Founded as a sanctuary for flowers, birds, and their admirers, Pinecrest Gardens has flourished into a family-friendly retreat that entertains visitors with horticultural exhibits and artistic events in a scenic setting. Spanning 4.3 acres of forested wetland, the gardens harbor more than 1,000 rare and exotic plants, including a 100-year-old coco plum tree, orchids, and a banyan tree that spreads across three-fourths of an acre. Waterways full of fish snake through these plants, their inhabitants impatiently pursing their lips at visitors for handfuls of food.
Pinecrest Gardens offers other entertainment opportunities for youngsters, who can splash around in the water playground, spot wildlife at Swan Lake, or play with potbellied pigs at the petting zoo. In addition, the 500-seat outdoor Banyan Bowl offers concertgoers pristine acoustics and cool evening breezes along with complimentary views of the stars.
The Cheese Course pampers dairy devotees with more than 150 artisanal cheeses, plus a thoughtfully constructed menu of delectable comestibles. Regional trios of cheeses ($12.95) allow connoisseurs to expand their palates without undergoing primordial tongue stretching. Nibble your way through a patriotic mélange of American cheeses that includes Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese (CA), Old Chatham camembert (NY), and Pleasant Ridge Reserve (WI), or snack on a Franco-centric sampling of Sainte-Maure, camembert, and comté. Each trio comes with accoutrements such as sliced baguettes and sundried tomato pesto, but more substantial hungers can also be halted with the help of an array of sandwiches, such as an albacore white tuna melt with gruyere ($8.45), or with the greeneried goodness of a salad, such as English field greens with blue cheese, caramelized walnuts, and mustard-shallot vinaigrette ($7.95). Breakfast items, such as herb omelette baguettes ($8.45) and homemade quiche ($8.45), are served morning, noon, and night, creating a dangerous paradox of logic in which every meal is the most important of the day.
Splitsville explores contemporary consumption within a bowling framework, combining swankiness with three bars, and a full-service restaurant. Splitsville’s menu, developed under the guidance of one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs of 2008 Tim Cushman, stacks up and knocks down a cadre of ville plates ($5–$14) including spicy edamame and three-pepper calamari, stomach-stuffing signature plates ($14–$19) including the mahi mahi with voodoo shrimp and filet mignon, and big bowl drinks ($21) including the rum bowl and voodoo juice bowl. Diners sprinkle the restaurant with chatter as they dive into their choice of sauced steaks, generous pizzas, and rolls from the on-site sushi bar to the musical vibrations blowing from the speakers. After 8 p.m., all diners younger than 21 turn into pumpkin-shaped bowling balls and the fine hobby-sport decorum requests an evening-casual dress code as the crowd usurps the restaurant’s reins for nocturnal nourishment with energetic music.
Recognizing the interdependence of fitness and martial arts, Thump Fight Gym & Fitness Center married the two, inspiring patrons of all ability levels to hone their combat skills while making strides toward an overall healthier lifestyle. The trainers and certified exercise physiologists lead martial-arts classes including boxing, muay thai, and jujitsu, challenging fighters to face off in the regulation-size boxing ring or the half cage—which has proven inadequate for housing feral exercise bikes. During each class, students burn calories and learn practical and potentially lifesaving self-defense skills. To supplement the combat training, the instructors also lead yoga and Pilates classes, spinning, kettlebell training, and CrossFit classes. The gym also accommodates solo workout routines with a weight-training zone and functional fitness equipment such as oversize tires and climbing ropes.
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Since 1938, the keepers of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden have cultivated more than 85 acres of floral displays with a mixture of science and art. The gardens are lush with plants valuable to scientists and educators, and the tropical landscapes designed by William Lyman Phillips are like ever-evolving canvases, blooming and fading as the seasons change. Most of the palms, cycads, flowering trees, and vines were collected from the wild, but the grounds also harbor endangered plant species.
Guides give English and Spanish tram tours as well as walking tours through specific parts of the gardens, or visitors can explore the displays at their leisure, wandering through the 16,428-square foot two-level Tropical Plant Conservatory exhibit, which blooms with orchids, fruit trees, and rare palms. Cascading waterfalls punctuate the stream flowing through the 2-acre Richard H. Simons Rainforest, where visitors admire the diverse plant life and reflect on the worldwide threat of rapidly vanishing rainforests. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit features thousands of exotic butterflies with tropical fish and rare plant life. Butterflies are released twice daily and the Butterfly Metamorphosis Lab lets kids experience them up close. The water gardens combine tranquility pools with waterfalls, sculpture, and lily pads to evoke a sense of calm.
A comprehensive guide to attractions and things to do.