The shoulder straps settle into place, and the world goes slightly blurry. But even as people jostle around you, you're totally protected?in your own bubble, actually. Bubble Balls are giant, inflatable spheres that make just about any sport both cushier and more comical. The sphere extends over your head and torso, leaving your legs free to run, kick, and wobble. Customers can rent the gear for their own private parties or team-building events, or join an open-play soccer game held at a local field every few weeks. Tampa Bay Bubble Ball Soccer also conducts Bubble Baseball games and Bubble Smash, a two-player showdown that tests competitors' ability to stay in the ring.
Staffed by a corps of chimp-loving volunteers working alongside veterinarians, the nonprofit Suncoast Primate Sanctuary provides a safe haven for more than 100 rescued animals. Chimpanzees and monkeys swing freely in their enclosures, living out their days after being moved from other environments, including zoos, sanctuaries, and research centers, or retiring from the film industry as animal actors and studio executives. During public hours, children and adults can wander among the menagerie to feed the monkeys and meet other critters such as orangutans, macaws, lemurs, and alligators.
Computerized scoring systems outfit each of Dunedin Lanes' 24 pin-stocked playing fields, keeping track of turkeys, strikes, and spares during the alley's weekly schedule of league and open play. Children's bumpers help wee ones roll with confidence, and during after-dark hours, adults can take advantage of a fully stocked bar, karaoke, and tunes blasted through a thumping sound system. On Friday and Saturday nights, the neon lights of cosmic bowling give the beach-themed interior the otherworldly glow of a Martian lifeguard tower. While not steamrolling a path through pin clusters, guests can play a round of pool, enjoy fare from the Chatterbox restaurant, or peruse the supply of gear in the Prestige Pro Shop. Dunedin Lanes also offers fully stocked birthday-party packages, which include bowling, snacks, and a supply of arcade tokens.
Andrea Whiting, Arbordale Riding Academy's head instructor, draws upon 14 years of professional experience to teach budding equestrian all-stars. Andrea has served as a board member of the Tampa Horse Show Association and a member of the United States Equestrian Federation, a group known for supporting quality care and voting rights for prettier ponies. On the academy grounds, Andrea's students hop atop one of the outfit's carefully maintained horses to receive an introduction to the skills required for competition. Students can learn how to ride in the english style of saddle seat during lessons, and summer camps are also available. One of Andrea's most accomplished students won a National Championship title with the help of her tutelage, and two other horses and three riders who studied under her earned top ten World Championship ribbons.
Arbordale also offers full boarding facilities for steeds, providing all the bedding, grain, and blanketing their tired haunches require. Horses and their owners exercise on 15 acres with various turnout options, and take advantage of the facility's large outdoor arena, jumps, and full tack room.
Christy Jeffreys, lead instructor at Hoofprinted Hearts Farm, draws upon 21 years of equestrian experience each time she introduces a novice to the sport of horseback riding or engages a child's imagination during summer camps. Children, teens, and adults of all skill levels can enroll in the farm's lessons, which aim to instill self-confidence and respect for the maned mammals. As the instructor looks on and provides guidance, students learn to feed, bathe, and groom the horses in preparation for showing, a skill that is sure to come in handy when restoring old collections of My Little Ponies. Summer camps engage out-of-school children between the ages of 4 and 13 in daily riding lessons, horse-themed crafts, and human-themed camaraderie.
At Champagne Stables, riding paths wind through five scenic acres, beckoning trail riders and students alike. The stables’ patient teachers pair their pupils with steady, reliable steeds before guiding them through the basics of riding, including proper posture, and more advanced techniques, such as how to navigate the swimsuit portion of equestrian competitions. Instructors correct and encourage students as they and their mounts prance around the stables’ show ring during lessons and summer camps.