As a 23-year-old junior, Tom Hatten didn’t spend his evenings at the raucous parties or ice-cream socials associated with college life. Instead, he’d spend the waning hours of his evenings waiting by the dryer for the last batch of towels before collapsing into bed. In the morning, he would lug them to Mountainside Fitness, the gym he opened as a student that he has thrown all his energy into maintaining ever since.
Today, the humble 4,800-square-foot space has bloomed into nine gyms that average a sweeping 41,000 square feet. Tom’s vision of creating a friendly neighborhood gym that greets each guest with a warm towel underscores every decision he makes for the different locations, from the colorful kid-care spaces to the entertaining group fitness classes. Personal trainers plan regimens tailored to each client, helping them lose weight, build muscle, or target the muscles that will help build a better golf game. Clients can create their own routines with the help of cardio and weight machines, or explore the different amenities at each location, such as saunas, rock-climbing walls, and indoor basketball courts.
It begins with a flurry of activity. Balloon operators prepare for lift-off, checking equipment and tossing ropes as spectators wander the grounds, observing the action. And then it reaches a new level: dozens of balloons take flight at once, filling the crisp December dawn sky with brilliant blues, purples, oranges, and reds that rival the colors around them. The Arizona Balloon Classic's orbs then set off on an aerial hare-and-hound race, drawing cheers from below as onlookers snap pictures.
For one weekend each year, visitors gather on the grounds to snap pictures and watch the balloons inflate and lift-off outside the Gilbert Civic Center for the Classic––a three-day festival celebrating hot-air balloon flight and culture. But the fun doesn't end with the descent to earth. After sunset the tethered balloons begin to glow, lighting up for the DESERT GLOWS portion of the festivities. Attendees browse exhibits and feast on treats from a variety of vendors, and children play in the Family Fun Zone. Last, on Saturday evening, sparks give balloons a run for their money, springing through the sky in a stunning fireworks display.
Several times a week, local bands showcase their soaring melodies and heavy riffs at Tonic Tavern & Kitchen. Adorning the tavern's exposed brick interior, the collection of framed electric guitars and autographs reminds patrons of the now-famous bands who once rocked the bar.
A passion for music and its history isn't just apparent on Tonic's walls—it's all over the tavern's rock-themed menu. Here, grilled cheeses on parmesan-crusted challah bread are named after the famous CGBG rock club, while a pound-plus of wings is called a drum set in honor of the chicken that was the original drummer of the Beatles. The theme continues with a selection of handcrafted pizzas such as the Fleetwood Mac, a medley of ribeye steak, thousand island dressing, and dill pickles.
Besides the guitar wall-of-fame, feasts at Tonic unfold among pool tables and flat-screen TVs tuned to the latest sports. A secluded outdoor patio features misters and fans yo keep guests cool in the summer, while heaters thaw visitors during the winter. Along with concerts, Tonic hosts events ranging from team trivia nights to live comedy.
Scott Barclay, a former gymnastics champion and current coach of ASU men's gymnastics team, dreamed of opening a facility to help young kids discover gymnastics. In turn, Aspire Kids Sports Center began with recreational gymnastics for kids as young as 15 months. Through time, the organization—headed by Scott and his wife, Donna—grew to include classes for martial arts, swimming, and cheer.
At Aspire's present 32,000-square-foot facility, instructors help fledgling gymnasts traverse an 80-foot tumble track on multiple trampolines. For tykes, there's a wealth of preschool gymnastics equipment, while more advanced gymnastics teams can compete on spring competition floors. Or take advantage of the indoor heated swimming pool with movable platforms, where you can immerse yourself in year-round swimming lessons and stage performances of The Little Mermaid.
The spring-loaded trampolines and high-flying activities at Airworx’s brightly colored 27,000-square-foot center launch visitors of all ages high into the air. Families can duke it out at the dodge ball court to determine who sits in dad’s comfy chair, and kids younger than 7 spring from age-appropriate trampolines and crawl over a 20-foot inflatable structure in the Shooting Stars area. Airworx’s nightclub-quality sound system and bouncy floors leave visitors breathless as they simulate Jordan-esque dunks amid rows of basketball hoops or challenge friends on the 140-foot trampolines to see how many backflips it takes to travel back in time. Besides open bouncing, Airworx also opens up colorful private rooms for birthday parties, and an elevated DJ booth personalizes the tone of unique corporate and group events.
At Inner Vision Yoga, yoga isn't just a form of exercise, it's a lifestyle. The company hosts more than 100 classes a week across two locations, with a style—hot, vinyasa, yin, kundalini—to suit any type of yoga devotee. What's more, the classes are divided into four tiers, ranging from "soothing and powerful" to "it's a workout", so newcomers can easily identify classes that will help them build a foundation for future practice. The center even offers a kids' yoga class where students ages 5-12 can strengthen their imaginations, as well as their bodies.
In addition to classes, Inner Vision Yoga educates the next generation of yogis through teacher-certification programs. The calendar of events also includes week-long yoga retreats, which are packed with activities and workshops and held at exotic locations such as Japan, the Caribbean, and the primate enclosure at the local zoo.