Just for Fun

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Holly Ridge, Visit, Shop & Play

Paradise Axe and Arcade in Holly Ridge is a place for affordable family entertainment.

You may know about Paradise Axe and Arcade along Sound Road in Holly Ridge, but you probably have no idea about the former life of the cinderblock building that now houses the monstrous arcade. Designed in 1941, it is one of the last buildings standing from Camp Davis, a World War II camp and a major anti-aircraft artillery training facility. This particular building was the officer’s club and hosted popular morale-boosting USO shows, which brought national stars like Joe Louis, Rita Hayworth and the Rockettes to Holly Ridge. A mural and other memorabilia adorn the walls to honor the camp’s history, and the arcade hosted Camp Davis’ 75th anniversary several years ago.

Paradise Axe and Arcade

Today, the amusement center offers an old-fashioned arcade, competitive axe throwing, a concession stand, pool tables, air hockey and games, all at affordable prices.

Dorothy and Richard Royal founded the arcade due to community need.

“My family was concerned about how many kids in Surf City and Topsail we were losing to opioids. It was just overwhelming,” says Dorothy Royal. “We lost three on our road to overdoses. We couldn’t figure out why these young people chose drugs over going outside to play, and then we realized the key area missing was play.”

Royal says she’s had grandparents come in and tell her, with tears in their eyes, that this was the first time that their grandchildren have put down their phones and played a game with them. The Royals designed Paradise to be affordable for just this reason. She estimates that a family of four might spent $50 per visit at Paradise. She credits her daughter, Rockell, and son, Colt, for keeping prices affordable by learning to repair broken electronic games, for example. This allows Paradise to buy lower-cost games at auctions and then return them to working order.

NC Paradise Axe and Arcade Holly Ridge

The arcade is popular with everyone from neighborhood kids who ride their bikes to the center to senior citizens wanting diversions from everyday routines. It has approximately 100 games and 10 axe-throwing (really hatchet) lanes. Amidst a cacophony of dings, beeps and honks, the attractions range from the games of yesteryear to those of today — driving games, flipper games and shooting games and tables for air hockey, darts and Foosball. In the arcade, tickets earned playing games can be redeemed for toys, stuffed animals, candy and other prizes.

“I love to come here and I like to win the prizes,” says Kamden Hickey, 13, of Holly Ridge, a repeat visitor.

“It was fun. It’s something we can enjoy together,” Kamden’s older sibling, Kohen, says.

“My favorite retro game is here, and that’s hard to find,” adds their sister, Kaiya.

Axe throwing is a phenomenon that has swept the country for the last several years, and it is an activity that can be enjoyed by a novice or the experienced competitor. Paradise strictly enforces safety rules, Royal says, including staying behind the yellow line when someone is throwing, tossing one axe at a time and wearing closed-toe shoes (in case an axe drops). Anyone younger than 18 must have a signed permission slip from a parent, and anyone not following the rules will be asked to leave. Each session includes a lesson from the staff. This fall, Paradise hopes to offer competitive Saturday leagues for ages 10 and older.

Holly Ridge NC Paradise Axe and Arcade

Another offering of the arcade is a party room that also can be used as a classroom and for corporate events. The 5,000-square-foot party room is equipped with Dutch doors, allowing a food truck to pull up and serve customers who are inside the room. Some companies that have booked the room for corporate events say the room is a fun alternative to the typical meeting or corporate event. The room also has seen divorce parties, military retiree and promotion parties and team-building events.

Stressing that they want the arcade to be a community center too, the Royals also host fund-raising events with proceeds being split between the organizers and the arcade. Other actives include allowing a local homeschool network to use the room for art classes.

All in all, the Royals just want people to come to Paradise to enjoy affordable family fun.

Want to play?
Paradise Axe and Arcade
127 Sound Road, Holly Ridge
(910) 803-2300

Photography by Vicky Oliver

About the author

Edward Wills

Edward Wills

Edward Wills is a writer living near Wilmington, NC. Current projects include an e-book on Social Security disability benefits and his autobiography.