The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach houses free art exhibitions, lectures, and events for the edification of the local public, and membership in its hallowed halls allows a household reduced prices on classes, retail discounts, and invitations to openings and events. Seven-week classes and one-time workshops for kids (member prices $72–$120) and adults (member prices $65–$260) instruct the artistically inclined in electives such as acrylic and oil painting, watercolor, and digital imaging. For those who prefer to work in a fleshier medium, yoga and dance classes whittle muscles into works of art worthy of permanently encasing in glass or spandex.
When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
As the foremost bead store on Amelia Island, Beadlemania stocks everything necessary to craft an artful piece of jewelry. The inventory runs the gamut from simple, average beads ($0.10 each) to opulent strands ($90). Ambitious designers can peruse string-able treasures fashioned from gold, silver, and glass to make their creations stand out from body ornaments made of stale bagels. Aside from exotic coral and crystal beads and strands of petite gems and pearls ($10–$28), customers can also pick up clasps and tools ($0.50–$20) or Swarovski heart pendants ($40–$50). A soft juxtaposition to jewelry-making trinkets, the shop's selection of yarn caters to motivated needle enthusiasts or those looking to entertain bored kittens.
Captain Brooks Mitchell has devoted his life to exploring the U.S. coastline's natural splendor. His 35-foot pontoon cruises the Intracoastal Waterway, indulging guests with 360-degree views of manatees, dolphins, and eagles. Captain Mitchell fosters a congenial atmosphere, stocking his pontoon with beverages and snacks, and, on some cruises, even inviting local musicians aboard to serenade passengers and drown out the mating call of passing tugboats.
In addition to a 10-acre hiking trail and one-arce swimming lake, Dog Wood Park offers a 25-acre enclosed field that lets pooches free to shirk their leashes and gambol with other dogs. Here, a sand pit invites unchecked digging, trees offer ample shade, and two swimming ponds help canines cool off. Though the atmosphere is playful, the park does have a few rules to maintain a safe space for dogs, owners, and mailmen. Male dogs must be neutered, for instance, and all owners must show proof of their pooch’s rabies vaccination. To ensure clean coats and picturesque scenery, bag stations, trash cans, and bathing stations abound.
When Gerald Bennett began work as head chef at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland, he was accustomed to whipping up dishes for celebrity clientele. But when the royal family of Dubai came to visit and he served them in their opulent suite, he never thought they'd ask him to leave with them as their personal chef. Since returning to the states and stepping into his role as the president of the Private Chef Association, Gerald has worked to bring his gastronomic prowess to the masses through Food Fun Adventure’s classes and tours. He passes along a visible passion for culinary fusion, which shines through in dishes blending French and Thai or American and German influences.
Culinary tours take participants to local sushi houses, steak houses, and bistros, each highlighting specialty dishes. When head chefs come out to greet their visitors, they often divulge culinary secrets and answer questions about curfew hours for free-range ingredients while doling out tapas and other small plates.
In a more hands-on culinary experience, customers gather in classes and learn to refine dishes based on a chosen theme. Using mostly local and organic ingredients in two kitchen classrooms, chefs show students how to craft delicacies such as scallion waffles with orange-zest chicken and tagine-roasted rack of lamb. In one kitchen, which doubles as an art gallery, knives flick through ingredients, and pots clatter at island stations and small burners. The company’s event center, Heaven, fills with chatter as up to 40 pairs of students filter in. Beneath projectors for screening chef demonstrations and documentaries about the life of a paring knife, separate kitchens equipped with ovens and burners fill with the bustle of creation, which gives way to reverent exhalations as patrons finally sample the fruits of their labor.
A not-for-profit initiative of the World Golf Foundation, The World Golf Hall of Fame pays homage to golf's most prolific players with a vast collection of historic artifacts and interactive exhibits. Audio tours narrate the intricacies of more than 175 points of interest, including a life-size replica of the Swilcan Bridge that highlights an exhibit honoring the sport's origins as an ancient Scottish frisbee game. A trip through golf's evolving history culminates in a Trophy Room at the pinnacle of a 110-foot tower, which provides rare glimpses at championship crowns and cups from tournaments such as the Ryder Cup. Outdoors, an 18-hole, natural-grass putting green invites visitors to test their swing in the shadow of golf's finest, complete with a challenge hole that mimics the famous 17th hole at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass and awards shots that land on the green with a special limited edition Induction Ceremony print. In its ongoing quest to treat guests to an immersive, larger-than-life experience, The World Golf Hall of Fame is also home to a six-story-tall IMAX screen that inundates the senses with digital surround sound and 3-D displays of full-length and documentary-style films.