Visitors to Florida EcoSafaris get a close look at the state's distinct flora and fauna during thrilling outdoor adventures. The Coach Safari whisks riders on a two-hour open-air jaunt through a 4,700-acre wildlife-conservation area rich with streams and forests. Naturalist guides delve into the natural history of the region's nine ecosystems, which house species including alligators, Florida panthers, and herds of roving photo opportunities. Visitors can also take in sweeping views of the nearby wetlands and their many residents, including countless kinds of birds and white-tailed deer. For equestrian adventurers, safaris on horseback take riders through scenic trails used by Native Americans in the 1500s.
Florida EcoSafaris' EcoPark adds to its Cypress Canopy Cycle adventure-which sends visitors rolling along steel cables in a suspended, pedal-powered cart that doubles as a spy machine for squirrels-with five new and recently renovated zipline adventures. Guests fly high through the air at 30 miles per hour with the Peregrine Plunge and Zipline Safari or leap off 55- or 68-feet platforms during controlled-free-fall adventures. No matter what activity guests participate in, Florida EcoSafaris donates a portion of all proceeds to the Allen Broussard Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the preservation of Florida's ecosystems and wildlife.
There’s nothing like skimming across Lake Tohopekaliga’s surface, propelled by a 500hp fan. That’s the thrilling experience offered by the Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours, which drift in the gentle marsh to catch sights of great blue herons, 12-foot alligators, snails, and other native creatures. All the while, your guide will provide expert information on the lake and the surrounding terrain, plus help you spot the wildlife.
While other tour guides pack groups into 12-passenger boats, Wild Willy’s keeps it passenger numbers low to reduce weight and increase speed. Up to six guests can board one of the airboat, which sail past reeds and Spanish moss before. Afterwards, you can take pictures with resident baby gators Thunder and Half-Stripe in the visitors’ center. And safety is a major focus at Wild Willy’s—guests should arrive 15 minutes before their tour time to receive a Coast Guard-required talk about safety.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores with Pilates, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates to the pulsating soundtracks of Les Mills routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
Locally owned and operated by two women bursting with St. Cloud pride, All Hitched Up proffers private horse-pulled carriage rides steered by carriage operator Teresa Pedley. As horse hooves clop gently down the street, couples can snuggle up and inhale fresh air on a ride through St. Cloud's downtown and along the East Lake Toho shorefront. Patrons who opt for transit to Crabby Bill's must secure a reservation there first before enjoying a 15-minute ride to the lakefront eatery. After dining on mussels, grouper, or other seafood specialties, pairs hop back into the carriage for a leisurely return to their starting point.
On its own, a simple visit to the charming neighborhood of Harmony could be refreshing. Punctuate it with a glass of your favorite wine or beer at The Vineyard, though, and suddenly that visit reaches a whole new level of relaxation. If you come hungry, don't worry or begin gnawing on the stemware—to match its worldly spirits, the Vineyard also doles out inspired tapas, such as potato skins loaded with pulled pork and jalapeño-stuffed pretzels served with Guinness-honey-mustard sauce. A full kids menu makes The Vineyard especially welcoming to families, and live music often caps off visits with tunes from budding artists.
If the fresh air at St. Cloud Marina Lakefront Park doesn't clear your head, the peaceful practice of qi gong might. Here, an instructor from Autumn Moon Tai Chi Fitness leads 40-minute circular-movement classes in the early morning and evening. The ancient Chinese practice not only clears the mind, but also boosts balance and blood flow and eases pain affecting the joints and back.