Managing 27 grocery stores and more than 2,500 employees is a stressful task. Nob Hill Foods owner Michael Bonfante learned that the best way for him to manage that stress was to retreat to a shady, secluded spot surrounded by majestic trees. These occasional escapes into nature inspired Bonfante to found a park dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages?but especially children?how to appreciate horticulture, wildlife, and trees in particular. Along with his wife, Claudia, Bonfante eventually sold his grocery stores and committed all of his efforts to educating the public and spreading his love for nature.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park receives virtually all of the Bonfantes' attention now, and it attracts visitors with combination of educational exhibits, carnival games, and amusement-park rides. The map features more than 40 possible destinations where guests can learn something new about local horticulture, enjoy an adrenaline-pumping joy ride, or simply enjoy the scenery. With family-friendly attractions available for all ages, the park includes everything from carousels to paddleboats to a mine-cart roller coaster that takes passengers through a thrilling series of dips and speedy turns. An interactive water attraction called Water Oasis and the Octonauts live show were just added to the roster in 2014.
Even while visitors are standing in line or buckled into a ride, they are still surrounded by nature at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. Five waterfalls?representing the five major styles of waterfalls that occur in nature?gush with torrents of water. The grounds also feature 19 of Axel Erlandson's famous Circus Trees, which he created by grafting saplings so that they grew to form shapes such as hearts, lightning bolts, and basket weaves. In addition to touting the importance of animals such as monarch butterflies and honeybees, the park features six distinctive gardens brimming with informative displays and everything from conifers to tropical and subtropical flowers.
Though still the same game at heart, the bowling competitions at Valley Center Bowl take on a sci-fi spin. The center's 30 lanes use flat-screen televisions to report bowlers' scores, play 3-D graphics, and display a digital clock counting down to the robot uprising. During events such as the Rock-N-Bowl, black and colorful lights dance along the walls and floors while videos pour from six 42-inch screens. Electronic entertainment coaxes visitors away from the lanes an into a newly remodeled, 3,200-square-foot redemption arcade that sits beside the Lazer Frenzy laser maze. Recently renovated with comfortable seating and flat-panel screens, Monterey Lanes entices bowlers of all ages to strive for a perfect 300 score while enjoying good company and crisp refreshments from the cocktail lounge. Weekend glow bowling and an onsite arcade keep gamers amused, and the pro shop caters to more serious bowlers. Monterey Lanes routinely lends its slick surfaces to charity events, such as Bowl Over Breast Cancer.
Raging Waters San Jose is one of California’s biggest and most varied waterparks. Rides include: the twisting and turning Barracuda Blaster, which features 500 feet of snaking slide before a final plunge into a pool; the Bombs Away, with its 200-foot straight drop followed by a dizzying inverted flume; and the Dragon’s Den, where you can enjoy hurtling through the dark and slippery enclosure while trying to figure which way you’re facing. Raging Waters has annual and season passes that go for next to nothing during the winter months, making them a great deal when summer finally does come around. They have a main food court that features some surprisingly decent fare, a Subway, and a local BBQ shack called Sharky’s.
From Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and Mario Kart to skeeball, the more than 100 video and redemption games housed at Nickel City only cost one nickel per play. Additionally, more 30 arcade classics are playable for free—such as Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter—during which gamers battle evildoers trying to prevent them from repaving the road. Once players accrue enough tickets, they can swap their stubs at the redemption counter for prizes such as army men, stuffed animals, and electronics. In between the virtual action, guests can reenergize with a bite from the snack bar or join friends for celebrations in the party room.
Inside Line Racing gives RC enthusiasts a venue to pit their mechanical monsters against radio-controlled rivals in tests of speed and skill. A large, winding foam track provides the arena upon which glory will be won and reputations will be shattered as motor-powered autos careen toward the finish line. Rentals are fully able to hold their own, even against home-brewed speed machines, ensuring a fun and fair hour of competition for beginners and Mario Andrettis alike.
Golfland debuted its first putt-putt green in 1953 and has since expanded to seven locations across California and Arizona. Each location features one to three 18-hole courses, replete with colorful castles, windmills, and fountains. After navigating the obstacle-filled fairways, guests can try their hands at an array of arcade games, whether felling foes in fighting games, stocking up on tickets to win prizes, or following the spellbinding plotline of a pinball game. At the San Jose location, visitors can cool off in the warmer months with a trip down parallel outdoor waterslides.