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 Play & Music 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.
What began as a small studio with five enthusiastic dance students has transformed into a full-fledged company that's educated thousands and won multiple awards along the way—including a Certificate of Congressional Recognition. Today, Strictly Street Salsa has a whole team of instructors that has danced its way across the likes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Spain, and Rome and is ready to introduce students to new cultures through the art of dance. The studio offers classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers in both salsa and tango and hosts dance workshops that blend Latin dance with various cultural elements, including African movement, gypsy music, and good old-fashioned American screaming.
Houston's skyline looms over Urban Warzone’s downtown field, which recently grew in size due to a land purchase, framing a detritus-strewn paintball arena where players skulk and snipe gear-clad combatants. Under the watchful eyes of referees and sentient corporate executives in skyscraping offices, players can paint the entire town or a single disliked opponent with semi-automated sprays of paintballs. As battlers duck behind corrugated tubes and wooden bunkers, paintballs zip through the air, splattering the ramparts or leaving Rorschach blots on players' armor.
To create a personalized experience, each game has a dedicated host catering to the needs of private parties or scheduled events. Elsewhere, a covered picnic area shields onlookers from elements and provides an excellent venue for spectating or snacking.
Karen Mones's passion for fitness began at a young age, exercising to Jane Fonda videos with her mother. She went on to play softball, earn her bachelor's in exercise and sports science, and obtain six instructor certifications in everything from yoga to strength training. She founded Houston Adventure Boot Camp to share her knowledge and passion for fitness with as many people as possible.
She and her trainers create different regimens each day, taking advantage of the city's natural spaces and natural forces to enhance their workouts. They challenge gravity by having students lift their own bodyweight or free weights. Students plow through the heaviest friction the air can throw at them in sprints, and they hold up under constant pressure from the sun to nap in the middle of a field.
As CNN Medical Correspondent Judy Fortin discovered during her visit to Atlanta, PoleLaTeaz's flirty-fitness classes encourage self-confidence as much as toned muscles. Led by studio owner Angela Edwards and her staff of experienced instructors, sultry sessions range from introductory pole dancing to suspended yoga. Each class retains an all-female roster to further promote a comfortable environment. Before participants learn routines consisting of swings, swivels, and uncanny imitations of flagpoles, they also work to gain agility by practicing Pilates stretches.
For 25 years, Texas School of Bartenders has minted professional-grade mix masters in its hands-on classes held in classrooms that simulate real bars. The school's training labs brims with 42 bar stations loaded with up-to-date equipment, including touchscreen registers and serving trays made of hover boards. Full 40-hour courses run throughout the day to accommodate people with designs on pursuing bartending as a career. Covering drink recipes, customer service, and mixing techniques, introductory crash courses throw students into bartending in the same way Spartans taught their children to swim—by throwing them into a shark tank.