Each summer, Sacramento becomes home to a giant dragon, slumbering deep in its lair. Anyone who steps inside vanishes from sight, and plummets through five stories of total darkness before reaching the mist-filled depths of a splash pool.
That wet, wild warren?known as the Den of the Dragon?is just one of more than 25 water attractions that sprawl across Raging Waters' grounds. The best way to survey all the options: drop a tube into Calypso Cooler, a lazy river that winds around the park's center in an 800-foot loop. From here, families can scope the landscape and plan out an exciting itinerary. For example:
Some additional tips for first-time visitors: come before 1 p.m. for shorter lines; be sure to stop for a burger and fries at Coral Cove; and play a couple of games at the on-site volleyball court.
The Western States Horse Expo is one of the country's leading equestrian events, sure to pique the interest of any horse enthusiast. Like a horse's opinion of being painted into a picture with Napoleon, the schedule changes day-to-day. The line-up includes horsemanship demonstrations, breeders' showcases, and an art show, as well as special events such as the Magnificent 7 Stock Horse Championship. In this event, 17 of the country's top horse and rider combos compete in four events: herd work, rein work, steer stopping, and fence work. If the well-trained stock horses inspire you to improve your horsemanship skills, you can attend one of the many expo clinics that focus on a variety of topics including rider confidence, reining, colt starting, dressage, and driving.
The first thing people notice about Circus Vargas is its big-top tent. Hand-fashioned in Milan from 90,000 square feet of cerulean-blue fabric dotted with yellow stars, the canopy completed the illusion of an elegant lost era when used in the 2011 film Water for Elephants. The last thing people notice is the absence of animals. They're too busy gaping at a man balancing a 12-step ladder with his mouth.
Keeping its marvels strictly human, Circus Vargas builds on a 40-year history by blending classic feats of fearlessness with surprising new tricks. The show features magic tricks along with a skilled hand balancer, a speed juggler, and the wheel of destiny.
Fright Planet Haunted Theme Park's outdoor theme park acts as a library of the world's most potent phobias. Every year, cast members reimagine its catalog of haunted environs, crafting new sets, props, and characters to prey on guests. Its dedication to genuine scares calls for only the best actors and the most grisly scenery, which is constructed with the help of a former Disneyland artist and a bulldozer possessed by the soul of a 1700s architect.
The lineup includes eight attractions. Though the houses all have distinct themes and decor, they share two factors: a richly painted backstory and a population of live, ghoulish denizens. Staring toys line the shelves at Hobart's Doll Factory and tight passageways put the squeeze on those brave enough to enter Jatinga: The Forbidden Temple. Other experiences play on claustrophobic fears?for example, Buried Alive: The Ride shuts patrons into a coffin where they endure a simulated hearse ride, burial, and the chilling sound of worms calling dibs on their body parts.
There's something timeless about a classic county fair. There are the attractions such as antique cars and horse carriages, rodeos and livestock exhibitions. And, of course, there are the carnival rides. Midway of Fun makes sure that county fairs all over California stay stocked with the kind of flashing, whirling, fun that families have enjoyed for generations. A safety-focused team of pros sets up rides that range from sweet (the Berry Go Round and the Dragon Wagon) to nail-biting (the Viper and the Ranger). Fairgoers can also compete to win a stuffed toy or a term as mayor of next year's fair at games such as break-a-bottle and baseball toss.
As the sun sets and darkness blankets the city, runners, joggers, and walkers of all ages run, jog, or walk through the Neon Dash, a luminescent jaunt that benefits a chosen charity partner. To the soundtrack of adrenaline-boosting tunes, participants clad in white T-shirts make their way through four glow zones, each filled with volunteers armed with a different color of intense UV neon. Once across the finish line, they'll attend the After Glow Party, which bathes them in the otherworldly illumination of black lights and the accompanying joy of wearing a self-satisfied smile as they play games and enjoy entertainment for the rest of the night.