It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
Zuleta’s Indoor Batting Cages are owned and operated by Julio Zuleta, a veteran ballplayer who boasts a 17-year career in not only the Minor and Major Leagues, but also in Nippon Professional Baseball and the World Baseball Classic. Seventy feet of astroturf separate future sluggers from their robotic pitchers in four cages delineated by black netting that keeps patrons safe from stray balls and the occasional giant monster mosquito. Bring your own bat (wooden, aluminum, or pygmy round-eared) or rent an aluminum bat for $1. Practice like the pros on the same type of machines most MLB players use to warm-up during spring training. Controllable pitching speeds from 25 to 85 mph are available to suit any ability level and can take both baseballs and softballs.
At the helm of Mangrove Masters is Florida native and USCG-certified Captain Jack Boutchyard, who loves to introduce visitors to the waters he calls home—specifically those surrounding Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Captain Jack brings along all gear, including fishing licenses, rods, and bait for flats fishing charters that chase trout near the grass flats and redfish when the tide goes out. For a hands-off outing, the sunset cruise charts course toward a horizon bathed in soft pinks and purples, presenting a colorful backdrop for dolphins and manatees at play. Treasure hunters can also opt to meet Captain Jack on the dock for a short jaunt to the white, sandy shores of North Captiva Island, which is only accessible by boat and teems with riches such as conch shells, sand dollars, and buried chests filled with pirate baseball-card collections.
At each Gun School franchise, instructors with backgrounds in law enforcement, the military, and professional security teach CCW-qualifying courses and NRA firearm classes, such as the Basic Pistol Shooting course and the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program for kids. They also lead tactical training with resources such as the Canadian Academy of Practical Shooting DVD system, which presents dramatized scenarios to help students improve their reaction time and practice drawing from their holster. In addition to training, Gun School's team organizes the Shooters' Club, which grants members privileges such as discounts on ammo, range admissions, and massages for tired trigger fingers.
For Pat Glaunert, tennis rackets have been like a pair of butterfly wings. They’ve carried him across the US—from Louisville, Kentucky, where he oversaw all operations as director at Top Gun Academy, to Indianapolis, where he owned and operated his own adult and junior tennis academy.
Now the director of Three Oaks Tennis Center, Pat puts to work certification with the United States Professional Tennis Registry to teach children and adults. His intro courses teach basics to beginners from forehands and backhands to volleys, overheads, and serves. His cardio-tennis sessions build upon basics by pairing swinging and footwork exercises with energetic music and muscle-building activities, which do not include bench-pressing ball machines.
The 105-acre Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium entertains and educates visitors on a 105-acre plot peppered with native wildlife, an educational museum, and three trails snaking through natural habitats. Museum guests learn about the natural world as they commune with captive animals and plants, including native butterflies and a variety of tree frogs. An Audubon aviary houses injured hawks, vultures, and owls, as well as bald eagles preening for guests during breaks from modeling gigs for the quarter and $1 bill. Outside, guests can stroll along nature trails on the center’s grounds to spot all kinds of native plants and wildlife, and the Big Cypress Swamp Boardwalk allows explorers with wheelchairs or strollers to glide along stable paths. Sit back and stare up at the Media Globe dome theater's screen and learn the universe’s best-kept secrets under a breathtaking view of the stars.