The U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team's commercially certified balloonists captain sightseeing flights over Lancaster County or Philadelphia's countryside. Each balloon has been maintained, inspected, and twisted into animal shapes in accordance with FAA regulations, setting sky-borne passengers' minds at ease as they drift among the clouds. On the Lancaster County trip, passengers soak up views of the Susquehanna River and the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, and peer down at the area's Amish population dotting the farmland far below. Before alighting as gently as a moth with a sore toe, balloonists take in the skyline of Reading as well as the nearby towns of Intercourse, New Holland, Strasburg, and Ephrata.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award–winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
A totem pole shaped like a four-scoop ice-cream cone stands as a beacon in front of Jim Mack's Ice Cream, beckoning passers-by to experience the nostalgic establishment's homemade ice cream, 24-hole miniature-golf course, and resident black bear, Ricky. The ice-cream stand and snack shop, which opened in 1958, crafts a menu of ice cream, malts, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and other specialties. The outdoor picnic area allows guests to enjoy their treats to the sounds of chirping birds and whistling winds, which also serve as the mini-golf course's full-time commentators. The expansive, family-friendly facility also features a pinball arcade and a miniature zoo. Llamas and goats roam the petting-zoo area, grazing from the delicious pellets that grow in children's hands. The facility's mascot, Ricky the bear, also greets guests from inside of her large enclosure where she climbs on logs and tells jokes for nickels.
At Markie's Mini-Golf, flowing brooks meander through rocky outcroppings and pristine greens that span 26,000 square feet across 18 holes. The course's nature-inspired layout snakes through caves and around a central waterfall, which flows into a fountain that summons thirsty golf balls. Groups putt around the pintsized course before lapping up sweet, hand-dipped scoops of Nelson's ice cream in an air-conditioned snack area. The frosty treats can be consumed around indoor tables or outside at picnic tables.
Teams clad in protective goggles scatter into a mountain field thick with laurel, rhododendron, and brier as they seek cover, their markers locked and loaded. Hearing paintballs whiz through the brush, a player dives into prone position. Adjusting her goggles after colliding with the ground, the combatant freezes, notices the silhouette of a whitetail deer crouched in the brush just yards away, and lets down her guard long enough to appreciate the moment before taking new aim.
At Pocono Mountain Paintball, players step onto 12 fields—including three scenario fields—ranging from untouched natural terrain to 1,700 feet of trenches and sandbag bunkers. To maximize players' game time, Pocono's staff maintains a reservation system that limits the fields to 100 players per day. Further touches include camouflage overall rentals, an online FAQ with participant advice, and changing rooms with hot showers so players can spruce up before meeting Mom for a post-game debriefing. Pocono's crew also coordinates rafting, biking, and kayaking packages through partner company Whitewater Rafting Adventures.
Going against convention, the staff of Skydive Collegeville prioritize first-time jumpers over established divers. That's because their main focus is giving novices the best possible introduction to the sport, providing a laid-back atmosphere free from pressure or intimidation. During introductory lessons, their male and female certified tandem instructors walk clients through the basics of their jump on land before taking to the sky. Once they're harnessed into their parachute, the student and teacher duo both leap out of a plane for an exhilarating tandem free-fall, achieving speeds of up to 120 mph before leisurely drifting back to earth over suburban Collegeville. Guests can also request a record of their descent, which can be filmed with a camera on the instructor's wrist or captured by a videographer who skydives while simultaneously sitting in a director's chair.