photo: courtesy of 10pin
There's no need to sit inside your house and stew just because you're under 21—not when you live in a city that's bursting with activities that are plenty of fun sans alcohol. We've found the hotspots that will let you in even if you're I.D. says you were born during the late Reagan years. So grab your posse and head to these locales, where you can get down underage-style.
Throw a strike at 10pin Bowling Lounge
You may have to turn into Cinderella to bowl at 10 Pin, but it's worth it. As long as you leave the premises by 8 p.m., you're allowed to party here even if you're not 21. And that's saying a lot, because 10pin has established much cooler cred than the typical suburban bowling joint. For one thing, Justin Timberlake, Roy Williams and Joey Fatone have been spotted here, but if that doesn't impress you, perhaps the flat-screen TVs and the club-quality sound system will. Nosh on some tasty apps, like steak burgers, quesadillas and pizza, while you bowl in style. It costs $3.95 for shoes and $6.95 per person per game.
Have a few laughs at Second City
Take advantage of the best comedians this city has to offer by stopping by any of Second City's hysterical sketch shows. As long as you're over 16, you can partake (anyone under 16 needs to be accompanied by a legal guardian) in the festivities. Obviously, you can't order any booze, but alcohol is just a distraction from the comedy anyway; you'll be able to concentrate on all the subtleties that Second City performances are known for when you're simply sipping on Shirley Temples. Get political with its newest production, "No Country For Old White Men," and see if you can spot the future comedy stars of America. (John Candy, Amy Sedaris, Tina Fey and Mike Meyers are just a few of the big names that got their starts here.) Shows range from $14 to $25.
Shoot pool at Lucky Strike Lanes
Before you catch a movie at the River East AMC 21 Theater, chalk up a pool cue at Lucky Strikes, the oh-so-trendy pool and bowling haven in the same building. If you play before 5 p.m., you don't need to be 21, but if you show up between 5 and 9 p.m., at least one person in your party needs to be 21 or over—so start begging your coolest of-age cousin to chaperone ASAP. After 9 p.m., you're out of luck, but that's when you can head upstairs to catch a flick. Bowling here is pricey, but the pool tables aren't too bad: $10 to $14 per hour per table depending on the time of day.
See a movie on the cheap at Brew & View
When you're only making minimum wage (a paltry $7.50 per hour), shelling out 10 bones to see a movie can seriously cut into your going-out funds. But believe it or not, there is such a thing as a cheap movie in Chicago, and it involves a place that most under-agers might avoid: the Brew & View at the Vic Theatre. Sure, the word "brew" indicates that movie-goers can slug beer here, but you don't have to be 21 to enter; you simply have be 18 or over and pay five bucks. That's cheaper than movie rentals these days. The entry fee will get you two movies (a recent double feature showed "Drillbit Taylor" and "Superhero Movie") or even a bunch of reality shows, depending on the night.
Get your game on at ESPN Zone
An arcade connected to a restaurant, ESPN Zone is so much fun that even over-21 sports fans scramble to score a seat here. Because it serves food, like decadent blue cheese chips, seven different burgers and hearty plates of ribs, steak or chicken, there’s no age restrictions. If watching a game on one of the 67 HD flat-screens doesn’t excite you, show off your skills in the arcade area; it caters to sports fiends with games like Fast & Furious, NHL Tonight, a pitching machine and Dance Dance Revolution.
Sing all night at Lincoln Karaoke
There's no age limit or talent test to pass at Lincoln Karaoke, where you can reserve one of the 14 private rooms, which can accommodate groups of up to 20 Celine Dion-wannabes. You'll have 7,000 songs to choose from, so you won't likely get bored, especially since all rooms are outfitted with TVs that loop music videos and fun props like glow-in-the-dark tambourines. Snacks here tend to be free or really cheap, and if you mention it's your birthday, the smiling owner will bring out a gratis cake. Room rental costs $25 to $35 per hour, depending on the size of the group.