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.
For some people, health and luxury are wishes to make on the future. But at The Big C Athletic Club, they happen to be the main draws all the time. Once inside, you pass the multilevel grand lobby and 75,000 square feet of weights, cardio machines, fitness classes, and sports courts open before you. After conquering workouts or group fitness classes, a dip in the temperature-controlled pool or the healing mist of the sauna soothes worn muscles. The facility's own Big C Grille offers healthy bites post-workout to replenish the body's all-important protein levels and angel-hair pasta enzymes. Even when members aren't working out, the club strives most of all to keep them happy: extra amenities such as massage therapy and a hair salon offer conveniences that help you leave both looking and feeling good.
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.
Recognized by the Green Yoga Association for its eco-friendly space, Sol Yoga helps students trim down and limber up while treading lightly on the environment. Inside the softly lit practice room, yogis stretch in the sun-like warmth that shines down from overhead radiant heat panels, loosening up tight muscles, and escorting toxins from the body through pores. HEPA filters fill the studio with fresh air while sustaining a relentless, merciless rampage against odors, airborne contaminants, and dust bunnies disguised as dust people. After cleansing their bodies and minds during vigorous Vinyasa power flows, students relax in the spa-like locker room complete with hardwood lockers, slate-tiled floors, and private showers.