When attempting to hit a baseball traveling 90 mph or faster, every fraction of a second matters. That’s why Baseball Vision Program’s hitting guru Chris McKnight emphasizes the process of seeing the ball as the pitcher delivers it and tracking it on its way to the strike zone—the earlier a player’s eyes “pick up” the ball, the more time he or she has to react. By training players’ eyes and the reactions of their hands to be in unison, Chris gives them a valuable tool not just at the plate, but in the field. A veteran coach with experience as a manager in the NCAA and as a scout, Chris has developed successful training methods with more than 3,000 students.
Along with his dogs Hazel and Gus, Wisconsin Adventures LLC's owner Rodrigo Camacho leads hunting groups in search of quail, pheasants, grouse, and other upland birds. Their quests take them across south-central Wisconsin's scenic countryside, which is a mixture of sprawling cropland, open fields, and densely wooded terrain. Because most hunts take place on privately owned farms, they don't require licenses or permits, which allows Mr. Camacho to accommodate everyone from first-timers to reincarnations of Davy Crockett. Mr. Camacho can also set up clay-shooting targets and train dogs in the arts of pointing and flushing.
Hitters SportsPlex is a 50,000-square-foot sports complex that gives aspiring sluggers the opportunity to train year-round in pristine indoor facilities. With three baseball cages and pitching machines capable of firing stitched orbs at adjustable speeds and emulating up to six different pitches, batters can perfect their swing against throws of all degrees of difficulty. Athletes can also hone their talents in climate-controlled, hi-tech practice facilities for tennis, indoor golf, and pickleball—a combination of ping-pong and tennis that's played on a giant plate next to a giant hamburger.
On June 30, 1904 Col. William and Anna Vilas donated a tract of land to become a public park and free recreational space in memory of their son, Henry, who died due to complications from diabetes at a young age. They added numerous improvements over the decade and in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo gained its first animal exhibits. Today, the zoo covers 30 acres and features a number of creatures from around the world, ranging from the vanishing chimpanzee and endangered red panda to locals such as the great horned owl and american alligator. The zoo also remains one of the few free AZA-accredited zoos across the country.
Leading up to and following the zoo's centennial, the ReZOOvenation project has expanded the visitor areas, replacing the entrance and gift shop and adding a tropical-rainforest aviary and big-cat complex. A variety of annual events are scheduled, including Halloween at the Zoo, with costumes and stops for sustainable palm-oil candy, and earth day, when children can plant trees to help lower the global temperature just enough for icicles to form. The zoo’s many conservation projects also engage the public in protecting the environment and its inhabitants by installing solar-energy panels, sponsoring trips to save endangered orangutans, and collecting old cell phones.
Instructors at Pierce Athletics flip limbs and encourage limbering back bends and high-flying leaps in an 11,500-square-foot gym during an array of tumbling classes. Muscles stretch and bodies soar during 60- to 90-minute classes divided by age and skill level. Each course holds a few sessions per week; this Groupon covers one session per week for nine weeks. Adults tag along with miniature athletes for Tiny Tumblers classes, introducing tykes as young as 18 months to coordination and flexibility, and older newbies in the Beginner or Advanced Beginner courses learn cartwheels and round-offs to serve them throughout life's dance-offs.
Retrace and retread tractor history at this Dyersville museum, located 90 minutes from downtown Cedar Rapids. With thousands of toys and exhibits scattered throughout its two-floored exhibition space, the National Farm Toy Museum pays tribute to historic and contemporary crop contraptions. Fun-loving farm enthusiasts may peruse the museum's frenzy of farm implements, including trucks, pedal tractors, and life-size John Deer soil-sifters. Original artwork, dioramas, and two Doug Schlesier sculptures artfully express anecdotes of American agriculture, while miniature farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey while miniature-sized farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey to visitors the life-sized growth of American farming. The National Farm Toy Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Energy Center Fitness Club is manned by a staff of personal trainers, group instructors, lifestyle coaches, and massage therapists. Staffers keep the club open 24/7 to give members round-the-clock opportunities to lift free weights, climb aboard cardio and weight machines, and make saltwater taffy in the stretching area. The staff leads more than 20 group classes, whose curricula include boot camp, Zumba Toning, Pilates, and cycling. Owner, trainer, and lifestyle coach Shawn Bollig also discusses nutrition with guests, while the club's Thin & Healthy Total Solution offers clients a weight loss program aimed toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Free towel service keeps workouts hygienic, as do the private locker and shower areas. Massage therapy soothes peaked muscles, while Energy Center Fitness Club renders clients tan in lie-down and standup UV booths. A complimentary play area, meanwhile, keeps children entertained and prevents their imaginary friends from hogging the invisible elliptical machines.