As the Advanced-A minor-league affiliate for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Visalia Rawhide caters to baseball buffs with professional bat-cracking action and advance screenings of future big-league stars. This year the team celebrates 65 years of play at the recently renovated Recreation Park, an intimate stadium of spherical slinging where fans sit so close to the field that they can call pitches and notice subtle interventions from celestial outfielders. When the players’ endless running, throwing, and sunflower noshing inspires spectators' stomachs to hunger, the park’s three concession stands offer satiation with a bevy of ballpark eats.
The seasoned coaching crew behind Fresno World of Baseball has helped hone hacking slashes and correct poor batting form since 1999, opening their current clean, well-lit, and air-conditioned facility in 2007. They'll supervise your swing time inside any of their nine indoor batting cages. After approaching the plate, a machine with a mechanical arm and intimidating rusty sideburns will spit rawhide bullets at anywhere from 40 to 70 miles per hour, its lifelike delivery simulating in-game at-bats far better than traditional wheel-feeder machines or dolphin blowholes. Square off against softballs or baseballs, either with your own hickory stick and helmet or with weaponry borrowed from the friendly cashier. Budding national pastimers can also refine their stroke inside a whiffle-ball-tossing cage, making today's Groupon a fine family outing for all ages and skill levels.
Everyone can buy up to five of today's Groupon (a total of 10 tickets), so round up ballpark fanatics of all ages for a Saturday-evening outing to the open-air Chukchansi Park, which plays host to the Fresno Grizzlies before they grow to the heights of gentle yet surprisingly man-sized San Francisco Giants. Backdropped by the downtown skyline, night games spring to life under a spectacular night sky. During slow innings or unusually long pop flies, take your anxious youngsters down for a few games at the park's Fun Zone, where kids can train like real-life baseball players by riding the carousel, rolling down the inflatable slide, and practicing in the pitching and batting zones.
Blackbeard's Family Entertainment transports visitors to magical and faraway places. One mini-golf landscape mimics the Wild West with realistic hotel and saloon storefronts, whereas another simulates pirate life, and a third brings storybooks to life with castles, moats, and sand traps filled with porridge.
It's easy to believe you're actually on a roller coaster as you sit in the virtual Cyber Coaster or that you're in a 1980s European discotheque while you sneak through the smoky, music-filled twists and turns of the XTreme laser-tag arena. To take a mock tropical vacation, head for the water slides or an adventure course that resembles a jungle rope bridge. Cap'n Kids' Rideland whisks away youngsters to a realm where gravity is irrelevant, and the go-kart tracks blur adults' everyday stresses into a whirlwind of speed.
The encouraging coaches at SwimAmerica teach swimming skills that build confidence and coordination in kids. The CPR- and first-aid-certified aquatic instructors acquaint wee ones with splashing during parent-child classes, begin building technique in elementary-school-age classes, and welcome older pupils to join them for adult classes, including water aerobics, an arthritis aquatics program, and underwater poker.
Reverb-laden shrieks drift from the cathedral-like halls of an indoor pool across the soft floors of TumbleAmerica’s gyms. Certified instructors lead pupils across the padded mats in gymnastics classes, building cognitive, social, and athletic skills through age-appropriate activities. In the 13,000-square-foot facility, kids as young as 10 months and as old as 12 years learn basic motor skills or work toward aerials and cartwheels. The center also offers swim instruction through a nationally certified teaching program and adult aquatics classes, including water aerobics, aqua Zumba, and underwater tax preparation.