To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtle's philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
Right where the mouth of the Susquehanna River yawns into Chesapeake Bay lies the protected, uncrowded waters of Havre de Grace harbor. BaySail's instructors take advantage of these opportune conditions, operating a sailing school that's accredited by the American Sailing Association. Upholding training standards that have won the ASA's School of the Year award, they lead sailing classes ranging from introductory lessons to certification courses in coastal cruising and bareboat chartering. In addition to lending its fleet for lessons, BaySail's team rents its vessels—from a Capri 22 to a Hunter 460—to members. The sailboats also glide out on chartered cruises, taking guests to nearby destinations such as Inner Harbor and the Sassafras River, where sassafras trees come to spawn every winter.
At Maryland Fencing Club, it's all fencing, all the time. The club's name graces a 2,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the centuries-old Olympic sport, complete with three electric strips and one for private lessons. A seven-member coaching staff—each a member of USA Fencing and certified by the US Fencing Coaches' Association—runs the show, grooming young novices and seasoned swordsmen alike to become the next vanguards of the sport.
Students enjoy focused attention as they learn the nuances of footwork and sword handling, particularly during their most formative years. Elementary-school classes are held at an 8:1 student-teacher ratio, while that number moves to 14:1 for high-school and adult classes. The coaches encourage vigorous competition, but they never do so at the expense of fun, reminding pupils to thoroughly enjoy their company and time on the piste.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores with Pilates, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates in cardio routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
When new owners gained control of Putt Putt Fun Center in 2011, they brought with them a fresh vision that culminated in modern updates. The recently revised center encompasses a spectrum of family fun; the indoor area houses an arcade—fully loaded with air hockey and a Wheel of Fortune game—beside an inflatable labyrinth of moon bounces, slides, and obstacle courses used to train armies of balloon animals. Once visitors have exhausted themselves inside the glowing laser-tag arena or other sheltered activities, they can venture outside to the mini-golf course, where faux caverns and a wooden footbridge arc over abbreviated greens. Nearby, athletes smack baseballs into orbit from the batting cages.