Remember the days when mom or dad would let you sit on their lap and help them drive the car into the garage? Sure you were only driving 5mph, but it was still pretty awesome. If you’ve got a little speed demon in your family, give them a dose of some fast-paced and thrilling go-kart racing. Today’s indoor karts are designed for drivers as young as 5 or 6, and they can drive independently. The only requirement: drivers must by at least 48 inches tall for most karts (some require a height of 50 inches). This isn’t the type of place you’ll find located in a strip mall–these karts are powerful!
Fortunately, indoor kart racing venues are big on safety. All drivers are required to wear a head sock, a helmet and neck guard. All of this gear is provided at no extra charge, but you certainly can bring your own. Most places have an “arrive and drive” policy, but be warned that weekends are popular race times and you might have to wait a while. Prices are pretty standard across the board, so plan on spending about $20 for a multiple-lap race. Also: kids and adults do not race together. Speeds are pretty consistent, as well: most junior races (for kids) are held at a max of 20 miles per hour, while some adult karts go as fast at 45 miles an hour.
Here are our picks for an adrenaline-pumping day at the races.
This popular birthday party spot is a hit with kids of all ages. Races are limited to 10 drivers, so kids have plenty of driving space for each 9-lap race around the indoor track. The ¼ mile track has strategically placed bumpers so drivers learn to maneuver their karts while keeping their speed at a steady clip (the cars can be controlled remotely, so if kids are driving unsafely, the operators can slow their kart). No reservations are necessary, and MB2 is open seven days a week. Expect to wait as long as one hour on a weekend. Fortunately (or not!) there is an onsite arcade to keep kiddos busy while they wait.
13943 Balboa Blvd.
1475 Lawrence Drive
Thousand Oaks 91320
This indoor kart mecca is located in the South Bay area, so beach babies can get their race on! The state-of-the-art track is made from etched concrete — a change from the typical asphalt track. Junior racers (from 48 inches tall through 58 inches tall) drive 12-lap races in specially designed junior karts that have emergency shut-offs for extra safety. K1 also has a junior karting league for wee enthusiasts who really want to learn the nuts and bolts of racing. Like most karting venues, K1 gets super busy on the weekends, so plan accordingly. Don’t worry, though, your kids will find the experience is worth the wait. Open seven days a week, but they do close for special events, so be sure to call ahead
19038 S Vermont Ave
Gardena, CA 90248
While kids and adults race separately at Racer’s Edge, everyone gets to drive the same electric karts. Karts are adjustable for junior racers and the speed is limited to 20 miles per hour. Adults get to whip across the track at 40 miles an hour. Located in Burbank, Racer’s Edge is central to both city and Valley kids who want to zoom along in an electric go-kart. Kids must be at least 50 inches tall to drive. Police, fire and military personnel receive special prices on weekdays and $5 off races on weekends.
960 Chestnut St.
Insider tip: Be sure everyone, kids and adults alike, are wearing close-toed shoes. And ask about special memberships that offer reduced-price races, free birthday races and other perks.
— Robin Heinz Bratslavsky