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.
For more than a decade, The Hitting Zone has helped baseball and softball players hone their slugging skills with top-notch batting cages. Its newly renovated facility includes seven new batting cages, new token machines, professional-quality turf, and enhanced lighting. While three cages devour tokens and spit out speedy pitches, schedule-savvy batters claim one of four regular cages for a designated hour of ball-pummeling against a Cy Young android lookalike.
The indoor summits at Crimper’s Climbing stretch up to 16 feet in the bouldering arena, 23 feet in the top-rope range, and 30 feet in the lead climbing section. In each specialized area, colorful holds of different shapes and sizes riddle wall faces. Climbers navigate these holds by practicing the fundamentals across the varied angles, heights, and distances that span between them. Beginners will find wall routes tailored to their skill set, just as technically advanced climbers will find more complicated boulder scenarios. Crimper’s Climbing also offers classes, hosts birthday parties and team-building exercises, and extends membership opportunities to enthusiasts and agoraphobic billy goats.
Engines roar across a tire-lined track, where single, double, and junior go-karts speed through turns and on toward victory. This is only one of the attractions that greets visitors to The Zone. Baseballs soar across the batting cages' mesh big-top tent, and the mini-golf course dots its baize landscape with obstacles such as miniature barns or tiny warehouses filled with smaller replicas of the mini-golf course. Indoors, video games fill an arcade with a symphony of electronic beeps, while party rooms play host to shindigs with themes such as princesses and activities such as crafts.
Two intimate, 80-seat theaters showcase a carefully chosen crop of independent, art, foreign, documentary, and local films, as well as occasional special events, though today’s Groupon is only valid for regular scheduled screenings. Bring a film-buff friend or humorously mismatched buddy cop and catch one of the theater’s talkies, which have recently included The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Potiche, and Everything Must Go. Two jumbo sodas and a jumbo popcorn will keep your noggins fueled so that you can predict plot twists and your mouths full so that you don't accidentally blurt out predictions.
A bearded and scruffy Shawn Hash launched his outfitting business 20 years ago with a spartan collection of four bicycles, two canoes, and a pickup truck. Tangent Outfitters now oversees a small flotilla of aquatic craft as it leads guests to all the outdoor adventures the New River and its surrounding valley have to offer. Tubing trips afford a leisurely 1- to 2-mile jaunt down the river, with plenty of pit stops at sunny beaches, swimming holes, or riverside nail salons. Instructors bring a slice of Hawaiian watersports to Virginia with standup paddleboard lessons or teach guests to snag unsuspecting smallmouths with guided fishing trips. The surrounding mountainous trails invite bikers to speed through their dirt-stained paths, and the riverbeds host seven different types of kayak and canoe day trips. Adventurers can stock up on excursion rations at Tangent's onsite deli.
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.