Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.
When Tasia Malakasis walked into a gourmet food shop in New York City, she unexpectedly found herself face to face with her future. It was cheese—specifically, Belle Chevre, a French-style goat cheese made by hand in her home state of Alabama. It wasn't long before she was journeying down south to study the art of cheese-making. She became a genuine protege, and eventually, when the company's owner retired, she took over. Since 1989, the company has racked up numerous awards and accolades for its fine cheese, which include a pimento chevre, a Montrachet-style goat cheese, and a mint julep-inspired Southen Belle goat cheese. Their rustic creamery, housed in the old town cotton warehouse, offers both guided and self-guided tours, samples at the tasting bar, and a chance to meet the goats that help make the cheese by wrapping it up with their dexterous hooves.
The 120-acre Huntsville Botanical Garden is a year-round source of botanical bounties, with horticulture-loving visitors able to spy an array of gorgeous plants, from Japanese cedar in the winter to daylilies in the summer. Plant perusers can learn medicinal uses of common plants in the herb garden, practice whistle harmonies with the nature trail's melodious bird population, or write haikus about their devotion to limericks in the new Washio Ishii bonsai display. Junior leaf-hunters grab the spotlight in the 2-acre children's garden, filled with eight different activity stations, including fossil displays, a real Space Station node, and a bamboo musical garden. And until February 28, visitors are encourage to bring their dogs for the “Dog Days of Winter” festival, when their four-legged friends can pounce around the “No Leash Zone,” take a couple doggie classes, or explain the science of photosynthesis by barking the periodic table.
In the early 20th century, Tate Farms was a social hub for sharecroppers, who congregated at farmer John Patterson's general store, blacksmith shop, and gristmill. More than 200 harvests later, John Patterson's grandson, Homer Tate's descendants continue to uphold the farm’s legacy as a community gathering spot. However, instead of waiting for a new batch of horseshoes or gossiping about which neighbor might be a spy for the Kaiser, people now come to pick from 90 varieties of pumpkins on the 70-acre pumpkin patch. Leading visitors across the wider 5,000-acre fields, tour guides not only illuminate the farm’s history but teach visitors rural-agriculture info, including lessons on the role bees play in pollinating pumpkins and cotton.
Though the Tate family strives to preserve the past, they have retrofitted the farm with a brand new 14,000-square-foot covered area. Here, visitors sample fresh pumpkin pie made with the farm’s own pumpkins at the Country Café or head to the bakery for fresh pumpkin muffins and cinnamon rolls.
The idyllic landscape of the Tennessee River Valley gradually unfurls beneath passengers as their hot air balloon slowly drifts higher and higher, cresting the treetops and soaring up into the sky's blue expanse. Fly High Balloons provides this majestic experience for visitors seeking anything from a romantic trip through the clouds to a sightseeing excursion with a bird's-eye view of the surrounding area. Flights depart at sunrise as well as two hours before sunset assuming that the weather conditions are tolerable, and each outing usually consists of 60–90 minutes of time in the air.