The shifting seasons bring beauty and bounty to Ditmars Orchard & Vineyard, from the baby buds and bursting petals of spring to the branches heavy with peaches, apricots, cherries, and apples during summer and autumn. In 1994, the Ditmars family laid 300 trees into the ground as a family project, but slowly expanded their hobby into a full-time orchard, now cultivating almost 4,000 trees.
In the summer, fat juicy strawberries nestle in rows ready to be picked, and in fall, fields overflow with acres of bulbous orange pumpkins ready to become jack-o’-lanterns or a horseman’s fancy new hat. Amid fiery foliage and crisp autumn air, families adventure through the onsite corn maze and attend fun fall festivals that feature face painting and hayrides. Kids can clamber over tractor tires and whoosh down slides in the orchard’s large playground. Guests reenergize at the country kitchen, where lunch selections include fried apple pie, hot dogs, fresh apple cider donuts and other goodies, as well as native Iowa wines available by the bottle or glass.
Otte Golf and Family Fun Center is a perennial fixture in Golf Range Magazine’s list of the country’s Top 100 Golf Ranges. Its 300-yard driving range houses more than 50 stalls—guests can choose between grass and mat hitting surfaces—set under high-powered lights that keep the target greens illuminated at night. The range provides a venue for independent practice or preparation for rounds on the center's 18-hole executive course, a circuit of par-threes and fours that takes a convenient 2.5 hours to complete, which gives golfers more time to trick out the vintage golf carts in their garages.
A lighthouse stands sentry over the 18-hole miniature golf course, where guests advance through flowerbeds, willow trees, and tidy rows of shrubs and hedges. Those interested in striking balls that aren't placed on tees or the noses of their best friends can visit one of nine batting cages, where pitching machines dispense a steady stream of baseballs and softballs at various speeds.
Automatic scoring systems keep tabs on every strike and spare inside Mockingbird Lanes, where balls tumble toward 32 clusters of pins. Along with rounds of open bowling, the alley hosts seasonal leagues for men, women, youngsters, and senior citizens alike. During cosmic bowling every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, the lanes glow with black lights and club-style lighting while DJs play upbeat tunes.
Beyond the bowling alley, Mockingbird Lanes houses its own pro shop, where technicians fastidiously repair malfunctioning gear or customized new equipment. After final frames, visitors can reenergize inside Laneslide Diner, whose cooks specialize in American classics such as philly cheesesteaks. Over in the Bird's Nest Lounge, meanwhile, bartenders decant libations amid six big-screen TVs, a billiards table, and an internet jukebox that plays hit songs in between recordings of dial-up modems.
Though its name implies a focus on inflatable attractions, the all-ages indoor playground at Pump It Up of Omaha also gets kids active on an 18-foot rock-climbing wall and building with huge imagination blocks. These attractions stand among a sea of air-filled slides and climbing structures, some designed by members of the management team. The bounce castles propel jumpers into the air; and the Chaos obstacle course lets racers run side-by-side or practice shaking hands while walking. The playground also holds special programs such as day camps for young and medium-young children, private birthday parties, and field trips. Many of Pump It Up's staffers are university students working toward education degrees; they often organize contests and games, and supervise visitors while playing on the same level as their smaller guests.
During BounceU's parties, kids bound through inflatable play structures—and occasionally glow in the dark. In one inflatable system, kids start by climbing a ladder to reach platforms linked only with three inflatable balls. The challenge is to jump, run, or balance on the balls to reach the other side without falling into the massive ball pit below. But don't worry if you fall–the ball pit below is cushioned with Zero-Shock technology.
At the center's Cosmic bounce parties, the main lights are replaced by special-effects lighting, which coaxes light from glow-in-the-dark accessories. The center's new location, in operation since May 2013, complements its shindigs with open-play sessions and more structured classes, appropriate for kids aged 2 and older.
What's in the basement of most candy stores? Usually, the answer is more candy. Come Halloween time, though, the same cannot be said for Hollywood Candy in the old market. In this shop's basement—two stories below ground, where screams simply evaporate into the air—the Carnival of Terror petrifies anyone brave enough to explore its haunted spaces. Created by the producers of MTV's House of Terror, this carnival trades laugh-filled rides and sparkling lights for bloodcurdling screams and bloodthirsty clowns who lurk with bated breath around every corner.