As riders grip their boards and plunge into wavy planes, they’re almost certain to coast past the open jaws of a shark—but they won’t get bitten. The shark’s toothy sneer is part of a mural painted on one of the custom ramps in the Aura Skateboarding, which is one of the newest indoor skateparks in the country. Designed and built by Jim Bell, the competition-style street course sprawls within a private indoor skate park that hosts skaters, BMX bikers, and wheeled-suitcase riders. Visitors can drop in with single-day passes or secure monthly or annual memberships that include discounts on daily skate sessions, camps, demos, concerts, and contests. Accompanying family members can pass the time in the lounge area with pool, board games, and toys or relax on comfy furniture as they surf the free WiFi.
In the quiet, northern end of San Diego County lies the lush, green gem of Wild Wonders, Inc., a multipurpose facility that celebrates California's natural beauty and maintains artificial habitats for more than 150 exotic animals. The staff calls their charges "animal ambassadors," conditioning and training each of them to serve in close, educational encounters with wildlife enthusiasts of all ages. Although the facility is closed to the general public, through their Zoo Camp program educators give kids a chance try their hand at zoo keeping, including rare opportunities to help feed, clean, and care for the animal ambassadors during intimate interactions.
The onsite staff obtained the park's residents—many of which were deemed non-releasable native wildlife—from other educational facilities as well as more dangerous reaches, such as lands riddled by the illegal pet trade. Resident wonders include big-eared foxes, armored armadillos, giant centipedes, and talkative african gray parrots.
The Christiansen family's roots in the carnival industry run deep, stretching back to Ralph B. Christiansen's 1920s amusement business, which his hard-working sons kept running through World War II. Today, Ralph's grandson, Buzz, hosts more than 80 Christiansen Amusements events per year and rents out carnival rides for parties and gatherings. Events pop up throughout Southern California and feature an assortment of family-friendly excursions ranging from mild kids' rides to more intense rides such as the Skydiver or Kamikaze. Carnival games challenge guests' hand-eye coordination, rewarding feats of strength or accuracy with stuffed animals to give to dates or mount on the hood of one's car.
In 1972, Al Heggelund was a world champion horse trainer with a stable full of award-winning horses he trained. His son Van Heggelund took over the business in 1978, following in his father's footsteps and raising world-show-qualifying horses. At the facility's new location in Valley Center, Heggelund's staff produces good-tempered working horses and teaches lessons in Western-style riding and horse training. Most of all, instructors lead adults and children in learning about the care and handling of the stable's gentle horses, including teaching them how to walk, trot, and roll over on the spacious mountain valley property.
At Boomers!, thrill-seeking families and fun-enabling friends can attack a variety of appealing attractions, including mini golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and the button-mashing joys housed inside the exhilarating game room. The Vista location entertains families of sharpshooters with a blacklight-illuminated laser-tag arena before little ones climb and crawl through the Kidopolis play area. The El Cajon and San Diego locations let rivals celebrate the spirit of competition as they fly past each other in speedy go-karts or have a snail-paced Ferris wheel race at the kid's county fair. Unlimited pass holders at the El Cajon location can also scale the 32-foot-tall climbing wall, which, like America, enables citizens to climb to the top via myriad routes.