In 1976, busy California mother Joan Barnes wanted nothing more than to find a play place where she and her kids could enjoy age-appropriate, educational activities. Finding none, she developed her own innovative play environment within a developmental-based program structure now known as Gymboree Play & Music. Today, kids tumble and learn in more than 650 locations in 33 countries around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their children's development, their kids learn to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of their preschool knitting circles.
In Gymboree Play & Music's most popular class, Play & Learn, tots master skills such as cause and effect, problem solving, and good communication through games and play. The notion that learning should be fun for the under-five set permeates all of Gymboree's classes. From music and art to sports activities, most classes are calibrated for development at six-month age intervals. Mixed-age classes teach cooperation, as kids play movement games or perform songs on musical instruments. Older children take the school-skills class to learn skills that will help them in school and during conference calls with the president. All of this takes place in a well-padded indoor playground with tunnels, slides, and bridges designed by nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to withstand tiny bare feet and the wrath of resident trolls.
What began over 40 years ago as a bowling alley built in an old schoolhouse has since expanded into multi-level entertainment enclave known as RollAway Family Fun Center. In the second-floor roller skating rink, skaters glide across a glossy hardwood floor, cast in lights that flash to the beat of tunes spun by an on-site DJ. Below, on the first floor, players honor the center’s original purpose, sending pins a-clattering in the updated bowling alley. Guests can also settle scores or start fun, new blood feuds with games of laser tag and outdoor mini golf.
Glowing monkeys scamper toward a neon waterfall, and a knight bearing a radiant yellow lance rides past a bright orange octopus emerging from the ocean. What appears to be a time-traveling session gone awry is really the evolving environment within Putting Edge’s indoor black-lit mini-golf course, which whisks players to deep seas, Aztec jungles, and medieval times. Since opening its original location in Canada, Putting Edge has now expanded to 17 North American locations, all of which invite guests onto its challenging 18-hole courses to seek victory over opponents and the forces that keep their teeth from not glowing as brightly as they could. Elsewhere, the facility houses private party rooms, concessions, and an arcade filled with gamer favorites such as air hockey.
Multiple rows of pinball machines manufactured from the early 1960s through today shelter plungers and flippers as they fling the silver spheres toward illumined targets. Entertaining guests between bouts of pinball, air hockey, and abundant arcade classics—such as Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, and Asteroids —await with flashing lights infused with friendly competition. Klassic Arcade celebrates its impressive stock of more than 100 different varieties of glass-bottled soda pop during its annual Midwest Soda Pop Festival, which combines pop tastings and judging with live music and games. The arcade also spearheads the annual Pinball at the 'Zoo festival, at which attendees can play more than 100 arcade and pinball games for free in between tournaments, auctions, and seminars with the original 8-bit Mario and Luigi. Completing the lineup of exciting diversions is the outdoor M-40 Raceway track, which hosts off-road RC racers.
A miniature locomotive passes beneath the shadow of a towering monkey statue. Nearby, a dragon-shaped roller coaster zooms past oversized ferns and a yawning hippo. Tropical accents like these define Jeepers!’s frenetic, color-saturated space, which, in addition to five amusement park rides, entertains tykes aged 12 and younger with more than 80 arcade games. Once kids have expended their excess energy, families can retreat to the concession stand and refuel with a menu of pizzas and burgers.:m]]