Kangaroo Jac's avenue of inflatable structures bustles with giggling swarms of children 10 and younger. During walk-in play, youngsters milk the all-access admission by repeatedly plummeting down the safe but steep fortress slide, hurdling over obstacles in the crossover course, and exploring the expansive Koombo Kombo—a two-story, inflatable dreamscape, elaborate enough to house a balloon animal Citizen Kane. Abiding by the facility's core values to provide "hassle-free birthdays," staff members help organize and clean up after parties, hosted in a private room where each child can gorge themselves on pizza, drinks, and birthday wishes.
The parent area's TVs and WiFi keeps adults up-to-date on national news, whereas the toddler area and MagicLand bounce zone keeps tots up to date on local gibberish. Throughout the year, Kangaroo Jac's supports the community by donating to local organizations and hosting dedicated playtime for children with special needs.
Julie Fabing Burleson and Suzy Vinson Nettles feel that the kitchen is just another place for kids to flex their creativity. They opened Young Chefs Academy to provide kids aged 3–18 with cooking programs targeted to preschoolers and kindergarteners, elementary schoolers, and older kids ready for trickier techniques and intricate recipes. Regardless of a student’s age, he or she is always taught the pillars of home cooking, including how to be safe in the kitchen, how to properly handle and prepare food, how to bake, and how to talk down an oven that constantly overheats. While participating in the entertaining cooking lessons, kids may not even realize that each class also allows them to practice their math, reading-comprehension, and communication skills.
The waterpark's family-friendly layout is set up with 16 waterslides, a one-million-gallon wave pool, stately palm trees, a water playground, and water. The park's newest attractions, Pirates' Plummet and Walk the Plank, are covered/open-air 200-foot-long flowing slides that end with a 50-foot photo-worthy plunge into the depths of a pool below. Go tubular in the Runaway Bay Wave Pool or the whitewater Jungle Falls. The Hurricane, a swirling slide that is under rising pressure until a final drop dumps you in a pool, is the perfect place to test if sewing your passport into your appendix keeps it safe.
The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival gives visitors a chance to get an up-close view of more than 20 hot-air balloon teams from across the country, and then observe them in their natural habitat: the sky. The weekend-long festival is held on the grassy expanse of Meadow Event Park. The main attractions are the morning and early-evening flights, when all 20 colorful vessels take to the air at once and gracefully interrupt the annual paper-plane migration.
On Saturday, a sweeping balloon-glow display will light up the night sky. Meanwhile, off-site rides instill wonder with dawn or near-dusk flights in one of the balloons—and include transportation back to the grounds in the chase car. And yet balloons aren't the festival's only draw: regional crafts vendors display their hand-made apparel and arts, while craft beer and wine tastings pair with food from local restaurants. Throughout each day, live bands play classic rock and new wave, old-school jazz and R&B, and folk-infused country.
Owner Jessica Jones-Healey founded Tidewater Studios for the Arts Inc. in 2009 as a noncompetitive forum for kids to practice performing and visual arts. Winner of a 2011 Virginian-Pilot Reader's Choice Award for Best Dance Studio and Best Performing Arts Academy in Portsmouth, Western Branch, Churchland, and North Suffolk, the facility inspires children with engaging explorations into the joys of hand-made art, hand-played music, and hands-free dance.
Whether settling a pool-hall bet or the question of who can finish a burger the fastest, gamers have been fueling their competitive spirits at Jillian’s of Chesapeake for more than 20 years. Balls tumble down nine lanes toward clusters of pins in the bowling alley, while players at the billiard hall’s 10 tables psyche out pool sharks by reenacting the ending to Jaws. Elsewhere, joysticks and racing wheels test hand-eye coordination on the arcade’s more than 100 video games. In between each frame, shot, or level, players can reenergize with salads, burgers, and flatbreads at the restaurant while catching up-to-the-minute sports and highlights. The facility’s private rooms and semi-private lounges further accommodate feasting guests, with bites from Jillian’s of Chesapeake’s catering menus keeping them pleasantly sated throughout their soiree.