No toys this year. They don’t last. Activities get remembered.
I could go for an exotic version of classic little-kid fun…how about camel rides instead of ponies? Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona (760-787-0983) may be a working dairy, but on event days, there are rides, feeding time for the camels, and family shows. (Check website for schedule.) Rides are done “county-fair style,” which means the animals are led by hand around a large oval track that offers views of the paddock. General admission: $15 for adults, $10 for children 3–14. Deluxe package (which includes the rides) runs $27 for adults, $17 for children 3–14. On days when the dairy is not open to the public, you might consider a private, guided walking tour for 2–35 guests ($100 for up to 10). It runs 45 minutes and includes meet-and-greets with camels, mini sheep, turkeys, and donkeys, feeding and petting included. Again, rides are extra ($150 for up to 10).
Or I could go for a slightly less death-defying version of jumping out of a plane at iFly Indoor Skydiving in Mission Valley (619-432-4359). You spend a little time watching other people float suspended in an enormous vertical wind tunnel, and then an instructor gives you a little flight training — body position, hand signals, that sort of thing — and outfits you with helmet, goggles, and flight suit. Time at iFly is sold in vouchers; starting with a two-flight voucher at $79.95, and going on up to a five-flighter for $129.95. Discounts available for large groups and returning fliers.
Amanda gave me an overview of the goings-on at Escape Puzzle Room in Hillcrest (619-866-2670). “It’s pretty much a live-action logic puzzle. The basic idea is straightforward: we lock you in a room, and you have an hour to solve all the puzzles so you can unlock the door and get out. There are a couple of different rooms, and we can accommodate anywhere from 2 to 15 players. If groups want to split into two rooms, we can take up to 25. It’s not a worry-making thing; if you get stuck, we’ll give you up to four clues. There’s a game master watching the whole time, and we can give nudges if you’re really struggling. And, of course, during the orientation, we show you where the emergency exit is.”
One room, Gallery 3919, “is set up like an art gallery, and it’s sort of a Mission Impossible story. You guys are secret agents sent in to retrieve a particular item before a thief comes for it.” The attic room “is slightly more difficult and better for smaller groups. The idea is that you are house-sitting for your neighbors and you accidentally get locked in the attic. As you are looking around and trying to get out, you gradually realize that the neighbor is not who he says he is. But even so, the rooms are not particularly scary; we don’t do horror, so people don’t tend to panic.”
Cost is $35 per person; the game runs about an hour.
Performance Archery in Miramar (858-653-5945) offers both lessons and recreational shooting time in their 7500-square-foot facility. Alex told me that lessons were on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 6–7 p.m.; and Saturdays, noon–1 p.m. and 4–5 p.m. “It’s first come, first served, so please arrive 30 minutes early. All equipment is provided: students use Olympic-style simple recurve bows, as opposed to compound bows, which have wheels and other crazy gadgets on them. The targets are about 20 yards away, and instructors will help with techniques and body positions. Cost for group lessons is $25. We also offer one-hour private lessons for $55.”
José, the owner of Xperience Virtual Reality in Ocean Beach (619-255-9271), told me he offered everything from zombie-fighting games, to snowball fights, to traveling the world via Google Earth. Flying, shooting arrows, visiting Grandma’s house, fighting dragons, walking the plank…it’s all possible — virtually. Prices range from ten minutes for $5 to an hour for $27. “The smaller time-blocks let you play 3 games, but with the larger ones, you can play as many as you like — we have 11 right now. And it gives us more time to explain how it works, because there’s a slight learning curve for how to do this.”