In one corner, kids practice cracking a safe. In another, tiny hands sift through sand to find ancient fossils, with no archaeologists in sight. Toddlers, meanwhile, wander through a surreal dreamscape of 10-foot milk cartons and car-sized paper towel rolls. But these aren’t scenes from a zany summer movie about all the adults disappearing: they're snapshots of the McWane Science Center, whose dozens of fun, interactive exhibits enliven science.
Notable exhibits include a collection of Alabama dinosaur skeletons that help us understand what life was like in the state millions of years ago. An aquarium area boasts a Shark & Ray Touch Tank, delighting visitors with an aquatic petting zoo. Interactive contraptions such as the pulley chair lift—which lets kids learn about simple machines as they hoist themselves aloft—convey abstract concepts with fun activities.
280 feet per second. That's the speed limit at Central Alabama Paintball. Although some paintball guns are capable of catapulting pellets at much higher speeds, staff here check each gun's speed to ensure a safe, fun, and comfortable experience for every player. They also require that everyone use the field's own paintballs, specially formatted to splatter at lower impacts—without staining clothes, which is especially helpful at paintball weddings.
Refs at Central Alabama Paintball are paid professionals who brief every player on rules and equipment operation. To ensure fair play, they also group paintballers by skill level. The staging area's sound system announces whether each game is for beginner, intermediate, or advanced players, and solo players can join a team matched to their ability level.
With safety firmly in place, the fun can begin. The round starts, and paintballs soar over one of five outdoor fields with obstacles such as wooden spools and giant inflatables, or the full mock-town field. It's common to see birthday parties, family reunions, and other celebrations darting around the field. In addition to amenities such as a large covered deck, a grill and fire pit, and setups for cornhole and horseshoes, the field boasts lower-impact guns suitable for players as young as age 6.
As part of the Alabama Symphony's Sounds for Summer series, both shows bring contemporary musical entertainment to the ornately gilded, classy venue. The Act of Congress and Three on a String show tickles tiny earhammers with modern bluegrass and genre-spanning hits. Or hear Country's Hit Makers: Behind the Hits, which packs a 15-song set with recent country billboard toppers such as "Cowboy Casanova" and "American Honey." Both shows are conducted by Christopher Confessore, the ASO's principal pops conductor.
Yoga Circle Downtown's instructors lead a diverse selection of athletically paced and calming yoga styles that cater to students of all skill levels. The studio’s schedule includes advanced and fundamental classes, such as Alignment & Form, where instructors demonstrate poses, emphasizing correct posture and positioning for each asana, instilling proper technique in beginning students and recently animated sculptures alike. Students in yoga flow sessions achieve a more vigorous workout by using strong breaths and athletic movements to transition from pose to pose, raising heart rates and bolstering stamina. During Kundalini yoga, instructors promote inner well-being by incorporating time for chants and calming meditation, which leaves students’ minds as centered as a hula hoop snug around an overinflated beach ball. Students gather for classes in an airy practice space with lofty ceilings and intricately painted pillars that keep the floor from floating away during class, accessorizing the room's wooden flooring with either their own yoga mats or a rental from the studio ($1).
In an interview with the Birmingham News, concert promoter Brian Teasley explained the vision behind Bottletree Café: "We wanted to open a place that would serve food we wanted to eat, show films we liked to see, and play music we wanted to hear." It turns out Teasley, along with co-owners Merrilee and Brad Challiss, has pretty good taste: according to Esquire, which ranked the café as one of the country's best bars, "This place is already stealing thunder from every small music venue in the region." FlavorWire backed up this endorsement by ranking Bottletree Café as one of The 10 Greatest New Music Venues of the 21st Century. Since opening in 2006, the venue has hosted Rogue Wave, Band of Horses, and other indie-leaning rock groups.
But the accolades don't stop there. The venue also has attracted praise for its vegetarian-centric menu. Birmingham Weekly rated the café's brunch among the city's best and devoted a full-out love letter to the lunch menu, which was reintroduced in August 2012. The award-winning vegetarian chili ranks among house favorites and makes a repeat appearance in cheese-smothered nachos. Tofu plays a centric role in entrees and desserts, and black-bean patties made a fiber-rich substitute for beef in burgers, or a biodegradable substitute for frisbees in games of disc golf.