Whether amongst the cantina's chandeliers, the saloon's rustic surrounds, or the outdoor patio's crackling fire, guests at Fuego Cantina can savor a bevy of Mexican cuisine seven days a week—and until 2 a.m. on Monday through Saturday. Seasoned chefs cover hand-rolled enchiladas in house-made sauce, mix house-marinated meats into fajitas, and fill quesadillas with fixings such as grilled Portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions. Along with Mexican items, the inventive kitchen captains also smother half-pound hot dogs with relish and sauerkraut and top burgers with house-made chili and sharp cheddar cheese.
To wash down feasts, bartenders at Fuego Cantina's two bars keep 14 beers on tap and pour more than 30 wines by the glass. They also mix up specialty mojitos, margaritas, and martinis, such as the combined chocolate ganache and Godiva liqueur of the Death by Chocolate. In addition to tasty treats and drinks, Fuego Cantina enlivens evenings with karaoke on Tuesdays, pin-the-tail-on-the-cacti on Thursdays, and live music throughout the week.
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.
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.
After working for decades as a successful oil executive, National Senior Games gold medalist Homer Brown decided to shift gears, opening BumperNets in 1999 to promote his beloved sport of table tennis to the masses. Nestled within the Riverchase Galleria Mall, Brown’s well-stocked, interactive emporium lets visitors hone their ping-pong or pool skills under the tutelage of a trained professional, or master the finer points of team management at the foosball table. Homer and his knowledgeable staff help guests deck game rooms in felt-clad pool tables, glittering pinball machines, and skee-ball alleys for rental or purchase, and can assist with onsite assembly.
Alabama-born Cynthia Massey Parsons, who will be featured in the 32nd anniversary edition of Who’s Who in American Art, has built her artistic reputation on works in watercolor, acrylic, and graphite. During Paint-A-Long sessions, she leads budding artists through the brushwork of a single painting, helping students pick up sound technique without worrying about inventing a subject or baiting a muse. Her original designs range from modified classics—such as the sky in Van Gogh’s Starry Night transposed over a local skyline—to classic floral still lifes.
Drake Fitness provides personal training and nutritional consultations in a welcoming environment. The staff meet one on one with clients to give each muscle group and fitness goal a viable opportunity to excel. During the fifth training session, a dietician provides a thorough nutrition consultation in order to help unwary diners wield silverware in the healthiest way possible. Each five-session program is an itinerary leading to lands of increased energy, improved physical appearance, and an abundant harvest of self-confidence. Muscle groups band together in the face of exercise and trainer-based encouragement. Sessions can incorporate any of the equipment available at Drake's, including dead lifting free weights or hurling kettle bells. Train to float like a butterfly with training rope and boxing equipment, or to escape quickly from bee-sting danger on the stationary bikes or step mills.