Just because kids don't have their driver's licenses yet doesn't mean they aren't itching to get in a car and step on the gas pedal. Here are some ways children can safely satisfy that need for speed behind the wheel.
COST 50 cents a game
Kids can design their own cars, speed around a racetrack and earn money when they win races in this popular video game, Tokyo Drift. Among Q-Zar arcade's many games, this one is based on the "Fast and Furious" movies. Kids can race with sleek cars like the Dodge Viper and customize their cars with different tires, spoilers, decals and engines. At Q-Zar, kids can also virtually drive powerboats in H2Overdrive or navigate a snowmobile-like sled through the Arctic in Arctic Thunder.
INFO 3351 Rte. 112, Medford, 631-732-0579, countryfairpark.com
REGULATIONS 60 inches and taller can drive alone; 55 to 60 inches can drive with a licensed adult (this is in a "rookie" car, which is smaller than a regular kart); under 55 inches can ride while an adult drives.
COST $6 per ride for a single or two-seater Go Kart; $50 for 10 rides
For aspiring NASCAR drivers, there's a place to figure out if racing is their true passion. At Country Fair, children can drive a small, racecar-shaped, open air Go Kart around a one-eighthmile high-banked, figure-8 racetrack. Kids don't have to wear a helmet to drive this motorized car. In one ride, the karts can get up to 20 mph and go around the track eight to 10 times. The track even has the capacity to allow 25 karts to race at a time, so children can race against friends and family.
REMOTE CONTROL CAR RACING
COST $10 a day for children under 12 and $20 a day for all over 12 who bring their own cars; about $25 an hour for a car rental with battery
Kids of all ages can make cars turn quickly, jump and pass other cars at high speeds all day long at Island Raceway & Hobby -- with a remote control, that is. The clay and dirt track with twists and turns is suitable for many model remote control cars, which can range in size from 1/24 to one-eighth of life-size cars, including ones that look like race cars and monster trucks. "They like racing the short-course cars -- they look like trucks," says owner Oezlem Milne. The raceway even hosts races at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays and noon Sundays.
SEE A CAR RACE
INFO 1797 Old Country Rd., Riverhead, 631-842-7223, riverheadraceway.com
COST $22-$30 for adults; $5 for children ages 6 to 12; free for children 5 and under (must purchase tickets the day of the event at the box office)
Here, kids can watch drivers race in a figure 8 at top speeds and cheer as school buses smash into one another until they can't be driven (Aug. 18). "Any demolition derby gets the kids excited," says raceway marketing representative Joseph Arian. Saturday night NASCAR racing is also a classic at the raceway. And other events like free amusement rides and the Aug. 11 Megasaurus demolition, when a giant dinosaur will do tricks and crush cars, are popular with children, Arian says.
COST $6 for 15 minutes; $9 for 30 minutes; $16 for one hour (rental car with controller and track time)
Academic success and racing fast go hand-in-hand here. Students can race their miniature slot cars, which are guided by a grooved track for free -- if they do well in school with the Smart Kids Program (30 minutes free for 90 and above on tests; one hour free for As on report cards). The raceway boasts three tracks, each eight lanes wide, including the popular 155-foot-long European King. Kids can also customize their model slot cars, get up to 50 mph and compete in Thursday night races at 7 p.m. every week. "The kids learn to compete," owner Douglas Bauer says. "They learn about fair play and they learn about competition."