The whimsical rhymes and quirky cartoons coloring most greeting cards are occasionally amusing, but their stock sentiments and broad jokes engender little intimacy. Pear Tree Greetings curates a deeper connection by stocking an online store with hundreds of customizable greeting-card designs, nearly all of which are constructed from 100% post-consumer materials. Uploaded photos personalize traditional cards or unconventional booklets shaped like strings of holiday lights, which landed Pear Tree in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Cards come printed on a 100-pound matte card stock that can be coupled with magnets, napkins, and address labels celebrating birthdays, graduations, and weddings. Since there’s no charge for double-side printing, graduation announcements can easily detail party logistics and wedding invitations can list the funniest things to shout when the officiant asks if anyone has objections.
Stocking shelves with new and recycled duds since 1971, Ragstock fortifies wardrobes with a storefront brimming with new and recycled men's and women's clothing and accessories. In addition to mainstream garments, stores sling eclectic outfit accouterments such as neon suspenders ($9.99) and thick-rimmed spectacles ($4.99+) that allow shoppers to evoke the air of literature professors without blithely quoting Joyce.
Gander Mountain Academy updates its lessons in gun safety, handling, and marksmanship with virtual shooting technology that was once only available to military and law-enforcement agencies. The ladies-only basic fundamentals class gives women a foundation in the mechanics of handguns and how to use them safely. Students start by winnowing down the right type of gun for their needs, be they self-defense, hunting, or reclaiming the garage from infestations of gremlins. Next, instructors with callused trigger fingers explain the safety rules of handguns, compare ammunition options, and demonstrate proper grip, stance, and trigger control.
Pub 500's sensory sanctuary marries a menu of hearty pub fare with more than 80 frosty brews. Imbibe in the savory crunch of deep-fried nosh including mac and cheese and pub pickles (both $8.99). Sandwiches such as the bacon cheeseburger ($9.79) or pulled pork ($8.79) cradle meats in gooey cheeses and sauces, while house-made sweet bread pudding entices eaters with sweet caramel and whipped-cream accents ($3.99). Liberate bottled desires with an extensive menu of libations, including pints of local Grain Belt Nordeast ($3.25), Guinness ($5), and Pub 500 exclusive brew Ragtop Amber ($2.95). Open until 2 a.m. daily, Pub 500 offers seven days of food and drink specials, and invites night owls to return at 9 a.m. on weekends for breakfast.
Wow! Zone entertains bodies and minds of all ages, boasting attractions and activities such as bowling, laser tag, miniature golf, and arcade games. Kick off a day of family fun with two games of bowling on one of Wow! Zone's 16 bowling lanes, fully decked with automatic bumpers and 42-inch LCD scoring monitors. Bowling balls and shoes are provided, maintaining unstubbed toes and preventing the need for using balled-up hedgehogs to knock over pins. Strap on a laser lobber for one game in the multilevel laser-tag arena, where players can go at it solo or team up with friends to perform reenactments of favorite battles from the Hundred Years War. An indoor miniature-golf course shimmers with the incandescent glow of Wow! Zone's specially designed black lights, illuminating vibrantly hued jungle-themed obstacles to be conquered by hand-eye cahoots. The super-variety package also includes a $5 gift card to satisfy the voracious appetites of machines in the arcade area, which is stocked with classic attractions such as skee-ball and newer favorites such as Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution ($0.25–$1/play).
The wine gurus at The Wine Cafe instill their deep love of the grape-fermented drink in others with a long-winded wine list and a tastefully matching menu. While slurping down a glass of Woop Woop's Australian chardonnay ($6), diners can snack on deluxe sandwiches such as the salami-stuffed and tapenade-topped Italian ($6.50–$8.50), or accompany a build-your-own pizza ($11) with 16 available garnishes and Gnarly Head's California zinfandel ($6/glass). Chunks of grilled bread and kalamata olives swim in a tasty pool of mediterranean spinach and artichoke dip ($8.95), but only because all the other pools are closed for the summer. For dessert, save wear and tear on your teeth by ordering a banana cream cheesecake ($3.50) and imagining how good it must taste while sipping Casillero del Diablo's merlot ($7) or a beer.