Wizard World Chicago was upon us and we had planned a full day to explore the convention and make some connections. However, Chicagoland is so rich with geek destinations we decided to take an extra day and head out to the suburbs to really explore some of those great locations. Luckily, we have a good friend, Tom, from our much younger bachelor days, who lives in the area and was available to show us the sites in the western suburbs. Tom, ChiefGeek and I used to get together and play video games and card games back in the day. You know THOSE days, before spouses and offspring when it didn't matter if you stayed up until 2 am trying to get Lara Croft to her hidden treasure or solve that last puzzle in MYST. We also played several CCGs together, particularly Vampire:The Eternal Struggle. And finally, we had defeated a few villians together in the alleys of Paragon City before the MMO City of Heroes finally shut down its servers in November of 2012. So as you can tell, we were familiar with all the geekosphere had to offer and were excited to find some new locales.
We started the day in Plainfield, IL and broke the ice with a true gem of a gaming store, The Wandering Dragon. Let me tell you, when you hope a local gaming store opens in your home town, you hope for one just like The Wandering Dragon. Located right in the heart of Plainfield's quaint downtown shopping district, this shop caters to both the veteran and newbie alike. The shop is on the top floor and you enter on the side of the building.
I was immediately impressed by the woodwork and creative display of all the games and supplies. They carry the latest releases and have a very active league and game room schedule plus a huge library of games that you can "try before you buy". The owner was helpful and friendly and answered several questions about cooperative family games. The shop was gearing up for GenCon as well and was bustling with shoppers. There were several patrons just coming in to get started in the game room and even invited us to join them; everyone was so welcoming! I picked up Forbidden Island for the family (which is a great cooperative family game BTW) as well as several Android: Netrunner data packs and we were out the door to catch some lunch before moving on.
On the way to meet Tom and his family for lunch, we took a minute to wander into Main Street Candy and Toys. This was a great find! The store is just a few doors down from The Wandering Dragon and filled with aisles of eclectic and education toys and games. The decor fits the toystore perfectly with vintage games decorating the upper shelves around the store. The staff was helpful and had even been to Wizard World the day before and shared their awesome Dr. Who photos with us!
After lunch, we jumped back in the car and headed out towards Games Plus in Mt. Prospect. However, before we left Plainfield we swung into the local Graham Cracker Comics location. Graham Cracker is one of the largest comic book store chains in the country and can be found all over the Chicagoland area. They pride themselves on knowledgeable and friendly staff at their stores and we were not disappointed. This particular store had supplied Chief Geek and myself with mail order comics for years before we had a well-stocked local store. We were able to pick up several back issues that our collections required before moving on towards Mt. Prospect and Games Plus.
As many from the Chicago gaming community are aware, Games Plus has been a pillar of games, especially miniatures for years. Their stock was overflowing with games and supplies from just about any genre you could imagine! I picked up a few more data packs for Netrunner and wandered the aisles, amazed at the variety and vastness of their stock. The store was busy with all kinds of shoppers as well as several folks working on game construction and miniature painting.
Our next stop was at Dreamland Comics in Schaumburg, IL. Located in an unassuming shopping center, Dreamland is a class act. The store is spotless and extremely family friendly with a wide variety of comic and pop culture merchandise. Not only was I able to finally find Trillium #1 which I had forgotten to add to my pull list back home, but also we picked up some very cool comic-inspired bottle openers and a toy for the little geeks at home.
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Tom at this point and we headed into the city for one last stop. Our driving was over and we stopped into Emporium Arcade Bar. This place is a child of the 70's and 80's playground! They have all the console games from our youth. You know the ones that we played at the skating rink and the pizza place? All of them! Galaga, Tapper, Joust, Burgertime, and of course the staples like PacMan and the Mrs. The list goes on and on, way too many titles to name. The back room also had a large collection of pinball machines. After we got our tokens (yep, just like Chuck E. Cheese, no quarters here) we stepped back in time and had a blast. Emporium also carries a vast selection of craft beers on tap and in bottles and you could reserve tables for larger groups. A good time was had by all, and we marked it down on our list for a return visit the next time we are in Chicago.
What had started as a spontaneous day, turned out to be filled with undiscovered treasures and some truly fantastic geek locations. We strive to continue to explore the many locations we haven't visited and bring that information back Geek City Guides!