J.T. Thompson gets pretty excited about his own little slice of American history. He serves as the executive director of the Lotz House Museum, a commemorative collection of memorabilia and actual damage from the Battle of Franklin, a Civil War conflict that raged on November 30, 1864. At his museum, the history hardly stays confined to display cases. Instead, it is in the very woodwork. "Today, visitors can still see the bloodstains on the floors from where cannonballs hitting the house came to rest," Mr. Thompson says, in the same breath as mentioning "what many in the antique world describe as the finest collection of American-made 1820-to-1860 antiques… in the Southeast!"
Perhaps more compelling than the gruesome imagery or literal relics of the era, however, is the story of the Lotz family themselves, a mother, father, and three children younger than 9. They survived the battle based on their wits, turning their home into a hospital in the wake of the conflict. While their house stands virtually unchanged to this day, their personal lives altered course in astounding ways, most noticeable in the well-documented journeys of the Lotz children.
Running through a dark tunnel. Crawling under barbed wire. Jumping over leaping flames. What sounds like a stroll through Evel Knievel's kitchen is actually Hell Run, a real-life battle of brawn and determination. Throughout the 3.15-mile course, athletes encounter 12 obstacles, including mud pits, burning barrel rings, and a 20-foot plank wall. At the end of the grueling race, participants throw back a beer, then unwind by boogieing to live music at the after-party.
Since 1998, ProCamps Worldwide has bridged the gap between pro athletes and their fans with a variety of instructional youth camps and fantasy camps for adults. More than 100 professional and Olympic gold-medal athletes have lent their wisdom during camps conducted across the country. For instance, the NBA's leading scorer, Kevin Durant, dishes details on his skills at a camp in Oklahoma, and Super Bowl champion and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews teaches the careful choreography of backfield disruption in Wisconsin. At fantasy camps, John Calipari and Bill Self—the two coaches who squared off in 2012's NCAA title game—give campers tours of their programs' hallowed halls.
Dream Adventures USA's guides lead informative, scenic tours down the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. Up to three sets of sightseeing eyes can climb aboard each Yamaha 110 jet ski for a river trek. Cumberland River voyages, which cover up to 120 miles, include an exploration of Old Hickory Lake's coves, inlets, and dam before breezing through downtown Nashville and stopping at Rock Harbor for lunch. A sampling of up to 60 miles of the Tennessee River loops around Long Island and gives riders a view of the Alabama state line, which glows like the first down marker used on NFL broadcasts. Both tours begin with a brief safety overview and conclude at the original launch site.
Merging Of The Arts' instructor Autumn Bethea teaches kids and grownups how to express themselves in freeform acrylics classes that yield surreal, abstract, and naturalistic masterpieces. Bethea spends each modern-acrylics class imparting wisdom on rudimentary yet essential painting skills, such as color, composition, proportion, and texture, while students brushstroke from a common reference point. After tapping into their own vision and heeding Autumn's advice, pupils wield fast-drying and multifaceted acrylics to whip up a masterpiece and cart it home or sell it to the Louvre on the very same day. Adults can paint and sip their favorite libation on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. or during the more coffee-centric timeslot of Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., whereas children come to express themselves on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
For Dustin and Justyne Noble, it's the typical boy-meets-goat, girl-meets-goat, boy-meets-girl story. Simply put, they grew up with goats and met in 2003 at the American Dairy Goat Association National Show while entering their goats in the competition. From there, the story takes off and continues with Noble Springs Dairy. Goat cheese is their star product, of course, and comes in varieties such as feta and gouda. Their prize-winning goats that wander the rolling green pastures of the farm also produce Grade A milk. To let everyone in on the process and farm-based fun, Dustin and Justyne welcome guests for tours that cover the milking parlor and cheese-making facility. On tours, families can also say hello to goats, chickens, and other farm animals.