Xanadu, the world’s first indoor amusement complex, was built by Kublai Khan more than 800 years ago.
This famed pleasure dome has proved an inspiration to today’s indoor amusement centers.
True, Xanadu had no indoor go-karts, boardwalk rides or miniature golf courses — to name some of the summery activities that, thanks to human ingenuity, North Jerseyans are now enjoying even in this most ghastly of winters.
But there were “sinuous rills,” the poet tells us. Also “a mighty fountain.” The Bogota Golf Center has both.
A great fountain, splashing over an outcrop of artificial rocks, bubbles through a vast indoor landscape of hills, dales, ravines and inclines. Here, miniature golfers can putt their bright red, blue and green balls to their hearts’ content, under the protection of a sheltering roof.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” says Matthew Albert, 11, of Teaneck, whose little blue ball has missed the first hole by several inches.
“This is just practice, this one,” he says.
Outside, the ground is snow-covered, the temperatures arctic. But indoors, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s April. Temperatures are moderate, the 18 holes are inviting, bits of live greenery dot the artificial landscape.
“Weekends are very big here,” says Bogota Golf Center manager Nancy Park, whose 10-year-old facility also offers indoor driving ranges, basketball games and batting cages. “People can’t play outside because of the snow.”
Ever since the first cloudburst spoiled the first picnic, amusement entrepreneurs have been looking for ways to maximize cash flow by making their concessions weatherproof. Steeplechase, the most famous amusement park of Coney Island’s golden age (it closed in 1964), was mostly indoors. So was Asbury Park’s late, lamented Palace Amusements, immortalized by Bruce Springsteen.
“They’re perfect for bad weather conditions,” says Colleen Mangone, spokeswoman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, based in Alexandria, Va. “If it’s a rainy or snowy afternoon, they provide a great venue for moms and dads to spend time with their kids.”
Ray Winslow would agree. To entertain his grandson, Orin, 9, they head to In the Swing, an indoor entertainment center in Winslow’s town of Waldwick, where there are batting cages, indoor playgrounds (for kids ranging from toddler to age 7) and arcade games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Hoop It Up Basketball.
“If kids can’t go out and play, I’d rather have them in here playing games than home watching television,” Winslow says.
Here and there, traditional boardwalk amusements can also be found indoors. At Funtime Junction in Fairfield, kids can take a flight on a helicopter ride that stays well below the ceiling. At the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., kids can ride a three-story Ferris wheel or a double-decker carousel, all in the comfort of a climate-controlled shopping mall.
“They would go to the beach in the summer,” says Fernando Mora of Yonkers, N.Y., who was taking his kids Santiago, 5, and Sofia, 3, for a spin on the Palisades carousel. “This is as close as they get in the winter.”
In fact, almost anything can be put under a roof, if the roof is big enough. Even a whole racetrack, in the case of Velocity 17 in Maywood — where speed demons can get their Dale Earnhardt on as they zoom along a 2,000-foot track at the breathtaking speed of 35 mph.
It actually does feel breathtaking in the imported Bowman go-karts, says Velocity 17 President Jerry Joseph. “You’re 1 inch off the ground, so you feel like you’re going 75 mph,” Joseph says. “The kart handles like a Formula One car.”
The need for speed is enough to lure Maureen Piccione and her husband, John, all the way from Brooklyn almost every weekend. But they visit Velocity 17 (it also boasts an indoor playground, pedal cars and other attractions) most often in the winter, Maureen says.
After all, what else is there to do?
“We can do this even when it’s snowing,” she says.
Here's a sampling of indoor amusement attractions in the area.
* Bogota Golf Center: 30 Cross St., Bogota. 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Free admission; pay-as-you-go attractions. 201-489-2400 or bogotagolfcenter.com.
* City Sports on 4: 62 Route 4 east, Englewood. Noon to 10 p.m. weekdays and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Sports center with indoor turf. Free admission, pay-as-you-go attractions. 201-567-1111 or citysportson4.com.
* Funtime Junction: 400 Fairfield Road, Fairfield. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday. $9.75 for children; free for adults. 973-882-9777 or funtimejunction.com.
* In the Swing: 145 Hopper Ave., Waldwick. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Free admission. ($5 for upstairs "playland.") 201-444-3556 or intheswing.biz.
* Monster Mini Golf: 49 E. Midland Ave., Paramus. 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays except holidays. $7.50 adults, $6.50 children. 201-261-0032 or monsterminigolf.com.
* Palisades Center: 1000 Palisades Center Drive, West Nyack, N.Y. 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Indoor carousel and Ferris wheel. 845-348-1000 or palisadescenter.com.
* Paramus Park: 700 Paramus Park, off Route 17, Paramus. 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Indoor carousel. 201-261-6108 or paramuspark.com.
* Velocity 17: 87 Route 17 north, Maywood. 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Free admission; pay-as-you-go attractions. 201-994-1200 or v-17.com.
* Westfield Garden State Plaza: 1 Garden State Plaza, Paramus. 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Indoor carousel. 201-843-2121 or westfield.com/gardenstateplaza.
— Jim Beckerman