Dusk has settled its gold and purple cloak upon the Flint River, gilding the tranquil waters in a fiery blaze of colors. The sounds of laughter breaks through the still evening as one of North Alabama Canoe and Kayak signature Twilight Tours makes its way leisurely down the fluvial highway under the steadfast helm of a seasoned guide. Founded with the intent of granting guests the chance to experience memorable moments such as this, North Alabama Canoe and Kayak equips explorers with their fleet of canoes and kayaks for relaxing sojourns along the Flint River. Nature enthusiasts can also opt to paddle themselves around during 1.5- to 4.5-hour unguided day trips, charting their own aquatic path past scenic sites that include wooded flat lands, high bluffs, and remote pasturelands populated by cows that have never seen a television or been to the big city.
Bolstered by a master’s in exercise physiology and a passion for body-sculpting competitions, Sarah Longshore opened Empire Fitness, a 24-hour gym stocked with modern equipment and amenities including a childcare center. She can often be found on the gym’s floor working out on Cybex leg-curl machines, offering words of encouragement to fellow exercisers, or curing dumbbells’ fear of heights in the weight room. Accompanied by a crew of experienced instructors, she offers group classes that motivate participants to burn fat by stepping on and around a step machine and singing along to an energetic soundtrack pulsing from overhead speakers. Also on the slate of classes are calorie incinerators such as barbell-heaving BodyPump and dance-based Zumba.
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.
For one week in June, myriad designers, performances, and burgeoning styles descend on Huntsville in a flurry of fashion sponsored by Alabama Fashion Alliance. Local businesses such as Le Jeune House of Fashion & Design and designers from New York team up with cherry-picked models that don sought-after frocks to strut their stuff for transfixed audience members and clothes-obsessed cocktail napkins. Hair shows, awards, and clothing competitions cascade across the packed schedule, and the finale runway fashion show completes the festivities like the perfect clutch completes an ensemble.
At Riviera Fitness Centers of Madison—a women-only fitness haven—patrons tackle Les Mills group fitness classes, strength and cardio equipment, and one-on-one personal training, all designed to make gals feel comfortable as they forge toward their fitness goals. The onsite childcare staff supervises tykes so moms can cartwheel off to classes such as BodyAttack and Zumba. During Zumba classes, the studio transforms into a club-like dance-party atmosphere, accented with colored lights and thumping Latin-inspired beats. The instructors lead the easy-to-follow dance steps on an elevated stage, allowing everyone to see the right moves instead of getting discouraged and reverting to the Hokey Pokey. Boot-camp sessions fuse cardio and resistance training to tone physiques as campers wield exercise equipment including kettlebells, barbells, and bosu balls.
In addition to getting fit during group training, ladies can seek one-on-one fitness advice during personal training sessions, which are tailored to suit their goals. Riviera Fitness Center also offers tanning, bronzing recently toned bodies for the beach or flexing in front of a mirror.
SportsMed Fitness Center, named one of Tennessee Valley's best gyms by CityVoters, operates 24 hours a day on the ground floor of SportsMed Huntsville Clinic. Members can tone muscles and burn calories with cardio and strength training equipment and group fitness classes such as kickboxing or hatha yoga, or opt for sessions with a personal trainer. New Core Barre classes are fat-burning exercises based on ballet techniques and are designed to increase strength and flexibility and give a lean, ballet-body look. A class schedule is available, and as an added convenience, the gym offers complimentary childcare during select weekday hours.