The Sylvester family had bartending in its blood. Whether it was Uncle Mickey holding court with 40 years' worth of regulars or Tony Sr. mixing one of his signature Skip and Go Nakeds, they exemplified the easy grace and no-nonsense craftsmanship found in a true barman's barman. That dedication to well-poured drinks carried over to Tony Jr., who has spent the last 35 years training mixologists nationwide through the curriculum of his ABC Bartending Schools. Taught behind fully functional bars, his courses educate students in topics ranging from drink recipes and equipment setup to flair moves and alcohol awareness. His schools also emphasize employment; after graduation, students can take advantage of a nationwide job placement service to land gigs in Miami nightclubs, Las Vegas casinos, or the bar cars of Chicago's El trains.
"I will honor Christmas in my heart," vows Ebenezer Scrooge near the end of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, "and try to keep it all the year." For five weekends around Thanksgiving through Christmas, the 750-plus costumed performers at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair honor this declaration.
Lauded as "charmingly over-the-top" by the San Francisco Chronicle and "dazzling" by the San Francisco Examiner, the fest comprises more than three acres of exhibition halls. Inside, the fair's creative team recreates Dickens' Victorian-era London, complete with labyrinthine lanes, scone-scented bakeries, quaint pubs, and a rowdy dockside. In the streets and on seven stages, carolers entertain crowds alongside notable guests, including Queen Victoria and Scrooge himself. yelling that famous catchphrase, "Bah! An icky humbug! Somebody squish it!"
Dart Ops creates a safe indoor battlefield where players vie for victory using toy dart guns loaded with foam ammo propelled by short blasts of air. Neon-colored screens, walls made of mesh netting, and hanging targets pepper the arena space, which transforms into a monsoon of flying foam at the start of each friendly battle. As games progress, players can curl their trigger fingers around more advanced weaponry, including velcro-tipped darts that adhere to targets or the weak spots of enemy sock puppets. A marshall ensures fair play and organizes different types of game play, such as Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Protect the President. Aside from open play, Dart Ops' staff also host birthdays in a party booth and organize monthly Tour of Duty tournaments.
GoKart Racer safely curbs the need for speed with its fleet of Sodi RX 7 European racing karts, which come equipped with hydraulic brakes, a four-point racing harness, and a 9-horsepower Honda engine that can reach up to 35 miles per hour. The speedsters weave through each facility's indoor European-style road courses, including the 3/8-mile SuperTrack, which has more than 20 turns, an elevation change, and the occasional hotshot, road-jumping frog.
Before the green flag waves, the staff members equip racers with a racing suit, a helmet, and a brief rundown of the kart's abilities and dietary regulations. They tailor races to different age groups by offering kids? karts, a driving school for minors, and racing leagues for experienced drivers, and they augment traditional racing with a laser maze. The facility also welcomely opens its doors for birthday parties and other events.
Wind Over Water Kiteboarding founder Jeff Kafka tamed both wave and wind as a professional kite boarder and big-wave surfer before starting his own kite-boarding instruction school. During a two-hour beach lesson, beginners soak up kiting basics—including equipment setup, safety systems, wind theory, kite mechanics, and more—from a trained instructor while staying on dry land. Customers also perfect self-rescue, a vital skill for kite-board crashes or pickup lines gone awry. With no more than three people and one ocean in each lesson, there is plenty of individual instruction from Jeff's handpicked instructors, who get wind-whisperers in shape for the next level of instruction by the end of the two hours.
Pump It Up's indoor inflatable arenas launch socked striplings into the air with a plethora of kid-friendly bounce pads. Staffers supervise fun-filled visits, during which adult counterparts leap around with their kids through gargantuan bounce houses, skip down air-filled slides, and slither like snakes covered in bacon grease through an inflated obstacle course.
The colorful venue also hosts custom birthday parties and private team parties, each themed to please the partygoers in question. These soirees immerse children in a schedule of interactive activities befitting a pirate or a superhero while melting off youthful energy faster than ice cubes thrown into a running DVD player. The birthday boy or girl even gets to blow out the candles on their cake seated in their blow-up throne. Occasionally, the staffers switch off the lights, arming the roomful of players with glow sticks and bracelets as they navigate the air-cushioned obstaclescape. Relying on the staffers' vigilant, watchful eyes, guardians can rest assured that their charges will stay safe, and each piece of the inflatable playground is held to the floor and ceiling by a complex series of anchors installed according to strict safety standards.