At Underwater Connection, southeast Wisconsin’s only PADI five-star instructor-training center, an award-winning course director and a team of skilled instructors educate both undersea novices and emergency-service professionals in the art of scuba diving. Following safe, low-stress basic diving courses in a pool, teachers and students move to the open water to cover techniques that include rebreathing, underwater videography, and recovering toy-boat wrecks from flooded bathtubs. Underwater Connection provides all equipment for classes, relying on its factory-trained equipment mechanics and Aqualung Master Technician, who refill tanks and do in-house repairs on gear from brands such as Dive Rite, Poseidon, Oceanic, Aqua Lung, and Scubapro.
In 1947, on New York City's Park Avenue, the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio—cofounded by the eponymous toe tapper himself—opened its doors to the public. More than six decades later, now boasting schools across North America, the dancing institution still adheres to the legendary Mr. Astaire's curriculum and instruction techniques.
Specializing in social ballroom and competitive dances, the schools' current consortium of professional instructors shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through dance lessons that span from classic ballroom and foxtrot romps to the modern steps of salsa, swing, or mambo. In addition to classes, the studio hosts social practice parties where up to 40 students hone newly acquired rug-cutting capabilities. As foot-charming music blares from the speakers, instructors work to cultivate a lively social setting where each guest can dance, mingle, and surgically correct their second left foot without fear of embarrassment.
Running, crawling, tumbling and playing across more than 5,000 square feet, kids 10 and below can expend energy for hours at Family Tree Haus. Families can drop in for open play, where kids enjoy a full day's worth of access to the various areas around the facility such as climbing, sliding down slides, and toying with toys. There's also a cafe on-site, where kids and parents can order up kid-friendly foods after playing.
Of the 85 intrepid souls who've attempted to conquer the Paddy's Lament burger challenge at Mulligans Irish Pub & Grill, only one has succeeded. It's not a feat that ought to be taken lightly—contestants have 60 minutes to finish a three-pound burger topped with a half-pound of cheese, a pound of corned beef, and veggies, as well as a mountain of beer-battered fries. Victors are rewarded with bragging rights, a $50 gift card, and an approving head nod from the cook.
For diners not hungry enough to take on the challenge, however, there's plenty of other more reasonably sized pub favorites on the menu, such as tangy buffalo-chicken pizza and meaty nachos. There's also a sweeping variety of authentic Irish favorites, including corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, and fish and chips in a Harp beer batter that's been lauded by reporters from Express Milwaukee as "feathery" and "flavorful." On weekly Friday fish fries, the kitchen serves fried haddock, lake perch, and bluegill along with internationally inspired specialties such as barbecued asian shrimp and spicy seafood linguini.
The bar also boasts 16 draft beers and more than 20 varieties of Irish whiskeys. There are 21 HD TVs scattered throughout the bar and seating areas, broadcasting everything from thrilling football games to thrilling laundry detergent commercials.
Throughout the week, Country Lanes offers open bowling hours and league opportunities for bowlers of all skill levels. In addition to indoor lanes, the alley welcomes outdoor revelers with courts for sand volleyball and horseshoes. The outdoor tiki bar keeps carousers stocked with cocktails and draft brews, and an indoor grill fires sandwiches, pizzas, and appetizers such as wonton wraps. A banquet hall is available for parties, and a teen glow-bowl league takes place on Fridays through the summer, allowing bioluminescent youngsters to bowl in their natural environment.
Most pools are not designed for children, with their plunging deep ends, regular calls for "adult swim," and robust colonies of piranha. Not so at Swimtastic Swim School, where every aspect of the center's design caters to youthful aquanauts. After passing by the colorful front desk changing into their suits, kids rinse off in the warm water of the on-deck palm-tree shower. Once classes begin, swimmers dunk into the pool itself, ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 feet deep and heated to a constant, comfortable 90 degrees. In the lessons themselves, experienced instructors use the skills they learned in the center's 30-hour training course to lead small groups through the basics of water safety and proper swimming form. Regular open swims let kids show off their aquatic mastery to parents and friends and make unlimited use of the deep-end water slide.