Some of us still lament the loss of the summer vacations of our youth. You know, the feeling of complete freedom when schoolbooks were turned in and you could turn your attention to planning new adventures. Naturally, how much money your family could muster for summer fun was evident in the plan-making. ("We're traveling through Europe" versus "We're building a turtle pond in the backyard.") Limited financial resources and time constraints are grownup realities, but they don't need to stop you from trying something new during the hot season. Here are but a handful of ideas that don't break the bank and won't get the boss' blood boiling when you ask for time off.


Get your sketch on 


Want to get into the habit of doodling dames? On the first Wednesday of the month, Tatame Lounge hosts Dr. Sketchy's, an opportunity to socialize, sip and scribble. Most succinctly described as figure-drawing sessions with a cabaret twist, the live models are a colorful conglomeration of fabulousness including, but not limited to, drag queens, costume designers and burlesque performers. The July 7 event features Lexi Katt, modeling retro, '50s pinup gear as well as an alternative cyberpunk look during the second half. 

The Orlando Dr. Sketchy's is an offshoot of the original Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, founded in Brooklyn in 2005 by saucy illustrator Molly Crabapple. The hometown chapter was initiated by Tamara Gray, an illustrator and graphic designer, as a way to get out from behind her computer and spend more time drawing with friends; both artists and nonartists are encouraged to join in the fun. In addition to the main course, there are creativity-bending quick-fire contests that reward (free drinks and other prizes) the best rendition of, say, a ninja Betty Boop or the inclusion of a narwhal.

"All the artists are incredibly friendly, and many of us tend to goof off, joke and discuss our opinions on everything from the state of the animation industry to which dinosaur could win against a fight with a giant shark," Gray says. "Each month we end up making new friends who just want to draw and hang out somewhere away from couch at home."

For those frustrated creatives not feeling quite so bodacious, the open-studio life drawing sessions at the Maitland Art Center and Crealdé School of Art are also ways of introducing the pencil to the anatomical landmarks of the figure. (7 p.m. July 7 and Aug. 4 at Tatame Lounge, 223 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; $5 cover; 407-545-4144; ;

— Sarah Keenan


Dark slide of the moon


Fortifying yourself for a high-octane zipline adventure is intimidating and heart-pounding enough. Preparing for a high-octane zipline adventure in a pitch-dark environment is downright terrifying. Forever Florida's Starlight Zipline Safaris offer just that type of experience on Saturdays through summer. When the moon is full (July 24 and Aug. 24), the title changes to Moonlight Zipline Safaris, and that's when you might have a chance to see wildlife on the ground. In any case, traveling at speeds of 25 mph at the height of 55 feet in the air, zipliners fly from platform to platform under the night sky, but not alone – the buddy system requires a trained guide to ride along, and they haven't lost anyone yet.

"More people get excited about it at night than day because it's not hot, there are only eight people instead of 12 – not a lot of waiting – and it's a lot scarier," says Carl Crampton of Forever Florida. Adventure junkies won't be disappointed when they zoom above the treetops over the 4,700 acres of wildlife on the St. Cloud preserve. If heights make you queasy, look into Forever Florida's Overnight Horseback Safari, complete with campfire cookouts.  (Starlight and Moonlight zipline safaris, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday at Forever Florida, 4755 N. Kenansville Road, St. Cloud; $85; 407-957-9794;

— Allen Levin


It's all in your head


One of the most important things you can keep open during sex is your mind. That's why the Blissful Lotus offers classes to perk up even the most wilted of you summer flowers. Stacey Murphy, who co-owns the shop with husband Sean Ramsay, calls it a "sex-positive boutique," and it's that new chic breed of sex store, "independently owned, female- and couple-focused" with "an educational component." Murphy and Ramsay team up to teach classes that attract forward-thinkers, male and female, from young hipsters to 60-somethings who know you can never have too much erotic know-how.

If these don't stir you to action you might want to pinch yourself some place special and make sure you're awake. There's "Secrets of the Oral Arts: Pleasing Your Man Was Never This Much Fun" ($25) with its emphasis on "sharpening your sexual skills," enjoying yourself and learning to put a condom on with your mouth. (Hands-free everything is so popular these days.) Then there's "Tantra: 28 Days to Ecstasy for Couples" ($55), which Ramsay calls an approach to "no-goal love-making. (He says you can have a satisfying experience without orgasm.) And the incredibly popular "Pole Dancing With FEM 4 Physique" ($20) attracted 100 happy customers last session. The best thing about the classes: the take-home exams. You'll know for sure when you've earned an "A." (Blissful Lotus, 1810 N. Orange Ave.; 407-704-3357; theblissfullotus.;

— Liz Langley


The wilds of Wekiva


If romping around the great outdoors is your thing, the Wekiva Island tours on the first and second Saturday of the month provide an opportunity to watch – and shoot with your iPhone – all types of Florida fauna "from bears and gators to snakes, birds and bugs – anything that flies, crawls or swims," promises the website. Wekiva Island (the privately owned and renovated former Wekiva Marina) opened last year and is home to the Centers for Animal Therapies, an educational nonprofit founded by Longwood's Jo Maldonado. The two groups joined this summer to present tours that benefit both organizations.

Fred Bohler, a "bear response agent" with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission serves as the expert tour guide. "A lot of people don't know what the heck this stuff is," he says. "So we're trying to educate them." The walkabouts include using dip nets along the Wekiva River and its tributaries to learn about crayfish and other aquatic species. Additionally, Bohler has specimens of various water invertebrates on display, as well as alligator skulls and teeth for examination. 

"In Florida, you have to look before you leap into water," he explains. "Knowledge conquers fear of the unknown." (walking tours 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 3, July 10, Aug. 7, Aug. 14, $15; add all-day kayak or canoe rental for $25; Wekiva Island, 1014 Miami Springs Drive, Longwood; 407-862-1500;

— Casey Morell


Bouncing to Bollywood


Blame it on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, but kids, teens and elders from Denmark to South Africa are dancing Bollywood-style this summer, and Orlando is in on the global frenzy. At Orlando Bellydance, the Bollywood classes taught by Shainna Ali are full of buzz. An experienced teacher and performer in all of the classical and folk dances of India, Ali says dancing Bollywood-style does not require years of previous training – it's a learn-as-you-go experience.

"Bollywood dance has roots in Indian classical dance, but over the years, Bollywood has expanded to incorporate world dances from ballet to salsa," she explains. "Because of this fusion, the techniques used are not as formatted as in other dance styles." Still, it can take time to master the moves rooted in Indian cultural traditions, such as the storytelling gestures. "The classical Indian steps seem to be the hardest for the students. Even for experienced dancers, it is a new way of movement for them to learn. It is difficult to grasp at first but once students practice, the flow begins to come naturally."

Ali, who loves to dance to Bollywood "classics" such as "Dola Re Dola" from the film Devdas and "Rang De" from Thakshak, encourages her students' understanding of lyrics (which she translates into English). She also hopes they can appreciate the religious, social and artistic aspects of Indian culture that have led to the mainstream mashup. Those raised within Indian culture show their skills at community parties called "halflas," but the rest of us might get the opportunity for socializing as area nightclubs cater to the craze, including club Chakra, set to open later in July. (Five week course begins 7:30 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Aug. 1 at Orlando Bellydance Academy, 6900 Aloma Ave., Winter Park; $50; 407-579-9765;

— Lindy T. Shepherd

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