Several years ago, during a filming of WTTW's Wild Chicago, Novelty Golf & Games owner Craig's brother stood next to a 10-foot fiberglass chicken and lamented, “This is the world’s loneliest chicken.” Its match had recently been stolen, and every fiberglass fox in the city had a solid alibi.
Shortly after the taping, a viewer called in with a tip: he’d seen the missing hen roosting in a backyard, clearly visible from the window of the Brown Line train. Boarding the "L" himself, Craig confirmed the spotting, and soon enough, the Loneliest Chicken's counterpart was on its way back home in the bed of a pickup truck.
Thus reunited, the two chickens stand proudly today over the 36 mini-golf holes at Novelty Golf & Games, along with the full menagerie of bears, elephants, mermaids, circus seals, and dinosaurs that the course has accumulated over its 63 years. Some of the attractions are as old as the course itself, including a 15-foot fiberglass shoe hand-built over a chicken-wire frame. While the statues are often replicated, Craig and his business partner Cassandra continue to design new obstacles the only way they know how, often sharing margaritas as they sketch their designs on cocktail napkins. “We change things,” they say, “but not for the sake of change.”
The course, after all, has always been a place of innovation. In the 1960s, Craig's mother opened an onsite restaurant and promoted the rabbit statue on the 14th hole to head doorman, earning the eatery its perennial nickname, “Bunny Hutch.” Throughout the years, the family has also acquired popular games, including four pinball machines, Dance Dance Revolution, an authentic photo booth, and a 1950s metal-stamping machine. Though they welcome each new addition, they strive to maintain the course’s classic appeal, insisting that “you can’t improve on perfection.”
On the same token, you can't just sit idly by when perfection flies the coop.
Blanketed in wall-to-wall trampolines, Sky High Sports delights barefoot fun seekers with springy terrain and an exclusive court for jumpers 8 and younger. Guests can hone front flips, back flips, and belly flops during intense free-bounce sessions. Each trampoline comes loaded with a specially designed spring-loaded frame and thick 2-inch safety pads that grant patrons a landing cushier than a corner office at a marshmallow factory. Stuffed with blocks of spongy, body-molding material, a foam pit dares treasure seekers to fling themselves in or scour its depths for the lost contents of bygone pockets. Pintsize aerialist posses can safely practice their synchronized salchows on 360 degrees of trampoline walls while court supervisors watch from the sidelines and bequeath hard-earned praise with oversize scorecards. Though not included in this Groupon, Sky High offers AIRobics fitness classes and monthly dodgeball tournaments to help jumpers explore the outermost stratospheres of trampoline possibilities.
For three weekends each October, wicked surgeons, rotting corpses, and malevolent clowns haunt the corridors of St. Thecla Parish’s basement. A team of designers, actors, and effects artists with more than 30 years of haunted-house experience designs each petrifying scene, with a scare level catered to guests aged 12 and older. Numerous exits let terrified visitors escape, while No Scare Days invite costumed kids aged 11 and younger to feast on candy and wander the lit house during the daytime, when it’s not full of frightening creatures or owls holding staring contests. Proceeds from Hair Razor Haunted Scenes help fund and sustain St. Thecla Parish.
For 50 years, Mont Clare Lanes & Banquets has been dismantling boredom with competitive 10-pin games and dismissing hunger with an onsite restaurant. The bowling center houses 32 lanes equipped with a slew of modern conveniences, such as automatic scoring machines, two video screens, and an electric fence at each fowl line. Themed event nights are peppered throughout the week, such as Cosmic Bowling night, in which lanes bathe in the glow of darkened light waves as glow-in-the-dark balls spin to the beats of a live DJ. A full-service restaurant and bar pleases palates with eats ranging from wings to house-made pizzas alongside sudsy brews, and an adjoining banquet room plays host to corporate events, birthday parties, and jubilant Groundhog Day celebrations.
Encompassing an 85’x200’ main rink as well as a smaller 80’x60’ surface, Franklin Park Ice Arena hosts wintry productions ranging from hockey and figure skating to broomball and birthday parties. When not configured for youth or adult hockey leagues, speed-skating time trials, or test drives of icebreaking jet skis, the rink hosts public skating sessions offered up to six times per week. Meanwhile, Orch’s Pro Shop stands at the ready for skaters with equipment by such major brands as Bauer, CCM, and Easton, as well as repairs and skate sharpening.