At any moment, visitors to Wilderness Falls might run into the resident moose. He isn’t grazing: Maddux the Moose, the family fun center’s fuzzy mascot, spends his time playing its two 18-hole, outdoor mini-golf courses and accepting high-fives and hugs from enthusiastic guests. Maddux isn’t the only fixture that may make guests feel as though they’ve wandered into the woods¬; the two mini-golf courses are pretty rugged themselves. The Bear Course, which hosts the annual Chicago Mini-Golf Championship, leads putters past a 35-foot waterfall, into a dark cave, and across creaking wooden walkways, just like the race all of Harrison Ford’s clones run to determine which one will get to play Indiana Jones. Alternatively, the Eagle Course leads players around winding rivers and on a climb to the top of a 40-foot mountain of rock.
Of course, it’s not all roughing it. In the middle of the greens sits the tented arena that holds Wilderness Falls’ batting cages, including six baseball cages and three softball cages. An arcade lights up the indoor space with the glowing screens of video games, and party rooms hold birthday and team celebrations.
A hailstorm of paint projectiles rains down upon CPX Sports' more than one dozen fields, each of which poses different challenges and requires specialized tactics. The crown jewel of the park is the Town of Bedlam, a massive maze of small-town 1950s buildings that jut out between streets dotted by paint-splattered cars and streetlights. There, snipers poke their heads out of the central city hall's tower as the opposing team hides out or checks for abandoned shampoo samples inside the post office. The Jungle of Doom drops teams into a heavily wooded field to vie for control of a central temple, and chromatic combatants weave between desiccated cars in the Wastelands, attempting to collect the most gas cans. A full pro shop outfits players with markers, protective gear, and Sesame Street coloring books for target practice.
Housing whiz-bang activities sprung to life from the mind of owner and game designer J. Richard Oltmann, Enchanted Castle coaxes thrills from the young and young at heart. As bumper cars clunk together and a game room rings with the peal of 250 pay-as-you-play games, Enchanted Castle’s 60,000 square-foot space fills with scenes fit for dream-like days of timeless tomfoolery without a fee for admission. 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.
Swings find their sweet spots at Sugar Grove Golf Center, which grooms golf games with a driving range and lessons. Golf balls blast off of turf mats at the range before settling around targets with yardage displays. Players of all calibers can scratch bogeys off of their scorecards with private lessons or clinics. The onsite golf pro conducts prescheduled lessons until as late as 11 p.m., enabled by towering lights that surround the range and practice balls that have acquired a taste for coffee.
As summer months wind down and autumn weather creeps in, Odyssey Fun Farm comes alive—and as it's only open from late September to late October, the farm definitely makes the most of its time. A pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, hay rides, and other fall festivities help families start new seasonal traditions as they enjoy the cooler weather. Visitors can also test their senses of direction in the massive corn maze, which stretches over 15 acres and sends participants through hairpin turns and winding roundabouts in a design that spells the farm's name when viewed from an airplane or the shoulders of a very tall person.
Despite the many leisurely activities, there's plenty of adrenaline to be had—corn cannons send bursts of maize hurtling toward faraway targets, pig races pit swine such as Arnold Schwartzenhogger and David Letterham against each other in a dash to the finish, and ziplines let visitors feel the wind in their hair as they speed high above the ground. At sundown on October weekends, Odyssey Fun Farm turns spooky for its Zombie Safari Hayrides. Those who dare climb into a wagon equipped with 20 paintball turrets, which they'll use to slay every zombie that attacks during the pitch-black journey down a winding farm road.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (a $3.99 value).
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