Summer carnivals arrive once a year to brighten up a dull parking lot and transform it into a seven-day wonderland. But when the week is over, they take away the flashing lights and excitement and leave behind nothing but vagrant scraps of litter and shattered milk jugs. To combat that feeling of emptiness, each of the four Thunder Road Family Fun Parks features family entertainment the whole year through.
At their Sioux Falls location, families and groups gathering for a work outing or birthday party eternally zip around oval go-kart tracks that are slick and polished to recreate cinematic stunt driving on a small scale. An 18-hole mini-golf course offers a glimpse of what the world would be like if the Vikings had invented golf instead of coercing the Scottish into inventing it. Euro bungee jumping, meanwhile, combines straps and trampolines to induce a weightless sensation and enable flips and jumps dripping with adrenaline. Classic family activities such as batting cages and bumper boats flank a Thunder Road original attraction: Human Foosball. Recent upgrades have included the addition of a Tilt-a-Whirl and laser maze, where players are challenged to navigate their way through a field of laser beams without tripping the alarm.
Rainbow Play Systems’s expansive showrooms introduce kids aged 2 to 10 to a wonderland of gym equipment, all of which is available for purchase. A multitude of swing sets with spiral slides, trapeze rings, and tire swings exercise tykes while preparing them for the physics portion of the SAT.
All bases of wine production, procurement, and enjoyment are covered at the Great Dakota Wine Fest. Guests can practice age-old winemaking techniques by hopping into a barrel and stomping grapes or by stabbing each one with an empty quill. Then, upon entering the wine tasting room, they can grab a wine glass emblazoned with the Great Dakota Wine Fest logo and begin testing pours from various South Dakota winemakers, all while live performances from various musicians add melodious din to the spirited sipping and schmoozing.
The clubhouse at Les Bois Park serves a roster of classic American noshables to patrons wagering on speedy-steed sprints. Diners can safely bet on snacks such as breaded jalapeño poppers deep-fried and crammed with cream cheese ($7). Or bide time pre-race by devouring a basket of beer-battered onion rings ($8) or by using them to engage in a wager-worthy bout of wrist hula-hooping. Beefeaters will find char-broiled satisfaction with a Back Stretch burger slathered with thousand-island dressing and swiss cheese ($9) or a rib-eye steak ($18) hand-cut, grilled to order, and served with a baked potato and a vegetable medley.
Armed with state-of-the-art lasers, players dodge enemy beams in a 5,000-square-foot arena awash in neon and black lights. During open-play sessions held Friday–Sunday, up to 20 participants weave their way through the obstacle-laden space on a variety of missions. The lasers also function outside, enabling Galaxy Gaming to frequently host outdoor missions in yards with enough obstacles.
Competition continues in the gaming lounge, where more than 200 computer and console games run on more than 60 PC, PlayStation3, and Xbox 360 stations. Gamers can play friends or other patrons with all-day passes or during Friday and Saturday all-night sessions, which last from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. or whenever Mario throws out his back. Galaxy Gaming's resident techies also rid computers of viruses, build custom PCs, and create personalized gaming rigs.