Founded by a fusion of a skilled chef, his wife, and their business partner, Nica's 320 aims to meld the traditional flavors of Italian, Thai, Caribbean, French, and Cajun cuisines into culinary gold. In the kitchen, chef Bryan Merker and his team plate a diverse menu that blends those influences into tasty entrees and mix-and-match specialties so creative they rival the gourmet cheese plates that NASA brought back from the moon. Inside Nica's 320’s exposed-brick dining room, constellations of local artwork contrast with a hammered-steel-topped bar that dispenses cocktails and cold showers beneath an ornate absinthe fountain. Lighting fixtures dangle from exposed ceilings, casting an amorous glow over cornbread pancakes, thai chicken, korean pork, jerk-steak slider trios, and sticky-rice crab cakes laced with savory cheddar and red-chili jam. Steaming plates of redefined risotto, pan-fried noodles, man n' cheese, and beignets peek curious palates. Outside, an open-air patio soaks its occupants in gentle breezes that —like the fountain—have the power to pacify.
The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
At Step by Step, clients work with experienced instructors on a spacious dance floor. No partners are needed during their exciting group lessons, which can cover everything from basic rumba to salsa steps and preparation for the first dance of your wedding. Private lessons help establish the four basic steps that most styles of dance rely upon.
Though the city's name would seem to suggest otherwise, Independence residents must still—by law—interact with each other occasionally. Luckily, Independence Events Center serves to bring the community together, hosting everything from national concert tours to youth hockey leagues within its walls. Such stars as Kelly Clarkson have graced the stage within the 5,800-seat arena, also home to local sports teams such as the Central Hockey League's Missouri Mavericks and the Major Indoor Soccer League's Missouri Comets. Additionally, a community rink lets residents and nonresidents alike hit the ice for programs ranging from open-skating sessions and lessons to private rentals for Civil War reenactments.
When a school of music also contains a live-performance venue, it’s an indicator that the lessons stick. Such is the case with the Columbia Academy of Music, where private practice rooms sit just steps from The Bridge, a club accustomed to welcoming musical talent from down the street and around the country. A stage within range of instruction can inspire even the most stage-frightened students to step into the spotlight, where they’ll get the hands-on, feet-on stage experience that renders books worthless.
The academy’s tuneful staffers are no strangers to this kind of public performance—some instructors have shared the stage with the likes of Chuck Berry, Sting, and Hank Williams III—but many also are experts in what goes on behind the music. In lessons tailored for all ages, skill sets, and music-making manners, the school strengthens the confidence of budding musicians in once-a-week sessions. Instrument instruction infuses students with techniques across a range of musical genres; audio-production and engineering courses teach students how to make solid records and tolerate most singers’ misguided requests for more Steak-Umms in the monitor.
ImPulse Fitness' passionate instructors center their classes on camaraderie and supportive energy. Bootycamp fitness classes combine resistance and cardio training to sculpt muscles into toned masterpieces. A veteran Zumba instructor leads international-rhythm-inspired workouts, getting participants to sweat in the original universal language of dance aerobics. The turbo-kick class combines aerobic exercise with muscle-building martial-arts moves, and Vinyasa flow and Hatha yoga classes home in on body, mind, and spirit. Students can also develop abdominal prowess and articulate bellybuttons during shimmy-inducing belly-dance classes.