Crab Shack VIP tickets grant holders access to the exclusive Crab Shack area, which doles out complimentary appetizers, beer, and soft drinks. The family-friendly festival is being held at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday, March 24, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, March 25, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. This year's fest is also a stop on the Road to London tour, which hosts opportunities to meet athletes en route to the 2012 games.
The Beach Beast Challenge invites runners of all fitness levels to dress in wacky costumes and journey across sun-soaked sands in search of personal glory and awards. Standing between them and the finish line are tall hurdles, scaling walls, and the constant fear of being swallowed by a kraken. Those who complete the course will be awarded finishers' medals and entry to the Beast Lounge for an after-race party to celebrate their accomplishment with music. Top racers also receive additional awards, as do those judged to have the best costumes.
Visitors to Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida get a close look at the state's distinct flora and fauna during thrilling outdoor adventures. The Coach Safari whisks riders on a two-hour open-air jaunt through a 4,700-acre wildlife-conservation area rich with streams and forests. Naturalist guides delve into the natural history of the region's nine ecosystems, which house species including alligators, Florida panthers, and herds of roving photo opportunities. Visitors can also take in sweeping views of the nearby wetlands and their many residents, including countless kinds of birds and white-tailed deer. For equestrian adventurers, safaris on horseback take riders through scenic trails used by Native Americans in the 1500s.
Florida EcoSafaris' EcoPark adds to its Cypress Canopy Cycle adventure-which sends visitors rolling along steel cables in a suspended, pedal-powered cart that doubles as a spy machine for squirrels-with five new and recently renovated zipline adventures. Guests fly high through the air at 30 miles per hour with the Peregrine Plunge and Zipline Safari or leap off 55- or 68-feet platforms during controlled-free-fall adventures. No matter what activity guests participate in, Florida EcoSafaris donates a portion of all proceeds to the Allen Broussard Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the preservation of Florida's ecosystems and wildlife.
Snorkel with Manatees' expert divers lead tours on underwater sojourns to discover peaceful manatees and environs beneath the waves. Offering both group and mini manatee tours year-round, the guides monitor each diver to ensure safe practice with the animals. Their Crystal River scallops tour scours the ocean floor for tasty scallops while avoiding crabs auditioning for The Little Mermaid revival, and the Snorkel with Manatees excursions explore the Crystal, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka Rivers on airboat. They also teach the fundamentals of their craft during discover scuba-diving lessons.
Youth explore the treetops and lush foliage on a two-part kids' aerial adventure course at Zoom Air, soaking in a bird's-eye view of the Central Florida Zoo's forest region seated in the blackwater-river floodplain swamp. Parents must accompany their offspring, shedding tears of pride as they watch them embark on the course, which is designed for kids at least 4 years old and interwoven among the Central Florida Zoo's natural landscape, giving kids an aerial view of the area's natural exotic inhabitants. In the first section of the course, saplings learn to navigate the skies, donning a secure harness before they are elevated 4 feet from the ground, where they test their agility and bladder control.
Led by United States Coast Guard–licensed Captain Joshua Mattson, Airboat and Gator Charters' 90-minute tours glide smoothly through warm marshes and lakes in search of photogenic alligators and other Florida wildlife. Custom tours refuse to follow a set route, instead adhering to the travel wishes of each small sightseeing group and the traffic regulations spelled out by reeds. Expeditions pause for photo ops with fauna such as alligators, bald eagles, and manatees, and Captain Mattson adds narration to stunning vistas through Piratecom headsets. Spring, summer, and fall tours launch east of Sanford and flow through the tributaries and swamps of the Middle St. Johns River, and winter outings cruise leisurely from Spring Garden Lake across the DeLeon Spring Run and into Lakes Dexter and Woodruff. Tour takers seeking rare snapshots of manatees brushing their teeth may schedule a sunrise or sunset start.
Someone's little brother shrieks, mournful at being too small to play laser tag with his cousins. Another youngster wants to bowl, but can’t pick up the ball. To Terrace Sports's manager, John McMillan, these are simple problems. A crew member scurries through the laser-tag arena, holding the toy gun for the little boy who would otherwise be too small to play. Another sets up a ramp at the top of a bowling lane, helping the toddler to push the ball into the pins with a satisfying clatter.
Smiling on as his staff solves such crises, McMillan strolls through Terrace Sports, which he remodeled after taking the reins from his father. Leading the way to the laser-tag arena, skating-rink, indoor-climbing wall, bowling alley, and arcade, murals stretch down the entryway, saluting the nearby Hillsborough River with more than 85 depictions of the waterway’s inhabitants, dynamic ecosystem, and naturally occurring steamboats. The entryway leads to the snack bar, where a full menu of gator tail, buffalo burgers, and sweet-potato fries glide down countertops handcrafted from teak and embellished by solid-brass elephant heads.
Entering the laser-tag arena gives one the sensation of delving into the interior of a complex machine, with mechanical parts strung with LED lights lining the walls and generating an eerie glow. Imaginations run wild as players choose to take on roles as monarchy loyalists or rebel forces, with both sides fighting for command of the heart of the machine and firing at one another's bases. The guns, powered by unlimited ammo, unleash streams of crimson and emerald light, and fiber-optic aiming ensures pinpoint accuracy. Vests beep when another player is taking aim, giving warriors a moment to find obstacles to hide behind or nearby portraits of themselves to hide in front of. On an observation deck, cheers rise from friends and chaperones as a 32-inch monitor displays scoring and live footage from six in-arena cameras.