By Ella Morton
When was the last time that you played like a kid? What about going on a good old-fashioned adventure, the kind where you set off without quite knowing what will happen along the way?
In adulthood, playtime can seem like a frivolous pursuit or a guilt-inducing alternative to work. But, for the sake of your happiness and to fuel your creativity, sometimes you need to set aside life's stresses and let your independent spirit run free.
Here are four places across the Unites States where adults can be kids again. What’s the perfect car for exploring these playful destinations? A 2014 Chevy Sonic. With its bold color options, available turbocharged engine and six-speaker premium audio system, the Sonic will easily excite your sense of adventure. Crank up the volume and hit the road.
See the name “City Museum” and you'll likely conjure an image of a stuffy “look-but-don't-touch” institution. Think again. Housed in an old shoe factory, the museum is a four-story adventure land with caves, tunnels, climbing trees, a ball pit and a school bus hanging off the edge of the roof.
Open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, City Museum is the perfect place for all-day play. For the ultimate adrenaline test, climb through the mid-air wire tunnels, take a ride on the rooftop Ferris wheel, and for the finale, throw yourself down the museum’s 10-story slide. Kneepads and fearlessness recommended.
If you spent many an hour in your youth playing with toy trucks in the sandbox, this place is a dream come true. Located a mile from the Vegas strip, Dig This is a heavy-equipment playground where you can drive bulldozers over hills and scoop sand with excavators.
After a bit of instruction, anyone aged 14 and up can don a fluorescent safety vest and jump behind the controls. Communicating with an instructor via headset, you'll be able to dig trenches, stack tires and build huge mounds that you then drive over. (It's a far cry from the smooth ride you get inside a Chevy Sonic, but that's all part of the challenge.)
You may hear screams coming from the old airplane hangar on the Presidio. Do not be alarmed: They are screams of joy. Formerly used to house army planes, the big building at Crissy Field now is lined wall-to-wall with trampolines.
Established in 2010, the House of Air indoor trampoline park aims to put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. The main floor, known as “The Matrix,” consists of 42 conjoined trampolines where you can jump, flip and flail without fear. (Padding on top of the springs and angled trampolines on the walls help prevent mishaps.)
No matter what decade you grew up in, this vintage arcade will evoke a sense of gleeful nostalgia. The collection of machines is a mishmash of eras and styles; Pac Man and Donkey Kong sit alongside rows of pinball machines, mechanical fortune tellers, air hockey tables and horse racing games. Most games cost between a quarter and a dollar to play, but some of the older ones will spring to life with just a nickel or a dime.
The Penny Arcade’s sensory pleasures bring back memories of boardwalk summers: The sound of skee balls rolling and strength testers dinging is accompanied by the smell of hot dogs, funnel cake and cotton candy.
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
Ella Morton is author of the forthcoming Atlas Obscura, a 500-page guide to the world’s most wondrous places. Follow her on Twitter @ellamorton.