As the father of a 2-year old, Tim Alley found himself running around to playdates scattered throughout the Bay Area, scooting to toddler-friendly lessons in art, gymnastics, and dance. While he loved the programming, he wished that he and his daughter weren't confined to such a tight schedule. So, he turned to his brother-in-law, Tom Limbert, head teacher at a local preschool, and they began to work on their own children's studio at Studio Grow—a supplementary preschool atmosphere with a focus on unstructured learning where children can play throughout the day. True to its name, Studio Grow now welcomes tots at three area studios. Though programs and amenities vary by location, kids might frolic through a color-splashed dance room, construct crafty masterpieces from watercolors, play-doh, and crayons in an art room, or plunge into ball pits. At all three locations, kids can tinker in a room filled with puzzles, toy trucks, dress-up clothes, and lego building sets. in a slide-filled run room. Instructors stay on hand throughout each romp, ready to lead Berkeley guests through sing-alongs or immerse Concord’s small listeners in story time. Teachers may also balloon a giant primary-colored parachute over the playroom for kids to scurry under and use to shield themselves from sudden broccoli storms. Though staffers emphasize unstructured play, they also lead summer camps for children up to aged 6 with guided romps through the studio; as well as Friday-night babysitting sessions, where kids of all ages can play sans parents until 10 p.m.
Their flanks flecked with sweat, muscles rippling in their necks, and nostrils flaring, the thoroughbreds at Golden Gate Fields hurtle around a 1-mile oval. Crouched in the saddle, the jockeys feel the eyes of up to 14,750 audience members on their silk-clad backs as they strain to reach the finish line. In addition to its main mile-long track, the 140-acre racing complex has a 9/10-mile lakeside turf course, giving guests plenty of races to wager on. After the first starting pistol fires, watchers can fuel their cheering with polish sausage from the Horseman’s Circle, housemade pepperoni from Tastes of Italy, and steaks from Apron Barbeque.
Even fancier food awaits rumbling stomachs at the Turf Club—the crab cakes and steak prepared by Executive Chef Bryan Taylor aren’t the only draw. Club guests can enjoy an unparalleled live view of both tracks, the bay, and the Berkeley hills or watch the steeds on the private viewing screens that grace each table. In addition to the private screens, more than 80 flat screens, a jumbo screen, and regular monitors show horses hitting breakneck paces, and both live tellers and automatic wagering machines stand ready to take bets on which horse has the biggest shoe size. Leather furnishings, Tiffany-style lights, and gallery displays of equine-themed Hermès and Gucci scarves create a sophisticated atmosphere that reminds guests of the illustrious history of the track, which dates back to 1941.
Established in 1968 in honor of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, UC-Berkeley's first Nobel laureate, The Lawrence Hall of Science aims to inspire the scientists and innovators of the future. Their hands-on exhibits allow children and adults to see and touch a fascinating variety of displays and projects. The animated, interactive Science On a Sphere globe, for example, uses actual scientific data to depict the expanding wave patterns of tsunamis and the massive storms triggered by thoughtless butterflies. To learn more about seismic activity, guests head to the Forces That Shape the Bay outdoor park to ride an earthquake simulator. Kids can climb atop a life-size model whale or through the double helix of a huge DNA sculpture, or work with students from the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors program to design and build a prototype in the Ingenuity Lab.
The museum also sparks imaginations with an interactive planetarium and 3-D theater. Its affiliation with the university makes it an ideal spot for educational camps and classes, as well as community events, including robotics competitions.
The staccato beat of conga drums rises over the deep voice of a bass guitar and the higher trills of the timbales and piano. Head dancer Evan Margolin and his bevy of experienced instructors lead students in classes that take beginners through basic footwork and salsa rhythms, with intermediate and advanced sessions offering salsa aficionados more challenging instruction. The social class structure—partners rotate throughout every session—creates a low-pressure learning environment and keeps dancers from scrambling to locate a partner or human-shaped tupperware container. The one-hour beginner classes are mostly filled with salsa novices and new dancers, and Dance SF's experienced and engaging local salsateers are patient and friendly when showing new students how to bust well-timed moves. During intermediate classes, which require six months or more of social dancing experience, students focus on timing and cross-body leads with turns. After some evening classes, new dancers are invited to join an all-night salsa party where they can put their new moves in practice. Students should wear comfortable clothing, which includes dancing shoes, but does not include rear-flapped onesie pajamas.
SF Mixology founder Shawn Refoua blended his experience as program director and a student of behavioral psychology into an academy that brings bartending methodology and cocktail mixology into the 21st century. With an eye toward libation history, the school's interactive classes range from basic and advanced mixology courses to in-depth lessons on specific liquors and the evolution of the cocktail through the 14 years of Prohibition and the decade when swizzle sticks were outlawed. Each class complements the goals of cocktail party hosts, as well as aspiring or continually learning bartenders, who can learn and practice essential behind-the-bar techniques while brushing up on flavor theory and emerging recipe methodologies. Held in a high-profile bar, the laid-back classes include plenty of sample sips and enthusiastic toasts to newfound friends.
UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley?s first plants sprouted in a modestly sized garden on campus in the 1870s, and in the 1890s, the plot became an official garden dedicated to hosting a living collection of native plants. Since then, the nonprofit garden has expanded to 34 acres in Strawberry Canyon and planted more than 13,000 different types of plants from around the world, including endangered cacti, redwoods, and a significant collection of native Californian plants. Given the garden?s vastness, its informative tours and programs offer a handy alternative to exploring alone.