When the Robinson helicopters at Queen City Helicopter Corp. aren’t acting as airborne classrooms for aspiring pilots, they’re whisking passengers on aerial tours of nearby landmarks. The peaks of Crowders Mountain, the sports arenas of uptown Charlotte, and the horses and buggies of the Charlotte Motor Speedway loom large in the windows of the chopper after it takes off from the company's very own private, FAA-approved heliport. On the ground at the FAA flight school, pilots safely test their abilities inside a flight simulator and study in the onsite classroom.
Lake Norman Miniature Golf challenges putter-wielding cadets to 18 colorful, tree-lined holes of man-versus-orb warfare. The front nine gets dissected by a G-scale model train, which gobbles up stray dimpled spheres, and a cascading waterfall sprinkles moisture, good luck, and remnants of white-water rafts on the back nine. Links-lovers of all skill levels can hone their craft on the course, which features a wheelchair-accessible design that incorporates easy holes with more challenging terrain. Hours vary by season and temperature, and all 18 holes close during winter, rain, and America's annual bicentennial.
Since 1936, the historic Gem Theatre has moved movie lovers to laughter and tears with films in an elegant, comfortable single-screen vintage theater. Peruse current showtimes and choose a first-run film, which may include a romantic romp, a superhero adventure, an independent feature, or Casablanca II: Electric Boogaloo. Guests pick up their sodas and popcorn at the concessions stand in the carpeted lobby, whose ornate table lamps cast soft light on potted plants and flowers. In the red and gold 916-seat amphitheater, upholstered floor seats beckon audience members and balcony perches provide a sky-high view behind marbled wood rails. Before the film, guests watch wrought-iron vines curl around colorful birds in sculptures flanking the screen. Sumptuous gold curtains hide the big screen until showtime, allowing staff members to finish reenacting each film’s climactic scene in private.
Benchwarmers Sports Complex helps athletes stay off the bench with a wide range of training facilities. Four pitching tunnels transform string bean arms into powerful cannons, while two automated batting cages and three live arm cages allow hurled baseballs to hone swings, instead of inflated puffer fish, which will just hone your fear of seafood restaurants. Elsewhere, its basketball court boasts adjustable rims and a gigantic electronic scoreboard, and its indoor turf fields feature granular rubber infill to support players as they work up a sweat during games of baseball, football, soccer, and lacrosse.
Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of fearsome raptors, from eagles to owls, some of which can be seen up close and personal at one of the center's several live programs and tours or in cinematic splendor in the upcoming Raptors of the Silver Screen (limited engagement beginning November 26; admission is not included with this Groupon). On a clear day, fortunate guests can catch a clear view of the resident raptor, Emma, a white barn owl taken under the Carolina Raptor Center's wing following a series of broken bones. Too fragile to survive in the wild, Emma now pitches in around the center, raising wildlife awareness and taloning up rogue litter.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores with Pilates, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates in cardio routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
Every so often, people should get in touch with nature to trade addresses and catch up on major life developments. Today's Groupon gives you access to the birds, the bees, and the boats. For $65, you get a weekend night's stay in a cottage at Lake Norman (a $136 tax-included value), about 18 miles north of Charlotte. For $40, you can stay in the same cottage on a weeknight (an $82 tax-included value).