Staffed by native East Bay trail explorers and expert riding instructors, Bella Oaks Stables fosters trained and fulfilling relationships between horses and their enthusiasts. Nestled among towering oak trees and gentle rolling hills, the fleet of majestic equines tote riders through lessons, community field trips, and trail rides, all under the guidance of a doting congregation of caretakers and volunteers. Seventeen summer camps for all ages and an apprenticeship program for more advanced riders instill saddle savvy in patrons of any experience level, and those pining for nature can meander through 80 miles of lush scenery and 1 mile of sci-fi-movie scenery for an afternoon trail ride.
Bay View Charters’ experienced captains navigate Coast Guard-certified yachts around the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River Delta. Each peaceful outing offers passengers a breezy cruise with stunning scenery, salty sea air, and the chance to brush up on their seagull calls. Some cruises include food and refreshments as part of the event while others make a bar available for passengers to purchase their own drinks.
As the father of a 2-year old, Tim Alley found himself running around to playdates scattered throughout the Bay Area, scooting to toddler-friendly lessons in art, gymnastics, and dance. While he loved the programming, he wished that he and his daughter weren't confined to such a tight schedule. So, he turned to his brother-in-law, Tom Limbert, head teacher at a local preschool, and they began to work on their own children's studio at Studio Grow—a supplementary preschool atmosphere with a focus on unstructured learning where children can play throughout the day. True to its name, Studio Grow now welcomes tots at three area studios. Though programs and amenities vary by location, kids might frolic through a color-splashed dance room, construct crafty masterpieces from watercolors, play-doh, and crayons in an art room, or plunge into ball pits. At all three locations, kids can tinker in a room filled with puzzles, toy trucks, dress-up clothes, and lego building sets. in a slide-filled run room. Instructors stay on hand throughout each romp, ready to lead Berkeley guests through sing-alongs or immerse Concord’s small listeners in story time. Teachers may also balloon a giant primary-colored parachute over the playroom for kids to scurry under and use to shield themselves from sudden broccoli storms. Though staffers emphasize unstructured play, they also lead summer camps for children up to aged 6 with guided romps through the studio; as well as Friday-night babysitting sessions, where kids of all ages can play sans parents until 10 p.m.
The next time you're on the roof of a five-story building, look down at the ground, and you'll get a rough idea of just how high people climb at Touchstone Climbing. The gym's seven locations feature lead walls that rise as high as 50 feet off the ground, though height isn't the only dimension that makes the space feel immense. Each spot has at least 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain, not to mention as much as 3,000 square feet of bouldering.
To prevent newcomers from feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the environment, the gym holds introductory classes. During these sessions, participants learn the basic techniques they'll need if they want to conquer the gym's crack systems and boulder problems. The classes are also an opportunity for students to scope out the terrain features at each location, such as Diablo Rock Gym's steep prow, which juts out crookedly like a thumbs up from a dizzy ballerina. While they're at it, the visitors might notice something else: the social nature of the gym. As the San Francisco Chronicle recounts, the fact that lead climbs require two people means that climbers are constantly asking around for new partners and chatting back and forth as they ascend.
Each location also boasts a weight room, cardio machines, and a studio space for everything from yoga to spinning to core classes.
If the punching bags that line the workout rooms at Max Combat Fitness could talk, they would probably still keep their mouths shut. That’s how scared they are of the professional and amateur fighters who inflict a beating on them every day during the gym’s muay thai and mixed-martial-arts classes. Led by chiseled combatant George Tsutsui, the team of instructors leads students of all ages and skill levels through the basics of hand-to-hand martial arts. If they aren’t interested in learning MMA strikes or jujitsu grappling techniques, students can burn calories in cardio-kickboxing classes that eschew contact in favor of aerobic dance moves. Similarly, the gym’s conditioning classes improve strength, speed, stamina, and flexibility through stretching exercises and explosive bursts of movement.