Lake Arlington's surface ripples in the breeze as shouts, cheers, and drumbeats echo across its shores. Ornately painted boats, carved into the likeness of Chinese dragons, glide across the water to the rhythm of 40 paddles turning in unison. The male and female boaters at Chicago International Dragon Boat Festival split into four racing divisions and follow the roots of a traditional eastern sport as they paddle, drum, and steer in coordination with their teammates. Spectators view the proceedings from tiered grandstands, which enable them to see the full scope of the race without having to rent a jetpack. They can also revel at an outdoor beer garden, listen to live entertainment, and usher their kids to participate in interactive activities in the Dragon's Nest. Competitors plunge into challenge races to benefit causes such as public services and breast-cancer research and rush to complete the most pushups after the race during the Workout of the Dragons.
This year's event benefits the nonprofit organization Salute, Inc., whose staffers work to support soldiers and veterans through fundraisers. Great White North assembles the event in partnership with local Windy City Dragons, in an effort to pay it forward to local charities while spreading enthusiasm for the sport. Their staffers also design each boat, specializing in the crafting of ornate vessels bearing the likenesses of colorful Chinese dragons and glorious Burt Reynoldses.
At Go Chicago Golf, group and private indoor lessons are available year-round so students can hone their craft even in winter's foulest depths. Players take most of their lessons in front of a projection screen that simulates a sunny day out on the links. They can play their choice of 9 or 18 holes on a 100- or 300-yard practice course, or, if they fear spending another 20 years trapped in an arcade game, practice on the learning center's nonvirtual targets. Students can also use an onsite video-analysis room to objectively check their swings and postures.
Basketball games light up a large projection screen at the front of the bar, echoing the dynamic displays seen on nearby flat-screen TVs above the heads of diners eating burgers and sipping beers at a wraparound bar. The kitchen serves up American-style comfort food and pub favorites, including steak sandwiches, Reubens, pasta, and burgers. Thin crust-pizzas include the buffalo pizza, the hawaiian pizza, and the double-meat Fiesta pizza, on which bacon, pepperoni, and sausage accompany onion, mushrooms, and green peppers.
Food has found a good home at Emerson’s Ale House. Here, chefs present half-pound burgers with pretzel buns and their very own beer pairings—the Smoke House burger with manchego cheese and pulled pork pairs with Rogue Dead Guy ale, for example, and the Roy-Ale burger with fried egg, smoked bacon, and English cheddar lines up nicely with Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce. To char-grilled salmon they add a side of dirty rice; to braised short ribs, garlic smashed potatoes. And they grant their desserts—chocolate-crepe cake, bread pudding, and Chicago-style raspberry cheesecake—the power to satisfy two diners at once, even if both are very upset about a failed attempt to gerrymander their foe’s sock drawer.
Emerson's TV collection helps patrons take in the game with friends, and its complimentary bacon bar provides the opportunity to see if bacon still tastes like bacon. Because liquor bottles only prosper when they're close to other liquor bottles, Emerson's has wisely grouped them all together behind the bar, where they huddle in wait before getting all mixed up inside your glass.
When paired with blues chords, the smell of barbecue sauce transcends the normal sensory experience. Housemade dry rubs and sauces sink into smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, baby back ribs as the meat smokes slowly over a mix of hickory and applewood chips. Blues Bar masters this ethereal combination of soulful sounds and soul food, coupling weekends of live music with saucy ribs and sides of honey-chipotle corn bread and homemade fries. Inside the lofted dining room, tables look down onto the bar and its 24 HDTV screens that play live sporting events. Also you can find well over 75 plus craft bottled beers and 20 continually rotated draft craft beers. The blues joint’s decor pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chicago icons the Blues Brothers with a larger-than-life mural of the smart-suited duo and a full-sized vintage squad car in which John Belushi’s hat was once arrested for armed robbery.
Brunswick Zone has been a trusted name in recreational pin pulverizing for more than a century, providing good times to patrons across the country. Friends and families season afternoons with a pleasant peppering of strikes, spares, and easygoing gutter balls under classic bowling conditions, or take the next bold step in ball-hurling evolution and engage in a round of cosmic bowling, where dancing lights, thumping tunes, and black-lit gear light up the full sensorium. At XL locations, game rooms beckon with nimble joystick workouts on classic and modern arcade games.