Between its well-provisioned weight rooms, fitness classes, and pool, the recently renovated Southern Oaks Athletic Club is a dependable resource for corporeal wellness. The free-weight wonderland hosts both novice and veteran body sculptors, and the resistance and treadmill room harbors toning and heartening equipment in the form of elliptical machines, leg presses, and heartstring tuggers. Fitness pass guests can also participate in one-hour classes such as yoga and Latin-infused Zumba. Aquatic exercisers jettison calories as they log laps or play intense games of water basketball. Lifeguards are always on duty during pool hours, and a baby pool provides the perfect conditions for tots to evolve into adult frogs.
Ascension Community Theatre gathers gifted local actors and directors on the stage of the historic Pasqua Theater for acclaimed modern plays. The Pulitzer Prize–winning “Rabbit Hole,” directed by renowned Louisiana talent Mattie Olson, tells the tale of a family outlasting a major loss with elements of comedy flickering through the somber subject matter. Nicole Kidman was recently nominated for an Oscar for a film adaptation of the play, and Ascension’s staging shares the movie’s emotional complexity while swapping in real people for the holograms that take all but a few leading roles in most Hollywood films. Balcony seats unveil the best views in the historic Pasqua Theater.
Underwater Adventures's owner and veteran diver Mark Smith has spent the past 22 years assembling exclusively NAUI–certified instructors for his team. For the company's classes, they hop into pools or natural bodies of water to help pupils as young as 10 to achieve a diving certification. In addition to teaching recreational scuba and seahorse riding, they also train first responders on underwater search-and-rescue tactics and public-safety diving. Mark is also an instructor for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department and has facilitated dive training for several municipal agencies including the Louisiana State Police and multiple fire departments.
The Funny Bone has farmed laughs thanks to comedy heavyweights such as Cedric the Entertainer and Jamie Kennedy, as well as up-and-coming talents with fresh faces, fresh routines, and that fresh pine scent. Upcoming comics include Sam Demaris (Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28), the winner of the 2002 "Houston's Funniest Person" award. Couples looking to laugh off a first-date marriage proposal can cash in on the gut-wrenchingly honest observations of Comedy Central–featured Rodney Laney, whose Jersey-brewed stylings are finely tuned to tickle the giggleplex and pluck the shock-cartilage (Wednesday, July 13 and Thursday, July 14).
When faced with time off after graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University, Maggie DiMaggio took to baking cake after cake in her own kitchen. Seeing the potential in her baked treats, she soon began taking weekly pilgrimages to the Mandeville farmers' market to sell her cupcakes and fine breads. As the popularity of her creations grew, the special orders began pouring in—so many, in fact, that she had to open a storefront just to manage the demand.
That storefront soon evolved from its humble beginnings into The Chocolate Vine, a European-style bakery that also houses an intimate café. To foster a cozy, inviting atmosphere, Maggie furnishes the small eatery with tables and chairs from local antique stores and regularly applies a fresh coat of buttercream icing to the walls. When not crafting almond-, strawberry-, and chocolate-infused cakes , she cooks light lunches with fruits and vegetables from a local produce stand. Maggie also graciously opens up her wine cellar for regular tastings, during which guests sip on eight glasses of her finest reserves.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas—its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries—Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles. Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.