StarView Vineyards is home to both native and French-American hybrid grapes that flourish on the vine during breezy, sunny summers. Seven varieties emerge from those vines, resulting in 12 signature wines, from the semi-dry, citrusy vignoles to the Red Star, a semi-sweet chambourcin. Stop by the tasting room to sip samples of these blends—along with wine slushies and sangrias—or head to the cafe to snack on grilled chicken sandwiches and pasta salad.
Nestled in the Silent Forest—a place rich with local legends and tall tales—Hidden Lake Winery and Banquet Center carves out a cozy spot among the canopy of trees. The rustic lodge plays host to tastings where folks sample a selection of the winery's award-winning, hand-crafted wines. Each of the varietals is made from locally-grown fruits and bottled on-site. On weekends, chefs craft dishes from a quaint menu to pair with the wines, such as artisanal flatbreads, spinach-artichoke dip, and crispy deep-fried ravioli. For folks who'd like to make a weekend of it, Hidden Lake opens up deluxe cabins complete with jacuzzis and fireplaces.
While unloading their ammo upon enemies, paint-splattered warriors hunt for cover in the outdoor wilderness of Xtreme’s 10 playing fields. They duck behind multistory wooden barricades on the Castle field, navigate a maze of padded pillars and logs on the Arena field, dive into leafy ditches on the Bunker field, and command one of four two-tiered fortresses on the Four Forts field. Much like siblings competing to see who celebrates their birthday first, Xtreme Paintball Park gathers players to engage in competitive scenarios such as capture the flag and elimination. Park staffers expand these play opportunities by constantly building new playing fields and restaging area structures. During private parties, ranks of covered pavilions offer spaces where groups can take a break from excessive sun, rain, and snow as they prepare for the next round.
Between AD 700 and 1400, the city of Cahokia gradually rose from the floodplain of the Mississippi River to become the largest city north of Mexico. Across 6 square miles, its population of 20,000 people worked together to create a thriving community grounded in astronomy, agriculture, and economics. To this end, they erected large, lasting structures such as an enormous wooden calendar that notified citizens about the changes of the seasons. Giant earthen mounds served as the foundation of the city and the site of the big mud fight that decided the mayoral election each year.
Through careful excavation, research, and reconstruction, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society aims to preserve the site and educate visitors about its importance. During visits, guests on self-guided tours can explore 800 acres of the city, including the 100-foot-tall Monks Mound and Woodhenge, the giant calendar.
There's nothing better than a perfect pizza with bubbly cheese and flavorful, chewy crust except for maybe 10 exceptional pizzas. On April 27, visitors will get the chance to sample up to 10 exceptional pizza samples from up to 10 different community pizza joints, and at the end of the day they'll judge their favorites and vote for the best. Proceeds will benefit A Hero's Impact Foundation, which encourages children to be everyday heroes and live for others, along with other local charitable foundations.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.