The castle turrets of Lilli Putt Family Entertainment Center greet travelers from afar, inviting ladies and lords to wile away the day in a trifecta of leisure activities. Towering trees and domesticated dragons dot the landscape of a challenging mini-golf course. There, golfers can knock balls over ramps and around aquatic obstacles in all five seasons of the year. Guests can also celebrate the sun with a ride on one of Lilli Putt’s go-karts, which come in single- and double-seater models.
National Sports Center is one of the few places in the world where you can step from verdant fields onto stretches of ice. Eight ice arenas—four Olympic-sized, four NHL-sized—comprise more than 148,000 square feet inside the Schwan Super Rink. And as for the fields? The National Sports Center was originally conceived as a soccer complex, and it still boasts 52 fields. The Guinness Book of World Records has certified National Sports Center as the largest soccer complex on earth.
Hockey and soccer still only make up a small portion of the sports that are playable at the center. Those same soccer fields might host rugby on one day, lacrosse on another, and ultimate disc the following week, provided the discs have not flown south for the winter. The ice rink might host figure skaters as well as broomball teams. At the center's outdoor cycling velodrome, brake-free bikes race each other along a canted track, thrilling crowds every Thursday from late May to September. Players of all stripes can sign up for leagues and lessons in their favorite sport, or check out everything from expos to fitness classes on the calendar of events.
The scene at the School of Shaolin Kung Fu is a bit of an anachronism, as students pace the well-lit studio and practice an ancient Chinese discipline by aiming high kicks and throwing controlled punches. Their head instructor, seventh-degree black sash sifu Michael Voss, draws from more than 30 years of martial-arts experience to lead a team of fourth- and third-degree black sash instructors and a roster of assistant instructors. In classes of up to 60 minutes, they train students of all ages in traditional styles such as northern shaolin, which teaches students to fight with their extremities while emphasizing agility, speed, and flexibility. They also demonstrate tai chi and seven-star praying mantis, both of which focus on simultaneous defense and attack. Over the course of each class, instructors help students develop their minds and bodies as they hone confidence, physical fitness, and ability to bend spoons using only their big toes.
While other athletic clubs hibernate, Majestic Oaks welcomes Old Man Winter's frigid embrace with snow-savvy cheer. Played using golf clubs and a fuzzy tennis ball, snow golf provides nine holes of family-spanning fun and takes less than an hour to complete. Traversing the course, most of whose holes are under 100 yards, provides a reason to enjoy a brisk winter afternoon with friends while getting some light exercise. Hot chocolate and coffee (a value of $1.50 each) can keep your foursome of snow-golfers warm or can be used to punish snowmen who overindulge in mulligans.
Jam Hops Gymnastics, Dance and Cheer was formed when The Gymnastics Factory of Ham Lake joined forces with Jam Hops of Mound View in 1997. At first, they focused only on recreational and competitive gymnastics. As the talent, energy, and location expanded, however, so too did the program—they began to include dance. The inertia then became harder to contain, leading to Jam Hops' cheer program, the "leap-n-learn" academic preschool program, and even birthday parties and day camps that have further integrated Jam Hops into the community. In 2013 alone, Jam Hops scored the "Reader's Choice Award" from the Anoka County Shopper and the "Family Choice Award" from Macaroni Kid
Despite expansions in locations and classes, Jam Hops maintains its original mission: to turn children into champions of life. Nurturing young talent, the enthusiastic staff—many of whom are CPR and First Aid Certified—boost the confidence of students in recreational and competitive gymnastics programs. They work with boys and girls ranging from preschool age to 12th grade, and have even shepherded teams to the Junior Olympics nationals. Instructors in the dance programs, meanwhile, teach adults, teens, and tykes as young as two the ins-and-outs of jazz, tap, hip-hop, and ballet styles. It's not all about gymnastics or dance, though—the staffers in charge of academic preschool classes instill physical fitness and learning excellence in kids ages 3–5.
Grandmaster Byung Yul Lee founded World TaeKwonDo Academy in 1969 after emigrating to the U.S. from South Korea. Today, his legacy continues to shine at the academy, now run by his son. At their 12 locations, instructors teach traditional and sport taekwondo, unlocking the secrets of the discipline’s signature kicks and strikes. Teen and adult classes incorporate self-defense, tension exercises, and cardiovascular workouts, and little dragons lessons teach focus and coordination to students aged three to five. After-school taekwondo combines daycare with martial arts; after grabbing a ride to the academy, students pair homework sessions with confidence-building taekwondo lessons. In addition to the academy’s namesake martial art, students of all ages can also expand their combat knowledge with jiujitsu, cardio kickboxing, mixed martial arts, or kumdo sword training, or enroll in a yoga class to balance body and mind.