When visitors board one of Wild West Rafting's rafts, they're actually stepping into some historic, soggy shoes. The inflated vessels traverse the Yellowstone River, which was explored by members of the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1806. These famed adventurers saw many of the things rafters still see: elk, bison, and other wildlife set against the rolling terrain of nearby mountains. Indeed, Wild West Rafting's trips pass several of the majestic sights that define the American West. But the river offers more than just scenery. Near Gardiner, Montana, the flow speeds up as the river descends into Paradise Valley and narrow canyons. Rafters on these sections face an on-water rollercoaster, flying through class III and IV rapids with names such as "Yankee's Revenge," "Box Car," and "Audience Members in the First Three Rows Will Get Wet."
While they're an adventure for most people, these trips define a typical workday for Wild West Rafting's guides, each of whom holds certifications in First Aid, CPR, and Swift Water Rescue. The staff includes experts such as Ryan Winter—who, before coming to the Yellowstone River, honed his paddling skills on the South African whitewaters of the Umkomasi, the Umzimkulu, and the Zambezi. The guides can take groups on rafting trips ranging from a couple of hours to multiple days. During longer excursions, they can combine rafting with horseback rides through Yellowstone National Park.
Bearing the titles of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman from Professional Photographers of America, David and Ally McKay embody the keen vision and aesthetic prowess that separated good photographers from great ones. They share these skills during classes at McKay Photography Academy, where they train eyes, fingers, and imaginations to work in tandem as a snapshooting dream machine. Their classes help aspiring photographers progress from neophytes to seasoned pros. When not busy instructing the next generation of shutterbugs, David and Ally also devise photo safaris, which send small teams of photographers to capture shots of famed landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; the Lincoln Memorial of Washington, DC; or Yosemite's 60-foot statue of Yogi Bear.
Sports Cove offers scuba-diving courses that take students from the shallows of an indoor swimming pool to the depths of the ocean. For beginners, open-water classes cover breathing techniques and safety regulations, and advanced-certification courses give divers enough confidence to explore the depths on their own. Those looking for a more exotic experience can join the crew on one of its organized scuba-diving trips to locations such as Mexico and the Caribbean.
Snap Fitness's around-the-clock gyms enable members to work on their physical well-being with a cornucopia of fitness equipment. With 24-hour access, members don't have to let The Man tell them when to help themselves to Snap's strength and cardio equipment, which features built-in TVs and other media diversions. For those who exercise during conventional hours, Snap's friendly, unintimidating atmosphere welcomes patrons of all ability levels, unlike schoolyard dodge-ball squads. Members also enjoy nationwide access to all Snap Fitness locations, ideal for working out while traveling. For a dose of custom advice, patrons can seek out a personal-training session with a certified coach, who helps them assess and address their fitness goals. Clients reap the benefit of individual attention as a personal trainer helps them tackle weight loss, prepare for an arm-wrestling competition, or unveil the mysteries of arcane cable-weight machines.
Craft beer flows from 10 taps inside Neptune Brewery's bar, though that's only a fraction of more than a dozen pours brewmaster Jon makes in-house. His rotating lineup includes everything from batches of gluten-free mead to a citrusy Belgian-style ale. He also brews a creamy chocolate porter that doubles as a marinade for a half-pound, locally sourced burger, which cooks wrap in bacon and optionally stuff with cheddar or gorgonzola. The remaining menu takes cues from pub grub the world over, with items such as Scottish Ale-infused brats and chorizo taquitos served with cinnamon-citrus yogurt sauce. Feasts unfold inside a cozy, with a 300 gallon salt water aquarium behind the bar.
A grizzly bear wanders past an expanse of rolling, tree-dotted hills, pawing at the ground in search of a good place to eat. Meanwhile, a family stares in awe at this magnificent creature in its near-native habitat. And the whole thing is as safe as a trip to the department store. The Montana Grizzly Encounter rescues bears and gives the public a chance to see them up close in a safe environment. The park also focuses on educating the public about grizzly bears to keep both bear and human safe in the wild.