Housing whiz-bang activities sprung to life from the mind of owner and game designer J. Richard Oltmann, Enchanted Castle & Haunted Trails coax thrills from the young and young at heart. As bumper cars clunk together and an arcade rings with the peal of 250 games, Enchanted Castle’s 60,000 square-foot space fills with scenes fit for dream-like days of timeless tomfoolery. A laser tag arena hosts light-based combat, a miniature golf course tests putting mettle, and an indoor go-kart track lets driver reenact the time that the Indianapolis 500 was hosted inside a local gymnasium. Platefuls of wings, pizzas, and sandwiches dot tabletops in the dining area, where visitors can feast in front of karaoke, big screen TVs, and an animatronics stage show featuring in-house band the Jammin’ Jesters. Amusing on a larger, spookier scale, Haunted Trails ushers guests into a 14-acre entertainment complex with two 18-hole miniature golf courses, three outdoor go-kart tracks, batting cages, laser tag, and ghoulishly themed rides for youngsters, including the Monster Hop or Boneshaker. Five acres of picnic grove invite up to 2,000 guests to celebrate events, munch on the restaurant's desserts, or the participate in the world’s third-largest game of duck-duck-goose.
Former professional basketball player Mike Robinson—a product of the Chicago Public School system who was drafted by the Utah Jazz and played professionally in Europe for eight years—created In the Paint Basketball to help youths develop as players. His development programs teach the fundamentals of the game, such as shooting and dribbling, but also connect kids to mentors and encourage them to discuss problems they may be having in school with peer pressure or homework.
Evergreen Racquet & Fitness Club's 94,000-square-foot recreational facility is loaded with racquetball courts teamed up with a heated pool and fitness room. Clients reserve their slot and then step onto one of four racquetball courts for a round of racket-based ball swatting and sweat-band-absorbency testing. For a pre- or postgame workout, patrons can head into the fitness room to break a sweat on rows of treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes lined up before dumbbells and Cybex weight machines. Kids age 6 and younger enjoy a tots-only sprinkler area, and the 30’x50’ heated outdoor pool lends moisture to workouts and powdered energy drinks. To soothe muscles after a session of beefing, ligaments unwind in the whirlpools and dry-heat saunas in the locker rooms. Though not included in today's Groupon, patrons can partake in volleyball, basketball, and the batting cages and fielding area for an additional fee.
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After attending boot camps for a while, Maizah's motivation fizzled and she dropped the course. But refusing to accept defeat— even if it weren't his own—The Boot Camp Guy's cofounder, Chris Brown, gave her a call and made a case. He showed her some before-and-after shots of people she'd met at the sessions before she left—and was astounded by their transformations.
"That could have been me," she kept thinking. So she headed back to class determined that this time, it would be. Months later, she'd gone from a size 16/18 down to a size 12 with extra energy to boot.
As a former Marine with 14 years of professional fitness experience and a passion for helping people reach their goals, Chris knows that boot camp isn't about the stereotypical screaming drill sergeants depicted on TV. Instead, he and his trainers employ a realistic, no-scales and no-diets philosophy and focus on supplying their students with the motivation they need. They identify each student's fitness level within moments and calibrate their workouts accordingly, pitching the signature boot-camp classes at beginner, intermediate, and expert levels. This approach seeks to get students to their own desired level of "skinny", whether that's a size two, size 14, or any other goal. The trainers further outfit their boot-camp base model with nine different tracks—with one designed to shed weight—and total-body sessions up the ante with weights, resistance bands, and mat exercises to strengthen entire physiques rather than honing in on left pinkies. They also encourage students to eat the food they enjoy, and to be mindful of which nutrients their body needs to address deficiencies and restore balance.
The fitness menu unfurls a feast of other group classes. Cycle circuits combine intensive spinning with ab work on the turf and toning dumbbell drills. Cardio-kickboxing classes blend aerobics, boxing, and martial arts. All told, they offer more than 100 classes each month from their well-stocked studio, which the staff stocks with free weights, strength-training machines, exercise balls, and resistance bands.
The Center has welcomed kids onto its farm since 1936. It probably wasn't as much of a novelty back then, when Illinois was home to more than 220,000 farms and the U.S. government issued everyone a farmer's hat at birth. But that number has decreased steadily with each decade, dropping to just 76,000 by 2010, per the USDA. Which means that today, The Children's Farm at The Center gives kids and their families something increasingly special: the chance to experience life on an independent rural farm. Here, chickens lay eggs, goats give milk, and horses eat hay harvested right on the farm. The staff also leads tours of these grounds and explains how each animal fits into farm life. They even let kids pet some of the livestock before finishing up tours with a hayride.
For a completely immersive experience, The Children's Farm hosts summer camps for ages 3–17. During each camp session, campers live on the farm for days or weeks at a time, spending their days riding horses and caring for the animals.
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