Best airborne cult
The Quest Air crew
6548 Groveland Airport Road, Groveland
Situated in a remote corner of south Lake County, Quest Air specializes in hang-gliding adventures for both addicts and novices. The compound resembles a summer camp more than a “proper” airport, with a lake, swimming pool, game room and a collection of trailers housing the various flyboys and flygirls who call it home. This familial atmosphere is contagious for first-timers, who are accompanied on their maiden flights by the resident gliding evangelists who – enviably – seem to have nothing better to do all day than soar through the sky.
Best affordable kids’ activity
Archery at Oviedo Sports Complex
1251 E. Broadway St., Oviedo
For $30 ($25 for Oviedo residents), you can take your budding Robin Hood to Saturday-morning classes where someone else teaches them how to shoot pointy sticks at targets, a steal for five 90-minute lessons. If you never got to try it as a kid (or if you suck with guns) they’ve got a class for big kids, too.
Best new local publication
The Standerd wake quarterly
It’s not necessary to be a water-sports fan to appreciate The Standerd, a new wakeboarding quarterly on thick, glossy pages. Page after page of gorgeous photography is light on text – and advertisements. That’s by design. Central Floridians Joey Meddock and Josh Letchworth are top wake photographers who got tired of seeing their work chopped up and crowded by busy text treatments and screaming ads, so they took matters into their own hands. The Standerd is supported by subscriptions, allowing it the freedom to pursue quality without compromise. (Available at Performance Ski & Surf, 8086 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-859-7544, or by subscription at www.thestanderdquarterly.com.)
Best place to see men on men in public … legally
Gracie Barra Orlando
618 N. Mills Ave., 407-839-5505
Those hip to the martial arts may not recognize the hidden subtleties of the Gracie Barra give-and-take. But those who drive down Mills Avenue near Colonial Drive would have to be blind not to receive its fruits. The windowed storefront comes alive in the evening with man-on-man action, and includes such driving distractions as one hot man on another’s back walking in circles around the room. Sometimes they are even shirtless. A lawn-chair rental business out front would work.
Best dip after dark
6000 Discovery Cove Way, 877-434-7268
When night falls, but the temperature doesn’t, what could be better than a moonlight swim in the backyard pool? How about a few laps with a porpoise? This summer, SeaWorld takes their already-intimate Discovery Cove and makes it ultra-exclusive with dolphin encounters under the stars. It ain’t cheap, but the memories are guaranteed to last at least as long as the credit card charges.
Best place to rent an island
Canaveral National Seashore
In the age of the Internets, rarely can a truly unique outdoor getaway go overlooked by the masses. But there is one such experience, so amazingly different in its simplicity, and yet so tantalizingly close to a billionaire-style retreat: a weekend on your very own island, right here in Central Florida. Such a fantasy can be realized at the Canaveral National Seashore, where a call will reserve a campsite on your own paradise – at least for a night – accessible only by boat. That means no toilets, no stress and no neighbors ... for only $10 a night.
Best bastard move
Grant Hill is a douchebag. That nice-guy act served him well when he was sitting at the end of the bench in a fancy suit, nursing a career-ending injury and soaking up millions of Magic dollars. And we gave him the benefit of the doubt, waiting patiently for him to heal, even as the team lost. We even bought his wife’s crap CD. But now that Grant Hill is 100 percent, he’s shopping his services around the league to the highest bidder. We really know how to pick ’em.
Best blood lust
Mixed martial arts
You might think quiet little O-town couldn’t produce a lot of badasses. Think again, pussy. The explosion of mixed martial arts (MMA) in Central Florida has stunned fight fans. We now have two full-time fight promotions in town – Combat Fighting Championships and World Extreme Fighting – a handful of hard-core training facilities and a flood of top-notch pros to teach ’em all the business. Remember that the next time you start shit with some guy for cutting you off in the Publix parking lot.
Best new expression
To “pull a Donovan”
University of Florida basketball coach Billy “Big Tease” Donovan surprised everyone – including himself – by announcing that he had signed a whopper of a deal to be the Magic’s new head coach. Parades were planned, babies were being made. But Donovan had another, even bigger surprise in store for us: Just a day later, he begged Magic brass to release him from his contract, claiming bad decision-making. Chalk one up for the Gator mafia.
Best new team
Not much is known about the Major Indoor Soccer League’s newest expansion team, except that they will be called the Sharks and that they kick off the season Oct. 26 at Amway Arena. It’s hard to get excited about soccer – indoor soccer at that – but the fledgling team boasts lots of local talent and the coolest name in town. Even though we are pretty much landlocked.
Best long goodbye
You can say this about Brian Hill – if the NBA ever shortens its season to 20 games, he’s got the formula down. The Magic started off 2006-2007 in surprisingly strong fashion, making quick work of just about every team in the league. But just as people started talking championship, the Magic entered into a horrific 60-game skid. Hill sealed his own fate with a season-long series of perplexing coaching mistakes and bad substitution patterns. Please, can we make this goodbye stick?