More than 12,000 different plants line the meandering paths of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Spread across its 67.5 acres and more than 25 gardens are 30+ works of outdoor sculptures on display, making it one of the largest collections of public horticulture in the US. Between walks in the gardens, guests can relax in a Japanese garden with a traditional teahouse, and kids can opt into one of the educational programs to understand the science behind botany.
The botanical gardens also host events year round, such as antique shows, plant sales, and cocktail parties, so that the plants don't get bored and fall asleep. Additionally, the lecture series brings in big names and novelists to discuss their trade and put on shows for the garden's visitors.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and foxtrot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
In one corner, kids practice cracking a safe. In another, tiny hands sift through sand to find ancient fossils, with no archaeologists in sight. Toddlers, meanwhile, wander through a surreal dreamscape of 10-foot milk cartons and car-sized paper towel rolls. But these aren?t scenes from a zany summer movie about all the adults disappearing: they're snapshots of the McWane Science Center, whose dozens of fun, interactive exhibits enliven science.
Notable exhibits include a collection of Alabama dinosaur skeletons that help us understand what life was like in the state millions of years ago. An aquarium area boasts a Shark & Ray Touch Tank, delighting visitors with an aquatic petting zoo. Interactive contraptions such as the pulley chair lift?which lets kids learn about simple machines as they hoist themselves aloft?convey abstract concepts with fun activities.
Featuring more than 20,000 square feet of play space, iJump's two locations delight pintsize adventurers with indoor attractions and all-inclusive birthday parties. After conquering inflatable slides and imaginary city-states, kids can hone their racing chops on two types of age-appropriate go-karts at iJump's original location. In addition, a 20-foot rock wall beckons explorers to strive towards its summit, and arcade games set kids on a quest for prizes. At the newer location in Crestwood, parents can relax in the lounge outfitted with a huge HDTV and free WiFi—amenities also available at the other facility—while kids safely submerge into the ball pit in search of lost wallets filled with prospective business clients. Committed to clean fun, iJump provides hand-sanitizer stations throughout its spaces.
The 18 holes of Eagle Point Golf Club wind around tall forest groves and water hazards that come into play on six holes. Playing to a par of 71, the course requires golfers to steel their nerves as they size up their golf balls on the bermuda-grass fairways and execute a few key shots. These include the approach into a sand-surrounded green on the 7th hole and the tee shot entirely over water on the par 3 15th?as well as the final putt on the 18th hole, without which the round would never end.
Course at a Glance:
* 18-hole, par 17 course
* Total length of 6,493 yards from the back tees
* Course rating of 70.1 from the back tees
* Course slope of 119 from the back tees
* Four sets of tees per hole
At each bowling center, balls hurtle down smooth, polished lanes as LCD screens keep track of scores and shimmering party lights illuminate the faces of determined bowlers. After lacing up some slide-enabling shoes and clearing the gutters of deciduous pins, bowlers set their sights on toppling 10-pin clusters. Carpets bedecked with psychedelic swirls lead to shelves stocked with neon-colored balls, which proffer their pin-busting talents to bowlers of various sizes. Fingers can warm up by mashing buttons in an arcade full of entrancing video games or bench-pressing french fries at the onsite grill and pub.