Beneath the night sky's smattering of stars, Keno Drive In projects double features of the latest first-run films. Customers tune car radios to 88.5 FM or attach celebrity impersonators to their car windows to hear audio synchronized to the narratives unfurling onscreen. Throughout the evening, moviegoers can chow down on Keno Drive-in's concessions or dump their own charcoal into the theater's onsite grill to simmer feasts for friends gathered in the picnic area.
A tractor rumbles along the rolling hills of Green Meadows Petting Farm's back 40 as it pulls hayride passengers toward the farm’s animals' barns and pens. There, hands of all ages can snuggle on the fuzzy fleece of a baby goat or sheep, brush against the bristly hide of the 700-pound Patty the Pig, or comb fingers into the soft mane of Lad the Pony. Farmers on the staff also share insights and anecdotes on the farm and its four-legged friends as guests roam the farm at their leisure. For Charlie and Mavis Keyes, of all the sights and sounds on a farm that's been in the family since 1964, the ones they enjoy most watching and hearing are from the children and parents who come to visit. It's a thrill, Charlie says, to hear the kids say that they had "the best day ever," providing a happy counterpoint to childhood days that include trips to the doctor's and punishments to file and catalogue a sister's dolls' dresses.
The Little Gym of Gurnee, a branch of the nationwide network of Little Gyms, fosters educational wonderment, physical development, and self-confidence in children aged four months to 12 years old through engaging, interactive classes. Trained instructors lead the classes and impart motor skills, language development, and leadership skills through karate and dance classes, as well as brain boost activities—all with the goal of encouraging age-appropriate development in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.
Tucked away inside Gurnee's Holiday Inn sits Juz Jokkin Comedy Club, a new venue with a respectable pedigree. Although young, the club has already attracted heavy hitters such as Dave Chapelle and Gabriel Iglesias to its Friday and Saturday night shows. Each of these performances is hosted by Sonya D, a native Chicagoan who's appeared on BET, Showtime at the Apollo, and on stage with Kanye West.
New releases get an old-fashioned treatment at McHenry Outdoor Theater, a 1950s-style drive-in screening two back-to-back movies every night. With a special focus on family films, the starlit screen shines across comforts including a concession stand vending burgers, brats, pizza, and hot dogs, and a dog-friendly policy to ensure everyone has someone cuddly to grab during the scary parts. While the story unfolds on screen, the theater pumps the sound through complimentary radios, and approximately half the viewing spots are equipped with vintage speakers that complete the timeless slice of Americana. Besides new releases, which are regularly updated every two weeks, the theater might show anything from golden oldies to alternative comedies to classic blockbusters.
Originally opened in 1927, the Genesee Theatre slowly deteriorated over the course of the century until its closing in 1989. But starting in 2001, a $23 million cash infusion from the city allowed 120 volunteers to restore the theater to its Gilded Age splendor. Its elegant trappings include authentic wall fabrics, an exact replica of the original marquee, and a 2,200-pound chandelier that gently spotlights the grand lobby and every audience member passing underneath to show how everyone is a star if you really think about it.