Children at a birthday party with Nonie's Ark Animal Encounters might get to meet Jimmy, Jack, or Jill—but despite their deceptively human names, these guests are actually exotic animals. A naturalist and wildlife educator with a background in zoo-animal technology, Nonie encourages kids touch and sometimes hold live animals such as snakes, toads, chinchillas, and sugar gliders during hands-on interactive and educational presentations. Nonie has adopted and cared for each of these creatures, many of which were formerly unwanted pets. At some parties, Nonie also leads children in animal role-playing games like eating dirt cake and worms and doles out goodies such as safari helmets and outdoor toys.
Just off the white-sand coastline of northwest Florida, Lanier Sailing Academy teaches students to captain their own aquatic adventures with classes in cruising, chartering, and navigation. Classes include programs for beginners to advanced students, starting with the Practical Sailing for Basic Keelboat Certification course, in which novice navigators learn to steer boats, trim sails, and avoid swashbuckling sea otters. While working toward certification in various programs, students explore the Intracoastal Waterway and its bounty of dolphins, rays, blue pelicans, and myriad fish. Lanier Sailing Academy’s experienced members earn membership into the Buccaneer Sailing Club and are able to rent and sail 22- to 25-foot boats at their leisure.
Experienced instructor, trainer, and cowgirl Cheryl Glass brings her vast knowledge of all things equine to Horse Rides of Pensacola. Originally a trail-ride outfit, Horse Rides of Pensacola has grown over the past decade to include camps, lessons taught by trained instructors, and charitable events. During camps, kids learn riding techniques and also participate in fishing, wild blueberry picking, access to water slide, and arts and crafts activities. Introductory classes teach pupils equestrian techniques, grooming riders with the fundamentals of equine safety, anatomy, and proper form before they move on to more intense classes such as Equine 101 or Advanced Equine 101. Camps available for children of age three or older.
In their 85th season, the Harlem Globetrotters have entertained millions of parents, children, and general basketball admirers with a unique brand of athletic precision and showmanship. For their latest 4 Times the Fun North American tour, the Globetrotters will add new 4-point shot spots located 35 feet from the basket, which is 12 feet farther than the official 3-point line but several thousand miles closer than the prime meridian.
Play combines the creature comforts of childhood with those of adulthood: arcade games and beer. Taps and cans dispense an ever-rotating reservoir of 20 microbrews—more than enough liquid confidence to attempt high scores on the rows of coin operated games such as Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Galaga. All around, the thumping bumpers of pinball machines mingle with the clack of pool balls and the hiss of air hockey tables. But beneath the flashing surface of Play is a drive to bring people together.
When not wagering the next round of drinks on a game of hoops, or butting heads in a DJ-accompanied skee-ball tournament, guests can team up to test their mental mettle during trivia night. Karaoke evenings arm friends instead with microphones so that they can belt out a duet or practice eulogizing each other in front of a rapt audience. Quieter interaction can be found in an '80s-inspired nook, where an original Nintendo and a VHS-player revive summer afternoons spent playing Super Mario Brothers and writing love letters to John Cusack.