When Joan Barnes founded Gymboree Play & Music in 1976, she envisioned a facility where parents and children could play together in a safe and age-appropriate environment. In the following decades, Gymboree spread to more than 30 countries across the globe, helping youngsters from infants to 5 years old develop cognitive, physical, and social skills.
The company's instructors lead classes such as Play & Learn, its flagship course, in which parents and kids move through a seven-level program filled with storytelling, play activities, and debates on the merits of sandwich crust. Talented staffers also prep youngsters for school and foster development in areas such as music, art, and sports. Throughout all classes, they make use of custom play equipment designed by acclaimed playground designer and seesaw-tamer Jay Beck.
Andy Siebert floated in the water, weightless—almost as if in outer space—and watched as all 40 feet of a Galapagos Island whale shark drifted past him. It’s moments like that one that Andy lives for, having devoted his life to scuba diving. He took his first dive as a teenager, but didn’t take the sport seriously until he turned 42, at which point he began his journey to log more than 3,000 dives.
Now, as owner of Scuba World, Andy works to help others discover their love of the underwater sport. One part retail shop and one part scuba-diving school, the PADI five-star IDC dive center is chock-full of gear for purchase and rental, as well as expert instructors who teach classes for divers of all levels, including instructor-level classes. Their classes range from beginner discovery sessions to open-water-certification courses to rescue-diver classes for the more advanced diver who is worried about all those fish in the ocean who need help getting out. Andy’s wife and partner, Lynn Siebert, plans trips that take divers to waters all over the world, including the nearby Monterey Bay and more far-flung expeditions in Micronesia.
Since 1972, Spare Time Clubs has evolved into a 10-club, full-service family sports club company that includes programs for both adults and children. Each location varies in size—some boasting multiple complexes—and houses amenities such as lighted tennis courts, pools, kids’ play areas, and fitness centers. At the Diamond Hills and El Dorado Hills locations, members can shine up in the onsite European spas, and the jewel of the Gold River club is a lighted stadium court encircled by a 5,000 square-foot observation deck. In the event of inclement weather or courts being overrun by ball-chasing dogs, players can schedule time at the dedicated indoor-tennis center, where eight fully sectioned-off, championship courts glow under the power of tournament-level lighting. World-class coaches develop kids’ court skills at the junior tennis academy, students of which can practice with an unlimited number of sessions at any of Spare Time’s other clubs.
A novice might raise a skeptical eyebrow at a coriander- or sorghum-infused beer, but to craft brewer Erik Schmid, ingredients like these aren’t unusual in the least. At The Brewmeister, Erik teaches small groups of students to concoct liquid refreshments that are both distinctive and tasty. Beer-brewing classes cover the basics of fermentation, proper sanitation practices, and how to funnel beer into bottles or directly into bellies. Though Schmid prepares batches of seasonal ales in brewing classes, he can advise students on any brewing technique.
Those who wish to pursue the art of home brewing can purchase brewing equipment and ingredients such as malts, barley, and hops in The Brewmeister's shop. Schmid also stocks wine-making materials, including a variety of yeasts and rental presses with which to extract juices from grapes or grape-flavored juice boxes.
The staff at American Visions Art Gallery know that shopping for artwork can be intimidating. So when customers fall in love with a piece at the Sutter Street shop, they can bring it home, hang it up, and continue to stare at it for up to 48 hours before making a final decision. It's all part of the gallery’s at-home trial system, which enables clients to make sure a piece fits in with their decor and won't come to life at night. They can test-drive pieces from a vast selection that includes originals and limited-edition work from 60 artists, and special receptions allow prospective collectors to rub elbows with one of the shop's featured artists between bites of light hors d'oeuvres. The shop also provides framing services for a range of personal pieces, and curates a curriculum of paint-and-sip workshops, where novice brushstrokes are steadied by a complimentary glass of wine.
Streets of London Pub harks back to traditional London pubs with ice-cold pints and ample coverage of rugby and soccer. On the menu of hearty English fare, fries in the witness-protection program call themselves "chips" and lay low under toppings such as gravy, cheese and beans, or cheese and bacon, or pair up with fish in a platter of classic fish 'n' chips. The bangers-and-mash meal allows thick, juicy sausages to snuggle up on a hill of mashed potatoes. Along with food, the pub dishes out events; diners can throw back Guinnesses during weekly pub quizzes, compete for everlasting fame during monthly bingo tournaments, or stop in for Pint Night to enjoy pints on the outdoor patio.