Meet Opal Dawn. Growing up in a quiet commune in the outskirts of Hamer, S.C. called South of the Border, Opal Dawn studied the prophet Pedro’s teachings about blatantly racist puns, mini-golf, and relentless billboard campaigns. Unlike most children her age, Opal Dawn never heard of Star Wars. But when she saw the sci-fi classic for the first time last year, she immediately became a fan. She has since devoted herself to the Jedi religion and wants to get a tattoo of Yoda on the inside of her right eyelid. Not surprisingly, she jumped at the chance to model the latest in lazer tag wear, including this season’s griping blue-and-black body suit. Blast away girl. And may the force be you.
I am a careful driver. I use turn signals, I never text and drive, and I’ve never received a speeding ticket in my 10 years on the road. But when I sit behind the wheel of a go-kart, a switch turns off in my brain and I am consumed by one lunatic thought: “I wanna go fast.”
This is why I found myself careening wall to wall on the tight, winding track inside Charleston Rush one weekday afternoon, showing all the giddy recklessness of Ricky Bobby but none of the driving finesse. At speeds approaching 40 mph, I fishtailed around the hairpin turns with tires squealing and shook my fist at the finish line like some Formula 1 hotshot.
Charleston Rush, which opened in January at the former site of the Casa de Dios Torre Fuerte church on Ashley Phosphate Road, is as much a place for grown-ups as it is for kids. It features go-karts, lazer tag, an arcade, and a snack bar — all indoors, with the miracle of air conditioning pumping all summer long. Manager Josh Baker says that while he gets his fair share of youth group lock-ins and kids’ birthday parties, he’s also hosted adult kart-racing groups, corporate team-building events, and even a bachelor party.
Baker claims his karts are the fastest in the Carolinas, and I believe it. The experience is like riding the slick-tire track at Frankie’s Fun Park, only instead of an oval, you have to negotiate 16 laps on a serpentine miniature road course.
Safety is, of course, paramount at a place like Charleston Rush. Drivers have to wear helmets and neck cushions, and race track employees can limit the speed on all cars with a remote control. If you show up drunk or intentionally ram other drivers, they’ll give you the boot. (And in case you were wondering, the karts are 100 percent battery-powered, so you’re not breathing in carbon monoxide as you race.)
Still, when it comes to releasing a driver’s id, there are few legal options as satisfying as flooring the gas pedal going into a 180-degree turn, yanking the wheel, and feeling your tail end skid out behind you. With up to six racers competing for the best time, you’ll also get to obsess over your statistics at the end, when the computer system prints out your stats including best lap, top RPM, and weekly leaderboard standings.
Another option for releasing a little pent-up aggression is Charleston Rush’s lazer tag arena, which can handle three teams and up to 30 players. As lazer tag places go, this one seems pretty standard-issue at first, with splatters of fluorescent-colored paint glowing under the blacklights and Top 40 dance music pulsing through the sound system. Strategically, the arena features three ramps with vantage points up top that are useful for sniping your enemies.
But at the end of a game, you’ll discover that the lazer tag is every bit as quantified as the kart racing. Not only do you get to see the top scorers, but a screen in the lobby announces who was the most accurate, who was the least accurate, and even who committed the most acts of friendly fire.
Long story short: I’ll be returning this summer. And I’ll be bringing some competitors with me.
Closed-toed shoes are required at Charleston Rush. Junior karts are available for children eight-12 years old who are at least 48 inches tall. Adult karts are reserved for people age 12 and older who are at least 56 inches tall.
131 Columbus St., Downtown
(843) 818-4080, thealleycharleston.com
AMF Charleston Lanes
1963 Savannah Hwy., James Island
(843) 766-0241, amf.com
1568 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., West Ashley
3291 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston
(843) 552-8530, sandpiperlanes.com
Sparians @ River Bowl
613 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
(843) 884-7735, riverbowlcharleston.com
3255 Highway 17 North, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 971-1223, blackbeardscove.net
Frankie’s Fun Park
5000 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston
(843) 767-1376, frankiesfunpark.com
Glozone Fun Center
5900 Rivers Ave., North Charleston
(843) 225-2419, theglozone.com
Carolina Ice Palace
7665 Northwoods Blvd., North Charleston
(843) 572-2717, carolinaicepalace.com
Hot Wheels Skating Center
1523 Folly Road, James Island
(843) 795-7982, hotwheelsskating.net
Stardust Skate Center
2035 Spaulding Dr., North Charleston
Splash Island Waterpark
at Palmetto Islands County Park
444 Needlerush Pkwy., Mt. Pleasant
(843) 884-0832, ccprc.com
Splash Zone Waterpark
at James Island County Park
871 Riverland Dr., James Island
(843) 795-4386, ccprc.com
Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark
at Wannamaker County Park
8888 University Blvd., North Charleston
(843) 795-4386, ccprc.com
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