Laced with the sounds of water churned by unseen forces, the thick air that hangs above the Everglades whispers the rhythms of gator country. The murky water—obscured further by curtains of cattails and floating lily pads—defies human incursion, its protective spells demystified only by the airboat captains of Sawgrass Recreation Park, who gamely shuttle laypersons through the swamp in tours by day and night. While gliding across the shallows at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, guides halt the propellers of their enormous fans to point out wildlife—which include alligators and various waterfowl—and impart nuggets of history from the days when the Seminole and panther once shared their claim over the terrain. As a part of a conservationist group's effort to educate the public about ongoing rescue efforts in the Everglades, the exotic-wildlife exhibit brings guests face to face with the swamp's most majestic rarities, including black leopards and Florida panthers. In the park's reptile exhibit, dozens of scaly creatures count among them a 1,000-pound alligator named Cannibal, and guests can cradle prehistoric cuties in the Hold a Baby Alligator experience. The Glades Exhibit animals exhibit encourages guests to meet or catch a glimpse of pigs, bunnies, and ducks, letting guests establish a deeper bond with the denizens of the swamp.
Operated by a family of lifelong riders from Colombia, LFE Riding Institute shares with its students the ins and outs of horsemanship. The stable's instructors customize adult and kids' lessons to each individual’s learning style and goals, which might range from competition riding to Dudley Do-Right impersonation. During lessons and children’s summer-camp sessions, youngsters have a chance to gain self-confidence on top of riding skills.
Little Java's Family Fun Center entertains kids and parents alike with a 12,000-square-foot indoor playground and onsite café. Young guests remove their sneakers and enter the carpeted play palace in socks. Once inside, tykes can spend an entire day leaping upon safari-themed bounce houses, scaling colorful slides, and accumulating enough static electricity to coax balloons out of a clown's bouquet. The play center strives to enliven imaginations and improve motor skills with age-appropriate activities, creative toys, and stimulating video games. As whippersnappers wander, parents can supervise from a commodious lounge featuring a WiFi-equipped coffee bar and full menu of sandwiches, salads, and kids meals (café fare is not included in today's Groupon).
Strikers Family Sportscenter invites guests to perfect their pin felling on 1 of 40 lanes. Bowlers handpick their favorite from a selection of neon balls and watch the 42-inch scoring monitors come to life with animated computer graphics. On weekend nights, flashing lights and music break up the rolling repetition during Rockin' Roll glow bowl. For cross-training, the arcade keeps bowling arms in tip-top shape with skee-ball and whack-a-duck. The snack bar restores nutrients lost performing the worm down an opponent's lane, frying chicken fingers and onion rings to a crisp and peppering 14-inch pizzas with a choice of 10 colorful toppings.
As a child, M&M Stables' head trainer, instructor, and guide, Melissa loved strolling down woodland trails on the back of a horse. A rider and competitor since the age of six, Melissa’s passion for horses now fuels her career at M&M Stables. Today, she can be found in the saddle training others how to care for and ride horses for fun or during competitions. She also leads trail rides throughout the surrounding equestrian park, giving clients a way to explore neighborhoods atop something other than a bike or a pilfered riding mower.
Lazy Meadows Farm's internationally trained and USDF-certified owner, Michele Herrmann, focuses exclusively on studying and sharing dressage-style riding with students of all experience levels. Novice riders learn to trot from within two riding arenas, while more advanced riders gallop and prance past wavering palms and rustling pines. The docile equine animals inhabit 14 dressage stalls that share a verdant 5.5-acre landscape with a terra-cotta-roofed barn and a stock of big cats for very advanced riders.