It's a clear day, the blue sky stretching on into the distant horizon. Over a nearby hill, a strange shape appears. Round and colorful, it floats serenely, leaving viewers on the ground to wonder if they've somehow stepped into Around the World in 80 Days. This isn't science fiction, of course. It's just another day for the operators at California Balloon Rides. Since 1975, they've maintained one of southern California's finest hot air balloon fleets. Using a mixture of time-tested know-how and modern aerostatic innovations, they lead breathtaking tours over the rolling hills of Perris-Temecula Valley. Trips are leisurely affairs, with pre-flight snacks and celebratory post-flight champagne toasts along with breakfast at the airport cafe, adding extra bits of luxury to already memorable outings.
Painted Earth makes it simple for amateur artisans and ceramic virtuosos to produce colorful pottery pieces using a variety of stencils, stamps, and patterns. Start by choosing your desired vessel from a vast selection of more than 500 ceramic pieces ($6–$70), including coffee mugs ($10–$17), dinner plates ($14–$20), and miniature figurines ($8–$30) to festoon with the likeness of a pet or distant relative. Pick a design from the store's volumes of idea books, select from more than 100 colors, and then create a design for an earthenware masterpiece. For artists suffering from painter's block, Painted Earth hosts an online inspiration gallery, and friendly staff members stand ready to assist with the pigmenting process. Glazing, firing, and vibrantly hued paints are included in the flat studio fee ($6 per person per visit), and polished objects are ready one week later.
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.
At Boomers!, thrill-seeking families and fun-enabling friends can attack a variety of appealing attractions, including mini golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and the button-mashing joys housed inside the exhilarating game room. The Vista location entertains families of sharpshooters with a blacklight-illuminated laser-tag arena before little ones climb and crawl through the Kidopolis play area. The El Cajon and San Diego locations let rivals celebrate the spirit of competition as they fly past each other in speedy go-karts or have a snail-paced Ferris wheel race at the kid's county fair. Unlimited pass holders at the El Cajon location can also scale the 32-foot-tall climbing wall, which, like America, enables citizens to climb to the top via myriad routes.
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.
At Fast Lap Indoor Kart Racing, which earned CityVoter's Best Sports and Recreational Activity title in 2009, visiting motorists whirl around a 1,200-foot indoor track designed by former IKF racers. Drivers suit up with protective helmets and neck collars before strapping themselves into Sodi karts, whose gas-powered Honda 200-cubic-centimeter engines and miniature horses power them through 10- to 12-minute races. The indoor facility?s professionally engineered exhaust system ensures safe, clean air for all racers as they wind through the course with up to 11 other competitors. Computerized timing systems accurately record photo finishes, and video helmets and race suits are available to enhance the experience. A slew of celebrity guests have been known to frequent the track, giving visitors a rare opportunity to outwit IndyCar drivers or trade high-speed knock-knock jokes with Hollywood comedians.