Omar Rodriguez wore his quarantine pants to the Forge, an outdoor adventure park in Lemont, and after three hours of climbing high ropes courses in the simmering 90-degree heat, they were slick with sweat.
“It was definitely a really cool experience, but I recommend wearing shorts,” said Rodriguez, 26, from Park Forest.
It was the first time Rodriguez had been climbing and his girlfriend, Carol McNeal, 22, tagged along. Besides the ropes course, both flew across a quarry lake on the Forge’s 1,100-foot zip line.
“Being strapped up gets rid of the fear when you’re that high,” Rodriguez said.
Besides ropes courses and zip lines, options at the 300-acre Forge include climbing towers, laser tag, canoeing, kayaking, yoga and trails for biking, hiking and running. There also are special concerts and festivals throughout the year.
The park opened last July during the pandemic and has seen a steady buildup of guest registration, especially with availability of the vaccine increasing.
At the Forge “anyone of any age or ability can come out and experience authentic outdoor recreation and personal challenge in a friendly environment,” said co-founder Jeremie Bacon. “So basically, it’s a place to come to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, but you know, but be surrounded by people who are like-minded and have a sense of community.”
The park is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for special concerts, gourmet dining, and night climbing. An art walk featuring Chicago artists is scheduled for Aug. 22.
Julian Brodsky, a 13-year-old summer camper, zip lined from one side of the park to the other in the morning to start his day before trying out the kayaks and then arts and crafts.
“Zip lining is really windy,” Julian said. “It’s kind of nerve-racking getting up there, but once you’re on the line you go pretty fast — and it’s really cool. The zip line is my favorite part of camp, because I like being really high and flying down.”
Admission to the park is free, with activities priced individually. Special opportunities include a $70 zip line, climb and dine package popular among young adults from the city. The Forge also offers a night climbing program at $50, almost half the price of a $90 day pass, which gives full access to all activities.
“The last couple years and the pandemic, too, reminded me of how important it is to get back out in natural spaces and connect with the environment,” said Kyla Muhammad, 40, from Bolingbrook.
“The more you’re outdoors, the more you observe things, which is what I’m trying to help my kids understand. The Forge checked all the boxes for a novel outdoor experience. What was especially nice is that they have training courses to let people try out new things safely before engaging in activities full-on.”
Her 7-year-old son, Hasan, said his favorite part of the Forge was racing his older brother on a two-tower adventure that featured circular rungs.
“I’m the snake from Chinese astrology and also a scorpion, and I felt like I was those signs when I slithered up and down the circle rings,” Hasan said.
Here are some other adventure opportunities in or near Chicago:
- Go Ape
Actitivties: zip lining, high ropes courses and axe throwing
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day
Phone: (800) 971-8271
- Boundless Adventures
Activities: zip lining, high ropes courses and night climbing
Hours: Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Phone: (262) 287-0933
- Edge Adventures Rum Village Aerial Park
South Bend, Indiana
Activities: zip lining and high ropes courses
Hours: Wednesday through Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Tuesday
Phone: (800) 590-8347
- Ultimate Ninjas
2916 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago
Activities: America Ninja Warrior indoor obstacle courses and gym space
Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone: (773) 877-3524
- Brooklyn Boulders
100 S. Morgan St., Chicago
Activities: indoor rock climbing and fitness classes
Hours: Monday and Friday noon to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Phone: (312) 268-0002