Though Larsen's Landing Outfitters has always been family owned, the stretch of wilderness under its care has two additional overseers: a pair of eagles. The birds patrol 30 acres of sheltered trails, two open fields, and miles of marshes, watching visitors as they paddle rental canoes and kayaks down the pristine Kishwaukee River, which has been rated as one of the three cleanest rivers in the state. Visitors aren't alone, though. Beavers, turtles, otters, and sandhill cranes make their homes on the bank, sharing the shore with endangered black terns and mulberry wing butterflies. They move amidst towering trees, including the sycamores that gave the river its name, a Potawatomi word for river of the sycamore.
Like a grumpy scorpion, the river's flourishing ecosystem benefits from minimal and respectful human contact. Larsen's Landing Outfitters preserves this status while still permitting visitors to explore the environment. The staff plans canoe, kayak, and camping trips with package options, from tutorials on steering a boat to picnic buffets. Travelers can park their vessels at any point to indulge in a swim, go fishing, or relax on a sandbar?and at overnight sites, campfires and pig roasts imbue the air with nostalgic, smoky aromas.
Since 1972, Spare Time Clubs has evolved into a 10-club, full-service family sports club company that includes programs for both adults and children. Each location varies in size—some boasting multiple complexes—and houses amenities such as lighted tennis courts, pools, kids’ play areas, and fitness centers. At the Diamond Hills and El Dorado Hills locations, members can shine up in the onsite European spas, and the jewel of the Gold River club is a lighted stadium court encircled by a 5,000 square-foot observation deck. In the event of inclement weather or courts being overrun by ball-chasing dogs, players can schedule time at the dedicated indoor-tennis center, where eight fully sectioned-off, championship courts glow under the power of tournament-level lighting. World-class coaches develop kids’ court skills at the junior tennis academy, students of which can practice with an unlimited number of sessions at any of Spare Time’s other clubs.
Each facility in the family of Rockford-Area Bowling Centers enlivens the classic game of bowling with its own signature amenities. On Friday evenings, the staff at Don Carter Lanes temporarily extinguishes its warm, vintagey glow and replaces it with a dimly lit club atmosphere as DJs from 97 ZOK descend upon the alley, pumping out beats that mingle in the air along with a light and fog show. For supplementary entertainment, the Don Carter location also offers a gaming center, and the Park Lanes alley recharges guests with beer and deep-fried fuel at its onsite pub. The Cherry Bowl location keeps serious bowlers properly outfitted with a pro shop, saving them the hassle of paper-mâchéing their own heads to form makeshift bowling balls.
NickelWorld hosts a selection of more than 100 games to entertain adventurous imaginations and quick-digited game wizards?and they all either cost just a nickel per play, or are free. While meandering through an arcade of more than 20 video games, patrons can slay aliens, henchmen, and the occasional evil cottontail along the way. Classics include Pac-Man, Galaga, and Frogger, in which amphibians halt oncoming traffic through persuasive arguments. After that, they can set off to visit more than 60 redemption games, in which sure-handed prowess translates to great prizes. And for those who just can't get enough of NickelWorld, the arcade also offers parties for up to 40 guests.
Whether yearning for a picnic, a game of football, or a trip to a museum, visitors of all tastes can find the fun they’re looking for at a Rockford Park District facility. Throughout the Rockford area, residents and guests can find parks that host a bevy of engaging activities, such as boating and fishing, year-round ice skating , and rounds of golf. The Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens surround visitors with colorful flowers and lush greenery, and the city’s three dog parks give pets and their parents the space they need to play fetch and re-enact scenes from The Sound of Music. The numerous parks and buildings also host special events throughout the year, including outdoor concerts and horticulture seminars.
Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens transports visitors into the verdant heart of the tropics when they enter the 11,000-square-foot greenhouse, which bristles with leafy ferns and towering palm trees amid the flagstone walkways, wooden benches, and rippling ponds. Within these serene confines, the conservatory's staff seeks to educate the public by hosting workshops and lecture series for all ages, as well as hands-on activities that change with the seasons. These events espouse the importance of plant life across the world while teaching visitors how to identify the edible parts of a corsage.