The start of the new school year is fast approaching (to the frustration of some and, well, subtle elation of others) and that means one thing: the time for last-minute, mini adventures is upon us.
The Clovis-Fresno area and its surrounding communities are rife with opportunities for fun and play, offering local families everything from educational excursions and entertainment to explorations into California’s natural wonders.
Wild Water Adventure Park
As one of the Central Valley’s longest running self-described “destinations,” Wild Water Adventure Park continues to draw thrill-seekers to its 42-year-old grounds. The summer hotspot has earned a faithful following, with longtime patrons flocking to the park’s 38 water slides and 20 attractions, onsite barbecue pits and three lakes filled with populations of Bass, Catfish, Bluegill and Crappie fish for anglers to try and catch.
One of the summer’s newest additions: the Kaleidoslide.
The fan-voted name gives insight into the slide’s colorful aesthetic — challenging riders to test their hand-eye coordination by matching the ride’s flashing red, yellow, blue and green LED lights to the coordinating buttons on its specially outfitted board.
The enhanced multimedia of the attraction also plays to the inner-gamer of the guests, and allows them to best — and challenge their friends through social media — the day’s best scores.
But it’s Wild Water Adventure Park’s emphasis on catering to the entire family that makes it such a gem in the community. Whether its the 30,000-square-foot, crowd-pleasing wave pool, The Blue Wave, largest kiddie area in California, Adventure Bay, or high-thrill Sidewinder slide — everyone’s bound to find something to keep them cool at this place.
Be sure to check out the 2016 season’s final Dive-In Movies event with a special screening of “The Goonies” while viewers float in The Blue Wave on Friday, Aug. 12, and the last Fireworks on the Lake display on Saturday, Aug. 20.
All-day admission costs $32.99 per person Sunday-Friday and $34.99 Saturday at the gate. Admission is $19.99 after 4 p.m. Children ages 2 and under are free.
Details: (559) 299-9453, www.wildwater.net.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo/ Storyland
If you haven’t hit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and its neighboring park, Storyland, this summer, now’s the time. And if you have, another visit is definitely in order.
The Central Valley staples have been on the receiving end of some extra TLC within the past year, with the expansion of Fresno Chaffee Zoo through its newest, 13-acre exhibit, African Adventure, and the much-needed updates and fresh coats of paint made to the attractions that makeup Storyland.
The 87-year-old zoo offers various opportunities for hands-on educational and even exclusive experiences with its behind-the-scenes encounters, zoo camp and zoo adventure programs — but Fresno Chaffee Zoo is especially good at throwing a party.
Various summer events, including last Saturday’s annual Producers Ice Cream Zoofari, have become customary occasions for many regular zoo patrons, and there are still a couple more on the docket before the season ends.
First up: Día de la Familia Hispaña by Univision 21 on Sunday, Aug. 21. The well-attended event is hosted by Noticias Univision 21 Fresno, and props booths throughout the park for guests to participate with, as well as live entertainment, food and fun.
Valley PBS Nite, held on Saturday, Sept. 10, features some of PBS Kids’ most beloved characters, an after-hours stroll through the park, crafts, watch a live kids entertainer and even an outdoor screening of a PBS Kids show. Tickets for this popular event go fast, so get yours soon.
Admission costs $10 for adults, $5.50 for children ages 2-11 and free for children ages 1 and under.
Details: (559) 498-5910, www.fresnochaffeezoo.org.
Over in Storyland, the recently-reopened park is teeming with opportunities for our area’s youth to get in some quality literacy-focused learning — all in the name of fun, of course.
Its Summer Day Camp, set for Aug. 10-12, incorporates crafts, entertainment and chances to meet some readers’ favorite literary characters into the camp’s jam-packed schedule. Contact Ashley at email@example.com to register for one of the few remaining spots.
The last Mother Goose Storyteller event is Saturday, Aug. 20, at Storyland’s Daniel R. Martin Children’s Theater, and Winston the Magician is scheduled to make an appearance at the park’s whimsical theater on Aug. 21 and 28 for an afternoon of laughs and spectacle for the entire family to enjoy.
Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3.60 for children.
Details: (559) 486-2124, www.storylandfresno.com.
Madera Drive-In Theatre
If you didn’t know, drive-in theaters are still a thing — and yes, they’re still awesome.
Madera Drive-In Theatre has two screens for movie-goers to take advantage of, offering a double feature every night with typically a kids-focused film on one side and a more mature movie on the other.
The locally-owned business aims to provide a family-friendly, clean environment for its patrons, as well as the latest in movie theater technology. Guests have the option of using the onsite speakers to create a theater-like sound experience in your vehicle or dialing to the directed stations through your car’s radio.
Madera Drive-In Theatre also has a fully stocked concessions stand to complete your movie-going experience.
Plan to get there early to find a good spot — even 90 minutes for a newly-released feature. Show times and select films change each week, so be sure to check the website for a current listing.
Reserved seating, wheel-chair accessibility and special promotions for private parties, group sales and birthdays are available upon request. General admission costs $8.50 and $3.50 for children.
Details: (559) 673-5381, www.playingtoday.com.
Blackbeard’s Family Entertainment Center
The longtime Fresno establishment has continued to beat the allures of online gaming and social media with its pirate-themed fun zone — packed with varied experiences to delight all adventurers.
Blackbeard’s Family Entertainment Center is home to everything from an arcade, XTreme laser tag, Ropes Course Adventure and an attraction-filled Rideland to batting cages, bumper boats, miniature golf and water slides.
The park’s super saver pack combo allows families to enjoy three or five attractions at a reduced price, and its group sales and birthday party packages help to specialize your Blackbeard’s Family Entertainment Center visit even more.
For more insider tips and deals, join its VIP text club for exclusive offers and door-buster specials.
Details: (559) 292-9000, www.blackbeardsfresno.com.
It’s easy to forget that one of the nation’s most treasured natural splendors is in our own backyard, so consider this a reminder: Yosemite National Park is one must-see stop to remember before the school year starts.
Visit Yosemite Madera County suggests several outdoor adventures to help you best explore the expansive terrain and its nearby communities, including everything from hiking the park’s various trails to camping beneath the stars.
In cooperation with the National Park Service, amateur astronomy clubs host star parties during the summer months at Glacier Point Amphitheater, providing stargazers with “sunset talk” presentations to learn various fun astronomical facts and access to hobbyists’ unique set of equipment and electronics.
The season’s remaining star parties are Aug. 12-13 by the San Jose Astronomical Association, Aug. 26-27 by the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club and Sep. 2-4 with the Central Valley Astronomers.
At the south gate entrance Yosemite National Park, you’ll find Fish Camp and the ever-popular Sugar Pine Railroad — taking passengers past beautiful mountain scenery on an authentic, steam-powered train.
Those seeking over-night stays can find sanctuary in Oakhurst or Bass Lake’s plethora of hotels, or pack up a tent, sleeping bags and the rest of your camping gear to enjoy one of Bass Lake, Sierra Vista Scenic Byway and Yosemite National Park’s campsites.
“The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway is a nearly 100-mile journey through the Sierra National Forest with breathtaking panoramas, unique rock formations and even a charming general store with mouthwatering hamburgers and amazing pie,” said a Visit Yosemite Madera County press release. “ Starting at a little over 3,300 feet above sea level, the byway makes its way past historic cabins, stands of giant sequoias and iconic landmarks as it climbs to more than 7,300 feet.”
Yosemite Valley plays host to 12 miles of trails for visitors to pedal along, with bike rental opportunities at two locations from the spring through fall seasons.
“It is good exercise whilst being in one of the most spectacular parks in the world.”
Details: (559) 683-4636, www.yosemitethisyear.com.