests on the Crabby Patty sandwich with Old Bay–sprinkled fries ($11). The Louisiana mac 'n' cheese, a pool of rigatoni noodles swimming amongst waves of a four-cheese sauce, buoys Cajun chicken and andouille sausage ($13). Big Fish wraps up the docket of edibles with a variety of jambalayas, steaks, and chops.
Motivating, highly trained staff and spacious facilities complement Charter Fitness's battalion of cardio machines and strength-training equipment. Huge flat-screen TVs motivate gym-goers as they lift weights, stationary bikes, and their reflections in large mirrors. Seasoned personal trainers who all hold certifications or four-year degrees in their specialty guide members through an initial personal-training session, introducing clients to the best equipment for their fitness goals. After workouts, private showers or public water fountains sluice away sweat.
At Raging Waves, certified lifeguards keep a vigilant watch over visitors as they traverse a park filled with 17 water slides and other aquatic attractions, but surveillance isn’t their only job. They secure up to four passengers in tubes before they zoom down a giant family slide and instruct riders on how to position their arms and wink Morse-code messages to eagles during their plunge down a winding speed slide with a near-vertical drop. Though adrenaline is the Raging Waves' main focus, it also houses slower-paced attractions such as a regular swimming pool, a quarter-mile lazy river, and separate children's play area.