It's hard to say which is more distinctive: the karts zipping around Octane Raceway or the track itself. During each lap on the 1/3-mile course, drivers zoom through an indoor area, then weave around an outdoor section that's covered by a permanent steel canopy, making for a hybrid experience rarely found in American go-kart tracks not owned by bored supervillains.
An equally rare find in the U.S. is the raceway's fleet of 32 Sodi RTX karts, all imported from France, whose electric motors give off zero emissions while reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Drivers who can stay in control at these top speeds are in for success: the winner of each race is determined not by who finishes a given number of laps first, but by who puts up the fastest single lap time, a result that's posted both at the track and online for posterity.
Races take place in a 65,000-square-foot space that doubles as a gathering place for parties and corporate events for up to 500 attendees. In addition to racing, the raceway is also home to off-track activities that include shooting pool in the billiards room, scaling a 21-foot rock-climbing wall, and melting burgers and pizza into rocket fuel at the Trackside Bar and Grill.
Step beneath the domed, packed-mud ceiling of a traditional Navajo family dwelling. Weave a Yavapi burden basket. Explore a secluded garden filled with bronze sculptures of women in prayer. By immersing visitors in Native American artifacts and artworks, the Heard Museum's exhibits strive to illuminate the cultural legacy of Arizona’s indigenous peoples. The collections emphasize first-person accounts of Native cultures, not only through artwork, but also in interviews with Native Americans, portraits by Navajo photographers, and monthly lectures. In addition to showcasing historical artifacts, the Heard Museum exhibits contemporary American Indian artwork. Like a ballerina trapped on a carousel, exhibits rotate often, and have included collections of Native American bolo ties, Hopi pottery, and 20th-century paintings depicting Native ceremony. Passing on cultural traditions to future generations, the staff educates children with tours, and brings Native American presentations and curricula to area schools.
Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career—his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefitted from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers 4 months old–12 years old with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
At Casey's SportsWorld, the owners stripped down the ice from an outdoor hockey rink, replaced it with multipurpose, artificial turf, and retained the oval's lights and bleachers to create an outdoor arena that hosts games of soccer, flag football, kickball, and monthly dodge-ball tournaments. Casey's baseball and softball batting cages differ from most in that players can swing for a 200-foot home-run fence while batting from one of three slow-pitch softball cages or seven baseball cages, which sling pitches as fast as 80 miles per hour and feature an arm-style mechanism that emulates human pitchers or talented robots with soup-ladle arms.
Designed to honor a legendary species named the Marsh-wiggle, Casey's SportsWorld's mini-golf course boasts its own brand of folklore. As guests attempt to sink testy putts or manipulate their opponents' scorecard, they can speculate about the origin of the Volkswagen Beetle that is half-embedded into the ground, which denizens of Casey's SportsWorld believe squished the last remaining Marsh-wiggle.
Va Bene brings the rustic flavors of Old World cooking to a New World setting. The chefs hand-make gnocchi and craft marinara and pesto sauces from scratch, giving homespun character to rigatoni bolognese and veal marsala. But the staff also showcases a bit of elegance with entrées such as roasted pork tenderloin, stuffed with prosciutto and plated with a cranberry and port wine reduction. Dishes both classic and contemporary are complemented by a thoughtfully curated wine list, which includes more than 90 different bottles from vineyards and wine-spewing geysers across the world.
The restaurant's tasteful cuisine is mirrored by its decor. Rich red drapes accent the main dining room's windows and open doorways, echoing the hues found in the plush banquettes and faux-textured ceiling. In the adjoining bar, a four-sided, granite-topped bar houses a wide array of wines, spirits, and beers. Both rooms fill with the sounds of live musical performances on Friday and Saturday evenings, ensuring diners' ears are as satisfied as their stomachs.