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.
Bolton Ice Palace ditches the red carpet in favor of a sprawling, 200’x85’ rink that has sent New England skaters twirling across its surface for the past four decades. Typically open seven days per week for public sessions, the facility luxuriates each visit with modern amenities, including four locker rooms, a full-service vending room, and an onsite pro shop. Youth and men’s hockey leagues consistently rub elbows with the boards, and learn-to-skate programs—designed by U.S. Figure Skating—help pintsize and full-size gliders alike become comfortable atop their blades. Customers can also rent out the Palace, turning it into a private event space to host birthdays, work functions, or to more accurately pinpoint the location of the zamboni operator’s forlorn howls.
Visitors never have to wait in line to workout at Cardio Express—each of the six clubs boasts a ton of Cybex strength-training machinery, an arsenal of free weights, and more than 80 pieces of cardio equipment affixed with personal 15-inch television screens. Compassionate instructors imbue gym visits with a human element as well, leading classes such as Core Fusion, Total Tone circuit training, and spinning sessions at the Southington, Vernon, and Manchester locations.
Each year, the staff members carry the same motivational energy they use in their studios to recruit members and friends for the Multiple Sclerosis Bike Tour. Cardio Express has raised a grand total of nearly $400,000, and it also acts as title sponsor for the 2012 benefit.
At Lutz Children's Museum, curious young ones aged 2 to 10 explore rotating hands-on exhibits to soak up knowledge and stoke imagination flames. Dismount aluminum covered wagons and kick off a terra firma cultural journey at the main street exhibit, which depicts a World War II-era American village, including a detailed shop and school. Meanwhile, the farm exhibit vividly displays 19th-century Connecticut farm life, where kids can collect eggs from hens, climb in a hayloft, milk the resident cow, or psychoanalyze their moos. Colorful works decorate the halls of the children's art gallery, which occasionally features the creative work of professional artists, while cuddleful perks await visitors of the rescued live animals, where a chinchilla named Bounce currently prowls the grounds alongside about 50 other cute creatures.
Parkade Cinemas doesn't need a marquee lit up in flashing bulbs or spotlights waving through the sky to get the community through its doors. The film buffs behind the independently run theater know that the focus of the movie experience is the movie itself, so they don't try to overshadow it. And by leaving their decor understated, they've created something distinctly familiar. The red curtains lining the walls around six screens, the blue and white tile leading to the candies in the concession stand, the gray seats whose arms hug audiences during the scary parts are all emblematic of movie-going. These, coupled with the second-run Hollywood blockbusters and the regular live performances from comedians and magicians, make Parkade Cinemas a staple of the community.
One practitioner of CrossFit summed up the lifestyle with one simple perspective: "People walk through the door and say, 'Hey, where's all the machines?' We're the machines." Everybody motivates everybody else in these group exercises, which strip away the fancy devices and fads of the moment to focus on natural movements. At CrossFit Playground, exercisers build muscle by climbing ropes, jogging backward, lifting heavy weights, and doing battle with their shadow-selves. The workout is different every day, and the instructor takes care to exactly explain the exercise du jour. Combining community, expertise, and old-fashioned hard work, CrossFit delivers proven results.