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.
An old-fashioned marquee sign hangs above the entrance to Osio Cinemas, its hand-placed letters broadcasting the six films currently being screened. While the selection changes weekly, the theater always carefully curates a selection of popular films, documentaries, and independent features. That eye for artistry even extends to the refreshments—besides classic popcorn scooped at the concession stand, the on-site Cafe Lumiere serves up slices of cheesecake, squares of brownies, and generally round cups of espresso, all of which may be brought into the theater.
Tucked into the tranquil foothills of Mount Madonna, BellaMar Training Stables and Riding School educates students of all abilities either inside one of two arenas or on the airy stretches of the facility's many trails. Head instructor Elizabeth guides riders through every level of equitation and instructs more advanced students on the styles of dressage and eventing.
New riders begin with private lessons, during which they learn such skills as correct position, grooming, and cleaning tack. Private lessons also maintain an overarching focus on good sportsmanship, emphasizing both respect as well as the importance of never spiking a helmet after a flawless trot. As riders improve, they can then move on to semiprivate or group lessons.
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.
With more than 20 years of equine experience, Jeanette Arnaout instructs students of all skill levels on the fundamentals of horsemanship during lessons and riding camps. Each session carefully pairs riders with appropriate steeds for their skill level, allowing novices to learn basic techniques and experienced stallion tamers to trot to the beat of the hokey pokey. Small-group settings foster an educational atmosphere, and kind, well-trained horses guarantee hiccup-free learning. Lessons include instruction on horse cleaning and care—think grooming and hoof-picking—as well as riding time. Like a molting flamingo, students are encouraged to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes, but Jeanette provides all of the equipment necessary for camps. Those overwhelmed by unruly horses can turn them over to Jeanette for training, during which she gently boosts steeds' confidence to improve their obedience.