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.
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.
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.
From Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and Mario Kart to skeeball, the more than 100 video and redemption games housed at Nickel City only cost one nickel per play. Additionally, more 30 arcade classics are playable for free—such as Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter—during which gamers battle evildoers trying to prevent them from repaving the road. Once players accrue enough tickets, they can swap their stubs at the redemption counter for prizes such as army men, stuffed animals, and electronics. In between the virtual action, guests can reenergize with a bite from the snack bar or join friends for celebrations in the party room.
Inside Line Racing gives RC enthusiasts a venue to pit their mechanical monsters against radio-controlled rivals in tests of speed and skill. A large, winding foam track provides the arena upon which glory will be won and reputations will be shattered as motor-powered autos careen toward the finish line. Rentals are fully able to hold their own, even against home-brewed speed machines, ensuring a fun and fair hour of competition for beginners and Mario Andrettis alike.
Golfland debuted its first putt-putt green in 1953 and has since expanded to seven locations across California and Arizona. Each location features one to three 18-hole courses, replete with colorful castles, windmills, and fountains. After navigating the obstacle-filled fairways, guests can try their hands at an array of arcade games, whether felling foes in fighting games, stocking up on tickets to win prizes, or following the spellbinding plotline of a pinball game. At the San Jose location, visitors can cool off in the warmer months with a trip down parallel outdoor waterslides.
Visitors can reenact the 1933 Cannery Row Bank heist at Monterey Mirror Maze's laser maze, which angles green touch-sensitive lasers into a thrilling obstacle course. As competitors race toward the bank vault to complete the heist, they dodge the beams or suffer a booming alarm and extra time added to their score. Low scores lead to cool prizes such as gift certificates and sunglasses. Visitors can top off their heist with a trip through the mirror maze—a trial in and of itself, since strobe lights and a perfectly symmetrical labyrinth of mirrors mask dead ends and surprising corners.
Once maze goers finally break free, the fun continues at the adjoining Highway 1 Golf Games & Grub. Here, murals of the Pacific Coast flank the 3D black-light mini golf course where earthquake motions up the challenge on each par. The heart-pumping Speed Freak course pits up to four players against each other in a life-size version of whack-a-mole. As guests move from one attraction to another, they can stop to fuel up at the snack counter where sliders, corn dogs, and waffles on-a-stick ensure each player has enough energy for a re-match.
Lead-footed motorists and boatorists can experience the best of each with unlimited access to Malibu's high-performance go-karts and weaponized bumper boats. Zip around hairpin turns, pick up speed on straight-aways, and fly over banked curves with a passenger in tow aboard Malibu's safe and speedy four-wheeled chariots. Malibu's post-adolescent playpen also lets amphibious athletes take a competitive dip with friendly bumper boat battles. Each buoyant water skimmer is surrounded with bumpers to encourage planned crashes, and the vessel comes equipped with a mighty water cannon perfect for drenching enemies or spritzing overheated allies. After an afternoon of speed, slow down with the thoughtful, zen-like meditation that is miniature golf on the park’s whimsically appointed links.