When it comes to summertime fun in the city, beaches and patios get most of the attention. But when the temperature is sweltering, a little indoor excursion can provide a nice escape, especially when Chicago is packed with so many fun and unique indoor activities, from mini golf to bocce. And all of them packed with great food menus, to boot.
WhirlyBall (1825 W. Webster Ave.)
If you're looking for bumper cars on steroids, coupled with laser tag, bowling and food, then WhirlyBall is sure to be your summer fun spot in Chicago. The new and improved WhirlyBall facility in Bucktown is bigger, better and more immersive than its longstanding previous incarnation elsewhere in the neighborhood. This means three WhirlyBall courts, which is sort of like a mix between bumper cars, basketball and lacrosse, wherein two teams zip around a court in cars with the intent to catch the ball with your handle and score points by hitting the ball within a designated area on your team board against the wall.
If this isn't adrenaline-pumping enough, there's a bi-level laser tag arena upstairs and multiple bowling alleys. Hungry? The WhirlyBall food menu is chock full of reimagined comfort foods like coconut shrimp, steak rangoons, buffalo chicken BLT sliders, burgers, hot pastrami cheesesteak and lots more. There's also a pretty stellar craft beer list for adults.
Game Room (12 S. Michigan Ave.)
I just can't get enough of the Game Room at the new Chicago Athletic Association hotel. A veritable playground for adults, the space on the second floor of the downtown hotel is filled with free billiard games, bocce and chess tables, adjoined by a cocktail list curated by renowned mixologist Paul McGee. Because Old Fashioneds are the best fuel for dominating a game of bocce on one of the largest indoor courts I've ever seen. The food menu takes a modern, whimsical approach to familiar Americana fare, featuring updated riffs on everything from fish tacos and popcorn to freeze pops and hot dogs.
Pinstripes (435 E. Illinois St.)
Speaking of bocce, it appears to be the activity of the summer, because Streeterville's new-ish Pinstripes is laden with both indoor and outdoor bocce courts as well. This enormous two-story space also contains several of the most beautiful bowling lanes in the city, where players can order off the full Italian-tinged food and drink menus.
FTW (322 E. Illinois St.)
Neoteric arcades are all the rage these days, with spots like Emporium, Logan Hardware, and Headquarters popping up all over the place. One impressive newcomer is FTW Chicago, a herculean arcade that just opened in the same building as Lucky Strike bowling alley and AMC Theatres River East 21 in Streeterville, providing a nice one-two punch of indoor festivities. The arcade features anything and everything gaming-wise, from carnival-style games to digital Monopoly, basketball hoops, casino-inspired games and even a fake "electric chair" where the goal is to sit and hang out to heavily vibrating bars for as long as you can stand it. There's even indoor mini golf, a Chicago-themed collection of six surprisingly challenging holes. FTW features a full bar with thoughtful cocktails and beer, plus a food menu of contemporary pub fare.
Photos: WhirlyBall, Game Room, Pinstripes, FTW