It may sound clichéd, but ask the staff members at The Play Station about their most memorable experience, and they'll probably say a new one happens every day. Specifically, it's the moment when a child walks in, sees the three-level play center, and lets out a gasp of excitement. The 12,000-square-foot facility's tube slides, ball pits, and other recreational equipment blossomed from the owners' relatively simple idea: create a place where our kids can be active whenever it's yucky outside. Today, kids 12 and younger climb, crawl, and slide through the play center or hit the game room to win tickets redeemable for prizes such as toys and an all-inclusive weekend in Moon Vegas.
While kids expend their energy, parents can relax nearby and socialize, watch television, or enjoy a menu of snacks, such as mozzarella sticks, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nachos. The Play Station's crew includes a team that organizes children's parties and books the facility for field trips, fundraisers, and private rentals.
Sponges and brushes glide across unfinished works of art beneath shelves brimming with more than 150 forms and 60 glazes at The Potters’ Obsession. Visitors thumb through inspiration books and wield stencils to color and paint mugs, bowls, and Gumby when he is going into witness protection. In the art-dappled space, warmth bleeds from a kiln, where the staff completes pieces and locks glazes into a sleek finish. The Potters’ Obsession also hosts special events, birthday parties, and painting packages to help Girl Scouts and Brownies to earn art badges.
A procession of blips and blinks marches through Planet X's arcade room. The noise and neon spills over and accents the facility's surroundings, where guests can zap their least favorite cousins during laser tag, release pent-up road rage in bumper cars, or just stand, flabbergasted by the number of activities available. Though interactive entertainment is its bread and butter, Planet X also features a sports lounge with flat-screen TVs, beer, wine, and views of the kitchen staff tossing pizzas by hand.
An award-winning organization, the Iowa Children’s Museum engages and expands the imaginations of youngsters with interactive exhibits and hands-on programs. The Move It! Dig It! Do It! event invites pintsized minds to stretch themselves around the enormous equipment wielded by construction professionals, farmers, and bus drivers, and then witness how each vehicle fits into the next to defend the galaxy as Voltron. More than 40 activities and machines ensure all-day entertainment. Tots can scramble into the driver’s seat of a fire truck for a hero’s-eye view of the engine’s three-alarm chili dispenser or enjoy a haystack ride. Create your own cement garden stone before retiring to the Volunteer Guild’s Dig It! Café for purchasable snacks and water divvied up out from under a big tent.
The race's runners squirm and snort at the starting line. Ham Bone, Miss Piggy, and Pork Chop may just be piglets, but in the course of one fall season at Dan-D Farms, they'll transform into world-class swine sprinters. Approximately every two hours, they'll storm down a 100-yard improvised raceway, complete with a water obstacle. That's right––a water obstacle. "Our pigs," farm owner Debra Kearney confirms, "can swim."
These riotous races are just one part of the lineup of events that overtakes Dan-D Farms each fall. Guests flock to this family-friendly affair to scramble over hay bales, feed wooly sheep, or test their sense of direction in one of two hay mazes. Each year for their maze, Debra and her family––including dad, Dan––devise a new design, but try to stick to things that are Iowa related. Past mazes have included the image of iconic Iowans such as native son John Wayne, and the ISU Cyclones and Iowa Hawkeyes mascots, as well as a reproduction of the American Gothic painting by Anamosa, Iowa–native Grant Wood. Each June, they begin marking the design into the 20-acre field, painting and flagging rows like boxes on grid paper, and then cut out the tunnels before the corn grows knee-high or develops the ability to cry. While this intricate, artistic design requires huge amounts of time and labor, less energy is spent carving out the separate haunted corn maze, where the fear-factor relies on simple twists and turns, instead of fancy effects or animatronics. "It's really not too hard," Debra says, "to scare people in a dark, dusty corn field."