It's hard to say which is more distinctive: the karts zipping around Octane Raceway or the track itself. During each lap on the 1/3-mile course, drivers zoom through an indoor area, then weave around an outdoor section that's covered by a permanent steel canopy, making for a hybrid experience rarely found in American go-kart tracks not owned by bored supervillains.
An equally rare find in the U.S. is the raceway's fleet of 32 Sodi RTX karts, all imported from France, whose electric motors give off zero emissions while reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Drivers who can stay in control at these top speeds are in for success: the winner of each race is determined not by who finishes a given number of laps first, but by who puts up the fastest single lap time, a result that's posted both at the track and online for posterity.
Races take place in a 65,000-square-foot space that doubles as a gathering place for parties and corporate events for up to 500 attendees. In addition to racing, the raceway is also home to off-track activities that include shooting pool in the billiards room, scaling a 21-foot rock-climbing wall, and melting burgers and pizza into rocket fuel at the Trackside Bar and Grill.
Until 2 in the morning, the sounds of billiard balls hang like offbeat commas in the conversations of players leaning on their cues. Of the 18 tables at Pockets Pool & Pub, 10 are regulation Brunswick Gold Crown pocket tables, 6 are coin-operated, and 2 are Spider Elite Carom tables, which are heated to keep balls moving smoothly. Like deserted kangaroo towns, carom tables have no pockets—the game is played based on one’s position against the rails. Every week, the tables host nine-ball, pool, and one-pocket competitions.
The thin, twanging guitar notes of songs from the ’40s drift from a jukebox near the pro shop, which furnishes players with gear. Elsewhere, backgammon pieces and dice click against boards sliced by the characteristic triangles, and players hoist glasses of brews and cocktails over plates of sandwiches and fried snacks.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (up to a $4.39 value).
It's hard not to be impressed by FlipSide. It's a family gaming center and bowling alley, so one would expect it to be hectic and sticky with the spills and stains often left in rambunctious children's wake. But in fact, it's impeccable. The brand-new digs have gleaming wood floors, modern furniture, and industrial open ceilings.
As you settle into one of the plush banquettes at the end of a bowling lane, FlipSide becomes even more impressive once you realize what else the space is clean of. There's no stale smoke lingering in the air or puddles of stale beer on the tables; there's no gruff banter coming from the tipsy league players a few lanes down. That's because FlipSide is truly a family place?they don't serve alcohol, and the lanes are exclusively for open bowling. As families toss colorful balls down the 28 AMF-standard lanes, projection screens above the pins let Mom and Dad check the score of the football game while they're teaching the kids how to pick up a spare and get a salon-quality blowout using the lane's hand dryer.
Elsewhere, kids and parents can strategize attack plans in the two-floor laser-tag arena, battle each other in nearly 60 arcade games, and send each other spinning in collisions of bumper car crash pods with 360-degree range of motion. Parents will also appreciate high-end touches such as a billiards area.
Fueling the activities is the Roundtrip Cafe, where an experienced kitchen staff serve up brick-oven pizzas, sirloin burgers, and even rib eye steak. Families can gather and enjoy a meal that's far more satisfying than the hunk of cheese at the center of FlipSide's laser maze.
The clatter of pool balls melds with the cheering from sports fans at Skip & Jan's Sports Bar, where 24 pool tables tempt those not busy watching the game on one of 20 flat-screen televisions. During time-outs, patrons nibble on tavern fare, such as potato skins, third-pound burgers, and tuna melts. The bar’s wings, which are served with nine different sauces, earned the eatery a feature in the Arizona Republic as one of the area’s 20 best places for wings not including a chicken farm.