"I will honor Christmas in my heart," vows Ebenezer Scrooge near the end of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, "and try to keep it all the year." For five weekends around Thanksgiving through Christmas, the 750-plus costumed performers at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair honor this declaration.
Lauded as "charmingly over-the-top" by the San Francisco Chronicle and "dazzling" by the San Francisco Examiner, the fest comprises more than three acres of exhibition halls. Inside, the fair's creative team recreates Dickens' Victorian-era London, complete with labyrinthine lanes, scone-scented bakeries, quaint pubs, and a rowdy dockside. In the streets and on seven stages, carolers entertain crowds alongside notable guests, including Queen Victoria and Scrooge himself. yelling that famous catchphrase, "Bah! An icky humbug! Somebody squish it!"
Dart Ops creates a safe indoor battlefield where players vie for victory using toy dart guns loaded with foam ammo propelled by short blasts of air. Neon-colored screens, walls made of mesh netting, and hanging targets pepper the arena space, which transforms into a monsoon of flying foam at the start of each friendly battle. As games progress, players can curl their trigger fingers around more advanced weaponry, including velcro-tipped darts that adhere to targets or the weak spots of enemy sock puppets. A marshall ensures fair play and organizes different types of game play, such as Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Protect the President. Aside from open play, Dart Ops' staff also host birthdays in a party booth and organize monthly Tour of Duty tournaments.
The Sylvester family had bartending in its blood. Whether it was Uncle Mickey holding court with 40 years' worth of regulars or Tony Sr. mixing one of his signature Skip and Go Nakeds, they exemplified the easy grace and no-nonsense craftsmanship found in a true barman's barman. That dedication to well-poured drinks carried over to Tony Jr., who has spent the last 35 years training mixologists nationwide through the curriculum of his ABC Bartending Schools. Taught behind fully functional bars, his courses educate students in topics ranging from drink recipes and equipment setup to flair moves and alcohol awareness. His schools also emphasize employment; after graduation, students can take advantage of a nationwide job placement service to land gigs in Miami nightclubs, Las Vegas casinos, or the bar cars of Chicago's El trains.
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Maxwell Fun Center gathers families together for hours of memory-making fun on a picturesque 18-hole course. The miniature greens evoke a sense of local pride, featuring shrink-rayed townsfolk bustling amid lifelike replicas of Sonoma's historical mission and city hall. Though today's Groupon is only valid for golfing, putters can celebrate a successful outing with a tasty ice cream at Maxwell Fun Center's snack bar or regain lost mojo after an astronomically high stroke count by heading to the nearby arcade to play skee-ball and air hockey or flirt outrageously with Ms. Pac-Man.
GoKart Racer safely curbs the need for speed with its fleet of Sodi RX 7 European racing karts, which come equipped with hydraulic brakes, a four-point racing harness, and a 9-horsepower Honda engine that can reach up to 35 miles per hour. The speedsters weave through each facility's indoor European-style road courses, including the 3/8-mile SuperTrack, which has more than 20 turns, an elevation change, and the occasional hotshot, road-jumping frog.
Before the green flag waves, the staff members equip racers with a racing suit, a helmet, and a brief rundown of the kart's abilities and dietary regulations. They tailor races to different age groups by offering kids? karts, a driving school for minors, and racing leagues for experienced drivers, and they augment traditional racing with a laser maze. The facility also welcomely opens its doors for birthday parties and other events.