Sports & Recreation
Oddball Sports Leagues
CHICAGO BIKE POLO
WHAT: Two teams of three bike riders whack a street hockey ball with mallets. First to score five goals wins.
WHO: “The average bike polo player is involved in the bike scene or works with bikes in some capacity,” says Andy Golding of Chicago Bike Polo. Most players are in their 20s or 30s, but teens are also welcome.
WHEN AND WHERE: At 2 p.m. on Sundays at Garfield Park’s tennis courts (on Central Park just south of Madison).
CHICAGO PETANQUE CLUB
WHAT: The French version of bocce. Players throw metal balls (or boules) as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet.
WHO: The Chicago Petanque Club is a “mini United Nations,” according to Dan Danielson, the club’s president.
WHEN AND WHERE: Saturdays at noon at either Community Park in Forest Park or McGuane Park at 30th and Halsted in Bridgeport.
CHICAGO AREA ORIENTEERING CLUB
WHAT: Using a topographic map and a compass, participants navigate their way through a series of locations in a forest preserve. The first person or group to hit every point in the shortest time wins.
WHO: All ages welcome, but young children must come with adults.
WHEN AND WHERE: Most meets begin at 10 a.m. on Sundays. A free beginners’ clinic is offered at every meet at 9:30 a.m.
CHICAGO UNDERWATER HOCKEY CLUB
WHAT: Hockey in a pool, minus the goalies and checking.
WHO: “We have swimmers, lifeguards, scuba divers, and people who never swam before jumping in the pool to play hockey,” says Ben Tolsky of CUHC.
WHEN AND WHERE: Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. at Downers Grove North High School and Thursdays from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Kennedy King College.
CHICAGO AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
WHAT: Chicago’s only Australian-rules football club. The object is to kick an oversize football through the opposing team’s four posts. A ball that is kicked through the inner two posts earns six points; a ball that soars through the outer two posts earns only one point.
WHO: The majority of players are Americans, but Aussies run the trainings.
WHEN AND WHERE: Practices held every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Waveland Field. Games are held at 6 p.m. most Friday nights.
* * *
Public Tennis Courts
501 E. 90th Pl.; 312-747-6763
Ten courts with lights; open until 11 p.m.
Located on a residential stretch with the Tuley Park library just to the south, these courts were recently resurfaced for impressive smoothness and offer wood benches next to each net.
Good and nearby:
The 12 courts at Rainbow Beach, located at 77th Street and the lake.
DIVERSEY TENNIS CENTER
140 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 312-742-7821
Four clay courts; open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The city’s only public clay courts stay open until the end of October. Reservations can be made a week in advance ($16 an hour), and private lessons with seasoned pros can be arranged. The Friday and Saturday evening mixers feature Level 4 play for men and women.
Good and nearby:
The 20 courts at Waveland Avenue, east of Lake Shore Drive.
Montrose Avenue, just west of California Avenue; 773-478-3499
Six hard courts, including four with lights on Montrose Avenue; open until 10 p.m.
Horner’s six courts—split between two locations in the park—don’t suffer from the overcrowding of other North Side hot spots. Park on Montrose or in the lot on California, where you can often find an ice-cream truck for a postmatch dessert.
Good and nearby:
Revere Park, which has four courts in the 3900 block of North Campbell Avenue.
Western Avenue at Albion Avenue; 773-262-6314
Six courts; open until dusk
Situated next to the Robert A. Black Golf Course, Warren Park offers great atmosphere, with plenty of parking in the lot off Western, in addition to its five ball fields and a nine-station batting cage.
Good and nearby:
Indian Boundary Park (2500 W. Lunt Ave.; 773-764-0338) provides the luxury of four individually fenced-off courts.
Wagner Road at New Willow Road; 847-446-4428
Four courts; open until dusk
Reopened last July after renovations, the almost-new courts have the added benefit of being mostly hidden from street view; a bulletin board at the entrance lets you know when the court is booked for camps and lessons.
Good and nearby:
The three courts at Park Avenue and the lake in Glencoe—just a 15-minute drive from Willow Park. Windy, but gorgeous.
* * *
Richard Rodriguez holds the current Guinness world record for roller-coaster marathoning, which he captured in 2007 after 401 consecutive riding hours on the Pepsi-Max Big One, a steel coaster in Blackpool, England. “The thing that gets you most is people screaming,” he says. “You hear that 5,000 times and it’s like torture.” He ranked the hottest roller coasters in the Midwest—including two that are brand-new this season.
WORLDS OF FUN 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave., Kansas City, Missouri; 816-454-4545, worldsoffun.com
“People in the industry have been talking about this for the past year. It’s a new wooden coaster, and it’s going to be one of those rides that disappear into the woods. Spiraling turns, an 85-foot drop.” Top speed: 51 mph Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
CEDAR POINT 1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky, Ohio; 419-627-2350, cedarpoint.com
“This is one of the greatest steel coasters in the world. It hugs the ground and gives the rider lots of surprises—positive and negative g-forces, views along Lake Erie, the serenity of the park combined with high technology.” Top speed: 93 mph Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds
KINGS ISLAND 6300 Kings Island Dr., Mason, Ohio; 800-288-0808, visitkingsisland.com
“This is a hot new coaster designed by the Swiss company Bolliger and Mabillard, a classic developer of these hyper–steel coasters. It has a first drop of 215 feet, somewhat padded seats, and an interesting layout—a lot of helix configurations and banked turns.” Top speed: 80 mph Duration: 3 minutes
HOLIDAY WORLD 452 E. Christmas Blvd., Santa Claus, Indiana; 877-463-2645, holidayworld.com
“The world’s top air-time coaster, where you feel like you’re lifted out of your seat, with three 90-degree extreme banked turns, five underground tunnels, and lots of consecutive hills. This wooden coaster has lots of changes in energy that create the sense of surprise enthusiasts love.” Top speed: 67 mph Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds
SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA 1 Great America Pkwy., Gurnee; 847-249-4636, sixflags.com/greatamerica
“Still one of my all-time favorites. Modeled on Coney Island’s Cyclone, which is the wooden roller coaster I grew up riding, Viper has a thrilling first descent and awesome spirals.” Top speed: 50 mph Duration: 2 minutes
* * *
CENTENNIAL FAMILY AQUATIC CENTER
A cross between a water park and a competitive swimming complex, this recently renovated swimmers’ nirvana has a 50-meter pool, water slides, a diving tank, and a zero-depth area for children. Cost: $7.50 resident, $13.75 nonresident. 2300 Old Glenview Rd., Wilmette; 847-256-9680, wilmettepark.org
This expansive water park’s biggest perk is the fact that Centennial was once a rock quarry, giving it the feel of a country lake—with a beach, open water, slides, and high dives, all surrounded by acres of grass and trees. Cost: $6 resident, $10 nonresident. 500 W. Jackson Ave., Naperville; 630-848-5000, napervilleparks.org
PORTAGE PARK POOL
The site of the 1972 Olympic trials, Portage is the only Chicago Park District pool that sports 5- and 10-meter diving boards. Its massive 50-meter pool draws serious athletes in the early mornings and evenings. Cost: Free. 4100 N. Long Ave.; 773-685-7189, chicagoparkdistrict.com
BLAIR PARK SWIMMING POOL
This facility offers an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, water slides, shaded cabanas, plenty of deck space, and a kids’ pool in the relaxing environs of the surrounding park and golf course. Cost: $6 resident, $8 nonresident. 355 W. Washington Ave., Lake Bluff; 847-234-4150, lakebluffparks.org
EAST BANK CLUB
East Bank’s impeccable outdoor pool offers a 60,000-square-foot sun deck, comfy chairs, a café, and one of the longest outdoor seasons around—early April to the end of October. Cost: Monthly membership $170. 500 N. Kingsbury St.; 312-527-5800, eastbankclub.com
* * *
FOR IFFY WEATHER
1 PELICAN HARBOR
Sure, the indoor section lacks a lazy river and is considerably smaller than the outdoor section of this park district water park, but the scaled-down water slides are ideal for younger kids. 200 S. Lindsey Ln., Bolingbrook; 630-739-1705, bolingbrookparks.org
FOR COMPETITIVE KIDS
2 SPLASH STATION
Even noncompetitive parents will enjoy the 200-foot-tall Miner’s Mountain, which, with six side-by-side lanes, is the biggest racing slide in the Midwest. 2780 U.S. Route 6, Joliet; 815-741-7275, jolietsplashstation.com
FOR SIMULATING AN OCEAN EXPERIENCE
3 RAGING WAVES
Opened last summer, this water park on steroids—the biggest in Illinois—is the size of roughly 35 football fields. The giant wave pool is the closest you’ll get to the ocean without leaving the state. 4000 N. Bridge St., Yorkville; 630-882-6575, ragingwaves.com
FOR THE EASILY BORED
4 SIX FLAGS HURRICANE HARBOR
You’d think a 40-mph plunge on the Riptide and nine other rides would thrill even the most jaded teens, but if not, the admission fee—the steepest of the bunch—includes Great America. 1 Great America Pkwy., Gurnee; 847-249-4636, sixflags.com/greatamerica
FOR AVOIDING CROWDS
5 SPLASH DOWN DUNES
A newer, slicker water park nearby (at Deep River, in Crown Point) may have siphoned off visitors, but that just means shorter lines for the still-impressive seven-story Tower and other slides. 150 East U.S. Highway 20, Porter, Indiana; 219-929-1181, splashdowndunes.com
* * *
Ways to Get on the River
1 KAYAK From around May until October, these three companies offer day and evening trips down the Chicago River: Wateriders (312-953-9287, wateriders.com; $55 to $60) gives history lessons on the Eastland disaster, architecture, ghosts, and gangsters; Chicago River Canoe & Kayak (773-704-2663, chicagoriverpaddle.com; $35 to $50) and Kayak Chicago (630-336-7245, kayakchicago.com; $50) both offer architectural rides with more gawking and less talking.
2 WATER TAXI From March until December, Metra commuters and tourists use these bright yellow boats to shuttle back and forth from Ogilvie station to stops near the Merchandise Mart and the Tribune Tower. The two taxis are enclosed and offer restrooms—and the larger, 100-passenger taxi even includes a bar. Single rides cost $2 and all-day passes are $4; for weekend service to Chinatown, add an extra $2. 312-337-1446, chicagowatertaxi.com
3 RAFT Every spring and fall, the bridges lift and sailboats parade down the river. But turns out there’s no law precluding you from floating in the murk on a blowup raft or any other kind of craft for that matter. Visit a09502.uscgaux.info for information on how to schedule a safety inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard in advance—they’ll even come to your door if you’re inland.
4 TOUR BOAT Stick with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (312-922-3432, architecture.org/tours.aspx; $28 to $32) or the Chicago History Museum’s tour run by Chicago Line Cruises (312-527-1977, chicagoline.com; $21 to $36). Chicago Line Cruises also offers special tours including one about the Chicago blues scene that includes live music from B. B. King’s daughter Shirley (chicagohistory.org for details).
5 RIVERWALK Those construction barges on the Main Branch along Wacker Drive should be gone this summer, assuming the city finishes the extension of the Riverwalk from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Plus, vendors will start popping up along the current stretch on Memorial Day. If all goes well, expect new vendors and—fingers crossed—a floating farmers’ market along the promenade.
Photography: Courtesy of Holiday World