For Erin Phelan, the busy mother of a 4-year-old, owning a children’s play center blends personal and professional pursuits. When the Play Plus for Kids owner comes to work, her youngster often tags along with her, zigzagging through the facilities during open-play time and exploring the indoor treehouse or bounce house alongside other inquisitive tots. Phelan's facility, which brims with opportunities for imaginative play, helps parents encourage their little ones to step away from the video-game controllers or tax audit forms in favor of hands-on recreation and learning in enrichment classes on music, art, and science.
At Ace of Hearts Ranch, more than 23 acres of sandy trails, grassy paddocks, and pine woods shelter riders as they explore the surrounding area during trail rides and eco tours. The property features bucolic landscapes as well as gems such as a log cabin, five ponds, and an island gazebo. The friendly staff offers guided tours of the local flora and ecosystems as well as boarding for horses.
When Mimi’s Crafts was founded in 1995, two dreams were fulfilled: Mimi turned her hobby of molding clay and painting ceramics into a full-time business, and her husband got his garage back. The walls of Mimi’s studio flaunt more than 1,500 blank ceramics, the vast majority of which were made in store. During pottery-painting sessions, visitors let their artistic instincts run wild as they daub figurines with scintillating paints, before their completed designs are immortalized in a fiery kiln. The studio’s experts stay on hand to offer helpful tips on stenciling, arranging color combinations, and forging Michelangelo’s signature. Aside from pottery-painting sessions, Mimi’s Crafts also hosts classes in the arts of glass fusing, clay molding, and acrylic painting.
At each of five Surf and Ski Water Sports locations, staffers equip tourists and locals alike with ocean and river rentals and beach necessities. While some take advantage of boats and jet skis to glide along the water, others watch from atop surfboards or seated in beach chairs situated beneath the shade of giant umbrellas.
When the warm season arrives, the team at Epic Boardsports strives to get locals and visitors out and enjoying nearby tropical waterways such as Banana River lagoon. For the uninitiated as well as the experienced, knowledgeable guides lead stand-up paddleboard tours around the lagoon to share local lore and point out manatees, seabirds, and dolphins playing Jenga in their natural habitat. The team also gives paddleboard lessons at Banana River or on the ocean, and rents and sells top-flight Hawaiian Pro Designs surfboards for aquatic adventurers looking to go paddle-less. Kiteboards by brands such as the versatile Jimmy Lewis, designed to enhance every style of boarding, give wave athletes one more way to soar over the sea. Fostering a year-round passion for extreme board sports, the team can send skiers down powder-covered mountainsides in style with boards, boots, and accessories.
Since 1953, the Coast Guard–certified captains and Merchant Marines of Miss Cape Canaveral Fleet have safely taken guests out to sea in search of trophy-size mackerel, amberjack, snapper, and sharks. As Florida's largest deep-sea-fishing vessel, the 85-foot Lydia yacht hosts up to 100 passengers—just like a large horse carriage pulled by a strongman—and offers comfortable accommodations such as a temperature-controlled lounge and cushioned seats. Fishing adventures provide guests with rods, reels, bait, and tackle big enough for the predators dwelling deep beneath the surface. Guests are invited to snap their own jaws around hot meals, unlimited sodas, coffee, and, for over-21 anglers, a duo of frosty canned beers noodled from the icy depths of the ship's cooler.