Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with other classmates as the instructors assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
In Gymboree Play & Music's most popular class, Play & Learn, tots master skills such as cause and effect, problem solving, and good communication through games and play. The notion that learning should be fun for the under-five set permeates all of Gymboree's classes. From music and art to sports activities, most classes are calibrated for development at six-month age intervals. Mixed-age classes teach cooperation, as kids play movement games or perform songs on musical instruments. Older children take the school-skills class to learn skills that will help them in school and during conference calls with the president. All of this takes place in a well-padded indoor playground with tunnels, slides, and bridges designed by nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to withstand tiny bare feet and the wrath of resident trolls.
Snap Fitness's around-the-clock gyms enable visitors to fortify their physical well-being with a cornucopia of advanced fitness equipment and certified personal trainers. With 24-hour access, members don't have to let The Man or one of his many secretaries tell them when to help themselves to Snap's strength-training gear or top-of-the-line cardio machines, which feature televisions and other media diversions. A friendly, unintimidating atmosphere provides a refreshing change of pace from aloof gym employees and ear-splitting pump-up jams. Members also enjoy nationwide access to all Snap Fitness locations, ideal for working out while traveling.
The wheeled women of the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls attack the track with the high-intensity, full-contact roller-derby races that earned them a featured role in Drew Barrymore’s film Whip It in 2009. The colorfully costumed roller warriors, who rank No. 11 in the North Central region according to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, circle the neon-marked lanes of the smooth, black rink to outrace opposing teams. Spectators grab a clear view of the action from the stands of the Rivertown Sports arena, studying the team’s technique and listening for Morse code messages amid the clacking skates. On December 10, New Holland Brewing and Schmotz beers sponsor the fourth-annual beer brawl, in which special teams with hand-picked rosters compete for glory, and finally settle the longstanding feud between wheat and hops. Children younger than 5 watch the games for free when accompanied by a parent or a horse with EMT training.
Bowling balls barrel down 44 well-kept lanes at the recently renovated Fairlanes, knocking pins into oblivion and racking up points for their handlers. Strike hunters tie on a pair of bowling shoes (a $2.79 value) before striding up to the lane launchpad and firing their arsenal of pin-seeking missiles. Optional bumpers keep heavy globes on track, like the sun's gravitational pull. Since visitors can use up to five Groupons per lane, merry bands of bowlers can sip on their small soft drinks (a $1.80 value) while angling for bragging rights during three orb-heaving showdowns (a $2.50 value per person per game before 5 p.m., a $3.50 value after 5 p.m.).
Tarry Hall Roller Rink's oval arena eschews the boredom of walking in favor of whimsical wheeling, setting an ambient backdrop of groovy tunes to complement the sweet sounds of plastic on wood. Take to the rink for public-skating sessions on Fridays or Saturdays, set to the sounds of rock, oldies, and auto-tune recordings of phone-book prose read aloud. Available for temporary taking are 350 pairs of skates, 120 pairs of rollerblades, and a single broken pair of antigravity sneakers. A snack bar offers solace for those who left it all on the floor, unless that includes their wallets.