Matt White cinches his uniform with a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, heads down to one of Triumph Martial Arts' three locations, and dishes up a fist-full of knowledge earned over 25 years of mat-slapping training. Recognized by the American Tae Kwon Do Association as the Regional Instructor of the Year in 2008 and 2011, Mr. White takes pride in combative victory and from passing those skills on.
In keeping with the Association's instructional format, Mr. White and his battery of four instructors teach the martial art and philosophy of tae kwon do to kids and adults. Tiny Tigers sessions reach out to students as young as 4 years old, teaching them important values such as helping around the house, excelling at schoolwork, and how to survive a wildebeest stampede. Students as old as 55 have started with no experience, going on to successfully earn their black belts.
For more than 10 years, The Heart of Darkness has elicited scares from nearly 10,000 visitors every Halloween season with one of the largest haunts in Iowa. People from across the country and ghosts studying abroad brave nine separately themed areas on the terror-infested grounds, from a haunted playground to a maniacal-clown asylum. Each section crawls with grotesque creatures. A living scarecrow swipes at guests with a rusted sickle, causing them to flee right into the padded cell of Crispy, a demented arsonist whose victims gave him a taste of his own medicine by scorching his skin.
So committed to their duty to terrify, owners Kevin and Dolly Schults are affectionately known as The Halloween Family, as detailed on a 2009 episode of ABC's Wife Swap. Outside their spooky corridors, the Schults reward survivors with concession stands, a live DJ, and a photo booth that snapped the pictures Crispy uses for his online-dating profile.
As the only marina on its namesake body of water, Saylorville Lake Marina is a hub of activity, clamoring with visitors seeking to enjoy the 26,000-acre body of water. From May to October, outdoors-enthusiasts can set out on their recreational journey of choice with pontoon boat, jon boat, and bicycle rentals. Those with their own watercraft can take advantage of year-round indoor storage, as well as the tow-vehicle valet service, which helps boaters launch onto the waters to rapidly escape a wicked witch. Back on land, visitors can refuel from a long day at Latitude 41 Bar & Grill, the floating on-site restaurant.
Midwest Cage Championship, the region's largest MMA organization, has been showcasing brutal cage fights in Des Moines for more than five years. In 12 bouts across seven divisions, bone-cracking ballerinas will dance a pugilistic pas de deux, gracefully pirouetting into each other's pressure points. Lonnie Scriven and "Hollywood" Johnny Case join together to explore a vast terrain of bodily pain in the lightweight championship. Then, for the main event, light heavyweights Jesse Lund and Tyrone Roberts come to blows over the ownership of a belt, like deal-crazed shoppers at a Belt-Mart firesale.
Aspen Athletic Club amasses top-of-the-line equipment, seasoned trainers, and luxurious amenities within five gym spaces across Des Moines. A fleet of cardio and strength-training machinery from brands such as LifeFitness and Star Trac heavily populate the floors, allowing guests ample access to the equipment. In addition to a cardio theater, the Hickman gym boasts 12 onsite tennis courts and specialized studios for martial arts and women-only workouts. Visitors to the 14th Street location can sign up for aquatic classes or swim laps solo across the pool. Other amenities such as tanning, massage therapy, and gold-plated kettlebells vary from club to club.
Certified personal trainers plan out custom routines for clients, and highly qualified instructors lead Zumba steps, spinning seminars, and, at certain locations, fast-paced Les Mills classes. The professional staff also offer nutritional counseling at all locales.