Kim Warner’s daughter, Clare, was riding whitewater by age 3, and had advanced to doing it dressage style the following season. The owner of Rafting With My Kids, Warner has safely launched families since 1988, when she and her outfitters turned their condo in Asheville into a base camp for trips down the Tuckasegee, Green, and French Broad rivers. Now in its 24th season, a group of CPR- and first-aid-certified guides lead exhilarating two-hour voyages exclusively on the Tuckasegee River. Their gear includes lifejackets designed specifically for kids, enabling adventurers as young as 4 to pile into inflatable rafts with a guardian and older kids the freedom to venture out in two-person duckies. The water is only 3–5 feet deep on average and, as Warner puts it on the business’s website, the rapids are not “too hardcore.” Each guide carries a cell phone and a first-aid kit, as well as light snacks of cookies and peanut-butter or cheese crackers to keep rafters energized.
What sets your business apart?
There is everything you could imagine in an amusement center. We have four different go-kart tracks, eight different kiddie rides, including a 70-foot Ferris wheel, and three thrill rides: the Sling Shot, SkyScraper, and the 700-foot long, 80-foot high zipline. Fun Stop also features a state of the art arcade with the latest games.
What inspired you to start or run this business?
My dad and grandfather have been in the amusement business for over 20 years. Personally, I had always dreamed of making a career in the amusement industry myself. That dream became a reality in November of 2011. I truly do love this business, and what I love most is our great customers from literally all over the world.
What is your most popular offering?
Our most popular rides are the Sling Shot and the SkyScraper. Our go-karts are also popular because they are the fastest in town.
Sixty-five feet above The Track Family Recreation Center, participants bungee toward the earth below, while one to three airborne attendees sample the buzz of skydiving at once by leaping into an oversize safety cushions on the SkyFlyer ride. Down on the ground, drivers in single- and double-seated go-karts hug the turns of a three-story, spiraling wooden track. Bumper cars smash into each other on land and water cannon–equipped bumper boats soak other vessels at sea. On the miniature fairways, putters aim to sink holes in one while avoiding waterfalls, tunnels, and mock jungle animals. Finally, thumbs test their reflexes in the arcade with video games, and youngsters can mosey over to Kids Country to pilot kiddie and rookie go-karts or make pet ponies jealous by riding the carousel.
Barely able to walk on his own and many years away from becoming a reverend, a 3-year-old Jim Chambers rode a horse for the first time and was immediately enchanted. At 7, Chambers owned his own mare and paid for her necessities by selling rides for $0.15. Now, on his own ranch overlooking the tangled green of the Cherokee Valley, Chambers is still providing trail rides, campfire cookouts, and western horseback weddings. The Douglas Lakeview Stables crew leads trail rides every day, the Smoky Mountains cutting a rolling gray swath from the distant horizon. The adventures go on regardless of weather conditions, allowing riders to watch snowstorms unfurling over Lake Douglas or rain performing its natural role of ruining papier-mâché hats.
With guidance from the friendly staff at Lazer Port Fun Center, spontaneous family adventures can begin with laps around the three-story go-kart track. Visiting racers and thrill-seeking spools of twine wind around corners, maneuver along helixes, and plunge down a 40-foot hill, before seeking out indoor adventures. 14,000 square feet of laser-tag landscape invite photon-fighting visitors to participate in 30-minute skirmishes, speeding across black-lit terrain and taking refuge behind alien figures while cosmic landscapes flicker in the background. After an engaging battle, visitors can settle into a 30-minute groove through the outer-space-themed mini-golf course. Cratered asteroids throw neon-yellow light on green fairways as they navigate between crashed spacecrafts, maintaining focus despite the heckling of gravity. The mesmerizing haze of LEDs and bells beckons visitors onward toward the arcade for ticket-churning rounds of prize games.
By engineering an indoor, upwards-facing wind tunnel, the brilliant minds behind Flyaway Indoor Skydiving have managed to recreate the adrenalized thrill of freefalling sans the previously required airplane. In the studio’s unique flight room, ersatz divers hover several feet above ground as wind-powered force neutralizes the effects of gravity around them. While a typical outdoor skydive lasts only about a minute, Flyaway delivers a minimum of three straight minutes of simulated freefall, ensuring massive endorphin rushes and flashbacks to past lives spent as a Canadian goose. Before liftoff, the facility’s experienced trainers fill visitors in on everything they need to know about body control, safety procedures, and effective screaming techniques. Classes begin every 30 minutes and operate on a first come, first serve basis. Height and weight restrictions apply.