H.G. Wells first imagined a ray gun in his 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds. It took almost a century, though, before Milton Bradley’s first Star Trek-inspired electronic phasers allowed people to zap someone else with a ray of light. Now officially living in the future, these light-wielding marksmen settle their duels in the darkened halls of Lightning Lazer Tag, downing opponents with a mixture of Wild West bravado and whiz-bang space-age weaponry.
If players tire of navigating murky passageways and blasting friends, they can decamp to a nine-hole indoor miniature-golf course, which challenges bodies and minds with devious obstacles cast in the permeating glow of a black light. Competitive shouts and digital chatter drifts from linkable video game systems, which let players choose from more than 40 games.
In 1976, busy California mother Joan Barnes wanted nothing more than to find a play place where she and her kids could enjoy age-appropriate, educational activities. Finding none, she developed her own innovative play environment within a developmental-based program structure now known as Gymboree Play & Music. Today, kids tumble and learn in more than 650 locations in 33 countries around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their children's development, their kids learn to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of their preschool knitting circles.
Featuring an abundance of indoor inflatable slides, jumps, and obstacle courses, Monkey Joe's caters to energetic kids 12 years and younger regardless of the day's forecast. Today's Groupon lets an adult and their youngster swing by for a bout of supervised bouncing during any of the gym's open hours, which take place every day of the week. Adults always get in for free, but are asked not to jump on the play equipment unless they are watching a child four years or younger or just won bingo. Instead, accompanying elders can relax while monitoring little ones in Monkey Joe's amenity-laden parent nook, which features comfortable seating, free wireless Internet, and flat-screen televisions that never need you to wipe their noses. Kids three years and younger can scoot confidently about the super-soft surfaces of the separate Mini Monkey Zone. After battling through inflatable obstacle courses and contending with bouncy minotaurs, kids can scuttle over to the arcade to use their six tokens for games of skee-ball, basketball, or jump rope; most games require one token.
On the blue and springy expanse of AKF Martial Arts Academy's floor, uniformed students kick, jab, and whirl between defensive movements. Stripes of color bedeck their waists, showcasing what level they've reached and the score of their focus and determination.
It may surprise some parents, then, to hear what Master Cantin has to say about his studio. Unlike curricula at many other schools, he says, programs at AKF do not focus on heavy combat, tournament training, Eastern philosophy, or how to rope cattle by twirling a black belt. What his programs do achieve is something even more important and nuanced: building character and athletic prowess. Master Cantin and his fellow instructors count confidence, discipline, and listening among the skills they strive to instill, along with physical agility and stamina. In this way, the AKF team expands students' sense of self, and equips them with tools they can apply to all manner of challenges throughout life. And because many levels can train at once, whole families often enroll together, with parents and kids learning alongside one another.
At Xtreme Wheels Roller Skating & Family Fun Center's 30,000 sq. ft. facility, the rental center stocks skates as tiny as a toddler size 7. Here, skaters of all ages are welcome to take a turn on the rink. This is no big surprise, given the history of the father-daughter team who runs the rink. Dean Hohl has more than three decades of rink management under his belt, while his daughter Kimi started toddling on wheels as soon as she could walk.
They welcome families to make skating a part of their history on the rink's 17,000 sq. foot wooden floor during a variety of often themed open-skate sessions. They often host birthday parties in a fun family atmosphere in one of their five party rooms. During Kids Celebration Skate, parents get even the smallest members of the brood in on the fun by pushing their strollers around the rink, and packs can dress up for the Halloween costume contest or skate off excess caloric intakes at the Skate Your Turkey Off Thanksgiving event. To refuel after a day on the rink, skaters break at the concession stand to snack on pizza, pretzels, and hot dogs.