With his white hair and mustache and his penchant for hot air balloons, Wil LaPointe often jokes that he looks like the Wizard from The Wizard of Oz. On every balloon ride, LaPointe wants to create an unforgettable experience for his basket of passengers, peppering historical tidbits about early ballooning with jokes and stories such as the history of the white tiger adorning one of the balloons in his fleet. The white tiger, a ward of LaPointe’s friend—a wildlife caretaker—was one of three cubs abandoned by their mother and eventually raised by an open-minded golden retriever.
Though LaPointe is a self-proclaimed “balloonatic,” he got into the business of ballooning by chance when he bought a hot air balloon to advertise for his cellular-phone business. Today, LaPointe works as a master instructor of ballooning, training new pilots in addition to travelling to schools with miniature balloons, which he uses to teach hands-on lessons about mathematics, physics, and engineering.
LaPointe was featured on CNN.com after donating a balloon ride in his deceased wife’s name to Cy Breen, who raises funds for cancer research, on Breen's 100th birthday. Breen, who raises money each year by shooting one hole of golf for each birthday he’s had, did a little jig as he walked over to the white-tiger balloon, eager to check another item off his list of lifelong dreams.
Technique Training and Fitness Center’s 10,000-square-foot facility boasts a full range of cross-training equipment that helps everyone from seasoned athletes to beginner exercisers get fit. Gym-goers can join other like-minded individuals during classes such as Brazilian Body and Cardio Bag, which use 150-pound hanging bags to tone, gain balance, and build speed. Additionally, the staff helps guests reach their fitness goals with personal-training sessions and custom meal plans.
At The Living Desert, a dedicated conservation team tends to plants and animals populating more than 1,800 acres of desert—1,000 of which remain in their natural, undisturbed state. In addition to protecting the Colorado Desert's native population of birds, wolves, reptiles, and minotaurs, The Living Desert houses bighorn sheep, cheetahs, striped hyenas, leopards, and parrots from arid regions throughout the globe. Through annual contributions, members of the nonprofit organization help preserve the Colorado Desert and bolster the population of endangered desert species. Members also gain unlimited access to the park, discounts in the gift shop, and invitations to special events, such as the annual member-cheetah race.
For decades, American Bartenders School has helped aspiring spirit spreaders to develop steady hands, sure eyes for measurement, and an encyclopedic drink-formula knowledge. All of the school's classes cover basic mixing, garnishing, layering, and glassware selection in a realistic bar setting, complete with animatronic bar regulars debating whether Woody Allen is currently the president of Azerbaijan. Students gain access to a book of recipes for shooters, including cosmos, lemon drops, and jelly beans; learn how to make frozen specialties and hot toddies; and discover how to cure hangovers and hiccups. For the 12-hour bartending-certification course, graduation sessions are held where the instructors offer helpful tips on how to get hired as a bartender, before returning home with a mixology certificate, professional resumé, and the ability to set up and stock their own home bars, all of which make a classy addition to living rooms, lounges, and butler traps.
The lithe instructors at Bikram Yoga University Village guide students through famed yogi Bikram Choudhury's 26 poses and two breathing exercises within a balmy, spa-like studio. During 90-minute routines, thermometers in the CO2-controlled room hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity and a 0% chance of rain to aid in stretching and in the body's detox potential. The studio's slip-resistant carpet keeps poses firmly intact, and UV lighting helps repel bacteria and class-disrupting vampires. During classes, floor-length mirrors help students perfect their poses, and the facility's well-maintained locker rooms wash away one's hard-earned sweat afterward.
Ristorante Mamma Gina transports the tastes of northern Italy, where its parent restaurant stands in Florence, to the stomachs of eager diners. During dinner, the zuppa papa al pomodoro swathes palates in the warmth of herbal tomato flavors ($8.25), and the lemon-vinaigrette-marinated, thin-sliced artichokes of the carciofi empolese gently rouse taste buds to attention ($11.90). Over the crisply baked eggplant of the melanzane al forno, families can bask in conversation or arm-wrestle their grandparents ($23.90). Meanwhile, lunch-goers enjoy a menu of treats such as the grilled panino filetto, a combination of filet mignon and avocado slathered in light mustard dressing ($13.90).