All for Fun/Fun for All
by Barry Zelickson
Now more than ever, people are seeking new and unique ways to connect with each other. With fun places that provide experiences, like bicycle spin art, escape rooms, axe throwing lanes, ping-pong lounges and more, the location-based entertainment industry provides endless opportunities to interact and engage.
Having owned, operated and visited so many great attractions, I felt there was an opportunity to provide a platform to highlight all these amazing places, show what they offer and share what the people who created them have to say. This is the basis for Fun Across America, a YouTube travelogue of must-see spots for fun, attractions, food and events. During each segment we interview the owners/operators to get their perspective on the venue, see what makes it special to the public, and then take you on a first-hand, private tour of the facility, spotlighting all it has to offer. Perhaps you’ll find an idea or two that will make a great addition to your own location.
Every two weeks our Fun Across America host and co-creator, Nate Reinhart, travels around the states, seeking all forms of entertainment that provide unique, tasty and extra fun experiences. Nate, a content creator for NalterDeeds and NalterCards, has attracted over 250,000 subscribers on his YouTube channels and has a keen understanding of entertainment.
This new monthly column provides a snapshot of the locations we visit and gives you the scoop on what’s Fun Across America. Our team searches high and low to scout for the best of the best so you don’t have to. So, sit back and let us do the heavy lifting and enjoy. Check out our YouTube segments, too (think of it as a video brochure before you buy your ticket). (See them at www.youtube.com/@funacrossamerica/videos.) Better yet, make sure when you visit these great places, tell them you read it here and saw it on Fun Across America!
Here are this month’s highlighted venues:
Extreme Sandbox – Hastings, Minn.
There is no greater story than the person that takes a great idea and brings it to life. In this case, that person is Randy Stenger and that idea is Extreme Sandbox, a 10-acre site that allows all ages to play with life-size Tonka trucks!
A dream come true for many, Randy says he’s “just a big kid at heart.” Stenger said that he got the idea from his son who, when they drove by a construction site when he was about 8- or 9-years-old, said he wished he could get behind the wheel of a bulldozer. Stenger’s adventure concept got the attention of Shark Tank where he was able to not only make it on the show, but even received a deal from Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. With so much attention it is not a surprise that Extreme Sandbox has guests traveling from around the world to try their skill behind these huge machines.
During our visit to Extreme Sandbox, our host, Nate Reinhart, got behind the wheel of a 36-ton excavator and had fun digging. Of course, as with most over-the-top experiences, onsite training is a must, especially when safety is the number-one goal at Extreme Sandbox. Once training is complete, guests quickly learn that Extreme Sandbox even makes learning how to drive heavy equipment fun. They also incorporate a number of challenging activities that make for the perfect outing to test your skills and compete with friends, family or corporate teammates. They even offer certified industrial training.
Whether you are enjoying a family outing or corporate team building, Extreme Sandbox truly delivers a “bucket list” experience. Drive a bulldozer, crush a car, dig a pit and more, this place lets you get behind the wheel and have some big-time fun! But don’t take my word for it, check out our interview with Randy and hear it first-hand.
After our Fun Across America visit, we learned they have recently opened up a nearby construction-themed restaurant called the Quarry Taphouse. Expanding on their concept with an additional food and beverage platform, the new addition serves delicious food and a large variety of beverages. It even serves up its own attraction: the Rock Range. Guests get to grab a large buck of rocks for $5 (or small bucket for $1) and start throwing at various targets like hubcaps and cowbells. No glass house here, so go ahead and throw all the stones you want!
Scene75 – Romeoville, Illinois
[Editor’s note: As this issue was going to press, news broke that the Sandlers had sold the company to Five Star Parks and Attractions, expanding that company’s portfolio to 25 FECs in 12 states.]
What can happen when a super father/son team come together to build a brand? A world-class entertainment operation called Scene75. Les Sandler and his son Jonah have built their concept into a now five-location empire that began by converting an empty family-owned building into their first entertainment complex. The family business went on to earn two IAAPA’s Brass Ring awards for FEC of the World.
The Sandlers’ accomplishments and innovation are well known in the industry and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit their newest location in Romeoville, Ill. In fact, we had the rare opportunity to film the Chicagoland location during construction and then have a follow-up visit once they opened the doors to the public. The before-and-after was amazing. Seeing this massive empty space of 135,000 sq. ft. transform into a premier entertainment center in six weeks makes you appreciate the hard work this father/son team put into making their dreams come true.
Check out our YouTube interview as host Nate talks with Jonah Sandler as they walk through this massive structure and shows us all the ways they deliver fun to their guests. This location features 14 indoor attractions including go-karts, mini-golf, laser maze, batting cages, an Inflatapark, dark ride, bumper cars, a roller coaster, a Drop Tower and more than 200 state-of-the-art arcade games.
In addition, Scene75 has a restaurant and a sweetshop with Edy’s Ice Cream and bulk candy to give anyone a sugar high. As we walked around the facility, Jonah explained some of their methodology regarding certain attractions, including how they go about planning and bringing their 40-player, two-story laser tag attraction to life. During the tour, Nate tried a few of the attractions, including taking a swing in their batting cages and trying for a hole-in-one while putting on their 18-hole course.
When asked about party sales, Jonah said, “Saturdays, I like to say, are our weekly Super Bowl! On a good, strong Saturday, we have as many as 30 to 40 birthday parties.” Scene75 also has a full-service bar, private party rooms and a 300-person event center. If you aren’t having fun at Scene75, you just don’t know how to have fun! Moreover, they have a one-of-a-kind redemption store with awesome items from luxury goods to signed sports memorabilia that will keep you playing to bring home the prize to remember.
Barry Zelickson, is the co-creator of Fun Across America, a YouTube channel travelogue show. Zelickson has worked in the entertainment field for almost 30 years and has been awarded several IAAPA Brass Ring awards including one of the association’s highest honors, Family Entertainment Center of the World. His other projects include commercials, infomercials, feature films, documentaries, live events and entertainment centers.
Nate Reinhart, host and co-creator of Fun Across America, is a content creator for NalterDeeds and NalterCards on YouTube and content consultant for creators and businesses alike. After a shoutout from MrBeast, Nate has accumulated over 250,000 subscribers on his YouTube channels.