“It’s not very high,” she said. She lied.
I used to be afraid of heights. That is until my cousin tricked me into riding my first roller coaster when I was 14 years old. “It’s a kiddie ride,” she said. “It’s not very high,” she said. She lied. But I’m so glad she did, because I conquered my fear of heights and fell in love with high-elevation rides.
That addictive altitude adrenaline rush is something my entire family enjoys, and one of our favorite places to find it is The Track Family Fun Parks in Branson, MO. Here, there are rides at every level and the whole family—newest niece to octogenarian grandma—is welcome.
Start at the top with the Skycoaster, located at Track 4 of The Track Family Fun Parks properties—it’s kind of a tradition for my sister and me. We strap into the harness and that familiar tingling sensation kicks in as the adrenaline begins to flow. The anticipation builds as we are slowly pulled 100 feet into the air. I take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous panorama of the Ozark Mountains in the distance. Then, from down below, I hear the cue to pull the ripcord, “3—2—1—FLY!”
My sister can never bring herself to do it, so I hesitate only a second before I give it a tug and send us swinging through the air at a head-spinning 70 miles per hour. It’s like skydiving and hang-gliding all in one—a rush you can’t find anywhere else! We have photos of our drops from back when we were teenagers. A little tip: the best time of day to go is sunset. You can’t beat the views.
I zoom down the three-tiered slope back to the ground, eating Jacob’s dust the entire way.
The Track Family Fun Parks have taken go-karting to a whole new level—literally. Here, karting courses are stacked into multi-story structures, like a parking garage that’s yours to zip around in with friends. Near the Sky Coaster at Track 4, the Heavy Metal High Rise is the newest addition to the park’s collection of elevated go-kart course. Built of concrete and steel, the four-story spiral climb has my wheels spinning before I even reach the top. My nephew, Jacob, and I have a running bet to see who can make it to the finish line first. (He usually wins—and not because I let him!) I squeal the entire length of the 1,200-foot track as I zoom down the three-tiered slope back to the ground, eating Jacob’s dust the entire way. I may have lost the bet—again—but the course’s flashing rock & roll stage lights have me feeling like a NASCAR star.
Over at Track 3 is Wild Woody, a massive four-story structure with 1,440 feet of solid wooden track. This one is my dad’s favorite. He says that the dips and hills take him back to the old wooden roller coasters he loved as a kid, but the surprising sharp turns give the ride a modern twist and keep him on his toes. I speed past my dad and lean with the car as I take on an electrifying full spiral and sway the other direction with two tight mini spirals. Then my stomach drops when I sail over a blind peak before racing to the finish. I’m sure my grin is as big as the one Dad has as he comes skidding to a stop beside me.
The park’s original elevated go-kart course, the Lumberjack at Track 5, is still my favorite. As its name suggests, the ride has a logging theme and actually houses two of the few “steam donkey” logging steam engines in existence. I definitely don’t lose any steam on this wooden track. Its three stories have two massive spirals that make me feel like I’m at G-force gravity the entire time.
Eventually, my family has to return to earth, but the park still has plenty of fun to be had once we get our land legs back. Arcades located at each track are filled with more than 250 games total, including all the hits. From driving and sporting games to video games and—my niece Anna’s personal favorite—skee ball! I get just as excited as she does when the machine spits out those little tickets and we start dreaming about the prizes we’ll get when we redeem them.
Track 5 has an exciting Laser Tag maze with laser beams that are actually visible, making it easier to hit my target (aka: my siblings). And the child-size vests provide a great way for the little ones in the family to feel included. I’m not a naturally competitive person, but there’s something about donning that vest in the backlit maze and feeling the weight of a laser gun in my hands that brings out my inner warrior. Later, sis.
Also at Track 5 are four batting cages that throw various speeds of both baseballs and softballs, perfect for any level athlete. I played softball when I was younger and I was never really any good. But I step into those batting cages and suddenly, I’m a major leaguer. In reality, I choose the slowest speed possible, but in my mind, I’m the female version of Babe Ruth, pointing to the stands and calling my shot.
No day at a park is complete without bumper cars. Traditional bumper cars are over at Track 4, but what my family and I look for are the SuperSoaker Bumper Boats at all the parks. These are not your mama’s bumper cars. The entire gang, from grandparents to kindergartners, all hop into the colorful boats and take up the accompanying water cannons for another one of our family’s traditional warm-weather pastimes—water fights. Let battle at sea commence! There’s no better way to cool down after a long, hot day on the tracks.