In 1976, Joan Barnes—a Californian mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time—took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play & Music. In the decades since Gymboree’s founding, Joan’s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children’s’ cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classes that cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beck to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
The meaning of art may be subjective, but Mission: Renaissance believes that the basic, technical skills needed to create art are learnable, regardless of a student’s age or experience. The instructors at the studio, which was originally founded in 1975, illuminate the Gluck Method, which focuses on the classic rendering techniques that the great masters used on their first computers. The classes can accommodate students as young as 5, and they explore a number of different mediums—including charcoal, watercolors, and oils—while giving attendees the experience they need to appreciate art, as well as create it. Spread across 19 studio locations in southern California, attendance is capped at around six students per instructor, which allows them to offer artists more personalized feedback and more fitting nicknames.
West Coast Boot Camp's Adrian Pietrariu is at his best during the heat of athletic competition. Not content with dominating opponents during taekwondo matches, Adrian assembled a team of seasoned instructors that now forms the core of WCBC’s training staff. Their signature boot camp meets in places such as beaches and parking lots to get hearts pumping and calories burning. Adrian also helps individuals unlock inner combatants with martial-arts classes, achieve their athletic aspirations with one-on-one coaching, and learn the difference between a basketball and an overripe cantaloupe with sport-specific training.
A 150-acre oasis of beautiful flora, Descanso Gardens is cozily situated in a secluded section of the San Rafael hills and offers visitors a refreshing glimpse of Mother Nature when she's not busy. Guests can stroll through the various gardens and soak in the sights of roses by the thousands, examine native California flowers, parley with old oaks, and meditate in a Japanese-themed sanctuary that features a picturesque arched bridge, a tea house, and a pond. Upcoming special events include Botanic Bling on December 11 & 12, hosted by Mark-Alan Harmon, and Enchanted Railroad Storytime on December 18, hosted by professional storyteller Bill Ratner.
Seeking to find a middle ground between cardio and strength-training workouts, The Training Center’s certified instructors built a program that allows their students to kill two birds with one kettlebell. In addition to the cannonball-like weights, trainers call on equipment such as sandbags, ropes, and TRX straps during both group classes and personal-training sessions, which begin with functional-movement tests that help determine a course of action for each client.
At Caterpillar Kids Place, little ones tumble and explore with arts and crafts, music, and other children in an eco-friendly playground. Wee ones scoot around the play area on riding toys, soon reaching a bounce house where they safely jump skyward. Building blocks improve spatial awareness and expressive prowess, an array of costumes fosters method acting for King Lear –themed make-believe sessions, and puppets and instruments inspire impromptu plays. While tykes go nuts, parents relax in Caterpillar Kids Place's onsite lounge with complimentary coffee, WiFi access, and an audiobook archive of Cosmopolitan quizzes. Caterpillar Kids Place is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.