Special Venues
Destination / February 02, 2017

The Chicago Suburbs buzz with after-hours diversions

by Carolyn Blackburn

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0217/Chicago1.jpg

    RiverEdge Park, Aurora

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0217/Chicago3.jpg

    Pinstripes, Dupage County

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0217/Skyzone_openjump.jpg

    Skyzone, Aurora

Chicago’s suburbs, from the North Shore to Southland, are positively hopping with fun experiences for groups when the sun sets.

After-hours opportunities include celebrating the day’s business over a locally made meal and adult beverage, enjoying an active pursuit with co-workers, ranging from indoor skydiving to jumping on trampolines, and taking in a performance, whether it’s a night of soccer or stand-up comedy.

Northern Suburbs

Chicago’s North Shore is home to several robust meetings-friendly communities, including Skokie and Evanston.

For evening outings, groups should check the schedule of performances at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, which offers group sales for tickets to plays, concerts, stand-up comedy and more. The venue is also available for group gatherings.

In Evanston, groups can toast the day’s meetings at Sketchbook Brewing Co., Temperance Beer Co., or Few Spirits, a purveyor of whiskey and gin that accommodates private tours and tastings.

Lake County is also home to a distillery, the Green Oaks-based North Shore Distillery, where groups can unwind at the end of the day over a cocktail made with handcrafted vodka, gin or absinthe.

Vernon Hills-based WhirlyBall, a sport that combines basketball, hockey, lacrosse and bumper cars, is another option for after-hours fun, according to Jonathan S. Jones, marketing communications coordinator at Visit Lake County. The facility also offers laser tag, video games and pool tables.

In the Chicago Northwest region, groups will find several entertaining venues for more excitement after a day of business.

Private events complete with food and beverages are accommodated at Topgolf Wood Dale, where the signature game involves driving a golf ball to hit a target; the Schaumburg-based Level 257 for bowling, ping pong and video games; and Punch Bowl Social, also in Schaumburg, where groups can bowl and perform karaoke.  

Rosemont MB Financial Park is a 200,000-square-foot entertainment and dining complex that’s home to, among others, Big Ten Experience, an interactive attraction highlighting Big Ten college sports, iFLY Indoor Skydiving, Zanies Comedy Club and Joe’s Live, a music venue.

“MB Financial Park is also home to a variety of seasonal events, including a free summer concert series and free ice-skating during the winter months,” said Chris Stephens, executive director of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. “There’s something for everyone and all venues offer great packages available for groups.”

Western Suburbs

An interesting option for an evening outing in Oak Park is a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum, which offers a discount to groups of 10 or more.

“Group tours are welcome outside of regular hours, so the sites can be enjoyed at a more relaxed pace with extra time for questions and photo-ops,” said Kevin Kilbride, marketing manager for Visit Oak Park.

At the Riverside-based Quincy Street Distillery, groups can enjoy an evening tour and artisanal cocktails in the on-site speakeasy bar. 

“Guides share humorous tidbits about customs in distilling through history,” Kilbride said.

Located in a historic railcar roundhouse in Aurora, Two Brothers Roundhouse offers a brewpub, music venue and banquet space for large events.

According to James Cardis, director of marketing for the Aurora Area CVB, groups will find nightly entertainment there from Thursday to Saturday, including live music and a weekly comedy showcase. RiverEdge Park offers a summer concert series.

Also in Aurora, Sky Zone Trampoline Park can accommodate teams of 15 or more for activities such as trampoline basketball.

“It’s a blast,” Cardis said. “You really have to visit to appreciate the scope of the space and the pure joy of launching off a trampoline floor with a room full of your colleagues.”

In St. Charles, Arcada Theatre serves as a live-music venue that doubles as an off-site event venue for groups.

The Room Lisle, an interactive and teambonding challenge, has groups find clues to help them escape a locked room. There is also a space on-site for groups that want to add a party with refreshments after play.

“It’s a very different and unique way to collaborate with co-workers,” said Diane Homolka, executive director for the Lisle CVB. “It’s like going on a scavenger hunt.”   

The Morton Arboretum is another Lisle attraction that hosts events after-hours, including mystery dinners, craft beer tastings and Woods and Wine, during which groups will “enjoy live music, delicious food and dessert, and of course drink wine on warm summer evenings outside in Arbor Court,” Homolka said.

DuPage County offers a variety of breweries and wineries for a teambonding crawl, according to Beth Marchetti, executive director for the DuPage CVB.

“All of our locations provide great opportunities for groups to take tours and enjoy tastings,” she said, and cited Two Brother’s Tap House, Lynfred Winery and D.O.C. Wine Bar.
At Pinstripes, also in DuPage County, teams can bowl, play bocce ball and dine together.

“Pinstripes is a wonderful location for fun teambuilding activities that provide a little more than collaborating in a celebratory setting,” Marchetti said.

Chicago Southland

When groups are convening south of Chicago, they can check out Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire Soccer Club in action at Bridgeview-based Toyota Park, which welcomes groups of every size and has luxury boxes available for groups.

“The Chicago Fire Soccer Club offers a wonderful night out for groups with major-league fun at minor-league prices,” said Juston Teach, communications manager for the Chicago Southland CVB. “We encourage any first-time visitor to sit in Section 8 and cheer with the best fans in the league.”

The group-friendly Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, which hosts private events and crafts award-winning beers, is part brewpub and part train museum.

“With amazing food and world-renowned craft beers, this long-standing institute in the Chicago Southland is perfect for groups large and small,” Teach said.

One of the best events after a day of meetings in the Heritage Corridor is a progressive dinner called the Trolley Trio, according to Dan Mulka, marketing manager for the Heritage Corridor CVB.

“Everyone begins the journey boarding a trolley at Starved Rock Lodge,” he said. “Groups get to experience the nightlife at three different locations, with transportation taking them from place to place.”

The first stop is August Hill Winery, second stop is The Lone Buffalo (by Tangled Roots Brewing Co.) and the final stop for dessert is back at the Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center.   

And Bolingbrook’s iPic Theater and Salt Sports Bar, according to Mulka, will satisfy different personalities in the group.  

“The foodie will enjoy the great menu, and everyone can have a great signature cocktail,” he said. “If attendees want to see a movie, they’ll enjoy the very plush seating. Or they can skip the movie and either shoot pool or watch the big game.”

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