Engines start to roar, propellers spin, and a large parachute expands into the sky, carrying a light aircraft and its passengers toward the clouds. Silver Lining Aviation's certified instructors create adventures like this every day as they teach visitors to soar behind the controls of sport aircrafts such as powered parachutes, weight-shift trikes, and gyroplanes. Led by licensed FAA flight instructor Craig Ewing, Silver Lining's team takes prospective pilots on introductory flights that allow them to experience aircrafts such as the Airwolf 912 and nibble on different flavors of clouds. The aviation experts also sell sport aircrafts, which patiently wait onsite as customers work through custom ground- and flight-training programs. In most cases, the flight instructors prepare their pupils for aerial navigation in as little as two weeks. They also assist new pilots with replacement parts, provide 24/7 support, and cook oil soup to feed hungry aircraft.
The Punta Gorda Club unleashes muscular potential with an on-site nutritionist, a well-equipped gym, six clay tennis courts, and more than 80 group fitness classes each week. During a one-on-one nutrition consultation and dietary analysis (a $99 value), the club's food guru will discuss each client's eating habits, then draft a written meal plan that outlines what flavors of Twinkies they're allowed to eat. Additionally, an unlimited one-month membership (a $90 value, including enrollment fee) lets patrons loose to toughen tendons on the gym's playground of cardio machines, free weights, and step-aerobics teeter-totters. Members can also choose from more than 11 types of group fitness classes such as yoga, spinning, and Pilates, to tone their tummies in tandem or swat serves on six clay tennis courts.
Closer to the Vine's menu of café fare collects an assortment of light bites, sandwiches, coffee, and microbrews. Customers can scarf down a vegan panini filled with hummus and marinated portobello mushrooms ($7.95) or savor a smoked-salmon plate accompanied by cream cheese, cucumbers, and capers ($9.95). For patrons with reservations on Friday and Saturday evenings, beer-based cheddar fondue ($10) awaits dips from fresh vegetables, and semi-sweet chocolate fondue ($15) coats the bittersweet reminiscences of granny smith apples. As they sink into sofas or admire Floridian sunsets from an outdoor perch, diners can wash down solid grub with pours of wine from the diverse menu including selections from New Zealand, Chile, and Napa Valley, or opt for a microbrew, cup of coffee, or tea. In addition to offering complimentary WiFi, Closer to the Vine hosts local musicians every Friday and Saturday night and always welcomes visits from canine companions with water bowls, treats, and scratch 'n' sniff translations of the Wall Street Journal.
In the 1890's, the only liquids being served at The Ice House Pub were not actually in liquid form. They were ice. And that's because the historic building was originally built as an ice plant for the fishing industry. Now, more than a century later, the landmark building spends its days and nights as a local, English-style pub that boasts an authentic menu of English eats and more than 150 different types of international draft and bottled brews, from Guinness to American favorites like Stone Brewery and Yuengling.
A wooden, high-vaulted ceiling looks down on the pub's tall, brick walls - one of which holds a 10 foot HD television - as diners rest at wooden tables, plunging forks into steaming plates of cottage pie and fish and chips, as well as American bar favorites such as beer battered onion rings and Angus beef burgers. In between bites, guests can take turns pummeling steel-tipped darts into ten regulation-sized boards or take advantage of the pub's other games, such as hot gluing dominoes pieces to snooker balls. The Ice House also regularly hosts dart leagues for men, women, and co-ed teams, and live entertainment in the evenings.
The recipe: take 5 miles of mud trails, fill them with more than 25 obstacles, add snow, and serve. The Badass Bash obstacle course is more than a race—it's a battle where competitors learn what they are made of. Across the 5-mile course, participants dash, clamber, and crawl through and over a series of obstacles inspired by firefighter, police, and military training. The favorites are back (Target Practice, Submarine Mines, and Check the Attic, among others), but there's also The Badass Bash's take on holiday cheer: Santa's Sack, Chimney Sweep, Don't Drop the Ornament, and more. But the real kicker is the snow. The event's organizers haul in a bunch of the cold white stuff, adding a chilly but festive note to the high-octane event. While adults are getting their hands dirty, kids 12 and younger can do the same on their own 0.5-mile course, the Kick Butt Kids Elf Bash. After the race, guests can mingle at the after party, which is livened up by free beer and live entertainment.
A portion of the proceeds of The Badass Bash benefits three fire, police, and veterans’ charities. All of the proceeds from the Kick Butt Kids Bash go to Caleb's Crusade, which helps children and families who are battling pediatric cancer.
Riding Star Ranch, a nonprofit organization, aims to heal people and horses with the physical and emotional benefits afforded by trail rides and riding lessons. The ranch’s team takes in unwanted, neglected, or abused animals and rehabilitates them, transforming them into confident, happy horses that students can ride.
During lessons, riders earn ribbons through the American Association of Riding Schools program, collecting them for learning how to properly groom and ride in disciplines such as hunter/jumper, English pleasure, and Western pleasure. And although taking a trail ride to the Carlton Reserve and the Myakka River will not win riders any ribbons, they are welcome to pin themselves with their own awards and medals before climbing aboard trusty steeds.