Culled from the noggin of course-crafter John Sanford, the Dogwood course at Garden Valley merges Champion bermuda greens with Lake Butler's lapping shores to forge an unforgettable 6,840 yards of play. Towering pine trees blanket golf carts in shadows, cooling players as they ponder the best methods to evade the course's many water hazards and rolling hills, where distracted golfers often sacrifice games, stopping to paint the picturesque East Texas landscape.
Guests may also admire the scenery from the onsite restaurant, which serves house-made omelets and crisp salads. The eatery resides below the clubhouse’s vaulted ceilings, in addition to a fully equipped pro shop and an outdoor terrace overlooking the 18th green. Across the street lies the Garden Valley Sports Complex, a 24-hour facility filled with fitness machines and free weights that help patrons to burn fat beside an indoor basketball court and a refreshing pool relatively free of feral manatees.
Whispering Winds Training Center’s resident trainer and instructor Debbie Lavallee disseminates her equine expertise and lifelong passion to students through riding lessons. Debbie trained for nearly five years in Germany, where she studied the riding style of dressage, a sport in which the rider guides the horse in performing smooth athletic feats and must refrain from rewarding the animal with cheddarwurst. Though the center specializes in dressage, it can also accommodate western-style riding, since its primary focus is fostering communication between horse and rider, regardless of style.
Surrounded by swaying trees and fresh air, the five ziplines of Zip Nac’s adrenaline-pumping course speed gliders through 90-minute trips across a towering forest canopy. Participants begin standing atop the first platform, then careen down lines ranging from a quick 225 feet to an invigorating 900-foot dual line that pairs riders side by side for races to the bottom or private auditions for the Miss Wind Tunnel competition. Seasoned guides help patrons strap into each line, where they can take solo trips. Little ones (weighing 60 pounds or less) can ride tandem with a guide, ensuring that every member of the family can zoom through the tree tops. In between lines two and three, visitors traverse the 60-foot sky bridge, which allows brief moments of repose amid the verdant outdoor setting. Gliders can rent GoPro cameras for a fee to capture their zipline experience on video. Nighttime zipline sessions grant heart-pumping adventures in the dark without the hassle of helping Edgar Allan Poe find the fuse box. Zip Nac also offers onsite overnight accommodations at their Zip Inn.
Rebel Race's military-style obstacle courses challenge athletes from all backgrounds to shed humdrum day-to-day routines to experience the primal joys of mud, sweat and glory. Emerging from the mire in various states across the country, each Rebel Race packs its rucksack with tests of physical and mental toughness, rousing racers and washing machines alike to triumph in the face of sloppy opposition. After dashing through fire, climbing walls, and scaling mountains of hay, race participants bask in the collective kudos of parties, which include live entertainment, food, and beer for purchase. Camping options encourage participants and spectators to transform races into weekend getaways, while awards recognize each day's standout competitors and most-humble mud pits.
For nearly a decade, the nationally certified instructors at ATA Family Martial Arts have taught students how to block, strike, and kick in a series of self-defense patterns. Classes for kids as young as 4 focus on coordination, listening skills, and confidence, and adult-geared classes teach sparring and weapons training.
At Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, experienced instructors strive not only to equip students with water-safety skills but to instill a lifelong passion for swimming. To this end, they limit classes to no more than four swimmers to ensure individual attention, and they divide students into eight swimming levels to keep classes challenging. Once students progress to a more advanced swim level, instructors congratulate them with a ribbon and swim certificate, which students can fold into a paper boat and rescue from sinking. In addition to swim lessons, Aqua-Tots Swim Schools hosts family-friendly events throughout the year, from birthday parties to CPR classes.