The husband and wife owners of Giraffe Ranch wake up each morning to the squawks, chirps, and growls of rhinoceroses, hippos, ostriches, and a menagerie of other exotic animals. After feeding their giraffes, they tend to the cattle and collect eggs from their free-range chickens that cluck across their 47-acre combination of a working organic farm and a wildlife preserve accredited by the Zoological Association of America. Encompassing four ecosystems, the preserve sprawls under 400-year-old oak trees and across native orchards into wetlands filled with nesting sandhill cranes. With the aid of their son, the owners lead tours through habitats for endangered or otherwise extinct African and South American animals, walking past pens of African crested porcupines, guinea pigs, fossa; as well as lemurs that guests can feed by hand or T-shirt cannon. Their tours never follow the same path, instead changing to skirt around grazing goats or to meet a brood of newly hatched baby ostriches.
Not content to simply lead guests on relaxing strolls, guides also load passengers into four-wheel-drive safari trucks—custom built by the owner after vehicles used in Africa—or onto the backs of camels for extended preserve tours that showcase larger game such as Indian rhinoceroses, pygmy hippopotamuses, llamas, and antelopes. Guides also steer tours toward feeding times, encouraging passengers to pass leaves to the preserve's namesake giraffes from the truck. An onsite shop boasts shelves of glass art, plush lemurs and giraffes, and T-shirts—many designed by the owner's wife—alongside handcrafted African decor. Shop staffers also proffer organic fertilizer, organic free-range eggs, and grass-fed beef harvested on the farm.
For more than 50 years, family-owned Pin Chasers alleys have been adding perks to the bowling basics. Leagues for all skill levels, six-week lesson plans, and the immersive light shows of late-night Cyber bowling entertain families with the fundamentals. It's when the scoring systems—equipped with touchscreen consoles and customizable backgrounds—boot up or the automatic bumpers raise between turns that players might first take notice of their high-tech surroundings. As for service, the inviting staff hand out complimentary bowling shoes and socks, and will assist guests in picking out the right type of ball rather than noisily sandblasting one down to size when it doesn’t fit. The full-service cafes also manage to defy expectations by serving breakfast fare around the clock.
Friendly employees and full bars span each of Pin Chasers' three locations, but other amenities differ. Visitors can aim cues at Veterans' four billiards tables, stretch their thumbs at East Pasco's arcade, or try to count all of Midtown's 50 lanes without first extracting their fingers from their bowling balls.
What would you do to survive if the dead began to walk?or worse, to sprint? Brave individuals can find out at Zombie Rush obstacle course. The apocalypse conveniently starts the moment runners set foot on the event grounds and receive the keys to their survival: three flags that the nearby zombies want even more than they want brains or a decent moisturizer. Participants must protect those flags while traversing five kilometers of muddy obstacles, ever wary of the shambling threats that lurk in the shadows. Alternately, they can sign up to be the shambling threats themselves, and have their zombie makeup applied by professional artists. No matter which faction they choose, everyone makes up afterward at the Compound, where beer is served, music is played, and performers re-enact thrilling perimeter breaches.
The frighteningly fun run is one of the many events put on by Ultimate Combatant, an organization specializing in challenging mud races. With a founder and staff made up of firefighters, fitness experts, and members of the armed forces, the company's races aim to test participants' physical and mental prowess.
In a zombie apocalypse, running might be the human race’s only hope. The organizers of The 5k Zombie Run understand this better than most—after all, their 5K obstacle course is infested with undead of its own. Each brave soul who decides to make a run for it begins the race with three health flags and tries to reach the finish line with at least one flag intact. That’s no easy task, of course. The course twists through approximately 3.1 miles of wooded trails and swamps, but the obstacles are kept as secret as Fort Knox’s collection of gold-plated presidential diaries. The zombies, on the other hand, are not: hordes of shambling ghouls haunt the course, pawing at health flags and attempting to infect runners before they can make it to safety. Those racers who finish with at least one flag live to brag another day. Zombies have their own contest: the ghoul with the best costume wins a prize, and all zombies can run the course themselves after fulfilling their undead duties.
During the Backwoods Challenge, runners shimmy through a tunnel of mud, step across a balance beam, army-crawl under barbed wire, and shoot through a slide before plunging into a pond. And for some of them, there isn't even a prize on the line. In addition to frequent competitive races, Backwoods Challenge also hosts fun runs and mud-run training sessions. Either way, the 5K course, which pushes bodies and minds to the brink, forces participants to confront more than 25 obstacles that test their physical prowess. Only those who aren't afraid to get down and dirty in the mud can conquer all of the manmade and natural obstacles.
SUP Englewood operates on a circuit of local beaches, sending seafarers off to explore the waves from several starting points. Under the supervision of an instructor who is a qualified paddleboarder, lifeguard, and tour guide, students learn to control their board before embarking on guided tours or independent rides. The shop stocks a fleet of epoxy SUP ATX paddleboards, which slip easily through the waves and include specialty yoga board varietals . As an experienced yogi, SUP Englewood’s instructor also leads classes on weekly trips to tranquil mangrove pathways and lagoons for yoga lessons atop paddleboards.