The Alafia River slowly flows along the edge of Misty Farms, where 15 acres of woodsy terrain serve as an idyllic training ground for horses and their owners. As steeds sleep in 12'x12' matted stalls or search for misplaced lottery tickets in the fenced-off grass jumping fields, the staff of trainers teaches lessons that foster camaraderie between riders and mounts with topics ranging from basic care to more complicated jumps and show maneuvers. Outside the paddocks, visitors hop on the saddle for trail rides along the river, enjoying the slow gait of a quiet trek in the woods or a speedy gallop of a train-robbery getaway.
At HorseFleet Academy, experienced equestrian Kat Wiggins hones the horseback acumen of riders both new and seasoned during focused, private lessons. Specializing in English–style riding, Wiggins helps beginners of all ages learn the basics of balance and control before they attempt to jump gorges, ford rivers, or lasso another rider’s lasso. More advanced students can display the fruits of their training at local horse shows or attend clinics to learn among expert riders and show judges.
Paintballers traverse the postapocalyptic world of Köhn Sports Paintball Park aboard a haunted hayride, battling hoards of zombies in a fight to save humanity by transporting the zombie cure. Guests don the provided facemask, grab their rental zombie blaster, and unleash colorful wrath upon battalions of the undead for a 45-minute experience as thrilling and challenging as playing Red Rover with boa constrictors. While vehicles meander along the torch-lined path through 50 acres of eerie props, teams unload 200 rounds of paint on zombies, whose rotting brains don't allow them to wield guns and fire back. After escaping, sharpshooters hoof it through the haunted path to deliver the cure to the endpoint, celebrating their success by sipping cups of hot apple cider, snapping a group photo, and shaving their postapocalyptic beards.
The Florida Aquarium gives families a glimpse into the mysteries and magic of the undersea world. Marine life exhibits spotlight the creatures that live in the bay or deeper underwater, even allowing kids to touch rays and sharks at the new Stingray Beach or lock eyes with sea turtles. Kids also see the sights of a 60-foot dive at the coral-reef exhibit's walk-through tunnel, whose underwater coral cave and brightly colored fish earned the aquarium a place in Parents magazine's top 10 aquariums for kids. A trip down the Wetlands Trail allows visitors to get face to face with playful otters and more circumspect Burmese pythons, while the Penguin Point opens a window into the lives of the best dressed of the flightless water birds.
Splitsville appeases appetites for flavorful fusion cuisine while satisfying fun glands with ample bowling and dancing opportunities. Among racks of vibrant, multicolored bowling balls and one of the world's largest pins, bowl over taste buds with an eclectic menu of contemporary cuisine. Sample a fresh selection from the sea with an array of artful sushi favorites, including california, volcano, and spicy-tuna tempura rolls ($7–$13). Those who wish to exercise their landlubbing legs can stay dry with saucy pizza delights ($9–$12). Educate tongues with one of Splitsville's specialty pies, such as the Island Club or Big Fat Greek, or build your own with an adequate supply of dough blocks, cheese cement, and pepperoni nails. To fully satisfy cravings for fancy fare, sink incisors into a signature plate, featuring the mahi-mahi tuna with voodoo shrimp to enchant molars and the chicken pinot grigio to intoxicate tonsils ($8–$19). While exploring the culinary possibilities, sip from a selection of specialty cocktails served in fishbowl-style stemware, in case you want to replenish the goldfish residing in your pocket that were pawned off the neighbor's kids.
Lauded by Creative Loafing for its "multi-sensory approach to historical storytelling," the Tampa Bay History Center uses its 60,000-square-foot space to display immersive exhibits on 12,000 years of Tampa history. Historically-curious visitors can browse the center's interactive exhibits, including the story theater, which tells the dramatic story of Chief Coacoochee during the Second Seminole War. Browse through artifacts from Florida’s cigar trade, including a replica of a 1920s cigar store, an ideal exhibit to take any uncles that believe they've switched bodies with Groucho Marx. A new temporary exhibit, Blue and Gray in Tampa Bay: The Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast opens January 10, 2011, joining exhibits on cattle ranching, European exploration, and the civil rights movement.