Engines roar across a tire-lined track, where single and double go-karts speed through turns and on toward victory. Alongside a track for junior go-karts, this is only one of the attractions that greets visitors to The Zone. Baseballs soar across the batting cages' mesh big-top tent, and the mini-golf course dots its baize landscape with obstacles such as miniature barns or tiny warehouses filled with smaller replicas of the mini-golf course. Indoors, video games fill an arcade with a symphony of electronic beeps, while party rooms play host to shindigs with themes such as princesses and activities such as crafts.
As the keepers of their region's heritage, members of the Historical Society of Western Virginia know that best way to spread political traditions is through engaging public exhibits. That's why they operate two museums dedicated to Western Virginia's unique culture.
As a key battleground in the Civil War, West Virginia has no shortage of history for the curators at the History Museum of Western Virginia to draw upon. They leave no manuscript, periodical, or photograph unturned, using the museum's own vast library to build exhibits that celebrate formative moments in the Commonwealth's history. Sometimes, they go back even further. The museum's primary exhibit, Crossroads of History, interprets 10,000 years of heritage through artifacts such as Native American arrowheads, pottery, and the "Rawrenoke" beads that lend their name to the city of Roanoke.
At the O. Winston Link Museum, exhibits focus on more recent—and locomotive—history. Drawn from the collection of photographer Winston Link, the museum continues its namesake's quest to document and memorialize the bygone steam engines of the Norfolk and Western Railway. In addition to housing more than 300 images of these country-conquering machines, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits of other historically significant photos; recent shows featured a collection of Winston Link's work in the world of advertising, and lithographs from engine designer Raymond Loewy.
Like narrow, perfectly coiffed clearings, the fairways at Hunting Hills Country Club slide through the dense forest that covers the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 18-hole layout was unveiled in 1971, realizing the visions of tight, tree-lined shots and hilly traverses first pictured by architect Raymond F. Loving, Jr. The course's commitment to upkeep and aesthetics has never wavered over the ensuing four decades, and golfers today continue to contend with daunting drives and unsettling elevation swings.
These concerns leave foursomes thoroughly tuckered out by the 18th hole, at which point they might ask a caddy for a piggyback ride to the clubhouse for drinks and lunch.
When they're not swinging away on the golf course, members test their sports skills at the tennis facility's four lighted hard courts and four Har-Tru clay courts. They can then cool off in the swimming pool, which features an adjoining wading pool perfect for kids or pet turtles.
Captain Josh Laferty channels more than two decades of experience fishing the local waters to help people find and reel in striped bass from Smith Mountain Lake. During his chartered trips, up to three fishermen hang out on an Angler center-console boat equipped with refreshments, safety gear, and fishing equipment such as Orvis fly tackle and Outcast planer boards. Since the boat comes stocked with everything needed for a day—or half-day—of fishing, participants only need to bring their Virginia freshwater-fishing license and arrive dressed in season-appropriate apparel and mermaid tails.
On the scenic Smith Mountain Lake, run-about motorboats and WaveRunners create arcing, white-capped wakes atop the water. Nearby, slower-moving pontoons host anglers and picnickers. The captains of each of these vessels owe their enjoyable day to the family-owned Hales Ford Marina & Boat Rentals, which loans its equipment to locals and visitors alike. In addition to pairing clients with the right boat, staffers also perform repairs and maintenance, including winterization for a variety of vehicles.
Perched on the banks of Smith Mountain Lake, Bridgewater Marina & Boat Rental launches and lends a variety of lake skimmers to pleasure-seeking pontooners. Peruse and patrol the waters for the elusive Bigfin from atop a four-stroke pontoon boat, whose flat deck area gives a surface for chips and dip and heated canasta competitions. Hedonists, meanwhile, can crank hydroplaning into high gear with a runabout ski-boat rental that—when brought up to speed—can quickly dry hair still soaked with Gatorade from last night's solitaire victory. Bridgewater gives pilots a free safety and instructional orientation before launching them onto the lake, and allows boaters to upgrade one-hour rentals to two hours, or even full days, for an extra fee.