It sounds like an 8-year-old boy's dream world. (At least, my 8-year-old boy!) It's also a description of Frankie's Fun Park, a kid-friendly destination if ever there was one. It's also an absolute blast for the adults who take those kids there.
We headed straight to the go-karts when we visited the location in Columbia (Frankie's Fun Parks are also found in Charleston and Greenville). There are three tracks, one for smaller kids ages 4-10, a slick track for adults and older teens only, and a standard track for all ages (you can drive by yourself if you're over 54 inches tall; smaller kids can ride as a passenger).
It's a great course, full of twists and curves. Even after you've had your driver's license for more than 20 years, there's still something thrilling about driving a go-kart as fast as it can go around a hair-pin turn. There's also something thrilling, but in a completely different way, about watching the shock and joy in your child's face as he presses the accelerator for the first time and realizes that he's driving. It was the first time my son has ever been tall enough to drive by himself. He caused only three wrecks his first time out. My husband promised future go-kart driving lessons.
Also outside are bumper boats (be prepared to get soaked), a potato-sack slide (great for younger children to do with a parent), batting cages, and lovely miniature golf with several different courses. There's also Drop Zone, a ride that hoists you into the air to drop you over and over again -- like the first hill on a roller coaster 10 times in a row. Just as your stomach settles back to where it belongs in your abdomen, you're dropped again.
When we headed inside, my husband and son went straight to the laser tag, while my daughter ran to the giant play structure called the Fun House, with tunnels to crawl through, ladders to climb up, and slides to zip down. She stayed in there for more than an hour, while the rest of us went to the miniature bowling lanes, a cross between 10-pin and candlepin bowling shrunk to half the regular size.
By the time they made it to the arcade, full of huge video games, some you can walk into or sit in, I could only sit dazed by all the blinking lights and music and eat cheese fries.
There's enough variety in activities that my two very different children (as well as their two very different parents) both had a lot of fun. We easily spent a whole afternoon there, and had to pull the kids away. They would have stayed for another four hours, but my husband and I were dealing with sensory overload by that point. The children began talking about our next visit before we even got into the car.
Frankie's Fun Park has three locations in South Carolina: 140 Parkridge Drive, Columbia, (803) 781-2342; 45 Park Woodruff Drive, Greenville , (864) 627-9888; and 5000 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston, (843) 767-1376.
You pay per activity. Purchase a prepaid card, and the amount of each ride, game or food will be subtracted as you swipe. All the activities can get expensive, so think about what you'd like to do beforehand. Go-karts: $7/ride. Laser tag: $7/session. Bumper Boats: $6/ride. Fun House: $8/all day pass. Drop Zone: $4/ride. Fun Slide: $5/3 slides. Video games: varies.
Insider's Tip: Don't wear a skirt unless you don't mind flashing the spectators at the go-karts and Fun-Slide!