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.
The next time you're on the roof of a five-story building, look down at the ground, and you'll get a rough idea of just how high people climb at Touchstone Climbing. The gym's seven locations feature lead walls that rise as high as 50 feet off the ground, though height isn't the only dimension that makes the space feel immense. Each spot has at least 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain, not to mention as much as 3,000 square feet of bouldering.
To prevent newcomers from feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the environment, the gym holds introductory classes. During these sessions, participants learn the basic techniques they'll need if they want to conquer the gym's crack systems and boulder problems. The classes are also an opportunity for students to scope out the terrain features at each location, such as Diablo Rock Gym's steep prow, which juts out crookedly like a thumbs up from a dizzy ballerina. While they're at it, the visitors might notice something else: the social nature of the gym. As the San Francisco Chronicle recounts, the fact that lead climbs require two people means that climbers are constantly asking around for new partners and chatting back and forth as they ascend.
Each location also boasts a weight room, cardio machines, and a studio space for everything from yoga to spinning to core classes.
Legend has it that, one night, while Daryn Coleman was hard at work on the construction of his indoor mini-golf course, he watched a fan move across the floor all by itself. The irony of the event was not lost on an awe-stricken Daryn—the plan for his new course was to be centered on graveyard-inspired animatronics of his own design.
The hauntings didn't stop when Ghost Golf opened for business. Staff members continued to report supernatural incidents unrelated to the course's spooky decor. Finally, after catching some mysterious orbs on the security cameras, Daryn called in medium Maria Langana. Maria immediately discovered the presence of Everett, a self-described friendly spirit who expressed a fondness for amusement parks and admitted a special appreciation for the course's morbid special effects.
Everett purportedly continues to hang out around Ghost Golf—his favorite haunt seems to be the fifth hole. His supernatural presence only adds to the ambiance of a nine-hole, wheelchair-accessible course that meanders through a chilling array of urns, skeletons, and ghouls who take mischievous pleasure in blowing balls off track.
The 7 experienced instructors at Yoga Sol harmonize their disparate backgrounds to bring students a well-rounded yoga practice. Owner Tara Clay brings expertise in clinical psychology, whereas CJ Lamborn contributes her experience as a Pilates instructor and understanding of the healing power of yoga. Marlena Salinas has a compelling story—trained as a hypnotherapist, she started practicing yoga after the birth of her son and uses language to help clients release pain as well as gain confidence. This is just a snapshot of the studio's staff, but it embodies the wealth of knowledge behind each session, be it Hot Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, or restorative Yin. The instructors teach students of all experience levels, tailoring sessions for injured participants, expectant mothers, and people who are primarily made out of pretzels. Practice areas adjoin a retail space with yoga mats and blocks.
If the punching bags that line the workout rooms at Max Combat Fitness could talk, they would probably still keep their mouths shut. That?s how scared they are of the professional and amateur fighters who inflict a beating on them every day during the gym?s muay thai and mixed-martial-arts classes. Led by chiseled combatant George Tsutsui, the team of instructors leads students of all ages and skill levels through the basics of hand-to-hand martial arts. If they aren?t interested in learning MMA strikes or jujitsu grappling techniques, students can burn calories in cardio-kickboxing classes that eschew contact in favor of aerobic dance moves. Similarly, the gym?s conditioning classes improve strength, speed, stamina, and flexibility through stretching exercises and explosive bursts of movement.
The team of instructors at AquaTech Swim School continue their education and hone their advanced Marco Polo calls throughout their time at the school. Private, semiprivate, and group classes for children range from 6-month-olds' Tadpole curriculum to the advanced, team-focused Orca course, and the eight levels of kids classes are nuanced to include both "nervous" and "comfortable" beginner levels. The instructors help grownups get kicking during 60- and 90-minute private classes.
The Concord and Alameda facilities boast an 88-degree indoor pool that's specially designed for classes. Each location offers a spacious lesson-viewing area, children's play area, and free WiFi. The new Alameda facility also has an indoor/outdoor cafe for students who want to grab a bite before or after class.