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 the 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 staff 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—celebrating its 65th anniversary—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 equipped 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 award hard-earned praise with oversize scorecards.
Sky High also offers AIRobics fitness classes and monthly dodge-ball tournaments to help jumpers explore the outermost stratospheres of trampoline possibilities.
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.
Hidden Creek AquaPark's sprawling grounds swim with watery entertainment for guests of all ages, from kids waiting beneath the water playground's dumping bucket to grandparents reading a good book atop lounge chairs. Swimmers can slip down the winding slide or take the plunge from a drop slide, which spits them out into the deep end of a pool that gradually descends from its zero-depth entry. Meanwhile, kids can keep themselves busy building castles and multistory housing units in a sand area. After practicing swan dives and cannonballs off the diving board, guests can storm the concession stand or relax on the lawn.
Today's side deal gets you trackside seats, an official program, all-you-can-eat dinner, and heart-racing harness-racing with real live horses at Maywood Park Racetrack for $15 (a $30 value). The racing starts at 7:20 p.m. on December 4, but the delicious eats and premature boasts get started at 6:30 p.m. Your Groupon includes trackside seats in the enclosed and heated Winner's Circle Dining Room, free valet parking, and a live race program.
Elk Grove Park District's Rainbow Falls Waterpark beckons water lovers to its sprawling aqueous grounds—complete with slides, pools, a three-story funhouse, picnic spots, and bath facilities for the whole family. Lounge in Sunfish Bay, a tranquil leisure pool, or imitate amphibious travelers on the Lily Pad Leap, hopping across enormous, buoyant green lily pads while gripping an overhead rope bridge before three bullfrogs return demanding to know who's been eating their flies. The Raging Reptile River teems with transparent tubes, and the Calypso Twist twirls adventurists down four winding slides. During the course of a sun-splashed afternoon, families can disperse throughout the three-story funhouse of Pelican's Peak, execute the perfect pike from the Dolphin Dive, or let toddlers test the waters of Coqui Frog Pond's tot pool before committing to enroll them in a preschool of fish.