Visitors to the Elgin Public House step into a cozy interior reinforced by exposed-brick walls. A culinary crew revives weary locals with a menu of hearty pub eats and a beer selection of 87 varieties imported from across Europe and the United States. Chefs use certified-Angus beef for burgers, stuff pork chops full of bleu cheese cornbread and mango chutney, and hand-cut steaks in-house after aging them a minimum of two weeks to ensure optimal flavor and prevent them from prank-calling patrons. A calendar of weekly events keeps things lively with regular offerings such as Wednesday-night trivia, Friday-night fish fries, and daily specials. One Tuesday each month, limited-seating dinner-pairing events offer six-course meals, with each course accompanied by an alcoholic beverage, such as red wine or tequila.
Conceived by Las Vegas restaurateur Mark DiMartino, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery evokes Ireland by way of Vegas, with waitresses dressed in plaid mini kilts shouldering trays of chilled beer and pub fare. Like an enchilada stuffed with four-leaf clovers, the eatery’s Irish nachos interpret a south-of-the-border classic in a Celtic way, slathering potato chips in cheese sauce and seasoned ground beef; alternatively, pot roast and vegetables simmer traditionally in the Olde Dublin Irish stew’s Guinness-infused beef stock. Barkeeps pour a full bar’s worth of wine, cocktails, and beer, which surfaces in bottles, bombers, and multi-brew mixes such as the Blue Moon and Guinness combination. High-definition TVs glow with a ceaseless parade of professional and college baseball, basketball, and hockey, and live bands add to the entertainment smorgasbord on Friday and Saturday nights.
McMae's Tavern & Grill assuages vocal stomachs with an eclectic menu of American-style eats in a modest pub environment. Relive Pavlovian experiments with McMae's saliva-inducing skirt steak, a tender, 6-ounce flank of juicy beef served with fresh vegetables ($12.95). Pastas permeate the menu, hiding linguini beneath a canopy of shellfish, bell peppers, and cilantro in the tiger shrimp creole ($12.95) or showcasing them front and center in the homemade manicotti ($9.95). Twelve sandwich offerings, one for every finger, fill out the lunch and dinner selection with crowd-pleasing combinations ranging from the grilled-salmon sandwich topped with caramelized onions ($9.95) to the chicken-parmesan sandwich ($7.95).
Old Towne Pub and Eatery's ample bar seating invites throngs of people to belly up, devour tried-and-true bar fare, and sip frothy glasses of craft, domestic, and imported beers. Televisions blaze with slow-motion replays of Big Ten and NFL games and cast glows on steaming bowls of homemade chili, Angus beef burgers, and platters of barbecue ribs. The clicks and clacks of billiards balls, pinball machines, and arcade games syncopate with the live music of bands that tickle eardrums with upbeat tunes and peacock feathers.
If you had to put a word to the cozy, jovial atmosphere at McNally's Irish Pub, the first one to come to mind probably wouldn't be "craic." That is, unless you're Irish. It's the term for the special kind of camaraderie for which Ireland's neighborhood pubs are known, encompassing everything from the quaint decor to the rounds of after-dinner drinks that keep gatherings rolling. At McNally's, that feeling is everywhere, from the sound of pubgoers clinking glasses of Guinness and Smithwick's to the familiar aroma of juicy corned beef and other Irish dishes. On weekdays, the good times start at lunch and carry on into the evening, with regular opportunities to participate in pub events or listen to live Irish music.
At the bar, there's something for just about everyone with a range of Scottish and Irish whiskeys and the Lurgan lager, made just for McNally's. Once everyone is in high spirits and starts to remember they haven't spoken to their plants yet that day, pubgoes leave for the evening, often coming back another time for one of the restaurant's traditional Irish breakfasts.
Otter Cove couldn't have a more fitting mascot. The park's theme centers around a river otter, an anthropomorphized version of which occasionally stops by to take pictures with guests. It's not hard to imagine this semiaquatic mammal zipping down one of the park's Salamander Slides and splashing into Turtle Creek, a 600-foot lazy river. Humans find themselves equally at home in aquatic play areas such as The Frog Bog, a 7,700 sq. ft. activity pool with spinning water apparatuses and a waterfall.
The park also contains a traditional lap pool heated to around 80 degrees fahrenheit, just warm enough to keep it from being taken over by penguins. In addition to open swim times, the pool hosts swim lessons for infants, toddlers, and kids up to 14 years old. Otter Cove also helms The Otters Swim Team for swimmers aged 5–16.