According to many Asheville residents, the best place to propose marriage is about a mile above the trees, with mountains in the background and a good grip on the ring. Such engagement flights might even lead to a midair wedding party comprising four colorful balloons all tethered together as they ferry well-wishers through the clouds. When the baskets touch down, a traditional champagne toast pays homage to the journey and the bond shared by its passengers.
Asheville Hot Air Balloons' pilots also helm more casual sunrise flights seven days a week. Each expedition takes them over Pisgah National Forest according to the whims of the breeze and the severity of the moon's allergies. The wind's unpredictable path ensures that the last leg of the trip is always exhilarating—"chasers" must tail and land the balloon in the nearest suitable space by securing ropes thrown from its basket. Spring, summer, and fall flights all arrest riders with their own brands of scenery, from woodland greenery to fiery tableaus of autumn leaves.
More than 500 feet in the air, a climber pauses atop Looking Glass Rock, taking in the scenic views of North Carolina that stretch for miles in every direction. The AMGA-certified guides at Appalachian Mountain Institute aim to help climbers reach these elevated vantage points. Their guided trips range from beginner lessons to more advanced multipitch climbing, which exercises techniques that can be used to scale the peaks of Table Rock. As winter brings colder weather and more embarrassing pajamas, ice climbing beckons groups to tackle vertical flows of ice.
AMI also sponsors the Adventure for Kids Program, an outreach initiative designed to take local kids climbing. Additionally, they lead camps for teenagers and retreats that fuse climbing with yoga.:m]]
Tropical Gardens Miniature Golf strips away the cartoonish aspects of the game found on many courses, instead situating its 18 putting greens amid a diverse landscape of ponds and blooming floras. As a waterfall trickles nearby, a flamboyance of fake flamingos perches under the shade of a tree, silently observing golfers' mannerisms to use in their upcoming novel. Aside from navigating the miniature fairways, players can swing at baseballs in the batting cages or reunite quarters with their captive brethren in the video arcade.
Bob Plyler holds the distinction of the first hunter to earn the NRA's Triple Distinguished Expert award, a commendation recognizing proficiency in pistol, rifle, and shotgun shooting. At Acumen Arms, Bob combines this award-winning expertise with an instructional certification from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and his experience as a Vietnam veteran. This echoing expanse of knowledge comes in handy when he teaches classes that range from basic marksmanship to concealed-carry qualification. Bob takes an especial interest in tactical training, operating a partner business called Acumen Arms Tactical Academy where he and his fellow instructors teach skills such as shooting with your nondominant hand while patting your head at the same time. As an avid outdoorsman, he also tailors services for hunters, including sport shooting, clinics in turkey and whitetail-deer hunting, and guided hunts on controlled preserves for deer and game birds using trained dogs.
The clopping of hooves echoes across Winding Creek Stables’ wide-open pastures and jumping arena, where a staff of ex-competitive equestrians takes a comprehensive approach to riding instruction. In private and group lessons, instructors share their wisdom about handling and technique while impressing upon students the importance of respecting their steeds. Adults and children alike can pick between the hunt-seat riding style popular at horse shows and the western style, which includes instructions for chasing down robber barons and lassoing feral cacti. Students learn to groom and care for their horses before and after the lesson—a gesture of respect to the animals and a key takeaway should novices desire to advance to competitive riding. Before riding off into the sunset, check out the stable’s other horse-related services, which include pony parties and pony rides.
At Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium, one of the primary goals is to get visitors excited about the ocean. To that end, the facility offers engaging educational programs and fun activities designed to enhance visits to its public aquarium, which houses blue-spotted stingrays, lionfish, and sharks. Visitors get introduced to aquatic marvels via hands-on exhibits covering topics such as marine mammals, turtle rescue, and mermaid sign language. In addition to leading onsite activities, expert staff members take youngsters on informative snorkeling trips in the Florida Keys. The facility is also great for families, senior citizens, groups, and is handicapped-accessible.