Things To Do In Normal

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Chris and Pam Schmick had spent six months cleaning out the scrap metal from their abandoned silos and just finished drilling thousands of holes in its walls. With little time to spare, they prepared for their climbing gym's grand opening on September 2, 1995—a date on which they had already agreed to hold a regional JCCA competition. The effort they've expended in the nearly 20 intervening years shows: today, climbers scramble on top ropes, lead ropes, and more than 20,000 square feet of lava-free climbing surface.

Instructors prepare visitors to surmount the gym's features in a range of classes, such as Rock Gym 101, which is an introduction to top-rope climbing that covers climbing safety, basic technique, and equipment. Once climbers are equipped with gear from the pro-shop, staff shows them around a multi-level bouldering cave, a main climbing area with 30-foot walls shaped by arêtes, cracks, and waves, and the building's five original silos. Elsewhere inside the gym, six auto-belays safely cradle visitors who wish to climb without taking a class.

1304 W Washington St
Bloomington,
IL
US

In 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock," and Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre screened its first film. Over the next decades, it survived the skyrocketing popularity of cable television and even a tornado, but eventually closed in the 1980s. The projectors weren't powered down for long?in 1989, Mike Harroun saw an opportunity to create a place that combined the nostalgic vibe of a 1950s drive-in with the technology of a modern cinema.

These days, sunset is the cue for ultra high-definition digital projectors to whir to life and FM stereo transmitters to broadcast digital 5.1 surround sound into visitors' vehicles. The two screens change their feature films throughout the season, ensuring that crowds can catch first-run summer blockbusters before the explosions become covered with brown spots. Guests may bring their own food for a small fee, or order from a menu featuring piping-hot popcorn, giant dill pickles, and third-pound Black Angus burgers straight from the grill. That combination of old-fashioned entertainment and new-fangled equipment has won the theater plenty of press, including a spot on USA Today's list of the country's 10 best drive-ins.

1175 S Sangamon Ave
Gibson City,
IL
US

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.

723 S Clark St.
North Utica,
IL
US

Illinois Skydiving Center trains aspiring daredevils through a trio of tandem, static-line, and accelerated-free-fall classes. AFF classes teach solo skills under the direction of instructors and coaches who jump with you, teaching stability and proper deployment skills. Static-line progression jumps prepare sky mavens for the pressures of a solo career with an ascending series of jumps that impart the art of free fall. During tandem jumps, students are strapped to a certified instructor who pulls the cord and directs the movements of parachute as guests take in breathtaking views of the landscape, local tributaries, and central-state volcanoes before feet land safely on the ground.

1962 County Road 2500 N
Thomasboro,
IL
US

As the prop engine murmurs and the plane reaches its cruising altitude, there's a moment when one of two things happens. Either your stomach drops, even before the rest of your body does, or a calming sensation takes over and a moment of zen occurs. Regardless of how you react to the anticipation of jumping out of the plane, the actual experience of flying is worth the uncertainty. As soon as you emerge from the aircraft, you'll enter an exhilarating free fall before deploying a parachute and gliding safely back to land, finally proving to your middle school sweetheart that you are, in fact, not a bird.

The certified instructors at Illinois Skydiving Center can fly with beginners during tandem jumps or train students to skydive on their own through programs that teach safety, jumping techniques, and parachute deployment. Flights can also be recorded so that students return home with a DVD copy of their flights.

1650 W Ottawa St.
Paxton,
IL
US