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It's all fun and games

Patrons can eat in front of a wall of televisions at the ESPN Zone. The game room is upstairs.
Patrons can eat in front of a wall of televisions at the ESPN Zone. The game room is upstairs. (Sun file photo)
Are you looking to get more active, but still have fun? Have you grown tired of the same old dinner-and-a-movie evenings? The Baltimore metro area has several options for indoor and outdoor entertainment geared toward those not afraid of a little challenge and physical exertion. Here's the skinny on several places to break a sweat.

Slipping & sliding, rocking & rolling

The place: Charm City Indoor Skatepark
4401 O'Donnell St., Baltimore
The skinny: This is one of the better known places in the city to meet up with other skateboard enthusiasts to grind it out. Located in an industrial park, this place retains a cool, counterculture atmosphere. While it is definitely not for the timid, it is ideal for skateboarders who want to launch themselves off of ramps, across "death bridges" and generally do things that would make their mothers cringe. It's all in good fun, of course, and there is an on-site skate shop.

The place: Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena
6101 Hillen Road, Baltimore
The skinny: Mt. Pleasant offers a pleasant, clean environment where people of all ages and skill levels can come and enjoy a good skate.

The place: Northwest Ice Rink
5600 Cottonworth Ave., Mount Washington
The skinny: This is one of the best places in the city to go ice skating -- and it's also one of the more affordable. The cost is $5.25 per person, with $1.50 for skate rentals. The facility offers a clean and pressure-free environment to just unwind and enjoy a good skate, whether it's warm or cool outside. Adult hockey league games are also played here and have an allure all their own.

The place: Shake & Bake Skating and Bowling Center
1601 Pennsylvania Ave., Baltimore
The skinny: It is one of the city's most unusual and all-inclusive venues to skate, bowl, meet, greet, eat and have fun. The 32-lane bowling center is one of the largest around. There is also a fun store, pizzeria and video-game arcade on the premises. The roller-skating rink hosts various themed nights. Friday is Gospel Nite and Thursday evenings are reserved for "Adult Skate" nights (only people aged 30 or older may skate).

The place: Skateland
Various locations
The skinny: This chain offers safe, alcohol-free roller rinks that appeal to all ages and skill levels. The Bel Air Road location, in particular, features a massive floor space for skaters to strut their stuff.

Swing, shoot & score

The place: Anne Arundel Paintball Park
7600 Race Road, Hanover
The skinny: For some, this is the closest they'll ever come to real combat. For others, it's just an interesting and fun way to spend a couple of hours in the woods shooting paint pellets at your buddies or your co-workers (paintballing is a popular office activity, fostering teamwork and cooperation). Anne Arundel Paintball Park features several "battlefields." Try to bring a large enough group to have a paintball war just among yourselves. You don't want to be paired with a bunch of jokers who do this every weekend or you'll be shot the first time you stick any part of your body out from behind a barricade.

The place: Columbia Sportspark
5453 Harpers Farm Road, Columbia
The skinny: This is somewhat similar to Rounding 3rd (see below), but appeals to a slightly older crowd and has a real thrill-seeking vibe to it. In addition to a challenging miniature golf course, Columbia Sportspark has 10 batting cages and a skateboard and in-line skating park.

The place: Rounding 3rd Family Entertainment Center
6600 Amberton Drive, Elkridge
The skinny: This is the ultimate entertainment spot for both little and big kids. In addition to miniature golf, the facility features batting cages, a rock-climbing wall, a go-kart track and laser tag. In any one afternoon, you can pretend to be Tiger Woods, Sammy Sosa, Indiana Jones, Dale Jarrett or Captain Kirk. Rounding 3rd also offers special group rates for birthday parties and office parties. Let the boss win at mini-golf, then shoot him or her with your ray gun later.

The place: Sports
10 Halesworth Road, Cockeysville
The skinny: This family entertainment center delivers on its promise of providing the ultimate kids' fantasy. Boasting more than 38,000 square feet of entertainment space in a warehouse-like setting, Sports offers everything from indoor batting cages and video games to an 18-hole miniature golf course (complete with fountains and a waterfall) and a rock-climbing wall with three levels of challenge. For those aspiring baseball hurlers, Sports' coolest feature is its speed-pitching cage. Complete with radar gun, the cage allows you to clock your fastball against the best of them.

The place: Tee Time Family Golf
4123 East Joppa Road, Perry Hall
The skinny: This golf facility actually has two courses from which to choose. It is also one of the more affordable courses in Maryland -- $4.50 per person for the first game, $2 for the second game. The courses are fun and challenging for all ages and skill levels, the property is clean and the staff is friendly.

The place: The Mid-Atlantic Golf Center at Reisterstown
301 Mitchell Drive, Reisterstown
The skinny: This is one of the Baltimore area's most traditional places to go putt-putt golfing. The Mid-Atlantic Golf Center, formerly Tom Mitchell's, features three miniature-golf courses to test you and your family's skills and patience. The complex also offers a golf driving range and a nine-hole executive course.

The place: The Rocky Gorge Golf Practice Range and Miniature Golf
Route 29, half-mile south of Route 216, Laurel
The skinny: Featuring the "world's longest miniature golf hole," which measures a whopping 190 feet, this splendid outdoor facility is open year-round. So, golf nuts can regularly be seen driving balls off of Rocky Gorge's double-deck tees in the pouring rain. A massive, open field with yardage markers and an old car to use as a target are the most distinctive features. Rocky Gorge also features softball and baseball batting cages, a baseball store and a small video-game arcade.

Eat, drink and be merry

The place: The ESPN Zone
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
The skinny: There is no better place for sports enthusiasts to convene for a meal, some TV-watching and some intense game play. The second-floor game room boasts close to 100 virtual and actual games, most of them hands-on and sports-themed. Visitors can try to pass a football like an NFL quarterback or attempt to hit a pitch off of a virtual Major League Baseball hurler. Downstairs, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to midnight and features a full-service menu and 200 TVs of varying sizes.

The place: Jillian's
Arundel Mills Mall, Hanover
The skinny: There is just so much to see and do (not to mention eat and drink) here. The site features a vast arcade of video and virtual-reality games, ranging from classic '80s favorites to the latest in ultimate sports games and flight simulators. Not into joysticks? You can also shoot hoops and play Skee-Ball, accumulating tickets to win prizes. Best of all, Jillian's features a surprisingly good restaurant and fully stocked bar.

The place: Padonia Station
63 East Padonia Road, Towson
The skinny: Like Jillian's, Padonia Station features big arcade thrills along with a restaurant and bar designed for mass audiences. Padonia Station's menu is massive, with an appetizer, sandwich and burger list that reads like a "Star Wars" scroll. For ale enthusiasts, the bar features a daily beer special, with each daily featured label available for $3 a pint. Daily meal specials range from the Hump Day Buffet on Wednesdays to the Friday Fiesta of various Mexican delights. The large game room features video games, a variety of simulators and the frequently crowded pool table area.

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