Though still the same game at heart, the bowling competitions at Valley Center Bowl take on a sci-fi spin. The center's 30 lanes use flat-screen televisions to report bowlers' scores, play 3-D graphics, and display a digital clock counting down to the robot uprising. During events such as the Rock-N-Bowl, black and colorful lights dance along the walls and floors while videos pour from six 42-inch screens. Electronic entertainment coaxes visitors away from the lanes an into a newly remodeled, 3,200-square-foot redemption arcade that sits beside the Lazer Frenzy laser maze. Recently renovated with comfortable seating and flat-panel screens, Monterey Lanes entices bowlers of all ages to strive for a perfect 300 score while enjoying good company and crisp refreshments from the cocktail lounge. Weekend glow bowling and an onsite arcade keep gamers amused, and the pro shop caters to more serious bowlers. Monterey Lanes routinely lends its slick surfaces to charity events, such as Bowl Over Breast Cancer.
Managing 27 grocery stores and more than 2,500 employees is a stressful task. Nob Hill Foods owner Michael Bonfante learned that the best way for him to manage that stress was to retreat to a shady, secluded spot surrounded by majestic trees. These occasional escapes into nature inspired Bonfante to found a park dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages—but especially children—how to appreciate horticulture, wildlife, and trees in particular. Along with his wife, Claudia, Bonfante eventually sold his grocery stores and committed all of his efforts to educating the public and spreading his love for nature.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park receives virtually all of the Bonfantes' attention now, and it attracts visitors with combination of educational exhibits, carnival games, and amusement-park rides. The map features more than 40 possible destinations where guests can learn something new about local horticulture, enjoy an adrenaline-pumping joy ride, or simply enjoy the scenery. With family-friendly attractions available for all ages, the park includes everything from carousels to paddleboats to a mine-cart roller coaster that takes passengers through a thrilling series of dips and speedy turns. An interactive water attraction called Water Oasis and the Octonauts live show were just added to the roster in 2014.
Even while visitors are standing in line or buckled into a ride, they are still surrounded by nature at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. Five waterfalls—representing the five major styles of waterfalls that occur in nature—gush with torrents of water. The grounds also feature 19 of Axel Erlandson's famous Circus Trees, which he created by grafting saplings so that they grew to form shapes such as hearts, lightning bolts, and basket weaves. In addition to touting the importance of animals such as monarch butterflies and honeybees, the park features six distinctive gardens brimming with informative displays and everything from conifers to tropical and subtropical flowers.
Though guests to Island Waterpark might meet humans on their way to the water, they might also encounter Pelican Pete—a giant blue pelican in a floral-print shirt and bermuda shorts. He and an athletic lifeguard staff oversee guests as they wander among fountains and roaring water in attractions designed for everyone from toddlers to adults. Bright-blue tube slides spiral down into splash pools, a giant bucket tips gallons of water onto passersby, and a three-story open slide sends riders on a straight shot into a landing zone that pads their descent with a foot of water and a coral reef packaged in bubble wrap. Aquatic revelers can also float down an endless lazy river and children can frolic under arching fountains and waterfalls in the kids key largo lagoon.
Since 1955, the Rotary Storyland and Playland have sparked young imaginations and earned a place in the hearts of multiple generations. At Playland, classic amusement-park rides, such as a ferris wheel, tilt-o-whirl, and a historic carousel, induce merriment and occasional regret over eating multiple corn dogs immediately before boarding. In the center of Playland lies Splash Junction, a free place for patrons to cool off on hot days under jets of water. Across the lake, Storyland takes a different approach to fun, populating its grounds with themed playground equipment inspired by classic tales, such as the legend of King Arthur and the lesser-known story of Jack and Jill starting a bottled-water business.
Thrill-seeking families can choose two of the six available attractions. Settle traffic arguments by challenging an opposing driver to a duel on the go-karts. Or just cruise solo, banking curves and outdriving total strangers in a wild day of rubber-burning and dust-eating. For crashtastic thrills, climb aboard a bumper boat and drift on the waterscape, floating amok and gleefully broadsiding fellow captains. A bit of the briny seeps into the mini-golf range, where it creates a sparkling blue hazard to complement the verdant greens. Channel your inner warrior on the laser tag arena's black-light battleground, or finish the day with a feeling of accomplishment that comes only from climbing the big, giant rock wall, with a 32-foot climbing surface and a variety of handholds and different climbing options. Be sure to check Boomers! Fresno's hours before heading out.
From Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and Mario Kart to skeeball, the more than 100 video and redemption games housed at Nickel City only cost one nickel per play. Additionally, more 30 arcade classics are playable for free—such as Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter—during which gamers battle evildoers trying to prevent them from repaving the road. Once players accrue enough tickets, they can swap their stubs at the redemption counter for prizes such as army men, stuffed animals, and electronics. In between the virtual action, guests can reenergize with a bite from the snack bar or join friends for celebrations in the party room.