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Thursday, June 3, 2004 06:43 am

Just for fun

The Carousel at White Oaks Mall
You did the right thing, for sure. You brought them here to learn about history, Lincoln, the Civil War — yadda, yadda, yadda. But kids are kids. And it’s a fact: All Lincoln and no play make Jack and Jill dull youngsters! How’s about a wild ride down a water slide, a spin on a go-kart, or a whirl on a Ferris wheel? Take heart. There are plenty of places in town that offer these things — and more.
Springfield’s largest water-theme and amusement park has bumper boats, water slides, pedal boats, a Caribbean “Wild River” ride, a wave pool, and a four-story spine-tingler known as the Devil Ray. For landlubbers, Knight’s Action Park has go-karts, batting cages, a challenging miniature-golf course, laser tag, a driving range, and plenty of places to sit down for a bite to eat. Each activity has its own set of prices and hours. However, there are packages that include multiple activities. Knight’s Action Park’s hours change with the time of year, so call ahead at 217-546-8881 or visit the Web site, At many area tourist attractions, you’ll find Knight’s Action Park fliers that offer coupons and discounts. To get to the park, take I-55/72 south out of Springfield then west on I-72 to Veterans Parkway. Take Veterans to Woodside Road (left), Woodside to Chatham (left), and Chatham to Recreation Drive (right).
Just like the old days, only with better sound quality: the Route 66 Twin Drive-In, with two screens showing double features weekends April through October and every night from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. In keeping with tradition, the first show is usually for the kids, the second more for the grown-ups. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids ages 3-12. The drive-in is located next door to Knight’s Action Park. For more information, call 217-698-0066 or visit the theater’s Web site,

This entertainment center, just off Dirksen Parkway north of Sangamon (first light after Sangamon, take a right), has miniature golf, batting cages, “Bankshot Basketball,” and a driving range. After the fun, cool off with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Boulder Creek is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily through Nov. 1. Birthday-package discounts are available. For info, call 217-525-2400.

On Springfield’s west side, this establishment is a favorite for rainy days, especially when younger children begin to grow restless. The Jungle is an indoor playground that includes air bounces, slides, a three-story play world, all sorts of games, and food — mainly pizza and snacks. Admission prices are $2 for 2-year-olds; $4 for ages 3 and 4, and $6.50 for kids ages 5 to 17; admission buys unlimited play. Adults (with a paying child) get to play for free. Jungle-O-Fun is located at 3031 Koke Mill Rd., which intersects with Wabash Avenue west of Veterans Parkway. For more information, call 217-787-0707.
For the more adventurous among your family, the Silo is a good bet. This rock-climbing facility offers four stations, including two indoor 100-foot routes, some of the tallest in the country. The Silo is located at 130 South John St. in Rochester — a short shot east on South Grand and onto Route 29, and you’re there in 10 minutes, tops. Hours are 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Wed. and Fri. and noon-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Call 217-498-9922 for information.
The lake has a lot to offer, including a public beach open May 28-Aug. 4. Admission is free. Call 217-786-4032 or 217-757-8660, ext. 1011, for more information. Lake Springfield Marina (217-483-3625) rents everything from personal watercraft, pedal boats, and canoes to pontoon boats and party barges. Don’t miss “Rock the Dock,” the annual fireworks display, on June 30. The food and fun begin at 5:30 p.m., the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. From May 1-Sept. 15 the marina is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., Sept. 16-Nov.15. Between Nov. 16 and April 30, the lake is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat. Follow the directions off exit 88 on Interstate 55 south of Springfield. Lake Springfield is partly surrounded by some great parks featuring shelters, benches, playground equipment, and grills.
While you’re in the Lake Springfield area, be sure to visit the more than 300 wild creatures from Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America who now reside at the Henson-Robinson Zoo. From March through October the zoo is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
From Nov. through Feb., it’s open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day. Admission is $2.25 for seniors 62 and older, $3.75 for adults 13-61, $2 for children 2-13, and free to kids under 2. Parking is free. Food is available, or you can bring your own and have a picnic in the pavilion. For more information, call 217-753-6217 or visit the zoo’s Web site,
Since opening for business in October 2006, Kicks has raised the entertainment standard a notch or two, providing more than 60 arcade games and rides (including an indoor go-kart track) for children and parents of all ages. There’s even a toddler play area. Most of the parties are optimized for the younger set, but there are games for teens and adults. The menu includes buffets of pasta, pizza, and salad, as well as a “make your own horseshoe sandwich” buffet with four kinds of meat, taco and kids’ bars. Kicks Buffet and Family Entertainment Center, 2744 S. Sixth St., 217-753-2000, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. & Sat. The buffet is always open.  

The centerpiece of White Oaks Mall is a 70-year-old Italian-built carousel that offers kids of all ages the rare opportunity to ride a double-decker merry-go-round. The second story isn’t its only unusual feature; the carousel also has a couple of gondola seats and two “spinner” cars that older kids can crank into whirling dervishes. The upper deck features two porch-style swings. Here’s a hint: If you want a horse that goes up and down, choose a lower-deck mount with a flower basket hanging over its head or any one of the upper-deck steeds. Cost is $2 per person. Children shorter than 42 inches can have a parent ride with them free of charge. There are discounts for packs of eight or 12 tickets. For more information, call 217-787-5302. The mall is bordered by Wabash, Veterans Parkway, and Iles Avenue.
In the heart of lushly landscaped Lincoln Park is the Nelson Center, a drab institutional building saturated with that vaguely sweaty smell of kids having fun. Inside is an ice rink that features public sessions mid-May through August, 12-1:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. Sat. The 7-9 p.m. Friday session sometimes features a DJ. Concessions are available. Skate rental is $2.50. Admission is $3.50 for noon skate and for children and seniors and $4.25 for adults. Outside is a swimming pool with a really big slide, plus a wading pool for the wee tykes. The pool is open to the public 1-5 p.m. Mon., Wed., and Fri.; 1-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu.; and noon-8 p.m. weekends. There’s also an adult lap swim, 5-7 p.m. Mon., Wed., and Fri. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $3 for kids, and $2.50 for the lap swim. For more information about skating or swimming, call the Nelson Center, 217-753-2800.
THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIRGROUNDS This place understandably comes alive during the Illinois State Fair, when hundreds of thousands of people flock to Springfield for a taste of the Land of Lincoln. There are rides — both mechanical and living — games, hands-on exhibits, and entertaining demonstrations such as high-divers, birds of prey, lumberjacking, and more, and that’s not even touching on all the music, food, car and horse races, and, well, the place is just huge. The 2007 fair takes place Aug. 10-19. For more information, call 217-782-6661 or toll-free 866-807-7918 or see The fairgrounds is also home to Adventure Village, a small carnival next to the main entrance that opens in early May and runs through mid-September. Admission to Adventure Village is free, but there’s a cost for each ride. Until the fair starts, Adventure Village is open on weekends and by appointment for private parties. Call 217-528-9207 to see whether Adventure Village will be open the day you’re in town.
Entrances to the fairgrounds are found along Sangamon Avenue and Peoria Road. The main entrance is at the corner of Sangamon and Peoria roads. The fairgrounds hosts many other events throughout the year. To find out what’s up, check out the calendar in the back of the Visitor Guide.