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.
Multicolored holds dot the climbing walls inside North Wall, granting visitors a variety of gripping surfaces and seemingly limitless routes during their scaling expeditions. Since 1994, the rock-climbing haven has been beckoning climbing enthusiasts to its sprawling confines, where it offers classes and private lessons for climbers of all abilities. Participants can even join teams, in which they can boost their skills for competitions or leisurely scrambles up the noses on Mt. Rushmore.
The licensed educators at Kindermusik help enrich family relationships and bolster kiddies' mental development through interactive, music-focused play dates. Children from newborns to 7-year-olds can investigate the world of sound waves through age-specific sessions of sing-alongs, musical compositions, and sound barrier-breaking drum solos. ACE Music & Me sessions foster reading and language skills through dance and rhyme, and Village classes stimulate cognitive growth through musical activities. Guardians are encouraged to pick up a tambourine and belt out a note alongside their musical wards. After each pressure-free play date, Kindermusik instructors outfit each parent with a number of after-class activities suited to their child's developmental level and ability to impersonate Dick Clark.