As the St. Johns River winds through the Everglades of central Florida, it flows past forests of old-growth cypress trees. Bald eagles perch on branches draped in spanish moss, and below, blue herons and alligators prowl the edges of floating grass beds. Holding US Coast Guard Master Captain licenses, the guides of Airboat Rides at MIDWAY take passengers into this swampy wilderness aboard custom airboats. Launching from their own marina, the guides educate guests on the river's ecology and history via two-way headsets and stern, unwavering eye contact. These tours have earned multiple certificates of excellence from TripAdvisor, plus respectful nods from the river's turtles. In addition to airboat tours, the guides take guests out on seasonal gator hunts.
The gym looks like equal parts Olympic training facility and old warehouse—here, exercisers hoist themselves up rows of pull-up bars, grunt around a collection of kettlebells, and hop through jump-rope routines. On a power-lifting platform, a lifter explodes from a squat, hoisting a plate-loaded bar up to his shoulders and then dropping under it to catch the weight over his head. Elsewhere, athletes do dips on gymnast rings and build a sweat on rowing machines.
This low-tech setting is typical of all true CrossFit gyms. Though the equipment may be basic, the results are not: CrossFit workouts develop all measures of physical fitness—from power to cardiovascular endurance—through workouts that are broad, general, and inclusive. This approach is often described as specializing in not specializing: it develops physical fitness in ways equally beneficial to everyone, from professional mixed martial artists and police officers to weekend softball players.
CrossFit gyms typically start clients in a foundational program where trainers teach the basic movements, such as the squat, dead lift, and pull-up. Every exercise is scalable to a version that clients can complete—a pull-up, for example, can be scaled back to a negative pull-up, a static hang, or body-weight row with gymnast rings. It can also be scaled to a more challenging version, such as the kipped pull-up. After students learn CrossFit's basic movements, they move on to open group classes, which follow the ever-changing WOD, or Workout of the Day. These workouts are short and intense, and they foster camaraderie through frequent team circuits. In addition to supervising WOD class, trainers coach members on nutrition, advocating a caveman-style diet of low-glycemic carbohydrates, monounsaturated fats, and lean proteins such as raptor meat.
At first, Boing! Jump Center measured only six feet square. It sat on the tabletop of Boing! founder Michael C., who wanted to work out the best possible arrangement of bounceable surfaces before opening. Today, each center?s trampoline arenas total more than 12,000 square feet of jumpable surface, where everyone has access to multidimensional springiness.
Boing! also has a separate arena for an aerial version of dodgeball that adds jumping to the sport?s usual ducking, throwing, and curling up into a ball once you?re out. During breaks between aerial activities, guests can stop by the Boing! arcade. The game center also hosts combo deals, including a college night.
Players exchange infrared beams from a roster of replica guns, each designed to emulate real military weaponry in size, weight, and operation. Each gun blasts targets in limited rounds using eye-safe infrared light, a technology adapted from military combat simulations. Players test their marksmanship in 75 realistic laser-tag missions, some of which require them to practice espionage, defuse bombs, protect and rescue hostages, or chase squirrels out of their front yards. When not exchanging beams of light, players can enjoy a snack or drink at the cafe.
When French native Joel Martin was young, his family moved to Africa. While there, Joel learned to stalk many jungle creatures including crocodiles with the help of his Malgache friends. Years later, in 1995, Martin packed up his own family and moved them to Florida, where the heat and humidity reminded him of his beloved childhood in Africa. Today he owns and operates Black Hammock Adventures, located near some of Orlando's busiest attractions, and charters picturesque airboat rides on the waters of Lake Jesup. His boat, equipped with Goliath's desk fan, skims earplugged riders past lake fauna at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. During rides, experienced guides pilot the vessel safely through narrow creeks and shallow wetlands, and help tourists to spot wildlife and at times, sunning reptiles. After zooming by the scenery, guests can stop by Black Hammock's free wildlife exhibit, enjoy a lively libation at the Lazy Gator Bar with live music every weekend, sit down at the full service restaurant featuring Executive Chef Barth that is known for its fried gator tail, or hand over their cameras as they pose for pictures with a live baby alligator or barter for an autograph with hunks of raw meat.
Listening to music from a young age does more than help someone dance well enough to get on the Jumbotron during basketball games. It can also improve a child's brain development, social skills, and emotional connections. The staff at Grow and Sing Studios make it their mission to aid in the development of children through a wide variety of age-appropriate classes. Instructors lead students through activities steeped in song and rhythm, from the parent-baby drumming in Kindermusik Village to the group sing-alongs during Music for Aardvarks. They also teach piano lessons.