Though glimpsed by many people for the first time on an episode of The Amazing Race, the desert acres traversed by Fort McDowell Adventures are steeped in millennia of Yavapai Indian history. Guides lead visitors across the Arizonan foothills on a range of outdoorsy and sometimes anachronistic adventures, such as cattle drives and Segway tours through the Sonoran desert, kayaking adventures on the Verde River, and nature walks with Yavapai Indians. These excursions often end in nighttime wiener roasts, s'mores, and cocktails, a break from the frontier tradition of telling campfire sci-fi stories.
Activities at Fort McDowell Adventures’s four venues further immerse guests in the American Western experience. They gather for Dutch oven–style cowboy cookouts and depart for wilderness excursions from The Stables. At La Puesta del Sol, guests pass through a Spanish mission entrance into a dining hall, saloon, stage, and dance floor, and at Rosa's Ranch, they gather under the stars and around cookout fire pits nestled between rustic wooden ranch buildings. Groups dine at The Boulder House, named on the National Registry of Historic Places, whose rock walls bear evidence of petroglyphs, Native American occupation, and ancient spelunking expeditions.
Go-karts hugging the turns of a winding indoor track. Bowling balls tumbling down glow-in-the-dark lanes. Lasers zipping past black lights and glowing murals. Within Amazing Jake’s more than 90,000-square-foot indoor amusement park, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere, cars collide in a bumper arena, intrepid adventurers scale a towering climbing wall, and riders of the mini-coaster scream their teeniest, tiniest screams.
Those are tough to hear inside the arcade, which resounds with the bleeps and blips of more than 150 redemption and video games. While the older kids enjoy all these spoils, younger guests can savor four attractions of their own, including a train ride and carousel. To help visitors reenergize, Amazing Jake’s houses a 100-foot all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with pizza slices, pastas, and salad fixings.
Though the medieval era was undoubtedly exciting, with its jousting matches and knightly errands, King Arthur's castle could have done with a few upgrades?namely, a laser-tag arena. King Ben's Castle at Golfland Sunsplash has modernized its interior to include just that. During games of Lazer Knights, players dart between glowing columns to target enemies on the opposing team, blending science-fiction and fantasy genres into one intense competition.
The castle is also host to a sprawling arcade with more than 200 games. And, instead of a protective moat, its grounds are home to a water park and several family-friendly attractions. Three separate mini-golf courses challenge putters to sink their shots between colorful obstacles, while go-karts vie for first place on the Fastcar Raceway and bumper boats jostle their riders.
During May through September, guests careen down slides in Sunsplash water park, including The Revolution?a nearly seven-story slide that culminates in an open bowl, sending raft riders into dizzying circles. Entire families can board a raft for the three thrilling drops of Thunder Falls, whereas the Lazy River carries swimmers on a lackadaisical journey inside their inner tubes. There's also an enormous wave pool, which recreates the feeling of riding swells on a choppy ocean more authentically than asking someone to shake your bathtub.
In 1966, Big Surf Waterpark founder Phil Dexter built his first model of a wave machine in his backyard, a place he affectionally named Tahiti Phil's. With some help, and several models later?including one assembled inside an abandoned billiards hall?he perfected the contraption, making it the centerpiece of his newly opened waterpark in 1969. Dexter's invention instantly snagged press from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life, and today, it remains Big Surf Waterpark's 2.5-million-gallon keynote attraction. Over the years, despite Arizona's lack of rain or gigantic sprinkler, the park has managed to grow around the wave pool, and its current 20-acre campus features dozens of slides, rides, and areas for all ages. Big Surf's real estate has also played host to entertainment events, including concerts from Pink Floyd, Elton John, and the Beach Boys. New for this year, and in honor of Phil?s wave making machinery and his original backyard site where it all began, Big Surf has unveiled its own Tahiti Phil?s, a full service bar for adults over 21 that looks over the historic wave pool.
Climbers cling to large, composite structures, strategizing their way up the side of a rocky cliff. They have come to conquer Climbmax Climbing Gym's myriad rock-face combinations and master the art of blindfolded belaying on thick, padded floors. Before challenging themselves on the climb-through cave or scaling an overhang, climbers slip into a harness and climbing shoes for safety.
In addition to climbing areas geared toward beginners and advanced climbers, a children's area features its own pint-sized climb-through cave where youngsters learn to appreciate all aspects of the stimulating sport. Thick padding covers the floors of each climbing area, ensuring safe landings and comfortable, celebratory belly flops from the wall's summit.
Named as a top indoor place for kids in Arizona by AZCentral.com, BounceU in Gilbert surrounds sock-clad kids with an arena of giant, colorful inflatables. Within the supervised fun house, young ones get their cardio up by navigating air-filled obstacle courses and slipping down plush slides. On the gigantic Spider Mountain, climbers hone the skills needed to one day scale the greatest inflatable of them all, Mount Everest. The vertical climbing wall challenges children's skills, and a foam-ball shooting range and 20-foot slide provide extra enjoyment. A private party room also makes the springy stadium an ideal venue for birthday parties, field trips, and fundraisers.