Giant toy soldiers clothed in thousands of colored lights wave at passersby as glowing reindeer take off into the dusk. Towering Christmas trees topped with stars glimmer and glisten with blue and green fiber optics. At Santa's Enchanted Forest, one of the world’s largest Christmas-themed amusement parks, holiday spirit and festive music fill the air long before the end of December. Visitors laugh and shriek on a multitude of carnival rides, including whirling swings, bumper cars, tower drops, and roller coasters, whipping through the air until their cheeks are as rosy as old Saint Nick’s. Traditional carnival games are also on hand, such as dart tosses and soccer-ball kicks, to complement more unconventional carnival amusements such as giant plastic balls to roll around in and a rock-climbing wall to scale. Wee visitors, meanwhile, can make the acquaintance of small livestock in a petting zoo or draw a portrait of their favorite goat in royal costume on a wall-size coloring-book mural. Carnival food, such as barbecue, pizza, and cinnamon donuts, fuels guests as they conquer rides or take in the Cats of the World Tiger Show, the Cirque Equinox, or the Sea Lion Splash Spectacular.
This third-generation, family-owned protected wildlife habitat offers the rare chance to see nearly 400 primates run free. Monkey Jungle is the only protected habitat for endangered primates in the United States that is open to the general public, allowing visitors to explore the 30-acre reserve. Upon entering, guests are immediately welcomed by Java monkeys, who at scheduled times will showcase their water skills as they dive into a pool to get fruit pieces. Stroll through a recreation of the Amazon rainforest, the only semi-natural tropical rainforest in North America. The founder of Monkey Jungle spent five years collecting hundreds of different species of plants, trees and palms to mimic the habitat of howler, black-capped capuchin and squirrel monkeys that normally call the South American jungle home. Keep walking to eventually discover the bird domes, blossoming with displaced and captive parrots, as well as orangutans and gorillas that explore the grounds.
Splat Paintball Park’s players strap on goggles and cradle Tippmann 98 paintball guns before sprinting through the X-ball grass field or the urban-scenario field encompassed by 20-foot-high netting and high-tech lighting. As players dash around, Paintball Training Institute–certified referees ensure the Geneva Conventions are followed.
Teams first design plans of attack in the covered staging area equipped with ceiling fans and cleaning stations, and then hone their aim at the shooting gallery. An onsite pro shop stocks shelves with all the extra equipment they could need.
In between matches, players relax in the indoor lounge with a snack bar, a big-screen TV, and paintball videos. Those celebrating birthdays storm the fields with friends before retiring to the private air-conditioned party room.
Set in the heart of scenic Everglades National Park, Everglades Safari Park has showcased South Florida’s distinctive wildlife for more than 40 years. The company’s modern fleet of airboats whisks tourists through the park's lush ecosystem as guides helpfully point out which logs are alligators and which alligators are confused crocodiles. As soon as they step off the boat, groups have the chance to get up close to the wildlife during an interactive alligator show and a walk down the jungle trail.