Most buildings appear to cower next to Carolina Balloon Adventures’ rainbow-hued balloon, which rises eight stories above the ground. Helmed by FAA-certified instructor Captain Jack, who has spent three decades in the aviation industry, the balloon and its wicker basket glide over the Yadkin Valley. After launching from one of four local sites, passengers can pluck leaves from treetops, or drink in panoramic views of rolling hills, streams, and landmarks such as Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock. Flight options include dusk and sunrise flights as well as balloon-fundamentals instruction, which covers how balloons evolved from sea creatures.
Captain Josh Laferty channels more than two decades of experience fishing the local waters to help people find and reel in striped bass from Smith Mountain Lake. During his chartered trips, up to three fishermen hang out on an Angler center-console boat equipped with refreshments, safety gear, and fishing equipment such as Orvis fly tackle and Outcast planer boards. Since the boat comes stocked with everything needed for a day—or half-day—of fishing, participants only need to bring their Virginia freshwater-fishing license and arrive dressed in season-appropriate apparel and mermaid tails.
Dustin Keith, a former paratrooper, police officer, and learjet pilot, says that his favorite job has been owning and operating his boat-rental business with his wife, Andrea. Keith has loved water sports since he was young, and wanted to open the business to help families build their own memories on the water. The Keiths maintain a consistently updated inventory of luxury pontoon boats, kayaks, bowriders, and cabin cruisers, and the low deposits they require for rental are returned to customers the same day. Boat-club memberships give customers unlimited access to the boats without the expense of buying and storing them or setting up mermaid traps along the shore.
The Keiths donate a portion of the profits from boat rentals to Compassion International to support impoverished children in Asia and Africa, and hope to one day dedicate each boat to a child that its rental helps support.
Silence fills the forest as a masked paintball player creeps over logs and leaves, unable to find the opposing team he knows is there. Suddenly, a shower of colored paint spews from behind a nearby tree, and the battle begins. Such moments unfold daily at PBC Paintball Park's facilities during the regular season. Their staff, all of whom are paintball players themselves, have designed both wooded and concept fields at Greensboro, Charlotte, and Greenville. At Greensboro, wooded landscapes transform into a battlefield with bunkers, creeks, and large forts. Felled trees and dense foliage give players ample cover amid the undeveloped woods of Greenville's fields, while tournaments unfold across PBC Charlotte's level terrain. Additionally, PBC Paintball Parks are affiliated with Paintball Central, which runs two stores in North Carolina and one store in South Carolina where players can stock up on enough paintball gear to ready themselves for the inevitable cartoon-character rebellion.
On the scenic Smith Mountain Lake, run-about motorboats and WaveRunners create arcing, white-capped wakes atop the water. Nearby, slower-moving pontoons host anglers and picnickers. The captains of each of these vessels owe their enjoyable day to the family-owned Hales Ford Marina & Boat Rentals, which loans its equipment to locals and visitors alike. In addition to pairing clients with the right boat, staffers also perform repairs and maintenance, including winterization for a variety of vehicles.