Hailing from countries such as Germany, Russia, Italy, Poland, and Argentina, Starlight Dance Center's all-star instructors channel their experience in global competitions and performances while guiding students into the land of ballroom dancing. Three high-ceilinged ballrooms and a 4,000-square-foot performance floor set an elegant, roomy stage as instructors prepare children for recitals at the end of each course. They also teach adults to whirl and jive during group classes, which include weekly salsa parties and free mortgage-refinancing tips. To mix things up, Starlight Dance Center has created a Fit & Dance department where students can explore Zumba, belly dance, ballroom fitness, and total-body workouts.
A member of the American Montessori Society, Monarch Montessori School leads a variety of programs designed to educate children in the critical development period between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years old. Infants experience exercises that encourage sensory development and learn important motor and language skills through speaking and song. Toddlers work to improve their language and motor skills while grasping new concepts such as socializing and counting. Kids in their primary years develop more advanced, abstract concepts such as curiosity, respect for others, and responsibility.
At Revolution Cycling Studio, founder, certified spin expert, and personal trainer Traci Sakellakis leads a team of instructors who know firsthand how life-changing—perhaps even addictive—spinning can be. Class leader Jennifer Giordano became hooked on cycling almost by accident: one Saturday afternoon 10 years ago, her brother invited her for a "leisurely" bike ride that ended up stretching a whopping 33 miles. She rose to the occasion, and now encourages others to meet their own fitness goals. Additionally, fellow staffer Christian Ramos was overweight and out of shape before he started cycling, but has since lost more than 80 pounds and helps students do the same.
Motivating shouts and energizing beats from the sound system keeps students’ heart rates high as they pedal within the small, intimate studio. Some classes even feature themed music, such as tunes by "one-hit wonders" or a celebration of the British Invasion. Throughout the workout, the computerized Star Trac spinner bike provides continuous feedback on the exercisers' heart rate and distance travelled. The crew incorporates weight training and ab work into some sessions and also offers teen classes that are ideal for adolescent people or full-grown Keebler elves seeking stress relief.
A member of the United States Fencing Association, Rising Stars Fencing Academy sharpens skills in all three styles of the sport: foil, sabre, and epee. Founder and head coach Gary Dubrovich came to the U.S. from Belarus in 1989, and ever since, has instilled in his students exceptional technique and a modern understanding of the sport. At the RSFA facility, students of all experience levels thrust and jab through private lessons, group classes, and open bout sessions every day of the week.
When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
ReBar celebrates one of the grandest trinities in the American tradition: burgers, beer, and live music. Starting with 10-ounce Angus beef patties, cooks customize burgers to diners' specifications, or whip up one of their own from a succinct list of specialty burgers. Of course, a dish doesn't have to be a slab of beef between bread to make their menu. Cooks also branch out with Southern-style pulled pork and eight-ounce ribeyes, and roasted pork sandwiches with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. To wash it all down, they turn things over to bartenders, who pour drafts of everything from a selection of 20 craft brews such as Brooklyn Lager and Magic Hat #9 to good ol' Pabst Blue Ribbon. Although ReBar's patio is open for both lunch and dinner, evening meals are often punctuated by musical performances from local bands who enhance the bar's all-American eats with the sounds of wailing electric guitars and rhythms synced to the hoofbeats of Paul Revere's ride.