On June 30, 1904 Col. William and Anna Vilas donated a tract of land to become a public park and free recreational space in memory of their son, Henry, who died due to complications from diabetes at a young age. They added numerous improvements over the decade and in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo gained its first animal exhibits. Today, the zoo covers 30 acres and features a number of creatures from around the world, ranging from the vanishing chimpanzee and endangered red panda to locals such as the great horned owl and american alligator. The zoo also remains one of the few free AZA-accredited zoos across the country.
Leading up to and following the zoo's centennial, the ReZOOvenation project has expanded the visitor areas, replacing the entrance and gift shop and adding a tropical-rainforest aviary and big-cat complex. A variety of annual events are scheduled, including Halloween at the Zoo, with costumes and stops for sustainable palm-oil candy, and earth day, when children can plant trees to help lower the global temperature just enough for icicles to form. The zoo’s many conservation projects also engage the public in protecting the environment and its inhabitants by installing solar-energy panels, sponsoring trips to save endangered orangutans, and collecting old cell phones.
The tough-as-nails ladies in the Mad Rollin' Dolls roller-derby league wow audiences with equal parts strength, speed, and glitter. Since their first season in 2005, skaters and MRD volunteers alike have donated their blood, sweat, and tears to the sport that promotes female athleticism and team spirit in a fun, competitive atmosphere. During the 30-minute bouts, fans cheer and sneer as the jammers attempt to lap the opposing team for points, and the blockers clear the way for their mates while putting the hurt on those who try to stop them. The season's schedule culminates in a championship match, in which the two mightiest teams battle for the title and a lifetime supply of solid-gold mouth guards.
Since the team is committed to supporting their community, a portion of the proceeds from each Mad Rollin' Dolls bout goes to various charities, which in the past have included Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, Alliance for Animals, and Badger Childhood Cancer Network.
Dave Gerry started the Princeton Club with three simple tenets in mind: great trainers, exceptional equipment, and easy access. To realize that dream, he assembled a team of American College of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainers to helm the cardio and strength-training centers 24 hours a day.
Whether working out solo, in a group class, or with a trainer to remind them that bench-pressing beehives is safer with a spotter, guests can drop their young ones off at the free childcare center. Splashes fill the natatorium as swimmers paddle across the six-lane lap pool, as the resistance-current pool's adjustable waves enable guests to walk in place. A dip in the whirlpool soothes stress, and the steam room's eucalyptus aromatherapy and sauna's rejuvenating heat send bodies back into the world refreshed. Above the club, tennis and soccer players soak in vistas of Madison as they duke it out on the rooftop garden's turf. The competition continues indoors on basketball, racquetball, and volleyball courts.
In 1947, on New York City's Park Avenue, the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio—cofounded by the eponymous toe tapper himself—opened its doors to the public. More than six decades later, now boasting schools across North America, the dancing institution still adheres to the legendary Mr. Astaire's curriculum and instruction techniques.
Specializing in social ballroom and competitive dances, the schools' current consortium of professional instructors shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through dance lessons that span from classic ballroom and foxtrot romps to the modern steps of salsa, swing, or mambo. In addition to classes, the studio hosts social practice parties where up to 40 students hone newly acquired rug-cutting capabilities. As foot-charming music blares from the speakers, instructors work to cultivate a lively social setting where each guest can dance, mingle, and surgically correct their second left foot without fear of embarrassment.
All of Badgerland Bowling Centers' six locations have a lot in common. At each location, groups hurtle colorful balls down slick, glossy lanes, refueling at an onsite restaurant between matches. All of the alleys host birthday, work, and fundraising parties and tournaments such as the Badgerland Bowling 300 Club?which has doled out more than $35,000 in cash prizes since 2002?and the Badgerland Open, which welcomed 113 competitors in 2014, one of whom snagged a grand prize of $500 and 1,000 bragging rights.
But like sextuplets working undercover for the CIA, each center also maintains a unique identity. At Badger Bowl in Madison, live musicfloods the lanes on weekends, and dancers jump and jive on West Coast Swing nights on Wednesday. Nearby at Dream Lanes, laser and disco lights slice through fog amid thundering music during Ultra Bowling every Friday and Saturday evening.
Since the 1950s, Wingra Boats has outfitted groups and individuals for treks along the serene, wake-free Lake Wingra with their fleet of water vessels. Starting out with a small squad of canoes, the company has grown to include more than 100 canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, rowboats, and standup paddleboards. In addition to supplying rentals, the staff keep limbs limber with yoga?performed on dry land or atop paddleboards?and strengthens cores with standup paddleboard lessons. Youngsters get in on the action during Camp Wingra sessions, where they learn to cast, reel, and ask fishes for any seven cards, or paddle and play aboard kayaks and canoes. The staff also lead guided tours and birding expeditions, and tuck vessels away in a private boat marina and storage facility.