Giant toy soldiers clothed in thousands of colored lights wave at passersby as glowing reindeer take off into the dusk. Towering Christmas trees topped with stars glimmer and glisten with blue and green fiber optics. At Santa's Enchanted Forest, one of the world’s largest Christmas-themed amusement parks, holiday spirit and festive music fill the air long before the end of December. Visitors laugh and shriek on a multitude of carnival rides, including whirling swings, bumper cars, tower drops, and roller coasters, whipping through the air until their cheeks are as rosy as old Saint Nick’s. Traditional carnival games are also on hand, such as dart tosses and soccer-ball kicks, to complement more unconventional carnival amusements such as giant plastic balls to roll around in and a rock-climbing wall to scale. Wee visitors, meanwhile, can make the acquaintance of small livestock in a petting zoo or draw a portrait of their favorite goat in royal costume on a wall-size coloring-book mural. Carnival food, such as barbecue, pizza, and cinnamon donuts, fuels guests as they conquer rides or take in the Cats of the World Tiger Show, the Cirque Equinox, or the Sea Lion Splash Spectacular.
Splat Paintball Park’s players strap on goggles and cradle Tippmann 98 paintball guns before sprinting through the X-ball grass field or the urban-scenario field encompassed by 20-foot-high netting and high-tech lighting. As players dash around, Paintball Training Institute–certified referees ensure the Geneva Conventions are followed.
Teams first design plans of attack in the covered staging area equipped with ceiling fans and cleaning stations, and then hone their aim at the shooting gallery. An onsite pro shop stocks shelves with all the extra equipment they could need.
In between matches, players relax in the indoor lounge with a snack bar, a big-screen TV, and paintball videos. Those celebrating birthdays storm the fields with friends before retiring to the private air-conditioned party room.
With hands gripped to the wheels of karts capable of cresting 45 miles per hour, up to 12 racers hum around the hairpin turns and straightaways of K1 Speed's indoor track during adrenaline-spiking sprints toward the podium. This brand of excitement can be found at all 18 locations, where racers eschew the fumes and inflammatory skywriting of gas kart exhaust for European, eco-friendly electric karts designed to instantly accelerate out of curves, which are bordered by safety barriers that absorb impacts.
A smorgasbord of fun, adventuresome activities fill the 9,000 square feet of Funderdome. Upon entering, eyes immediately gaze skyward to the center's ceiling, where kids deftly navigate the ropes course a good 22 feet above the ground. While kids remain safely tethered, they traverse seven complex courses that build balance, coordination, and confidence. As the sky's the limit for kids, there's also a climbing wall to further enhance fitness in a fun way. A 30-foot-high multilevel playground keeps heads in the clouds with 20 different obstacles as well as mazes, tubes, and slides. Kids even can climb a vertical tower to an enclosed sports complex. There, they play basketball and soccer 22 feet in the air. From there, kids can come to ground while not exactly coming back to Earth for the activity floor and space-quadrant laser maze. With views of all the action, the café provides parents respite with WiFi, pizza, sandwiches, and LavAzza coffee.
Thirty-five thousand square feet is a lot of ground to cover. That's why families could spend an entire day at Kabooms Amusement & Party Center without blinking an eye. They can glide around a rink on rented roller skates, leap inside an inflatable bounce house, or test their skills in the paintball range. Meanwhile, winning redemption games in the arcade gives players a chance to choose from a wall of prizes, which features sports jerseys, stuffed toys, and even electronics. The center is also a fun place to celebrate birthdays, or parties for any occasion, that goes above and beyond typical party pizzas by serving mini egg rolls, sliders, lasagna, and jalapeno poppers as well as typical, but no less delicious, party pizzas.
Though the business’s name acknowledges its image as an age-old pastime, Olde Tyme Bingo updates the classic game with modern machinery. Tabletop computers ease game play, with virtual chips and game boards helping guests to earn cash prizes, gift baskets, or commemorative bingo cards dipped in bronze. The hall is open six days a week, giving players ample time to try out other games including a nontelevised version of The Price is Right’s famous Plinko.
As they observe the vibrant exhibits of aquatic life inside the Miami Seaquarium, many guests don't realize that they are walking through a movie set and a hospital. In the onsite lagoon, bottlenose dolphins swim through waters once traversed by Flipper, who filmed several television episodes and films at the venue. The Seaquarium is also recognized as a manatee critical care facility. Its staff has accomplished several historic treatments, including monitoring the conception and arrival of the first manatee born under human care and conducting the first manatee neurological surgery.
These facets of the Seaquarium—along with its many conservation efforts, educational programs, and shows—underscore a united commitment to wildlife consciousness. The animal attractions enable visitors to witness the allure and fragility of oceanic fauna up close, whether they are petting the back of a stingray or washing a dress shirt on the rough back of an 8-foot nile crocodile. Special encounters decrease the distance even further, sending patrons on underwater Sea Treks through the reef display or helping them to lead marine-mammal training routines.
It's hard to pinpoint the biggest personality inside the Seaquarium tanks, but Lolita the killer whale—who performs daily alongside pacific white-sided dolphins—claims the title of heaviest, period. On the other end of the scale, macaws and cockatiels perch around the Tropical Wings section of the park, and endangered sea turtles lounge at Discovery Bay. Elsewhere, a watery playground and three-story ropes course keep legs from growing too wobbly after a trip to Shark Channel or a smooch from a sea lion.