Multicolored holds dot the climbing walls inside North Wall, granting visitors a variety of gripping surfaces and seemingly limitless routes during their scaling expeditions. Since 1994, the rock-climbing haven has been beckoning climbing enthusiasts to its sprawling confines, where it offers classes and private lessons for climbers of all abilities. Participants can even join teams, in which they can boost their skills for competitions or leisurely scrambles up the noses on Mt. Rushmore.
On the blue and springy expanse of AKF Martial Arts Academy's floor, uniformed students kick, jab, and whirl between defensive movements. Stripes of color bedeck their waists, showcasing what level they've reached and the score of their focus and determination.
It may surprise some parents, then, to hear what Master Cantin has to say about his studio. Unlike curricula at many other schools, he says, programs at AKF do not focus on heavy combat, tournament training, Eastern philosophy, or how to rope cattle by twirling a black belt. What his programs do achieve is something even more important and nuanced: building character and athletic prowess. Master Cantin and his fellow instructors count confidence, discipline, and listening among the skills they strive to instill, along with physical agility and stamina. In this way, the AKF team expands students' sense of self, and equips them with tools they can apply to all manner of challenges throughout life. And because many levels can train at once, whole families often enroll together, with parents and kids learning alongside one another.
Since Barbara McNulty founded her school in 1971, it has expanded to 18 state-spanning locations where beginning and advanced students learn the ins and outs of Irish dancing. McNulty herself is certified to teach Irish step solo, figure, and ceili dancing, and instructors lead a host of solo and team lessons to accommodate different ages or experience levels.
Chuck Masny describes himself as an “eternal student of the martial arts,” always learning more about his chosen disciplines despite the black belts in Goshin jiujitsu and American karate that already encircle his waist. Chuck brings his insatiable appetite for refinement to his classes, encouraging his students to ask why a technique is performed a certain way or to adjust motions to suit their unique physiques. This allows students to determine what mix of fitness exercise and self-defense training best suits their needs.
Chuck’s youth programs focus on developing not only the physical fitness skills that will grow into combat ability, but also the mental skills important to a child’s scholastic success. Kids practice listening and self-discipline and engage in a “bully-proofing” program in which they learn how to deflect insults by mentally transforming their bodies into rubber. Adult classes swing the focus to the practical underpinnings of self-defense, studying why and how certain moves and combinations work to arm students against real-world violence. Chuck also schedules cardio-enriched kickboxing classes, which incinerate calories in a furnace powered by flying fists and feet.
Within Cary Gymnastics & Dance Center's 4,200-square-foot facilities, instructors look on as gymnasts of all ages—from adults and teens to toddlers licking the chalk from their hands for the first time—tumble on padded floors, vault over pommel horses, and swing on high bars during open-gym hours or weekly classes. Beyond the apparatus, dance and cheer squads hone their routines safely over the mats, and athletes practice sports such as basketball, volleyball, and floor hockey at the CG Sports Center, where pitching machines hurl baseballs and softballs within a 50-foot-long batting tunnel.