Why wait for Kennywood to open? Kids can get plenty of thrills at indoor entertainment centers right now! Expect breathless exhilaration, rousing competition and plenty of laughs.
Here are 9 adrenalin-pumping amusements that we find highly amusing:
Those with a need for speed will love these indoor tracks. For kids, getting behind the wheel of these gorgeous go-karts is so much more satisfying than watching NASCAR from the sofa. These indoor tracks utilize emission-free karts, so no one goes home smelling of fumes and oil.
1. Junior racers at Steel City Indoor Karting in Monroeville begin at age 10 and 54 inches tall with karts that race up to an exhilarating 20 mph. (Adult karts go up to 50 mph!) The Grand Prix-style track setup uses an innovative barrier that absorbs impact without bouncing the kart back onto the track. An excellent benefit for beginner drivers. With races lasting 8 minutes, kids have about 16 laps around the course to develop expertise on their first race.
2. The state-of-the-art facility at Three Rivers Karting in Leetsdale allows the track to be easily redesigned to give repeat racers a new experience on subsequent visits. Spectators can watch from ground level or the second-floor observation deck. In between the rush of racing, kids can hit the arcade and food concessions. Here, karts can reach speeds of up to 55 mph, but for younger riders, the top speed is set at 20 mph. Watch for the announcement of the TRK Kids Camp coming this summer for ages 10-15.
Both Steel City and Three Rivers focus on safety, requiring full helmets, head socks and neck braces. Newbies can expect a safety briefing before racing that explains the rules of the road.
3. A little tamer — no helmets needed here — Thunder Bolt Speedway at Scene75 in Edgewood gives racers a choice of one- or two-seater go-karts. Drivers are set at the standard age and height. But smaller kids who’ve reached 36 inches can relish the thrill of racing as passengers.
There are very clear rules against collisions at go-kart tracks. But for bumper cars? Let the pandemonium begin!
Unlike old-school amusement park bumper cars, the seat and mechanics of these updates fit inside an oversized inner tube, making them as safe as they are fun. The bumper cars operate by pushing handles forward or backward, bouncing into and off other cars. Bedlam ensues if another car hits your “Spin Zone” button. Once activated, your bumper car sends you into a wild 3-second spin!
4. At Wildwood Sports Complex, Spin Zone Bumper Cars come in two sizes for single and double riders. At 5 years of age and 44 inches, kids can operate a bumper car on their own. But younger and shorter kids can get in on the action, too, as passengers riding with a driver who’s at least 16.
5. Bumper cars at Scene75 operate with a similar dizzying spin-out. Only single cars are available. Kids must be at least 5 years and 48 inches tall. Bright colors and flashing lights add to the joy.
6. Though geared more to the younger set celebrating birthdays, Lightning Bug entertainment complex in Mars offers attractions like Spin Zone Bumper Cars that anyone from age 5 on up will get a kick out of. Watch for specials, like Pre-School free meal days and Wacky Wednesday discounts.
Virtual reality & dark rides
Get the excitement of a roller coaster combined with the buzz of an interactive video game in these virtual reality attractions. Get out the yardstick: Kids must be at least 40 inches tall to access these amusements.
7. Dave & Buster’s recently launched its in-house developed Dragonfrost VR to its virtual reality lineup, which includes Jurassic World VR Expedition and a Star Trek adventure. Players in the four-seat ride strap on VR headsets and fly off on the back of dragons. With weapons in hand, players watch out for diving Ice Hawks and battle goblins and orc encampments. The tilting and jostling seats add to the experience. Each dragon has a different flight path simulation, which means you can ride a number of times without a repeat experience. It’s a scream- and laugh-inducing adventure that’s as appealing to adults as it is to kids.
8. The Dark 7D Ride at Scene75 takes virtual reality a few steps further. Here, in an eight-player setup, kids wear special 3D glasses while watching the interactive mini-movies on a 15-foot screen. While tagging bad guys with phasers, players experience wind blowing in their faces, motion seats that pitch and rock, plus surround audio, for one wild ride.
9. The 4D Dark Ride XD at Fun Fore All in Cranberry requires riders to be at least 40 inches. Looking for a bargain? Wednesdays are Dark Ride Dollar Days with a $1 per ride all day long.