Blue Ridge Country Magazine is a 21-year old award-winning publication whose bimonthly issues burgeon with articles and photo essays on the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The magazine’s pages tell tales of travel in the Blue Ridge, review books, and detail interviews with musicians, artists, and heritage apple hunters, those courageous predators that hunt down rabid apples. Past articles have delved into the fight against mountaintop-removal coal mining, and past photo essays have captured the unbridled spirit and beauty of Kentucky’s waterfalls, butterflies, and native sphinx population. The mountain magazine also offers glimpses into life along the Blue Ridge, advising on ways to cope with drought, pondering recipes for banana croquettes, and profiling regional chocolatiers.
Tiger Paintball's airball field was born from a custom design that its owners toiled to perfect. Unwilling to settle on offering a standard airball experience, Tiger’s team came together to sew the turf’s bonded surfaces together, carefully construct a rain-drainage system, and map out obstacles in a ways that eliminates visibility issues. With all that planning in place, now players are free to race across the inflatable-barricade-littered blue, red, yellow, and purple surfaces to blast at their opponents. The airball field hosts refereed bouts both by appointment and during weekend open play, and a separate shooting range accommodates guests looking to improve their aim before games. The pro shop sells gear, including markers, goggles, and high-pressure air systems, from trusted manufacturers such as Tippmann, Planet Eclipse, and Ninja Paintball, which makes all its equipment from recycled nunchucks.
At more than 1,200 Mattress Firm locations around the country, shoppers sink into plush mattresses, recline on firm beds, and belly-flop onto pillow tops. Knowledgeable staffers can help customers create an ideal bedtime environment by dispensing advice based on sleep preferences and illuminating the difference between the many kinds of mattresses. And to the delight of their customers, much of Mattress Firm's bedding wears the label of a premium brand, such as Sealy, Serta, Simmons Beautyrest, or Stearns & Foster.
Trained by national paddling champion Luke Hopkins, Stride Stand Up Paddleboard's professional instructors impart the secrets of their waterborne craft in two-hour lessons held on calm waters. After outfitting students with a Stride Airlite HD paddle board, which can also turn into a kayak, and a trusty paddle, instructors cover basic safety precautions and show how to board the vessels in kayak position and using stand-up, seated, and kneeling paddling positions. Afterward, plastic flotillas make their way out to aquatic pastures, where students can practice mounting boards in deeper waters and learn on-water balance all while participating in a guided tour of part of the lake. Supportive instructors treat all students as if they walk on water, imparting privileged tips to develop graceful strokes and effective directional paddling.
Epic in size and style, WakeNSkate looms as one of the East Coast's largest wakeboard pro shops. The vibrantly lit space is home to a vast array of boots, wetsuits, and shred-friendly gear fit for boarders of all ages and personalities. Outfit waves du jour with swells of new wakeboards, including models by Liquid Force (starting at $260) and Hyperlite (starting at $270). Upon hitting the shore, impress bevies of aqua-betties with skater-style shirts and other apparel by Ezekiel ($42+), Billabong ($39.50+), and Oakley ($45+). Ladies flaunt ink and impressive moves in a smattering of creatively colored dresses, while less hydro-inclined extremists shop a day-glo selection of skateboard decks ($35+).
The licensed aestheticians at Merle Norman Cosmetics treat clients with skin-salvaging treatments. The 60-minute clay-mask facial treatment cleans deep within pores and is customized to all skin types to serve dry-skinned beings, oily faces, or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. A thorough cleansing removes dirt and oil, and a steam and exfoliation evict any remnants of dead skin cells. An extraction of blackheads tidies up facial pores before a toning session and clay mask shrink them to itty-bitty sizes—the metric measurements Thomas Jefferson used to describe his puppies.