During spring at Jones Orchard, families gather to bound through the territory’s rows of fruit, peeling back leaves to get at the ripest morsels hidden deep within the thicket. Since growing their first peaches more than seven decades ago, the Jones family continues to ripen juicy varieties of peaches, strawberries, and other fruit on their 600-acre farm, eschewing long-distance produce shipping for local distribution, mostly available at farmer’s markets and during the orchard’s pick-your-own fruit season. Inviting families to pick fruit together is one of many ways the Jones family lures visitors to their orchard seasonally—come autumn, the farmers transform the fields into a vast corn maze. Visitors not content to wander the idyllic grounds can enjoy the orchard’s bounty at the Country Café, where matriarch Juanita Jones flavors her fresh pies and preserves with fresh-plucked fruits.
Since its founding in 1980, Sun & Ski Sports has remained true to its philosophy: “do a few things, but do them better than anybody else.” The shop stocks equipment in five categories of extreme and outdoor activities, including camping, skating, running, bicycling, and water and snow sports. It specializes in these to ensure its merchandise maintains a high standard of quality, and its employees are knowledgeable participants in the sports their department represents.
Bikers can drop off their steeds for tune-ups from certified mechanics who put all brands through the rigors of a 12-point inspection, checking chains and adjusting wobbly pedals and malfunctioning spoke-card motors. While waiting, curious eyes might linger on a North Face two-person tent, a Blackburn Airtower bicycle pump, or a vast selection of shoes from brands such as New Balance and Asics. Men and women can traipse nearly barefoot in the park with Vibram FiveFingers, which offer minimal structural encumbrances for a more natural stride, or cast their feet aside for the new-wheeled prowess that comes with a Fuji SL-1 LE Ultegra performance road bike.
In 2011, WBIR-TV reported that local racecar driver Trevor Bayne dropped by Oakes Farm to see his face carved into the cornfield. The farm had adopted Bayne as that year's maze theme, shaping the field to look like his face and his racecar when viewed from above. On the ground, however, the maze was a tangle of curves and dead ends that often took guests 90 minutes to solve, longer if they neglected to learn ancient Greek in order to ask the minotaur directions.
The farm updates its agricultural labyrinth annually to reflect a new motif, but it never fails to entertain explorers with its routes and interactive games. Just as delightful are the hayrides that ferry visitors to and from the pumpkin patch, the smell of autumnal sweets from the Cornfections stand, and the echoes of laughter from inside the Mine Shaft—a giant slide in the farm's Back 40 entertainment area. These attractions, alongside animal exhibits, pedal karts, and open zones for freeform play, draw families to the seasonal hotspot. In the days approaching Halloween, however, the farm endeavors to make patrons flee with its haunted attractions and pop quizzes for school children.
When they were just little girls, Marian and Laura Jones cooked up the dream of working together once they were old enough. Years later, after both had undergone classical training in metallurgy and jewelry making, the dream became a reality. Today, the duo draws inspiration from organic textures such as the surface of seeds and the shape of raw stones as they sculpt wax, batter metal, and cast objects in bronze to create custom necklaces and earrings. In just four years, their designs have made a splash, leading to collaborations at Chicago Fashion Week and a LA Oscar gift-bag giveaway.
Their collections center on specific themes, such as with earrings and bangles that echo the texture of banana leaves. They also shape pendants whose sterling-silver and semiprecious-stone arrangements evoke antique architecture or New York windows that haven’t yet been cracked by Santa.
Marian and Laura also share their passion for and understanding of the process of jewelry making through classes. During in-studio workshops, they delve into the skills needed for beading, basic metalsmithing, and casting. Their pupils form shapes imitating organic materials such as leaf pendants or strawberry-smoothie bracelets.
At Gateway Action Sports’ three paintball arenas, masked combatants can pelt their friends with colorful projectiles and dive, duck, and roll through natural and man-made environments. After receiving a compressed-air gun, facial protection, and a supply of ammo, troopers can spend all day launching tactical campaigns and creating works of abstract expressionism with 500 rounds of paintballs. Start a sing-along with Robin Hood and his Merry Men in the facility’s massive woods, stage a messy takeover of a seven-room outdoor fort, or outwit your friends during a fast-paced game on the challenging XBall field. Trigger-happy contenders can re-fill their air supply at no additional charge and purchase additional rounds of polychromatic ammunition ($13.50–$15/500 rounds).
While parents and teachers navigate the dense underbrush of educational materials at The Learning Circle, their kids clamber through the one-of-a-kind tree house that dominates the aisles. Math, science, and language-arts materials for grades K–eight mask a dose of learning in a layer of fun, making education as easy to swallow as a buttered-up fruit snack. While teachers find all the resources they need among the colorful rows, parents also benefit from a smorgasbord of home-school workbooks and summer learning programs that help to stifle the learning loss that often results from months away from the classroom.