Traditionally, if you wanted to find out the length of a giraffe's tongue, you'd have to hide in a tree with a ready hand and a yardstick. Utah's Hogle Zoo has streamlined the process, however: one of its animal encounters allows guests to feed the long-necked creatures alongside a keeper, who will happily tell you that their purple tongues stretch for 20 inches. The giraffes are just one of more than 800 animals inside the zoo grounds. Spanning 42 acres of verdant hillside property, the exhibits strive to showcase fauna in arenas that mimic their natural habitats.
The polar bear inside Rocky Shores—the zoo's largest exhibit to date—lumbers through a landscape inspired by North America's western coast, with a pool that affords guests underwater views of the bear’s attempts to secure its swim cap. Snow leopards, Siberian lynxes, and amur tigers prowl the Himalayan-inspired scenery of the Asian Highlands. At Elephant Encounter's African Lodge, visitors can touch an elephant skull or a rhino horn before glimpsing the pachyderms in the flesh. Summer shows send eagles and hawks swooping overhead in the Wildlife Theatre. From loping wolves and toothy crocodiles to the sagely gorillas of the Great Apes house, the beasts all benefit from the staff's enrichment efforts, which encourage learning as well as instinctual behaviors.
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Utah's Hogle Zoo demonstrates a commitment to wildlife conservation that extends beyond its gates. Many of its special events contribute funds to preservation programs. For example, the Orange Utahn Art show raises donations for endangered primates, selling original works by both local artists and the zoo's orangutans, who compose colorful paintings. Guests can even get a closer look at imperiled species by saddling up on top of one—the Conservation Carousel arrays 42 hand-carved sculptures of at-risk animals, such as the red panda, the giant panda, and the false panda, which is just a black poodle that rolled in some paint.
Bumper cars collide, mini roller coasters swerve along tracks, and tubes weave around slides at a soft play area inside The Hollywood Connection's 160,000-square-foot facility. Roller or inline skates glide to pop and rock tunes in a rink illumined with cyber lights and IntelliBeam, and the laser-tag arena glows in neon paint, black lights, and fireflies that carry demands across enemy lines. Elsewhere, golf balls tumble down greens toward 18 holes with themes such as the Old West, an underwater cove, and the prehistoric era. An arcade hosts more than 100 driving, racing, and combat-simulator video games, and a 15-screen Carmike Ritz movie theater treats up to 2,000 viewers to new releases on digital, 3-D-capacity screens. Visitors can reenergize between attractions with popcorn or snow cones from the snack stand (open Friday–Sunday), nab cones from the ice-cream parlor, and shape stacks of nachos into pompadours at the '50s-themed diner.
Benjamin Allen believes outdoor pursuits can positively influence those in need. This belief has led him all over the continent, building a ropes course for an orphanage in Mexico and setting up two courses for troubled youth at Provo Canyon School, a bit closer to home. Wanting to share his knowledge of nature with the public, he set up a course, CLAS Ropes Course, near Utah Lake nearly 20 years ago. Benjamin and his crew have since erected more than 50 ropes courses around the country, continuing to inspect ropes and train others how to run them.
CLAS Ropes Course continues to grow each year, creating obstacles such as a giant swing that releases passengers 40 feet in the air, a 400-foot zipline that whizzes through forest canopy, and a "leap of faith," where adventure seekers jump from a treetop platform to a trapeze. A log balance beam hung 30 feet above the ground and a 24-foot-tall rock-climbing tower test agility and endurance, and a fleet of 20 canoes lets paddlers navigate a mile and a half of river. Many of these structures play host to team-building activities focused on developing a group's creativity and tolerance for hearing one another sing. Staff members tailor their instruction to families, dating groups, or athletic teams. They often apply their approach to athletes, such as a professional golfer who traveled all the way from Texas hoping to conquer her fear of not qualifying for tournaments. She defeated the log balance beam, departed victorious, and qualified during her next tryout two weeks later.
Run Jump-n-Play takes away Mother Nature's power to spoil a day of fun. No matter if it's hailing or raining, the haven gives kids a space to do all activities recommended in its name. Indoor playground sessions feature swings, slides, trampolines, and basketball hoops, whereas open inflatable play lets wee ones bounce and climb to their hearts' content. Not only can they play ball in inflatable arenas, they can also explore an inflatable ocean filled with sharks, dolphins, and treasure, or head to the Cosmic Glo arena for glow-in-the-dark bowling and golf. Taken as a whole, Run Jump-n-Play becomes not only a great place for children to burn off steam, but also a favorite spot to celebrate birthdays and work through an irrational fear of air.
Pole Expression founder Jennifer Wilkins blazes an alternative path to fitness by formulating pole-based workouts that are as fun as they are functional. A fitness columnist for Pole2Pole magazine who's also been on its cover, Wilkins has a strong industry presence that's won her and her method awards in Pole Dance International magazine for Best Instructor and Best Training Method. She's also a sponsor and a judge at the nation's largest pole-dancing championship.
Eschewing pole-bound acrobatics in favor of muscular isolations, the studio’s signature JW Pole Fitness classes utilize the signature support beam as a prop to help create muscle stability and burn calories, all without risk of injury. Because it doesn’t involve spins or inversions, the JW method is appropriate for students of any fitness level, and can even be employed to assist those overcoming injury or a childhood fear of lampposts. For those looking for a higher-energy exercise routine, pole-dancing classes exalt feminine curves through a graduated program that guides dancers from grounded moves to gymnastics-inspired toning to the saving of flags stuck high atop the Space Needle.
More traditional fitness comes in the form of Turbo Kick and yoga, which fosters flexibility through aligned posture and held poses, as well as Pilates classes, during which instructors target the torso's core muscles to boost bodily stability without fashioning toe rings made of lead. Check the studio's class calendar for a schedule of upcoming sessions.
As one of America's oldest and final bastions of the pizza, arcade, and animatronic-variety-show trifecta, Chuck E. Cheese upholds an important entertainment legacy. Though their core philosophy and slogan, "Where a Kid Can Be a Kid," sounds like a simple-enough mantra to maintain, many years have passed since Atari inventor Nolan Bushnell opened the first location in San Jose.
Despite the ever-changing nature of entertainment consumption, Chuck E. Cheese has done nothing but flourish. Intrinsic to this continuing knack for capturing kids' imaginations is its incorporation of modern entertainment and adherence to the robotic act that got it started in the first place. Chuck, Jasper T. Jowls, and Helen Henny are all still there, suspending a new generation's disbelief in gargantuan singing animals. Their charms, though, have been bolstered for the appetites of modern kids with more immersive games, wilder rides, and sweeter prizes.
Skytubes traverse the ceilings as an oversize human Habitrail, offering fantastical escape for energetic kids above the lights and sounds of the arcade. Staples such as skee ball and hoops now stand alongside sense-saturating simulator rides and the latest video games. At many locations, even the variety show has been modernized for the digital era. In its place is an interactive experience dubbed Studio C, where, thanks to bluescreens and video cameras, kids get to jam with Mr. Cheese himself.