The state-of-the-art equipment, convenient amenities, and variety of exercise classes at Courthouse Racquet & Fitness's six locations earned the club several of Jackson Free Press's Urban Living awards in 2011 and 2012, including Best Fitness Center/Gym and Best Yoga Instructor. Visit the flagship Lakeland location to swim in a pool of professional athletic proportions. Explore the 13,000-square-foot Madison 51 facility's yoga, spin, and boot-camp classes or the Northeast center's indoor and outdoor tennis courts.
The newest location in Brandon boasts more than 100 treadmills, elliptical machines, rowers, and other pieces of cardio equipment. Women can take advantage of the Downtown site's ladies-only cardio area. Three locations offer childcare, and the Byram facility has launched an afterschool program, where kids can do arts and crafts and engage in healthy physical activities in an environment devoid of teddy-bear drill instructors.
• For $25, you get one month of tumbling-and-cheerleading classes (up to a $60 value). • For $40, you get two months of Mommy and Me classes (an $80 value). • For $75, you get a 1.5-hour girl's or boy’s birthday party for 15–20 kids (a $150 value).
Whisper Lake Country Club's verdant course encompasses 4,645 yards of kempt bermuda-grass fairways into a compact-but-challenging par 64 course. Golfers can prepare for rounds with swing-loosening stints at the driving range. There, wise players will focus on mid-length shots and keep drivers securely covered so they don't recognize rounds of golf are being played without them. Various short, drivable par 4s line the course, eschewing the longball in favor of pinpoint long irons or fairway woods, encouraging duffers to direct orbs to hospitable landing areas and set up favorable angles to approach fast, tifdwarf greens. Four sets of tees make the course surmountable for golfers of all abilities, and its compressed yardage—the 18-hole course only features two, relatively short par 5s compared to nine par 3s—allows duffers to complete rounds in about three hours or less, freeing up valuable time to tend to workday obligations or mow basement shag carpets into in-home putting greens. Cart rental is included in all options.
Inside Different Strokes Art Studio, pristine white ceramic bisques fill the cubbies that line one wall, taking all kinds of shapes—from giant vases to wizard hats. Artists of all ages bend to their work at the studio’s tables, dabbling colored glazes onto the matte clay and picking colors and brushes from the center of the table as they go, creating keepsakes such as personalized dinner platters for holidays or ornaments with their child's hand print painted on. When customers are done bedecking their pieces, the shop’s assistants glaze and fire each one, turning items such as plates, bowls, and dip platters instantly food safe and ready to hang on the wall or hold beautifully presented piles of marshmallow fluff.
During Artful Hours’ painting workshops, students learn not just from a master, but from two: their instructor, and the famed painter whose brushwork their instructor helps them copy. During each session, students recreate a classic painting—such as Edvard Munch's The Scream or Van Gogh's Almond Blossom—on their own canvas, adding personal flourishes such as a new color scheme or a couple of whale sharks in the background. Budding artists can hone their craft in BYOB adult sessions, kid sessions, or private-party lessons.
Licensed childcare director Kristal Bailey serves as mayor of The Play Place's toddler metropolis, complete with a bustling rush hour of kiddie commuters and free WiFi for parents (all-day admission $6). The tots' town is equipped with miniature versions of civic institutions, including a bite-size boutique for dress-up, a hardware store for blossoming builders, free toy-truck parking, and state-of-the-art climate-control technology. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Bailey frees harried parents to run their errands or just get a morning off with indoor childcare ($10/hour), where tykes can meet and play with other local little ones. On certain upcoming dates, The Play Place will host a four-hour Parents' Night Out, granting moms and dads with 2-year-olds and older a Friday-night freedom that once seemed more fictitious than a fairy-princess rap battle.