Tucked safely away from the hustle and bustle of city living, Calico Junction Mule Ranch unravels more than 100 miles of trails across 2,500 acres of property, with new trails being added every year. As the ranch's mules, donkeys, and horses—including breeds such as mustangs, quarter horses, and tennessee walkers—graze in the pastures, others ferry riders along rustic trails past ponds, fauna, and serene waterfalls. Calico Junction Mule Ranch also offers camping outings, wagon trips, and trail rides centered on romance, which end with couples enjoying an intimate dinner amid birds chirping smooth jazz.
At Trim-A-Tree Farms, patrons choose their Christmas tree from a plot of still-planted leyland pine trees and chop it down themselves or have an able-bodied staff member cut, net, and load their catch. Guests stroll through rows of lush green trees ($7.50/ft.) in search of the right plant to fill lonely living-room corners as the aroma of pine needles induces memories of a past infatuation with an air freshener. Between passes through the farm, warm up with steaming mugs of hot chocolate or melt fingers over a bonfire's licking flames as little ones trot through fields atop Star, Trim-A-Tree's trusty chestnut pony, during complimentary pony rides. Though additional items are not included in this Groupon, ornaments from the gift shop revamp trees, and adventurous souls can indulge in free temporary tattoos that take the shape of holiday icons or Scrooge's evening gruel.
At Riviera Fitness Centers of Madison—a women-only fitness haven—patrons tackle Les Mills group fitness classes, strength and cardio equipment, and one-on-one personal training, all designed to make gals feel comfortable as they forge toward their fitness goals. The onsite childcare staff supervises tykes so moms can cartwheel off to classes such as BodyAttack and Zumba. During Zumba classes, the studio transforms into a club-like dance-party atmosphere, accented with colored lights and thumping Latin-inspired beats. The instructors lead the easy-to-follow dance steps on an elevated stage, allowing everyone to see the right moves instead of getting discouraged and reverting to the Hokey Pokey. Boot-camp sessions fuse cardio and resistance training to tone physiques as campers wield exercise equipment including kettlebells, barbells, and bosu balls.
In addition to getting fit during group training, ladies can seek one-on-one fitness advice during personal training sessions, which are tailored to suit their goals. Riviera Fitness Center also offers tanning, bronzing recently toned bodies for the beach or flexing in front of a mirror.
The expert staff at Phoenix Paintball Division oversees multiple fields sprawling across 30 acres of paintball action. A woods field cloaks artistic assassins with trees and bunkers, and a tire-and-hay field conceals teams as they rally together toward victory. As in marital disputes between pro athletes, trained referees strictly enforce all rules, making safety the top priority at Phoenix. The pro shop rents and sells all necessary equipment, accessories, and apparel, as well as food and drinks to keep players fueled during friendly outings, group events, or special occasions, such as birthday parties.
Raised in a family that often gathered for social meals, Amanda J. Smith picked up an interest in cooking at an early age. Later, she cultivated her talents at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and studied under chefs such as CulinAero's Doug Kieley, who she names as a mentor. After deciding to launch her own business, Amanda outfitted a mobile catering trailer with a gourmet kitchen capable of food preparation onsite at parties or during highway drag races.
"I have everything I need at my fingertips to create all kinds of fresh, flavorful meals," she told Southern Family magazine this year. Those meals range from bacon-wrapped beef tenderloins and ornate spreads of sliced ham to petite cheesecake bites topped with berries. Amanda also sets up culinary stations at events so guests can select their own hors d'oeuvres or sample sweets arranged around a chocolate fountain.