Visiting The Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center is a lot like stepping into a nature documentary. Guests can take a self-guided journey to meet more than 200 creatures from across the world. They may stop by the habitats of the black and white ruffed lemur, the western bobcat, and the spotted leopard. Along the way, guests might learn a lot: for instance, that the Bennett's wallaby carries its young in a pouch, and that the critically-endangered cotton-top tamarin has lost more than 75% of its native habitat.
But in at least one way, the zoo accomplishes something that David Attenborough never could. Visitors can actually reach out and touch a creature during discovery programs. They can even adopt certain animals, perhaps helping provide tasty grasses and career guidance to a red kangaroo.
These programs exemplify the nonprofit zoo's dedication to wildlife education and awareness, something they hope to instill in their visitors from an early age. In the summer, educators spin "Animal Tales" for rapt young audiences and hold a Zoo Camp, where kids start to learn about diet and animal care. As kids' love of animals grows, the zoo invites them to volunteer as Crew in Training members. Once they hit college, students can become interns working on projects such as field studies of the patas monkey.
Open seven days a week, the Springfield JCC Health and Fitness Center revs up bodies with a plethora of popular classes on land and in its Olympic-sized pool. Upgrade your physique with a BodyPump class, which teaches the original barbell-based full-body weightlifting regimen created by the Olympian Les Mills. Or sway your way toward lean muscle tone with a Zumba class, which fuses Latin and international rhythms to create a fat-exhausting South American fitness-and-dance party. The aquatically inclined may perform water aerobics in the pool to receive the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise without stressing tender joints. Opt for enrollment in the masters swim program, and gain access to classes for beginners, advanced swimmers, aspiring triathletes, and those who are tired of swimming in seas of ambiguity.
The artists at Wine and Canvas awaken their students’ inner Rembrandts and Van Goghs with classes that pair a featured painting with specialty cocktails and wines. The mobile studio’s monthly calendar includes themed classes in which instructors expound on the nuances of painting Parisian street lamps, Japanese flowers, or Venetian cityscapes. The master painters—many of them local artists—provide step-by-step instructions while students mimic each stroke and periodically dip their brushes into glasses filled with crimson cabernet. Each of the studio’s various drink-friendly venues boasts a specialty libation selected to incite creativity or conversations with fellow painters. When the artistic frenzy concludes, students return home with a finished masterpiece large enough to conceal any wall safe or mirror portal.
Pioneer Valley Yoga offers daily stretch sessions in a variety of yogic disciplines. Pick a style and time from the class schedule, easing into a meditative and subtle mind space with Gentle Hatha or at last sweating off the bowling balls glued to your appendages with the motile poses of Hot Vinyasa.. The limb-contorting guidance of enthusiastic teachers will stretch the keyboard curl from carpal tunnel fingers, lower blood pressure, and straighten even the curviest postures. Students should bring along their own yoga mat (also available for rent), a towel, and water.
Paint Social Art combines the fun of drinking and conversing with friends with the opportunity to learn a little bit about painting. Lead artist chooses a single example painting for each class. After providing guests with all the necessary supplies, they break down how to recreate the image step by step. Guests can drink and snack as they work, since classes are generally held in local restaurants and bars. At the end of class, guests take home their own finished painting, earning an impressive 16"x20" piece of art ready for proud display.