It's the pull of the plunger, the release of the ball, and the battering of the bumpers. It's the clacks of the flippers, clapping to keep that silver streak careening across the board as the scoreboard lights up like Paris at night. That's the magic of pinball, a visceral, immersive, and inherently tactile experience that all of the virtual reality in the world couldn't duplicate.
The mystical silver ball reigns supreme at Chicago Street Pinball Arcade, an electric shine to the godfather of video games. Founded by hobbyists and collectors compelled to share their joy with the public, the downtown Joliet funhouse has blossomed into a fairway for die-hard enthusiasts and first-time tilters alike. An array of machines from different eras reside within. Retro electro-mechanical games from the '60s and '70s mix with digital and solid-state machines from the early '80s, modern electronic games from the '90s, to current incarnations. A few classic video games and a foosball table also enhance the old-fashioned arcade vibe. All of the machines are lovingly maintained by the dedicated staff, who view their work as a birthright; 90% of the world's pinball machines were designed in Chicago by the wizards at companies such as Gottlieb, Stern, and Williams.
A hailstorm of paint projectiles rains down upon CPX Sports' more than one dozen fields, each of which poses different challenges and requires specialized tactics. The crown jewel of the park is the Town of Bedlam, a massive maze of small-town 1950s buildings that jut out between streets dotted by paint-splattered cars and streetlights. There, snipers poke their heads out of the central city hall's tower as the opposing team hides out or checks for abandoned shampoo samples inside the post office. The Jungle of Doom drops teams into a heavily wooded field to vie for control of a central temple, and chromatic combatants weave between desiccated cars in the Wastelands, attempting to collect the most gas cans. A full pro shop outfits players with markers, protective gear, and Sesame Street coloring books for target practice.
In the newly-built indoor paintball facility, meanwhile, combatants can compete on an over 35,000 square-foot field no matter how bad the weather outside is. The location also features private rooms for birthday parties, or corporate outings for effective team-building exercises that don’t involve gluing the marketing staff to people in sales.
By highlighting the goings-on in the community of Joliet, The Joliet Area Historical Museum scans the entirety of American history from the perspective of the town's inhabitants. Housed inside the former Ottawa Street Methodist Church, multimedia exhibits artfully assembled from audio-visual displays, touch screens, and life-size models illustrate the stories plucked from the eventful timelines of the town and its people.
Occupying two full stories, permanent exhibit The Soaring Achievements of John C. Houbolt honors the life and work of former resident Dr. Houbolt, who had a primary role in NASA's race to the moon. The exhibit's life-size Lunar Lander even allows guests to step inside and glimpse the accommodations and controls, revealing a control panel more complicated than a single button labeled "Go to Moon." In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also keeps an active calendar full of special events.
The Joliet Park District sprawls across more than 1,000 acres, engaging visitors with everything from sports to nature. Guests can wander through the foliaged paths of the Pilcher Park Nature Center and the organic community garden, or treat their senses to the floral colors and aromas that fill the bird-haven greenhouse. The 10,000-seat Joliet Memorial Stadium hosts high-school and college sporting events, while a dozen athletic fields fill with recreational players hitting baseballs, catching softballs, and spiking soccer balls when the referee isn't looking. During the summer, inner tubes transport patrons down Joliet Splash Station's high-speed water slides and 865-foot lazy river, and the glittery strands of Fourth of July fireworks color the skies above the stadium.
When all you need is a night of sobs or laughs, Joliet's Illinois Dance Academy is there with theater for you.
No matter what you're hungry for, the menu at this theater promises the perfect dish for you.
Having trouble finding that family-friendly activity everyone will love? This theater is made for all ages, so little ones are welcome to come along, too.
Get down with some dancing! Illinois Dance Academy offers several different forms so you can tweak your technique to a T.
At Illinois Dance Academy, drivers can settle for safe parking in the lot next door.
In Focus: Joliet Slammers
Sport they play: baseball
League they’re in: the Frontier League, an independent league that has operated for more than 20 years
Stadium they call home: Silver Cross Field
When the season runs: mid-May to early September
Championships won: 2011, their first year
Popular promotional nights: Country Music Night, Zombie Night, and Superhero/Comic Book Night
Best way to give kids a workout after the game: After non-fireworks home games, send them onto the field to run the bases.