If you haven’t heard about the sport of paintball, then you must be living underneath a rock, because it’s happening! And its especially happening at The Paintball Jungle in American Canyon, where “moms play for free!” Since we have a 13 year old boy, it’s our new favorite hang-out. It’s like city meets country in many ways. It’s fun for all level players from ages 10+.

Everything takes place out of doors in the heart of a huge eucalyptus forest. There the registration/pro shop hut where you can find the latest in paintball equipment and attire. After getting signed in and buying your paint and rental equipment, there is a short orientation video that explains all the safety rules of the place. The family run business has been around for over two decades with “Magic Carpet Bob”, AKA Forest Fox at the helm. He brings a fun flavor to the place, and its unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been. No messing around here, safety is a priority and if you forget or mess up, you will get a black mark on your wrist band. Barrel plugs must remain in the guns at all times, when you are not on the field of play. Loud speaker announcements regularly remind players of this. A place of this size could not run, if not for the safety components for all. Karen is the mama bear of the Paintball Jungle and makes sure that everything runs smoothly.

You can practice your shooting skills at the Target Range, play a quick game of Speedball on many smaller arenas or head right over to Zulu, the forested paintball field with lots of room to run and play a rousing, high intensity game of paintball. There are a couple of wooden forts a different locations as well as many barriers covered in green astro turf to hide behind and move to when the game begins with a loud horn sound. Players pick a green or red armband and play on the team of that color for the day.

For those who have never played, yes being hit by a paintball hurts, for a quick instant, but it’s more of a sting than anything. I think it’s wise to wear a protective vest or shield over your chest. Everyone wears eye protection in the form of a helmet. At short range a paintball shot can leave a mark or welt and sometimes even draw blood, but most of the shots are coming from a longer range. The rules are simple, get hit and you are out. Players raise their hands and leave the playing area after receiving a hit. Referees roam the playing areas to answer questions and make sure everything goes smoothly.

The games are played continuously through the day, lasting about 20-30 minutes each. There are different scenarios, like Capture the Flag, Tri-Flag and Mad Bomber to name a few. Players play when they want and take breaks to load ammo (fill their hoppers with paintballs), get air for their guns and just hang-out at picnic benches and tables in the parking area. At lunch time, there is a Noon-time Raffle with tickets given to players as they register. Every other week there is a “Gun Give-Away” for a prized paintball gun. They also have popular days called Rumble in the Jungle that attracts many high quality players. They often look the part of combat warriors dressed in their camo gear.

Lunch comes by way of Fernando, who drives his portable Hot Dog stand up in his truck and trailer from 11:30am-1pm. There are sodas, assorted potato chips and hot dogs available for a reasonable cost. An ice cream truck comes by later in the afternoon as well for those with a sweet tooth. The restrooms consist of two port-a-potties, but Starbucks and Walmart are just down the road if you insist on better restroom facilities. The Paintball Jungle is surrounded by a beautiful wetlands area with hiking and walking trails that must cover miles and miles of territory. There are many bird watchers out there as well.

The Paintball Jungle is open every weekend day of the year, rain or shine and is home to the San Francisco Hornets paintball team. It is a sportsmans club with over 5,000 members and is the largest team of its kind in the world. After the noon time raffle, Bob blows the conche shell and invites everyone to play in the “Bee’s Wax” game: the Hornets vs everyone else. The Hornets usually win, but if one hits a person dressed in SF Hornet team jerseys, 10 raffle tickets are rewarded for the hit. It’s all for fun and good sportsmanship is expected. Anyone can apply to the team, but they are watched in action to see if they pass muster before qualifying for membership a couple months down the road.

A day at the Jungle is exhilarating, exhausting and a blast according to my 13 year old son. He loves the action, the spirit of the place and a chance to do something that is unique and supervised at the same time. The best part for me is that “Moms Play for Free”. I can practice some shooting at the target range, join in the fun with my son, or take a break and walk the trails around the area. Come check it out, maybe you’ll see us there one of these weekends!