For more than 50 years, the monks of Marmion Abbey have tended 300 acres of farmland. They started with Christmas trees, and now maintain 120 acres of pines, spruces, and firs that smell exactly like car freshener. On the remaining acres, they tend pumpkin vines and corn mazes, interspersing these areas with scenic picnic groves.
Throughout the year, the monks open their land to the public. In the autumn, they host Pumpkin Daze, a harvest festival with tractor wagon rides and a petting zoo. Around mid-November, they grant access to their tree farm, supplying visitors with rental saws for you-cut trees and bellowing "Timber!" just like Paul Bunyan did when he fell into bed at night. The monks stock their farm store with handcrafted goods that complement the season, whether caramel apples in the fall or quilts in the winter.
As part of its efforts to change negative perceptions and boost physical fitness and self-esteem, Special Olympics Illinois offers year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Continued opportunities to participate in Olympic-type sports, such as gymnastics and soccer, help these athletes experience personal growth and friendship as they share their skills with families, other Special Olympics athletes, and their community.
Throughout Illinois today, more than 21,000 adults and more than 11,000 young adults with intellectual disabilities train and compete through Special Olympics.
DMZ Tactical—which operates out of Homer Glen—boasts an outdoor shooting range that allots ample space for tactical-training courses. Instructors—many of whom tout military and law-enforcement backgrounds––offer classes that range from tactical pistol fundamentals to advanced firearms manipulation. The classes promote safety and survival by teaching students to use firearms in a responsible, effective manner. To ensure students’ safety, DMZ Tactical upholds a 1:1 safety-officer-to-student ratio.
A sizeable beer list keeps the party going at Stone City Saloon, a sports bar and grill with regular karaoke nights and an outdoor patio for bags-tossing. The kitchen cooks up classic pub food, including a signature spinach artichoke dip, wings, burgers, and sandwiches, while bartenders pour tap brews from makers such as Dogfish Head, Bell's, Revolution, and Three Floyds. Eight- and nine-ball pool leagues gather around the felt several times a week.
Seven extreme athletes and one Royal Marine banded together to design Spartan Races' intense miles-long courses, each strewn with obstacles to test resilience, stamina, and strength. Clad in event T-shirts, runners collect smudges and stains as they clamber across mud pits, slide unscathed under barbed wire, and juke feral linebackers. Depending on where in the world they're participating, the course may be as short as three miles or, for extremely practiced athletes, as long as a full marathon.
Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.