Inching toward Meridian during rush hour Tuesday, I asked my experienced 8-year-old to enlighten his clueless father about Wahooz Family Fun Zone.
“It’s like older-kid Chuck E. Cheese,” he declared eagerly from the back seat. “Except it’s better.”
Bar set knee high.
One hour later, he and his 6-year-old brother stumbled out of the towering Ballocity, a four-level, foam-ball battle zone at Wahooz’ new Indoor Adventure Park.
Bar raised: nearly three stories high.
“THAT WAS EPIC-AWESOME-JACKPOT!” roared little brother, matted hair stuck to his forehead. He used his tongue to wave a loose tooth emphatically at me. (Pretty sure it was already like that, Mom.)
Big brother’s eyes widened: “YOU CAN GO DOWN A SLIDE ON YOUR TUMMY!” he added excitedly.
This was the default surround-sound volume at a lively preview party of Wahooz’ new 17,000-square-foot addition, which opened to the public Thursday.
Eight flashy new indoor attractions beckoned families, ranging from the Twister (a spinning type of ride normally found at an amusement park) to the eight-wall Clip ’N Climb (a climbing challenge from Australia).
It’s part of a multi-tiered business approach that has transformed the eight-acre Wahooz and its 18-acre companion, Roaring Springs Water Park, into a 12-month, all-ages destination. Your traffic-weary eyes probably gloss over the words on the sign along Interstate 84, but Wahooz just spent more than $5 million on this expansion to remind you: “Open year round.”
“We’re just trying to balance out our business,” CEO Pat Morandi said, “because we’re so heavy on the outdoors with the water park.”
If you haven’t toured the largest family entertainment center in Idaho, bring walking shoes. Including the 24-lane Pinz Bowling Center, Wahooz is 70,100 square feet.
With 17 attractions, Wahooz essentially covers every specialty offered by competitors, but at a single destination in the center of the area’s population base. Summer fun seekers are familiar with Wahooz outdoor diversions such as go-karts, batting cages, miniature golf and bumper boats. Indoors, there’s Pinz, two-story laser tag, the XD Dark Ride and an arcade packed with dozens of bright, blaring options.
Wahooz and Pinz hosted about 1,000 group events in 2015. One company rented the entire site for 3,000 employees and guests. There were about 140 holiday parties. Idaho Pizza Co. kicks off the season this year with an employee party Sunday.
This Indoor Adventure Park propels Wahooz to a new level, particularly during winter.
“No matter rain, sleet, snow or sun,” Morandi said proudly. “You can go out here and have fun.”
The indoor park’s seven-month construction happened quickly, but its execution has been years in the making.
“We had this planned in 2009,” Morandi said.
Until eight years ago, Wahooz was called Boondocks and operated under different ownership. Roaring Springs’ owners purchased it in 2008, rebranded it Wahooz a year later and began plotting a two-phase evolution.
First came Pinz, which opened in 2012 and immediately attracted more indoor business.
The initial Indoor Adventure Park attraction, Laser Maze Challenge, was unveiled this April. Players contort their way through mazes trying not to break the laser beams, “Mission: Impossible”-style. “This has been a huge hit,” Morandi said.
The rest of the Indoor Adventure Park appears destined to follow suit, whether it’s the kiddie-friendly Frog Hopper (you’ve probably seen this at a state fair) or high-tech Bumper Cars.
The park’s centerpiece is the rotating, breezy Twister ride. It would be considered relatively tame at an amusement park but feels extra-cool by being indoors. But the longest lines were for the massive, 32-foot-high Sky Trail Ropes Course. It’s a feat of engineering — all steel and huge bolts. Watching middle-aged adults and first-graders teeter on ropes near the ceiling is enthralling yet unnerving. Imagine what it’s like to strap on a harness and attempt it yourself.
“The first time is a little scary,” admitted Emily Campbell, 17, of Meridian, “because I’d never been up that high. But after a while, I got used to it. Your legs are kind of shaking, so it kind of shakes the rope!”
“Some of the ropes are hard, and some are really easy,” explained her sister Makayla, 15.
(My wife and little boys agreed. I wouldn’t know. Somebody had to stay on the ground and hold my wife’s purse.)
Perspiration is part of the game at the new Indoor Adventure Park. If you’re not hip to climbing, blasting or balancing? Go sit in the rebranded Z Bar & Grill, where you can observe from afar with a cold beverage.
“The kids can wear themselves out while the parents sit at the bar,” Wahooz Marketing Director Tiffany Quilici said. “It’s perfect.”
Perfection? Even for Wahooz, that’s setting the bar high. After all, there’s still room to grow. The owners are sitting on 10 acres of adjacent land east of Roaring Springs.
On Nov. 15, they plan to go in front of Meridian City Council to prepare that area for long-term development, Morandi said. First step: Probably more water-park features.
“It’s kind of cool to have the ability to expand,” he said.
Wahooz Family Fun Zone
1385 Blue Marlin Lane, Meridian, wahoozfunzone.com, (208) 898-0900
Pricing: Indoor Adventure Park attractions are priced individually ($2.99 to $9.99), or Wahooz/Indoor Adventure Park packages are available ($11.99 to $43.99). Daily specials also are offered. See website for details.
Indoor Adventure Park attractions
The Twister: A thrilling amusement ride with six swinging capsules that hold four passengers each. The entire ride rotates, lifts and tilts, while riders spin the capsules themselves to create the ride they want. Must be 48 inches tall or 38 inches to 48 inches must be accompanied by an adult. $5.99 for one ride.
The Frog Hopper: Seven riders will ascend 16 feet into the air, then bounce down this miniature drop tower. Must be 36 inches tall. $3.99 for 1 ride.
Sky Trail Ropes Course: A three-story-high ropes course that will allow climbers to explore new heights as they maneuver through 34 adrenaline-pumping challenges. Must be 48 inches tall or 42 to 48 inches must be accompanied by an adult. Closed heeled shoes required, Crocks available to borrow. $9.99 for one session. A second Sky Tykes course is just three feet off the ground for young adventurers. Under 48 inches tall. $4.99 for one session.
Clip ’N Climb: Climbing wall meets theme park with these eight action-packed climbing challenges in unique shapes, colors & textures. Must be 44 inches tall. Shoes required, no flip flops. $9.99 for up to four climbs in one session.
Ballocity: A four-level play structure with interactive vacuums and blasters that propel, throw and dump thousands of foam balls. Plus climbing tubes, slides, bridges and obstacles. Must be 36 inches tall or under 36 inches must be accompanied by adult. Socks required, available for $3. $9.99 for unlimited play, $4.99 under 36 inches.
Bumper Cars: These futuristic bumper cars provide a hover-like ride while bumping and spinning 360 degrees. Must be 44 inches tall. $5.99 for one ride.
Laser Maze Challenge: “Space Quadrant 2051” and “The Vault” are just like the spy movies. Imagine you enter a mysterious room filled with brilliant green lasers. Music and light effects immerse you in the experience. Your mission is to navigate the Mazes without breaking a beam. Or to break every beam to win at Beam Buster! $2.99 for one play. $5 for two plays.
Face Place Photo Studio Deluxe: This “big group” photo booth accommodates up to eight people, with “movie directors” telling players how to pose according to the one of 20-plus backgrounds selected, including a pirate scene, spy thriller backdrop, birthday party and more. $5 for one session.
XD Dark Ride: This attraction first appeared in Pinz Bowling Center two years ago but just reopened in the Adventure Park. It’s an eight-seat, full motion, 7D movie experience and the first of its kind in the Northwest. Compete with other thrill-seekers as you laser blast robot cowboys, road fighters or zombies in three different four minute movie adventures. Must be 40 inches tall. $6.99 for one ride. $10 for two.
Some other indoor activity centers in the Treasure Valley to check out
Big Al’s, 1900 N. Eagle Road, Meridian. 780-6118, ilovebigals.com. Large venue offers a full bar and food with projected sports TV, a bowling alley, arcade and billiards. Fun Card available for purchase for food, drink, bowling and arcade.
Bodies in Motion, 729 W. Diamond St., Boise. 381-0587, bodiesinmotionidaho.com. In addition to adult programs, also offers open play, junior martial arts, after/before school programs, camps, more. Costs vary.
Chuck E. Cheese’s, 6255 W. Fairview Ave., Boise. 322-1833, chuckecheese.com. Video and arcade games, sing and dance with Chuck E., rides, entertainment, food. Buy tokens for games.
Danik, 547 S. Locust Grove Road, Meridian. 846-8311, danikgym.com. Parkour, developmental and competitive gymnastics, tumbling, parties, more. Costs vary.
Dart Warz, 501 E. Scenery Lane, Meridian.(855) 717-3278, dartwarz.com. Indoor foam dart battlefield. $8 per hour on weekdays, $10 per hour weekends. Parents play free on Mondays. Party packages available.
Dave & Buster’s, 546 N. Milwaukee St., Boise. 901-3800, daveandbusters.com. Family-friendly chain offers a sports-bar-style setting for American food and arcade games. Power Cards available for purchase.
Discovery Center of Idaho, 131 W. Myrtle St., Boise. 343-9895, dcidaho.org. Hands-on exhibitions, Young Discoverers program, camps, field trips, more. Admission is $10 general, $9 veterans and active duty military, $7 special Sunday pricing, free for ages younger than 2 and members. Group rates available.
Gem State Gymnastics Academy, 5420 W. State St., Boise. 853-3220, gemstategymnastics.com. Open gym, recreational and competitive gymnastics, tumbling and trampoline, cheerleading, dance and Taekwondo. Costs vary.
Idaho IceWorld, 7072 S. Eisenman Road, Boise. 608-7716, idahoiceworld.com. Public skating, Learn to Skate, hockey, figure skating, curling, private ice rental and other programs. Public skating is $7 general, $6 seniors and children 4-12, $3 children 3 and younger, $3 skate rentals.
Jabbers, 1210 N. Galleria Drive, Nampa (Nampa Gateway Center). 442-5482, jabbersplaydate.com. Active and imaginative play center with free Wifi and upscale lounge area for parents. Day passes are $7.54 + tax for ages 4 and older, $6.60 + tax for 12 months to three years, free for newborns to 11 months with paid child, two adults are free with paid child. Also, monthly/yearly membership and group rates.
JumpTime, 1030 W. River St., Boise. 342-5867 and 1375 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian. 855-5867, jumptimeidaho.com. Indoor trampoline park with foam pits, slam dunk basketball and video games. All-day pass is $30. Also hourly pricing depending on day of the week, kid jump (up to 5 years) is free to $7.50, weekly specials.
Nampa Rollerdrome, 19 10th Ave. S., Nampa. 466-9905, namparollerdrome.com. Roller skating facility with roller hockey leagues, skating lessons, birthday/private party packages, special events, more. Admission is $7; $2 skate/rollerblade rental.
Nerfed, 5878 W. Franklin Road, Boise. 342-0342, boisenerfed.com. Family-friendly alternative to paintball or airsoft with dart and disk based Nerf Guns, hand-built obstacles and barriers. $6 unlimited Wednesdays, $8 unlimited Thursdays, $10 per hour or $12 unlimited on Fridays-Sundays; monthly unlimited plans available.
Planet Kid, 1875 Century Way, Boise. 376-3641, wingscenter.com. Indoor soft playground for children (walking to 12 years), features tubes, tunnels, ball pits, rope swings, zip lines, slides, more. Admission is $8.50 for ages 4-12, $5.50 ages 1-3, free for children younger than 1 year. Also, six-month and 12-month unlimited access passes available for individuals and families.
Pojos Family Fun Center, 7736 W. Fairview Ave., Boise. 376-6981, pojos.com. Arcades, games, indoor bumper cars, indoor carousel, soft play area for small children. Daily specials for game tokens and ride tickets.
Tumble Time Gymnastics, 1379 N. Cloverdale Road, Boise. 375-0063, tumbletimegymnastics.com. Children’s facility houses not only gymnastics classes, but preschool, before and after school, open gym and camp programs. Costs vary.