Genuine Northwest, Summer 2012

Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

Randall Oaks Park & Barnyard Zoo, West Dundee

Randall Oaks Park & Barnyard Zoo
1180 N. Randall Road, West Dundee, (847) 428-7131,

At 141 acres, this is the largest of Dundee Township Park District’s parks. It boasts plenty of parking, with ball diamonds, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, washrooms, shelters and picnic areas, a playground and “tot lot,” trails, even disc golf.

One of its most popular features is the barnyard zoo. Visitors can tour the barn, set atop a hill overlooking the park, and get up close and personal with … well, a zoo of feathered and furry friends.

Old McDonald has nothing on this place: horses, goats, cows, pigs, sheep, donkeys, ducks, peacocks, even white-tailed deer and alpacas. Here, you get to look and touch – petting is encouraged. Get a handful of feed for $1. Take a pony ride for $4. Choose from a variety of snacks, including hot dogs and ice cream. Cost is $3.25, ages 3 and up ($4 for non-residents, or purchase an annual membership for a family of four.)

Hayrides are offered at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 26. Groups and schools can arrange for an animal program that will come to their facilities.

The zoo is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Oct. 8, and then on weekends only, until it closes for the season on Nov. 26.


Cascade Drive-In, West Chicago

Cascade Drive-In
1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago, (630) 231-3150,

Enjoy movies retro-style, under the stars. New this season, hear the soundtrack over your car radio; all of the back-in-the-day speakers still work, and very well, too.

Dogs are welcome; toss a frisbee or football while you await the gorgeous sunset and the start of the film. Close enough to O’Hare to see lots of jets pass overhead, too!

Concessions include hot dogs and hamburgers, personal-size cheese pizzas, nachos, soft pretzels, candy, ice cream novelties and, of course, popcorn and soda. A grill (but not charcoal) is provided for those who want to bring their own picnic basket and cook out. (Just don’t try to bring in any food from Scooby’s hot dog stand next door.)

The drive-in is open seven nights a week, and patrons are treated to two – count ’em, two! – first-run movies for $8 per person. Specials include occasional Groupon offers for snacks, and $14-a-carload Tuesdays.

A purely American phenomenon, outdoor cinema began 79 years ago this June, in Camden, NJ. In their heyday, U.S. drive-in theaters numbered around 5,000; today, there are fewer than 400. Lucky for us here in the northwest suburbs, the Cascade is among them, one of two still operating in our own backyard.

Box office opens at 7 p.m.; movies begin at dusk; no debit or credit cards – cash only.


Kane County Flea Market

Kane County Flea Market
525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles, (630) 377-2252,

his local institution, one of the largest, longest-running and best-known of its kind in the country, marks its 45th anniversary this season. Begun by Helen Robinson – aka “The Queen Flea” – the first one took place in 1967, in the little town of Wasco, with 14 dealers and a whopping 400 attendees. With that response, naturally, the dealers wanted more space, so Robinson rented out the fairgrounds, and the Kane County Flea Market was born.

Now, hundreds of vendors begin at midnight on the first day, setting up their booths both indoors and out, clamoring at the chance to hawk their wares here. Little wonder. This monthly mega-sale, held March through December, draws as many as 25,000 shoppers over its two short days, Saturday noon-5 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

Whether you call yourself a window shopper, bargain hunter, casual collector, antique hound or “picker,” you’re sure to find what you want here – and lots you probably don’t even know you want yet.

The organizers, heirs of The Queen Flea herself, who passed away in 2000, advocate antique, vintage, collectible and “classy junque” – no new, garage-saley or crafty items, please – so rest assured, it’s all good stuff. Antique and primitive furniture, vintage clothing and dolls, antique toys and games, pottery and art glass, kitchen items and home décor, books and coins, magazines and comic books, hats, canes, antique bottles, jewelry and accessories, handbags, and hats.

Who knows what you may find?

Admission is $5. Bring cash, since some dealers don’t take plastic (ATMs on-site and local banks nearby).