"Tread softly," say players on Insane Paintball’s outdoor forts course. No matter how careful you are on the ground, opponents likely lurk atop the field’s 14 one- and two-story buildings, waiting to strike on the unsuspecting players below. More buildings tower above the wooded field, where teams can take cover behind mounds and old, paint-splattered cars.
Those pellets fire from Insane Paintball’s semi-automatic rental guns, part of gear packages that include face masks and compressed-air bottles. Snacks await players after long stretches of recreational, scenario, or tournament games, as do shopping sprees inside an on-site 3,500-square-foot retail store. Besides stocking new gear, the store hosts certified technicians, who repair malfunctioning equipment such as guns that only let players load crayon nubs.
Over the course of Winners Circle’s 12 years of entertaining those young and old, families have raced around go-kart tracks, practiced putts on mini-golf greens, and zapped each other with lasers. They’ve also been able to race against each other, the clock, and Christopher Lloyd in running shorts in the Time Freak obstacle race, and more recently, have been able to perfect their swings in indoor and outdoor batting cages. For birthday parties, families can take advantage of a party room, arcade tokens, and pizza from Papa John’s.
By day, The Bounce House Amusement Center's bouncers, slides, and obstacles courses are what you'd expect them to be: colorful inflatable surfaces where kids climb, clamor, and jump. At night, though, they function as cover for laser tag combatants, who sneak and shoot their way around the inflatable arena during 10- to 15-minute games. On Friday evenings and during full moons, patrons can enjoy the arcade, with The Bounce House switching on its nine 50-inch televisions for rounds of Xbox 360 and Wii games such as Lego Harry Potter and Call of Duty .
Along with open playtimes, the center hosts camps, as well as birthday parties built around its inflatable, laser tag, and video game attractions.
A motley collection of secure and sanitized play structures dominates each Catch Air location's indoor play arena to sate the lively imaginations of children as well as the safety concerns of their parents. Each of the four locations opens its doors seven days a week to unique lineups of attractions, including three-tiered castles covered in colorful nets and padding, with space shuttles attached to appease every child's love of anachronism. Tykes 12 and younger can wade through ball pits or take to an interactive, light-up dance floor to practice moves before they reach the age when practicing becomes embarrassing. The staff maintain a watchful eye at all times and clean every play structure daily before opening. Staffers also host parties to celebrate birthdays or the end of second-grade finals week.
In WhirlyBall, participants maneuver free-range bumper cars and use a handheld scoop to collect wiffle balls to launch at the overhead targets located on either end of the court. You'll work together in teams of up to five at a time (up to 20 players are allowed on the court at once, and at least 10 are required) to crush your opponents in a whirlywind of scoops and balls. Surrounded by safety bumpers, your vehicle enjoys a complete range of motion with powerful steering that allows you to turn on a whim or a dime. If more than 20 Whirlers are in the party, players can be rotated in and watch from the comfort of leather lounge couches instead of gathering posterior splinters on the end of a rigid bench.
Back in 1995, fresh out of college, Shannon Skidmore and his fiancée, Shannan, leased a small 20'x20' building, an old Chevrolet van, and 50 tubes, and took over Smoky Mountain River Rat from its previous owner. Over the next five years, the “Shannons” gradually made the business their own by buying their own property, with Shannon using his contractor license and expertise to erect a new, larger building in just six weeks. Smoky Mountain River Rat has expanded to 500 tubes, two vans, and 20 kayaks, and the business now also offers whitewater rafting on the nearby Pigeon River. Meanwhile, its shuttles transport families up and down the Little River for unlimited daily rides, with customers as young as 2 years old floating down 1.5 miles of tubing-friendly, meandering waters as they trade off verses of old sea chanteys.