Like most good ideas, Gymboree Play and Music didn't begin in a business meeting?it began out of necessity. In 1976, Joan Barnes, a California mom, found herself frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time. Knowing that other parents were undoubtedly feeling the same frustration, she took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play and Music. She consulted experts to design a curriculum of activities to foster the development of children?s cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play. She hired a nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers. And her staff began conducting entertaining classes covering subjects ranging from music to sports to impart valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. As their children learned and socialized, parents also found benefit in meeting and befriending other moms and dads in their local area. More than 30 years later, her vision has proved to be a success: more than 712 child-centered franchises now spread over 42 countries, bringing confidence and creativity to thousands of youngsters in several continents and to one in the center of the earth.
Since its founding nearly a century ago, the Stamford Jewish Community Center (JCC) has served as a focal point for the local Jewish community and a welcoming educational and fitness center for visitors of all faiths and backgrounds. Here, kids can play in early childhood classes, or learn to swim with youth aquatics lessons in the indoor pool. Forge new friendships with teammates in the JCC's adults softball and basketball leagues, or fill your brain with new knowledge during the center's frequent film festivals and cultural events.
With three floors of interactive exhibits, Imagine Nation keeps tykes aged 2–10 and their parents engaged for hours of synapse-firing fun. Tunnels filled with natural decor await youngsters in the museum's indoor jungle-themed playscape, where they can shake excess energy out of their bounding legs in preparation for naptime or hibernation season. In the ESPN center, kids can pretend to be sportscasters as they sit behind the desk of a model TV set, replete with real equipment from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
The museum also boasts a health exhibit in which children can don hospital attire and explore a model newborn nursery and an operation table, ideal for parents trying to nudge their child toward a career as a hypochondriac. After whippersnapper's minds have been blown learning about the cosmos at the space exhibit, they can unwind with drinks and snacks at the old-fashioned soda fountain, which winds the clock back to the 1940s with the help of a player piano.
Nicole Kristoff, director of Kokopelli School of Music and Arts, doesn't just run the show?she also draws on her 18 years of dance experience to teach evening classes such as hip-hop for kids and Piloxing for adults. As a whole, the school covers a much broader range of arts education, though, including theater, dance in styles such as ballet and hula hooping, and visual arts. Music buffs also hone their craft in private lessons, which can focus on instruments ranging from guitar to cello.
Wings Over Water prides itself on its Swimplicity curriculum, which emphasizes safety and comfort in the water to students. During four half-hour lessons ($26 per lesson) conducted in small class sizes, teachers will impart knowledge to fledgling fin-flappers in areas such as breathing, floating, basic propulsion, and safety jumps. And unlike the dolphins that sometimes teach renegade swimming classes in back-alley puddles, the instructors at Wings Over Waters have completed at least 40 hours of in-depth training, including certification in CPR and first aid. As Wings Over Water is a members-only facility, a one-year membership (a $50 value) is also included in this deal.
At Connecticut Cycle Center, indoor spinning classes or triathlon training with coach Kelli Montgomery beckon students to wheel in their own bikes and affix them to cycling apparatuses. Both classes and training sessions emulate outdoor adventures thanks to ErgVideo and CompuTrainer systems, which mimic famous routes on TV screens. Virtual Tour de France inclines or Spanish plains challenge cyclists to push their endurance to the brink as they mingle with peers. Classes, like the art of hanging out in an operating laundry machine, range from beginner base spins to high-power interval training. Feedback after each session charts your ascent to fitness. High-quality Apex bikes are available for rental and can be taken to nearby roads for an alfresco adventure.