Montebello Barnyard Zoo's animals are like rock stars, touring local homes and meeting places for one-on-one encounters and shows. Pony rides headline this traveling attraction, which also incorporates a petting zoo with various farm animals: goats, sheep, chickens, and even a llama.
The animals still spend the most time at their home venue, however. Here, fenced off areas contain larger animals such as cows and zebras, who always show up to work wearing the same black-and-white outfits. Bales of hay, wooden barrels, and a large, red barn create a rustic setting for picnics and birthday parties. Nearby, a merry-go-round spins endlessly and a truck?decorated to resemble a locomotive?pulls train cars on a tour of the grounds.
Exhale Spa seeks to transform its clientele inside and out. The founding team of fitness professionals and aestheticians sought to create an environment where they could empower visitors with pampering spa treatments, invigorating fitness classes, and lifestyle education, helping clients attain a sense of control and holistic balance. Now with 19 locations across 11 cities, Exhale Spa and its signature services have earned mentions in numerous national publications, including People magazine, the New York Times, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
Exhale's signature Core Fusion classes incorporate dance-inspired stretches, yoga poses, and Pilates exercises into total-body workouts that build long, lean limbs and sturdy abdominal muscles over time. For an even more varied workout, the instructors introduce boot-camp techniques, cardio exercises, or multiplication tables to select sessions. Yoga classes present a similar amount of breadth and variety, drawing inspiration from a number of introspective and physically oriented styles. To help hasten physical transformations, nutrition and wellness coaches teach attendees about the impacts of diet. These sessions build an awareness of healthy eating habits through custom meal plans and by teaching clients how to identify the edible parts of a fruit basket.
Many of the center's traditional spa services seek to inspire confidence. Facials pamper and refine skin using everything from green tea and fruit extracts to microcurrent technology, and mani-pedis revitalize digits before glazing nails with a vibrant new coat of color. Bodywork treatments look beyond physical relaxation and focus on holistic concerns. Massage therapists can use Eastern or Western modalities to soothe overstressed musculature, and acupuncture treatments and reiki sessions jump-start natural healing processes by encouraging the free flow of inner energies.
DanceGardenLA was created by Zahra Zuhair and Jenna, who have been belly-dancing since childhood and have travelled the world accumulating impressive professional credits. Zuhair has trained in traditional folk and Eastern styles?including Lebanese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Tunisian?but her specialty is Egyptian belly dance, which she has studied with some of the top teachers in Cairo. She has also been featured on the cover of Zaghareet! magazine and has written, directed, and choreographed productions as the artistic director of the Ghazella Dance Company and Po Na Na Dance Theatre. Jenna acted as a goddess bellydance instructor on an episode of Sex and the City, and made appearances on The Tyra Banks Show and the Food Network program Aarti Party. She has also starred in several bestselling belly dance-instruction DVDs.
Thanks to their more than 50 years of combined teaching experience and a talented team of award-winning instructors, the studio was named the Best Place to Learn the Art of Bellydancing in 2012 by LA Weekly. The site recommended instructor Princess Farhana's "witty repartee (and Hollywood rock-scene anecdotes)," and described the predominantly female atmosphere as "always encouraging, never intimidating." The crew teaches classes including classic and tribal-style bellydance, Bollywood, and cutting-edge dance fitness such as Bellyquake and E5.
Blaine Eastcott's love of the outdoors is rooted in fond childhood memories of family camping trips. On one such trip, Blaine's teenage self impulsively climbed a 100-foot rock only to soon find himself struck by panic high up on the rock face. He was paralyzed by fear, until a surge of adrenaline gave him the courage needed to scramble the final 10 feet up. This ordeal spurred him to take rock-climbing classes?and eventually led to his current position as the president of Rockreation. His three adrenaline-inducing arenas challenge climbers of all skill levels with more than 28,500 total square feet of climbing terrain, composed of jagged cliffs, bouldering nooks, and craggy archways. The faux-mountain range mimics the conditions of real rocks with indentions, overhangs, and eagle's nests.
The gyms devote one-third of their space to a bouldering area, which blends into a top-rope course fraught with varying angles, and a large lead area with an overhanging arch. Across these angles, passionate instructors with extensive outdoors experience?and a background in conversational mountain goat?guide students through the Fight Gravity program. The three-class series focuses on belaying basics, and progresses through technique instruction and bouldering. They also lead seasonal kids' camps where tiny humans can explore the routes, or plunge on a big swing and zipline. The gyms also have a separate area with machines, traditional weights, and cardio equipment for members who want to not only climb rocks, but also lift heavy ones above their heads.
Jay Kerwin knows a thing or two about making it through a tough regimen. A certified skydiver, scuba diver, pilot, and EMT, he was also one of only seven to graduate from the Air Force’s Pararescue Special Operations Indoctrination program––a course that begins with about 500 candidates. Now known as “the Major,” he helps build confidence and stronger bodies at Boot Camp LA, instilling his students with the same kind of motivation and work ethic that led him to win several national bodybuilding competitions and open pickle jars with ease.
Atop the plush grass and unforgiving concrete surrounding the La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum park, new and experienced recruits tone muscles as sneakered feet beat the ground during military-style drills that include running, strength workouts, and circuit training. Classes are lead by Jay and his wife Marcella, an athlete since age 10 and fondly referred to as “the Lieutenant.” Together, they work with men and women of all ages and fitness levels, developing workouts and offering nutrition advice. Recruits can train before the sun rises with classes ending before 10 a.m., or shake off sweat and workplace stress as the sun sets during an evening class. Aside from helping students lose weight, the Major and Lieutenant help them start or end each day with positive reinforcement, staying away from the yelling, belittling, and mama insulting often associated with traditional military-style boot camps.
The founders of Liberation Yoga were probably flattered when their studio was named one of LA Weekly's best yoga studios in 2013. But it wasn't the highest honor they'd ever received?in 2007, Travel+Leisure crowned Liberation Yoga one of the best studios in the entire world.
Those are just two of the numerous awards the studio has accumulated since it opened in the early 2000s, right when the '90s fitness craze of teasing hair until your arms gave out began to decline. Perhaps the praise is due to the fact that the majority of its yoga instructors boast more than a decade of experience. Or maybe it's because they focus solely on yoga while still offering a wide variety of classes types. That class range includes from gentle styles of yoga, which relieve stress, to flow classes, which challenge the body with rigorous, Vinyasa-style movements, to classes specifically designed for families and toddlers.
Or maybe it's the classroom itself?a bright, mystical place where mismatched dark and light hardwood slats cover the floors, natural light pours through the windows, and a sky-blue ceiling slants toward the outer wall. Touches such as tree-like wooden poles, greenery and flowers, and brown vines complete the fairytale look, making the studio a magic place in which to move and obtain inner peace.