The irony is not lost on us that the time of year we most want to cut loose and have a little fun is the same time of year we feel like we'll spontaneously combust if we step outside during the day. But the life of the city has adapted to this paradox, and the local landscape is dotted with indoor fun centers — you know, those aggressively air-conditioned big-box places where you can get some chicken wings and bowl a game or two, roll some Skee-Ball, or play a game of laser tag.
Here are 10 places around town to enjoy yourself while you hide from the sun.
Indoor fun centers often serve a particular demographic. The ones for children are stocked with mini rides and trampolines, while others targeting adults tout their cocktails and lounge space. Amazing Jake's is that rare space that does a good job entertaining everyone; kiddos have amenities like a teacup ride and mini bowling, and adults have bumper cars, billiards, a carnival midway, bowling, laser tag, and two full bars.
Before you pick a metro Phoenix Bowlero location to head to, you should decide what you want to do when you get there. North Scottsdale has beer pong, Christown has foosball and shuffleboard, and Gilbert has laser tag. But all three outposts have a few things in common: slick, upscale decor; dozens of bowling lanes; and a full sports bar with food and drinks.
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Castles N' Coasters may lack the modern decor and full slate of amenities of other local indoor fun centers, but don't discount the nostalgia factor; it's fun to spend an evening playing games at the same place where you used to go to your school friends' birthday parties. Castles N' Coasters has a full arcade and laser tag, and if you feel like venturing outside once the sun sets, you've got options like rides, mini golf, and bumper boats.
Cracker Jax is another entertainment complex with indoor and outdoor options. While it's hot, stay inside and pass the time at the Cyber City arcade space or the Alien Invasion laser tag game. Later in the evening (or during the day, if you're wearing sunscreen), your options include mini-golf, go-karts, batting cages, a driving range, volleyball, and much more.
You know Dave & Buster's. The famous national chain of indoor fun centers has plenty going on inside, including massive arcade areas, lots of TVs for watching sports, and pool tables to brush up on your billiards skills. The Desert Ridge location has bowling, too (but not Westgate or Tempe Marketplace, so factor that in). When all that fun makes you hungry, there's a full food and drinks menu. We recommend you show up during happy hour to save yourself a couple of bucks on your summer cocktails.
The three locations of FatCats in Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek boast one amenity other indoor fun centers around town don't: movies. All FatCats show a small selection of first-run movies for kids and grownups in addition to everything they have to offer, like bowling, arcade games, indoor glow golf, and at the Mesa and Queen Creek locations, virtual reality gaming.
You want choices? Main Event has choices. The three metro Phoenix locations have all the hallmarks of a well-appointed funporium, like bowling, arcade games, and a full food and drinks menu. But they've also got VR gaming, a ropes course, and even karaoke if you feel like belting out a tune or two. If you're bored here, you're not trying very hard to have fun.
One of the newer indoor fun spaces in town, the locally owned Mavrix holds its own against its established competitors. Laser tag is always a good choice, or if that's not your style, there are dozens of bowling lanes and a full arcade space. Grownups can hang out in the bar, and everyone can enjoy the food options. And if that's not enough entertainment for you, Mavrix's sister business, Octane Raceway, is located right next door for some go-kart shenanigans.
Tilt Studio is mostly an arcade; the two-story space has pretty much anything you'd want to play, from first-person shooters and racing games to Skee-Ball and basketball. But it's also got a full bar and plenty of food options. We like Tilt because of the upstairs area where you can take a break from the shiny new games and chill out with a decent selection of pinball machines and vintage arcade cabinets.
It's always a good thing when west Valley citizens don't have to travel far to enjoy what the city has to offer. In the northwest corner of town, Uptown Alley serves up fun seven days a week. The only Arizona location of the chain offers plenty to do, like 40 bowling lanes, more than 80 arcade games, VR gaming, pool tables, laser tag, a sports lounge, a bar, and a full food menu.