In the upmarket section of MainPlace shopping center in Santa Ana, in a space once occupied by four retail stores, is a new answer to an old summer question: What are we doing today? what?
It’s American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park, a scaled-down version of the popular NBC show in which contestants attempt to climb, swing, and jump for the grand prize of millions of dollars.
Here, however, the main rewards are sweat and a sense of accomplishment. Just be warned: the park’s obstacles are tough. We learned so much on a recent Monday morning, when my three daughters (8, 13 and 16 years old) and I visited the park a few days after it opened and invented New way to slide, trip and face.
The maturity in me wanted to experiment on the park’s fun location or how challenging it was, but my inner child walked out of the business too giddy to complain. More importantly, so did our daughter. For a total of $102 for our group of four, I would do that deal any day of the week.
To maximize your first ANWAP experience, consider the following tips, in the order they were encountered:
1. Watch the show
The 14 seasons of American Ninja Warrior are available on multiple streaming services. New episodes will air Monday nights on NBC. Or just check out the show’s YouTube channel. Watch it anyway, fast-forwarding through the contestants’ amusing behind-the-scenes stories and adorable stories of their clapping loved ones. You just want to see the obstacles and pick up a few tricks in the trade. Like the veteran move of sprinting over unstable surfaces instead of running slowly; or how the contestants patiently swayed a few times on the sliders to build momentum before plunging forward. Contestants in the program can make this content look easy. It cannot. Neither does the new park in Santa Ana.
For the more competitive souls among you, I recommend training your grip strength before going.
The biggest difference between the ninja warriors on TV and the people walking through the mall is not the strength of their arms, legs, or core, but the ability to hang people from bars and rings and real perform one-inch finger-holds for the required amount of time.
You can have a good time at ANWAP with medium grip. You will not complete all the challenges. Your elementary school student may not be able to conquer the easiest course without your help.
Out of our three daughters, only our rat gymnastics high school cheerleader completed two of the first five hurdles, this course getting harder as you progress.
For a chance to complete the year, brace yourself by hanging from a pull-up bar for as long as possible. Thirty seconds is fine. Sixty is better. Incorporate some chin lifts and butt pulls if possible. My more than 30 years of regular grip training was the most valuable ingredient in my modest success during our visit.
3. Accessorize strategically
You can walk in without a reservation if you want. But the ANWAP website allows guests to book a date and time in advance, which I recommend. The cost is $20 per guest per hour. There is no minimum age, but attendees under the age of 13 need to be accompanied by an adult. Participants under the age of 6 must have participation Adults.
You can also fill out the required waivers online. The site also encourages visitors to pre-purchase specially made rubber sole socks, to help them overcome inflatable obstacles (essentially a 10,000 square foot house). I recommend ANWAP socks and gloves. We wore both for less than half of the time we were there, but on stiffer gloves where sweaty hands don’t work, gloves are a must.
The park recommends wearing long sleeves and long pants to protect forearms and shins from rough landings. The website doesn’t mention towels, but you should bring one for each member of your party. Twenty minutes later, our faces were red and dripping.
4. Forget that you’re on a JCPenney
The ceiling is too low for the obstacles at the mall to reflect those on the giant NBC set. Good thing too. The people on TV have spent months training to achieve a million dollars; maybe you’re just looking for something to do on a random Tuesday.
The park’s artists and engineers have done an incredible job in recreating the show’s aesthetic, using black ceilings and walls for depth and dramatic lighting that shines red and blue light on everything below it.
As you go, park near JCPenney, one of the MainPlace mall’s anchor stores. The American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is directly above.
After you check in and put your stuff in the locker, put on your gloves and socks and start wherever you like. That’s the beauty of this place. You can crawl across the entire inflatable course or take any of its five more challenging tests. Try everything, in any order. “We don’t want a private chauffeur to drive you around,” CEO Adrian Griffin tells me in his jovial Manchester accent. “We are an adventure park. We want people to have fun and explore.”
The girls and I were standing by the inflatable yard when our safety briefing ended, so that’s where we (literally) jumped in.
5. Keep an eye on your little ones
The park is brand new and it is still changing based on customer experience and staff observations. Every young employee we encountered was helpful and interested in what we liked and didn’t like, in the challenges we faced and the points we struggled with.
Observe your youngest children (5 years and under) while they are on the inflatable course. Everything is soft and secure, but there are a few areas where things can get tricky if there are older kids or adults clinging to. The big swinging demolition ball is cushioned, but a college kid trying to knock out his roommate with it might inadvertently cause a preschooler to spin around the room, which, while imagining hilarious, with real-world consequences.
6. Know your physical limits
Each of the five obstacles is about 20 yards long and harder than the previous one. It all starts with an unstable path to walk through. Then there’s a series of your games, followed by tests of guts, critical thinking, and dynamic balance.
I passed the first two courses. I needed to redo three to five, but got through all of that – except the rolling log in the middle of the course is number four. It looks soft enough underneath the black and red striped vinyl, but to me, it’s an evil foe. Visualize you’re crossing a creek by walking on a log – but the log starts spinning as soon as you step on it.
ANWAP is supposed to be for all ages, but its 10-foot-long cylinder is not for 50-year-olds with a skinny lower back. I can only understand My foot flew out from underneath me like one of the Three Stooges and my lumbar spine broke in half on the rotator cuff below me. I tried, but I look more like a kid checking the pool temperature than a grown man on an “adventure”.
Speaking of all ages, our hyperactive 8-year-old, the tallest kid in his class, couldn’t hit the slide on course one, even when he jumped the highest. Same with the dangling rings on the second course. I bet some of the movements have been downgraded a bit since we were there.
Unfortunately, there are no adjustments and no exercises that can help you with what fans of the show call a “spider wall.” Picture two glass walls facing each other, about 4 feet apart. The goal is to keep yourself between them by extending your arms and legs, while leaning forward. (You’ll ditch your rubber sock socks for the ten-dollar one before you hit five courses.)
Our pants prove to be useful on “warping walls,” curving up and away from the floor like a skateboarding track at 8 to 14 feet. Our reward for sprinting to the top of the highest walls is the same as our penalty for coming short: a quick knee or butt slide, back to floor level. I got to the top of all three walls – just enough. Our oldest beat the first two. Our 8 and 13 year olds got to eight feet pretty easily.
7. Looking for more ways to increase rankings in the near future
American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is a good way for families to exercise and laugh together. Or for teens to blow off steam instead of staring at their screens or running people on their e-bikes. I can picture my wife and I leaving our daughter at the park while we roam the mall and fuel the faltering retail economy.
We were hungry when we finished. There’s a food court in the mall (Subway, Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, etc.) and an indoor snack bar that the ANWAP team vows to upgrade over the next eight to ten weeks. (It currently offers candy and chips.) Bring a bottle of water for every member of your party.
Griffin, British CEO, says the next step in the park’s evolution is to unify the experience so visitors can compete virtually with each other or against the warriors in the 14 parks. across the UK or at future locations in the States.
Our family has been looking forward to returning to Santa Ana to improve on our first visit and wage a transatlantic ninja war against the strangers. (The technology is still around for another 10 to 12 weeks.)
Personally, I’m eager to go head-to-head with our oldest, who spoke a bit too trashy for her Old Man’s liking. Next time my wife will come. But she wasn’t allowed to laugh when I gave that rolling log another shot.
https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2022-07-21/american-ninja-warrior-adventure-park-santa-ana 8 tips for visiting American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park