The burner roars to life and inflates a nine-story-tall balloon, hoisting a basket aloft into air currents just above the treetops. Cradled in the basket alongside a Federal Aviation Administration–licensed commercial pilot, passengers look out upon panoramic views of forests and rolling open countryside. They drift along, breathing in the perfume of flowers below and catching glimpses of deer foraging for leaves, eagles rising on thermals, and foxes prowling the woods. The pilot eventually lands the balloon on firm ground and passengers are transported to the balloon port, where they pause for photo opportunities, disembark, and celebrate with a postflight complimentary champagne toast.
Whether leading visitors on regular tours of the countryside like these or undertaking large-scope marketing projects to espouse Virginia’s charms, Balloons Over Virginia, Inc. maintains a strong sense of pride for their state. For example, for several years its staff piloted the crimson-and-white "Virginia is for Lovers" balloon on low flights throughout North America. Staffers extend their aerial-navigation skills to outdoor events as well, where they slowly fly attendees up to 100 feet in the air on rope-tethered aerostats. They also head to classrooms to teach balloon-related math, science, and aviation history before taking students on a brief balloon voyage.
Golf balls trace high arcs over the driving range or roll toward mini-golf holes at Hanover Sports Park, where guests hone power and finesse as they work on their game. Waterfalls cascade into tiny ponds on the edges of the mini-golf course, where twisting greens provide a venue for families and friends to haggle over who gets to hold the scorecard. Sixty-three artificial hitting mats line the subtly curved, two-tiered driving range, which includes 28 heated and covered hitting areas and seven natural-grass tees.
The chime of sharp line drives resonates from the center's seven batting cages, where hitters swat at everything from high-arching softballs to baseballs zipped at up to 80 miles per hour. Hanover Sports Park's staff helps guests manage their activities and special events by creating group and party packages for birthdays and corporate gatherings.
Founded in 1889, Preservation Virginia is one of the oldest historic-preservation organizations in the country. Its dedicated team has worked on more than 200 historic places, including landscapes, structures, and archaeological sites. The organization provides visitors with a tangible example of life in the past at a number of historic homes from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including Patrick Henry's and Chief Justice John Marshall's homes. Historic Jamestowne, the site of the first permanent British settlement in North America, recreates the landscape of the first meeting between the explorers and Native Americans. Due to the work of the organization, visitors still gaze upon a yeoman planter's cottage that dates back to 1740. Preservation Virginia also teaches aspiring laymen during conservation workshops, compiles lists of endangered historic sites, and spearheads tobacco-barn-protection efforts.
Like Superman's secret North Pole fortress, SkateNation Plus brings the excitement with lasers, arcade games, and 17,000 square feet of glassy ice worth gliding upon. Its regulation NHL–size rink serves as a venue for public skating sessions, in addition to figure-skating lessons, hockey games, and ice-dancing performances. More than 40 games in its onsite arcade whir with a flurry of tickets, and a full spectrum of prizes awaits quick-handed winners at the redemption counter. During laser-tag sessions, the Lasertron computer spontaneously upgrades players with such power-ups as "energizer" or "force field," which protects against enemy blasts more effectively than a lead vest or full-length mirror.
Martial-arts knowledge can be useful in situations where self-defense is the only option; however, training is a lifestyle choice that requires mental as well as physical commitment. Master Jeong Ho Yi currently holds a fifth-degree black belt in the ancient practice of taekwondo: a Korean martial art that emphasizes dynamic footwork, as well as mindful awareness of the body's movements and capabilities. Joined by a team of instructors, Master Yi shares his knowledge of taekwondo with students of all ages and skill levels, safely introducing them to the physical techniques as well as the mental training required to develop improved focus, confidence, self control, perseverance, and respect.
Romp n' Roll’s energetic instructors inspire parents and children alike to get on their feet and learn in structured play-based educational classes. In small groups, kiddies engage with their peers and their environment during interactive lessons, such as dancing sessions or art explorations, which nurture their physical and mental development. Instructors keep their lessons lively by infusing play into each assignment. Outside the classroom, the staff hosts indoor play time to give kids a place to safely unleash any remaining energy. Parents can attend classes with their kids to spend quality time with their offspring and finger-paint something other than office budget reports.