Before paved streets and residential blocks took its place, a maze of wetlands rife with rustling wildlife thrived in Central Florida. Such a scene is hard to imagine amid a backdrop of loud car horns, but skeptical visitors to The Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science can travel back in time and see it for themselves on a stroll through the museum’s 19.5-acre nature preserve.
This remarkable preserve joins special exhibits dedicated to regional and cultural artifacts in fulfilling the museum’s mission to keep Florida’s heritage alive in the minds of its current inhabitants. Since the nonprofit facility first opened in 1973, an influx of state and philanthropic funding has spawned further expansion. One of the most crucial add-ons, the Taylor Wing, now houses a nonstop procession of visiting exhibitions and the kid-themed Imagination Center, where young hands can touch actual fossils of mammoths and 8-track tapes. Popular ongoing exhibits include large dioramas of local ecosystems and the Windover Story exhibit, which illustrates how the residents of Brevard County lived 7,000 years ago.
As a conglomerate of paintball facilities, Paintballtickets.com is a one-stop shop for weekend warriors seeking some chromatic outdoor combat. Partnering with fields across the country, the company helps players live out their battlefield fantasies, whether they're sneaking up on an enemy installation, executing tactic strategies, or painting Water Lilies on the chest of a charging opponent.
A few minutes from the sun-kissed sands of Cocoa Beach, things get a little colder. At Space Coast Iceplex, a 20,000 square foot International Ice Surface provides a fun place to cool off, offering public skating hours, hockey programs, and classes that help skating newbies acquire their ice legs. On Saturday nights, skaters glide to tunes spun by a live DJ as special effects lights illuminate the rink, and snack and sports bars continue to fuel the fun for skaters who need a break between laps.
River Lanes Family Entertainment Center's brightly hued retro-chic lanes, arcade games, and on-site restaurant proffer diversions for every brand of bowler. Art imitates life beneath murals of flying, freshly clobbered pins, as strikers in disinfected bowling shoes strut down one of 32 alleys, lobbing balls with maximum velocity. Gather up to five peers or steely-eyed highwaymen in a lounge-style lane, complete with a couch and high table with bar stools, or crouch around a glow-in-the-dark table decorated with a skyline built of pins. An automatic scoring system takes note of every point while offering technique advice for subsequent turns. Lively 3-D graphics celebrate each move with animated scenes, such as cowboys shooting down spares and dancing mothers screaming at foul-mouthed gutter balls.
David Lane and his business partner started their sports-rental shop inside a cramped garage filled with surfboards, kayaks, and paddleboards—items they used for sports they practiced themselves. Lane’s favorite part of his job is “helping people participate in the activities I enjoy,” and his business has grown to a full-size store that stocks paddleboards, surfboards, and bicycles and leads guided excursions. Inside, displays house surfboards adorned with sunsets, beaches, and coconut trees hand-painted by a local artist, alongside similarly painted canvases to display at home galleries or hang on monochromatic surfers. The owners also deliver rentals free of charge to customers, dropping off surfboards at the beach, taking kayaks to watery trails, or delivering bicycles to cruise ships’ port of call for passenger day trips.
Additionally, the store offers excursions and lessons, including surfing lessons, guided kayak trips, and adventurous surf-fishing trips to hook ocean creatures from tarpon to 9-foot sharks, which the store has helped tag for a research project with NOAA Apex Predators Program.
Plantation Pet Resort helps pets feel at home by giving them ample exercise and attention on 11 acres of grassy play space. Dogs bound into the day at 7:30 a.m., roaming in two shaded outdoor play yards—one for big dogs and one for small. A fenced grassy area provides plentiful space for energetic games of frisbee, fetch, and Pin the Tail on the Schnauzer. Canines barrel across turf and engage in friendly tussles for two hours as staff members give pets’ heated and air-conditioned suites a thorough clean. Happily weary dogs are led back to their spacious accommodations for breakfast and a nap, returning outside four to five more times during the day for a half hour or more. At night, TVs, DVDs, and radios keep pets from missing the comforts of home and the antics of favorite talk-show hosts.