Under strings of lanterns and the night's canopy of stars, kids scamper through a field filled with thousands of pumpkins, each one searching for the biggest, roundest one. Finding it is one thing; lifting it is another. The bountiful Pumpkin City's Pumpkin Farm began a bit by happenstance?the owners originally began selling pumpkins out of the back of their pickup and steadily added on amusements as more people came each year. More than 30 years later, the one-month harvest festival sets up each October with attractions ranging from pony rides to puppet shows. As they explore the area amid bales of hay, teepees, character cutouts, and other props, kids can feed baby goats and sheep at the petting zoo or sit on an authentic tractor from 1932. Once guests have procured the perfect pumpkin to carve into the likeness of their favorite monster, they can get their picture taken with Pumpkin Jack, hop on rides such as the Goliath Slide or Pumpkin City Express Train, or visit Gone Fishing, Knock 'Em Down, and other game booths.
Faces literally glow at Gamer Realm. That’s because they’re in front of luminescent screens playing more than a dozen PC and Xbox games such as Halo 4, FIFA 13, and World of Warcraft. The crew there also hosts LAN parties and tournaments for games such as StarCraft II, pitting seasoned and novice RTS player against each other and awarding prizes to winners.
From giant slides to weaving obstacle courses, the multi-level play structures inside each Jump 'n Jammin location contain hours worth of entertainment. It's enough to make anyone feel like a kid again—which is good, because Jump 'n Jammin's creators specifically designed their centers for parents to play right alongside children. That means multiple generations can square off with foam ball blasters. Toddlers, meanwhile, can play comfortably in their own area. Some locations even feature a rock climbing wall and a virtual jump-rope machine, just like the one in the short-lived cartoon, Matrix Babies.
The staff at both the Arcadia and Mission Viejo locations host parties and watch kids as part of J-Care. This program lets parents drop off kids for up to four hours, freeing up time for errands and other tasks.
The pristine sheets of ice at Ice Palace’s outpost in Aliso Viejo serve as a well-kept tundra ideal for diversions such as hockey, figure-skating, and public skating sessions. Future NHL stars and misinformed basketball players can both sharpen their stick-handling skills in the facilities' Learn to Play Hockey programs, whereas Learn to Figure Skate sessions teach beginners everything from forward and backward moves to entry-level jumps and spins. Held throughout the week, open skating sessions allow the general public to let loose as couples slip on their skates, hold hands, and fearlessly tie each other's laces.
The experienced instructors at Leslie Thomson Training forge respectful bonds between humans and horses while cultivating basic riding and Western show skills in both parties. Across rollicking fields of grass, teachers demonstrate how to navigate trail patterns and control the steed's stride and speed. Students also learn proper stallion care, as well as how to use tongue clicks to signal sightings of the ice-cream truck.
While seated in a boat on Laguna Niguel Lake, visitors feast their eyes on the surrounding rolling hills and lush forestry while taking advantage of 44 acres of fishing spots. The staff constantly stocks the waters with new fish, sending thousands of pounds of rainbow trout, catfish, and other species to swim amid the watery depths. With the fishing arena prepared, they then rappel down on fishing lines to awaiting customers to supply permits, poles, and bait, which they use to entice bluegill and other aquatic passersby.
Though all share the same lake, visitors can embark on fishing adventures in multiple ways. They can wrestle with carp from the lakeside, steer a rented boat, or bob across the water in float tubes, a single-person watercraft reminiscent of the floating easy chairs used by retired penguins.