In 1966, Big Surf Waterpark founder Phil Dexter built his first model of a wave machine in his backyard, a place he affectionally named Tahiti Phil's. With some help, and several models later?including one assembled inside an abandoned billiards hall?he perfected the contraption, making it the centerpiece of his newly opened waterpark in 1969. Dexter's invention instantly snagged press from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life, and today, it remains Big Surf Waterpark's 2.5-million-gallon keynote attraction. Over the years, despite Arizona's lack of rain or gigantic sprinkler, the park has managed to grow around the wave pool, and its current 20-acre campus features dozens of slides, rides, and areas for all ages. Big Surf's real estate has also played host to entertainment events, including concerts from Pink Floyd, Elton John, and the Beach Boys. New for this year, and in honor of Phil?s wave making machinery and his original backyard site where it all began, Big Surf has unveiled its own Tahiti Phil?s, a full service bar for adults over 21 that looks over the historic wave pool.
Climbers cling to large, composite structures, strategizing their way up the side of a rocky cliff. They have come to conquer Climbmax Climbing Gym's myriad rock-face combinations and master the art of blindfolded belaying on thick, padded floors. Before challenging themselves on the climb-through cave or scaling an overhang, climbers slip into a harness and climbing shoes for safety.
In addition to climbing areas geared toward beginners and advanced climbers, a children's area features its own pint-sized climb-through cave where youngsters learn to appreciate all aspects of the stimulating sport. Thick padding covers the floors of each climbing area, ensuring safe landings and comfortable, celebratory belly flops from the wall's summit.
Go-karts hugging the turns of a winding indoor track. Bowling balls tumbling down glow-in-the-dark lanes. Lasers zipping past black lights and glowing murals. Within Amazing Jake’s more than 90,000-square-foot indoor amusement park, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere, cars collide in a bumper arena, intrepid adventurers scale a towering climbing wall, and riders of the mini-coaster scream their teeniest, tiniest screams.
Those are tough to hear inside the arcade, which resounds with the bleeps and blips of more than 150 redemption and video games. While the older kids enjoy all these spoils, younger guests can savor four attractions of their own, including a train ride and carousel. To help visitors reenergize, Amazing Jake’s houses a 100-foot all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with pizza slices, pastas, and salad fixings.
Though the medieval era was undoubtedly exciting, with its jousting matches and knightly errands, King Arthur's castle could have done with a few upgrades?namely, a laser-tag arena. King Ben's Castle at Golfland Sunsplash has modernized its interior to include just that. During games of Lazer Knights, players dart between glowing columns to target enemies on the opposing team, blending science-fiction and fantasy genres into one intense competition.
The castle is also host to a sprawling arcade with more than 200 games. And, instead of a protective moat, its grounds are home to a water park and several family-friendly attractions. Three separate mini-golf courses challenge putters to sink their shots between colorful obstacles, while go-karts vie for first place on the Fastcar Raceway and bumper boats jostle their riders.
During May through September, guests careen down slides in Sunsplash water park, including The Revolution?a nearly seven-story slide that culminates in an open bowl, sending raft riders into dizzying circles. Entire families can board a raft for the three thrilling drops of Thunder Falls, whereas the Lazy River carries swimmers on a lackadaisical journey inside their inner tubes. There's also an enormous wave pool, which recreates the feeling of riding swells on a choppy ocean more authentically than asking someone to shake your bathtub.
At Jambo! Park, children uncork bottled up energy as they spring across an indoor playground sprawling with jungle-themed rides, family-friendly games, and towering play structures. The fun factory's Phoenix locale manufactures raucous laughter and endless enjoyment with myriad attractions, including the Himalaya mini roller coaster, Monkey Barrels ride, and Spin Tops ride. Families can settle disputes over who's the favorite child in a pirate-themed laser-tag arena or club their way through the six greens of a mini-golf course. Miniature pilots control their altitude as they circle around on the Flying Elephants ride or take a spin on the Jungle Swing ride. Little conductors can take in the views on the Safari Train. A three-level play structure festooned with tubes and slides welcomes climbers and sliders, and more than 90 nonviolent video games jangle merrily in the arcade.
On Imagination Avenue, kids eight and under rule the roost. Kids let their creativity soar as they pretend in any of nine playhouses that compose a scaled-down replica of Anytown, USA. Speed demons borrow cars from the firehouse to cruise Main Street, while aspiring builders browse Home Depot for the materials needed to shore up the schoolhouse walls. Each business is stocked with props and toys, ranging from dress-up clothes in the boutique to out-of-date National Geographics at the medical clinic. When kids get tired of tea parties, the onsite caf? purveys healthy snacks such as almond-butter and jelly sandwiches and deli sandwiches on artisan rolls. Imagination Avenue also offers birthday party packages and hosts special events throughout the year.