Stop and Drop
Rock climbing gym Sender One started in Southern California in 2012, opening its first full-service location in Santa Ana in 2013 and soon adding a second gym near LAX. Among traditional climbing walls measuring up to 50 feet and extensive bouldering courses, Sender City is in a colorful corner of the gym with climbing routes themed so you can scale a complex of skyscrapers, ascend a rope web like Spider-Man, or navigate glowing foot and hand holds in the dark. As much as the attractions appeal to children, they also prove challenging for most adults.
And there’s more. Red-and-white checkered stripes like racing flags frame a shiny, slippery, silver Drop Slide rising vertically alongside the climbing walls. To ride, put on a red skydiving jumpsuit over your clothes and lie down at the bottom of the slide facing friends and family members, who can cheer you on. An operator from the gym passes over a handlebar attached to a rope tow, then hold on tight and you’ll magically float straight up to 30 feet above the floor. At any point yell “stop,” and that’s as high as you go. The only way down is to take a breath, let go, and scream.
Up the street from Santa Ana in Garden Grove, waterslides are the main event at Great Wolf Lodge . Attached to a 603-room hotel, the water park includes 14 slides for guests with day passes or overnight reservations. The 105,000-square-foot indoor park is the largest Great Wolf property among 18 locations nationwide.
Apart from a resort-style swimming pool, everything at Great Wolf is indoors, where it’s always a balmy 84 degrees. Book a cabana or deck seating for the day and venture to the multilevel play structure Fort Mackenzie. Walk up the ramp to the fort’s highest platform, called Totem Towers, and choose among the three-story slides to make your way down. Even higher is Albert Falls, where you ride an inner tube with a friend to descend either of the four-story slides that curve around outside the building before turning back in and dropping into a plunge pool.
Up the ante again at the Howlin’ Tornado, which launches from the highest platform at Great Wolf. From six stories up, drop into a red-and-yellow, funnel-shaped slide that you ride on an inner tube with up to three friends. The more weight the better to make it as high as possible up the walls. But no doubt the day’s biggest thrill—if you dare—is a 20-foot free fall called Wolf Tail. To give it a try, open the door of an upright plastic tube and step inside. The floor will suddenly drop out from under you, and then after the initial drop, your stomach will turn over again on a 360-degree loop.