When the sun shines on the inky black coat of 8-Ball, an Asian leopard, you can see the intricate pattern of spots on his fur. What you may not notice are the scars on his neck, remnants of having been chained up in a pool hall by a former owner. When the owner could no longer keep him, 8-Ball was sent to a drive-thru safari park that was later shut down by the USDA. But all of that must seem like a faraway nightmare to 8-Ball, as he now enjoys the security, ample food, and medical care at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. He is among the more than 40 big cats that have been rescued and rehabilitated, trading lives of abuse, neglect, and misplacement for environs that executive director Brian Werner calls a "living resort."
The facility is owned and operated by Tiger Missing Link, a nonprofit organization that Werner chartered in 1995. After diligent research, Werner and friend Terri Block began creating a big-cat sanctuary on a 25-acre property that Werner owned. They lived in a small cabin with no running water, heat, or air conditioning, clearing the land themselves and going door to door to garner support for the project. It certainly wasn't easy, but through the hard work of volunteers and some big-time press—including features on Animal Planet's 2007 Tiger Week and Good Morning America—the shelter's reputation and facilities continue to grow.
The refuge aims to raise visitors' awareness of the plight of large cats in the wild, and it plans to expand to add more natural habitats and observatories. Landscapers have even built a waterfall habitat where the tigers can exercise while trying not to puncture their plastic inner tubes. This feature may have been the favorite amenity for two of Michael Jackson's tigers that, according to a KLTV 7 story, have called the space home.
Oil Bowl Lanes opens its 32 lanes of rolling glory to pin pushers every day of the week. A one-hour lane rental pits quartets of players against one another to see who can garner the highest score based on pins felled and the secret 11th frame, which is judged on the overall style of post-strike moonwalks. Eight rental shoes lend their aid to earthbound extremities, and a full pitcher of soda bubbles with between-frame refreshment or postgame head-dunk opportunities. Spheres rumble down Oil Bowl’s alleys between retro-futuristic murals and cheery checkered floors.
During your month-long trial membership at Anytime Fitness ($100), you can re-bloom your wilted health with the state-of-the-art facility's diverse range of cardio and strength equipment. Exploit muscles for non-financial gain with free weights, tone legs on the treadmills, undergo a demanding tour de fitness-center via exercise bikes, or just catch up on reruns of Homeboys from Outer Space on the flat-screen TVs located near the treadmills, ellipticals, and Lifecycle machines. If the flawed workout plan you concocted yourself results only in frighteningly muscular ring fingers, one of Anytime's motivating trainers can prescribe a regimen designed to help you meet your fitness goals during your three personal-training sessions included in your trial membership ($150). Complete the sculpting of your flesh-statue with an Apollo finish with one month of unlimited tanning ($40), and then purify yourself of sweat and fried-cheese memories in Anytime's private showers.
Jubilee Zoo corrals a herd of furry and fluffy animals in its spacious conservatorium, allowing visitors to pet, feed, and behold a variety of creatures. Fistfuls of feed in the hands of visitors can win over the hearts of sheep and donkeys in the petting zoo, while alpacas, miniature cows, and Zoe the zebra smile at guests from the fields. Kids can ride a pony, and animal lovers of all ages are welcome to sit perfectly still on the hayride while pretending to be needles. The zoo also contains fun play spaces, including a playground, a mountain of sand, and a swath of inflatable slides and obstacle courses.
Sicily natives and Chianti restaurateurs Enrico and Nino Giacalone serve rustic, taste-bud-wooing regional and Northern Italian fare in a romantic atmosphere. Settle in with a glass of Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc ($6.00) or Columbia Crest Two Vines shiraz ($8.25), and stoop to conquer appetizers such as the funghi in padella con granchio, jumbo lump crabmeat and mushroom caps boldly bathed with white wine, parsley, and lemon-butter sauce ($9.50). Entree eaters may become beguiled by oceanic fruits including the Pagello "Albert,” a sautéed snapper as fresh as a mint-scented wink from a stranger ($19.75). Conduct a forked foray into the house signature dish, scaloppini alle noci e more, a flavorful juggling act of veal scaloppini bursting with blackberries and shrimp; sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, and roasted almonds; and flamed with blackberry brandy in a rich cream sauce ($25.95). Hearty portions may sway even selfish sweet teeth to share succulent slivers of the mocha-almond butter cream cake ($4.95).