While unloading their ammo upon enemies, paint-splattered warriors hunt for cover in the outdoor wilderness of Xtreme’s 10 playing fields. They duck behind multistory wooden barricades on the Castle field, navigate a maze of padded pillars and logs on the Arena field, dive into leafy ditches on the Bunker field, and command one of four two-tiered fortresses on the Four Forts field. Much like siblings competing to see who celebrates their birthday first, Xtreme Paintball Park gathers players to engage in competitive scenarios such as capture the flag and elimination. Park staffers expand these play opportunities by constantly building new playing fields and restaging area structures. During private parties, ranks of covered pavilions offer spaces where groups can take a break from excessive sun, rain, and snow as they prepare for the next round.
Nestled in the Silent Forest?a place rich with local legends and tall tales?Hidden Lake Winery and Banquet Center carves out a cozy spot among the canopy of trees. The rustic lodge plays host to tastings where folks sample a selection of the winery's award-winning, hand-crafted wines. Each of the varietals is made from locally-grown fruits and bottled on-site. On weekends, chefs craft dishes from a quaint menu to pair with the wines, such as artisanal flatbreads, spinach-artichoke dip, and crispy deep-fried ravioli. For folks who'd like to make a weekend of it, Hidden Lake opens up deluxe cabins complete with jacuzzis and fireplaces.
Between AD 700 and 1400, the city of Cahokia gradually rose from the floodplain of the Mississippi River to become the largest city north of Mexico. Across 6 square miles, its population of 20,000 people worked together to create a thriving community grounded in astronomy, agriculture, and economics. To this end, they erected large, lasting structures such as an enormous wooden calendar that notified citizens about the changes of the seasons. Giant earthen mounds served as the foundation of the city and the site of the big mud fight that decided the mayoral election each year.
Through careful excavation, research, and reconstruction, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society aims to preserve the site and educate visitors about its importance. During visits, guests on self-guided tours can explore 800 acres of the city, including the 100-foot-tall Monks Mound and Woodhenge, the giant calendar.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.
Grant's Farm has been home to two titans of the US?one a general and president, the other a brewer who forever changed America's bar scene. The first of these was the farm's namesake, President Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1885 built a four-room cabin, needing only a few days, the help of some loyal friends, and an '80s-style montage. After a few transitional owners, August Busch Sr. bought the farm in 1907 and had that same cabin restored to its original condition.
While visitors to Grant Farm can still view that historic cabin today, the grounds have grown into much, much more. More than 280 acres host over 900 animals from 100 unique species, one of which has starred in commercials for decades: the Budweiser Clydesdales. A behind the scenes tour of the Clydesdale Stables reveals more than 50 of these stallions, from weanlings to full-grown, six-foot-tall equines. Meanwhile, Zebras, Black Buck Antelope, and other exotic animals roam across Deer Park, and Tier Garten hosts interactive elephant shows and goat feedings.
Back indoors, the bauernhof (farmstead) stands as a 19th-century relic with antique stables and carriages. It also houses non-antique bartenders, who pour complimentary samples for of-age visitors. They can also point families to more complete dining locations, including Grant's Farm Deli.
Though built as a private home in 1901, the Victorian mansion stood vacant for years?until its first children's hands-on exhibits opened to the public more than 30 years ago. Since then, The Magic House's curators have worked to engage children of all ages in learning and creative thought through a range of interactive multimedia exhibits. Their exhibits enable visitors to service cars, climb treehouse ladders, and go fishing in a child-centric community, or play with pumps and pipes in a waterworks playground. They can also climb a three-story fairy-tale beanstalk or use detective skills, fingerprint analyses, and secret passageways to solve mysteries.
Museum staffers also organize a range of themed birthday parties, during which attendees play and complete special tasks as time travelers, scientists, or fairy-tale nobility. Family programs encompass monthly visits from outside professional artists, and special events designed to get the whole family moving. Visitors can refuel for exploration at the on-site Picnic Basket Cafe, whose menu highlights whole grains and healthy ingredients.