Nestled in the heart of the verdant Fox River Valley, idyllic Geneva lies about 36 miles west of Chicago's Loop area, but its laid-back rural vibe seems a world's away from the big city's honking cabs and rackety trains. Historical buildings and tree-lined streets define downtown Geneva, with 200 specialty shops ranging from artisanal jewelers, chic women's clothing stores, and boutique eateries. Built by German immigrants in the 1850s, the 68-foot Fabyan Windmill lies along the river to the south of town, recently restored with timber from the Netherlands. On the first Friday of every month, Geneva's residents take a self-guided art walk through nine area galleries, which open their doors to serve refreshments, host live performances, and show off their portraits of mustachioed news anchors. Down the street, the Geneva History Center delves into the city's past as an early Kane County seat and an agricultural hub.
Studio 3 Productions documents and enhances weddings with an arsenal of services that includes photography, videography, DJing, and lighting. A team of photographers and videographers carefully documents each wedding-day tradition, from the exchange of rings to the firing of the flower girl out of a cannon, producing keepsakes that range from simple scrapbooks to high-tech films replete with montages and other special effects. Meanwhile, the company’s LED lighting can add pizzazz to receptions, with curious customers able to view a small-scale simulation in advance at the studio.
Alternatively, portrait sessions at Studio 3’s studio or on location capture authentic flashes of subjects’ personalities as they pose solo, with loved ones, or with pets. After shoots, the studio’s framing services accent prints, equipping subjects with a high-quality wall decoration to replace their collection of unpaid parking tickets.
It's amazing what a dream can do. In 1985, Royal Ballet School-trained dancer Patricia Sigurdson had a vision of a world-class ballet company serving the western suburbs of Chicago—and it was a vision she made into a reality. From the year of its founding until her retirement in 1998, Sigurdson led the company in a wide range of classic and contemporary works that entertained tens of thousands of local dance lovers and countless stagehands. Today, the ballet continues to thrive under the direction of Sergey Kozadavey and Zhanna Dubrovskaya, both trainees of the celebrated Vaganova School in Saint Petersburg. And Salt Creek Ballet's focus on sharing dance with the community remains as strong as ever—besides staging lavish ballets, the artists train performers of all ages, and schedule lecture demonstrations that offer a peek behind the curtain.
Huddled within a 20,000-square-foot facility, Bounce Town's private and semiprivate play arenas encourage sock-clad youngsters to bound, glide, and frolic atop abundant inflatables. Air-filled mazes and 50-foot obstacle courses challenge participants to traverse hurdles and twists, while frog- and Batman-themed bounce houses accommodate leaping youths. Kids who have conquered their brief bounds into midair and gained an understanding of how physics works can also find new challenges scaling the rock-climbing wall. When gathering a group for play time or birthdays, throw parties overseen by personal attendants or bring the celebration home with a bounce-house rental or a Bounce Town photo-booth rental.
Watching a movie should be a magical experience, one that transports the mind to places it wouldn't otherwise go. Nothing undercuts that faster than traipsing down a sticky aisle to squeeze into a creaky seat and watch a movie where some guy just staples paper for an hour. The experience couldn't be more opposite at Hollywood Blvd. and Hollywood Palms Cinemas, where people might start an action-packed new release or cult classic by meeting the film's stars. Fans of the theater have written tons of appreciative letters, recalling their experiences hobnobbing with Tippi Hedren before a showing of The Birds, or seeing a cast reunion of Back to the Future, which one mega-fan wrote was "one of the best experiences of [their] life."
But it's not just these meet-and-greets that elevate the experience at Hollywood's theaters. Instead of cramped row seating, there are high-backed swivel chairs encircling tables, and instead of concession stands, there're servers ferrying food and beverages to tables throughout the show. The extensive menu is mostly upscale casual dishes, including the Whoopi Goldburger with Angus beef, bacon, and barbecue sauce. From the bar, guests can order Rat Pack?inspired martinis, craft beers, or specialty cocktails such as the Tequila Mockingbird margarita with raspberry liqueur.
At each location, the architecture and decor rivals that of a film set. The lobby at Hollywood Blvd. is a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and at Hollywood Palms, individual screening rooms pay homage to Marilyn Monroe and The Wizard of Oz. Not surprisingly, the Hollywood Blvd. theater has an on-site museum with real movie artifacts, including costumes worn by the Munchkins, whom the theater successfully petitioned to receive their own star on the Walk of Fame.
In 1969, a group of history lovers saved the Civil War-era St. John's Episcopal Church from demolition, and in so doing gave birth to Naper Settlement, an outdoor history museum that preserves a slice of 19th-century life. Over the decades, more and more buildings have been restored and moved to the settlement grounds, building up a massive testament to times past and earning dozens of awards in the process.