Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
McCarthy’s Restaurant and Irish Pub began when three families decided to pool their know-how. The clans each possessed their own expertise: one family had enjoyed previous successes in restaurant management, one in the field of culinary arts, and one family was filled with savvy business people. In tune with their strengths, they decided to form a three-way partnership that would give rise to McCarthy's. The fun-loving group wanted to create a pub rooted in Irish tradition while still appealing to a diverse clientele. Above all else, they knew that to achieve this goal they’d need to earn the trust of customers with indisputable great burgers, sandwiches, and classic Irish dishes. Today McCarthy's makes good on their vision by evoking a lighthearted mood through the green and dark-wood textures of a quintessential Irish pub and the scattered flat-screen TVs of a modern evil lair. Meanwhile, the echo of live music acts and karaoke frequently keeps patrons singing along to "Danny Boy" and humming Jeopardy! theme music.
The notion of a private supper club calls to mind gleaming expanses of polished wood and racks of fine wine. Such a vision of The Forge of Vernon Hills, which was a private club until recently, is essentially accurate. In keeping with the spirit of exclusive opulence, chefs stew tart Montmorency cherries in a sauce for duckling and shuck fresh Virginia blue-point oysters. Twin lobster tails melt drawn butter, and seasonally inspired specials with fresh ingredients have included butternut-squash ravioli and seared jumbo sea scallops with fresh mango sauce. Adjacent to the main dining area are private rooms for parties of up to 160 guests, the exact number of people on a standard rugby team.
Flatlander's pampers malt-pining palates by balancing a seasonal lineup of more than seven house-made brews with a diverse menu ranging from classic pub fare to gourmet entrees. Beer flights guide diners through five distillations and the on-site brewmaster ensures appetizers highlight each brews best qualities, matching seared asian ahi to the crispness of the Jackson Wit and spicy jumbo wings to the Flatlander IPA's training as a firefighter. Thick cuts of homestyle meatloaf and crispy morsels of fish and chips embody the roles of classic pub fare, subtly supported by gourmet-inspired castmates such as linguine pomodoro and USDA-prime center-cut filet mignon. An arsenal of 13 hearty burgers accessorized with toppings such as pulled pork, guacamole, or fried onions gratify any diet while bookended around a choice of USDA-prime chuck, ground turkey, veggie, or peppermint patties.
With two NHL-size rinks, the arena provides ample space for skaters to show off, whether practicing for form, fun, or competition. During public skate, guests strap on rented skates and call every move they make a triple Salchow, while the rink's roster of skating classes provides students of all ages a chance to hone their figure-skating or hockey skills. Staff members also help guests throw parties to ring in birthdays or graduations deserving of celebration on freshly smoothed ice. Between classes or skate sessions, guests can also refuel at the snack stand with fresh-made popcorn as they gaze at displays of framed hockey jerseys signed by professional players.
Just Your Art's proprietor draws from a wealth of training and experience to help students of any ability level hone their skills. She has a background in medical and architectural illustration that helps her create lifelike depictions of figures and structures. To boot, her master's degree in education allows her to wear a mortarboard and gown at all times.
She works with students to cultivate a joy of self-expression and accomplishment found in creating their own paintings, whether they are grownups enjoying sips of wine between brush strokes or kids discovering their talents during summer classes. Young ones learn the history of art and the finer points of sketching and painting during summer camps, and BYOB parties combine the thrill of girls' nights out with the beauty of artistic creation, defined as turning a wine glass into a wine glass that's balanced atop your head while you paint. The staff sells cappuccinos, lattes, and real fruit smoothies.