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.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $10 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (a $3.99 value).
Since its birth in 1949, The Alley, or at least the North Shore ground on which The Alley resides, has come full circle. During its earliest years, it was known as Mary Jane Lanes, a 10-lane bowling center that buzzed with family-friendly competition throughout the 1950s and '60s. That buzzing continued at a much louder decibel level during the 1970s, when Mary Jane Lanes became Minstrel's Alley, a go-to music venue rocked by the riffs of bands such as REO Speedwagon and The Ramones. In the 1980s, after crews restored its lanes and dug out all the burnt electric guitars embedded into its gutters, the building returned to its origins as a family-first bowling center. Today, The Alley has been updated with automatic scoring, projection TVs, and pool tables ready to accommodate guests of all ages. Every Friday and Saturday, though, The Alley detours back through the '70s, as live bands revive the facility's glory days during Rock and Bowl.
At the historic Highland Park Theatre, families and film buffs happily munch handfuls of fresh popcorn as spine-tingling thrillers, uproarious comedies, and rich, moving dramas play out on the big screen. The venerable North Shore movie house dates back to 1925, when it operated as the 1,200-seat Alcyon Theatre, which had a single screen that showed silent footage of cowboys racing on horseback, swashbucklers crossing swords, and complex romance plots communicated through drawn-out games of Pictionary. Today, powerful sound systems in the building's four theaters broadcast the dialogue of crowd-pleasing Hollywood blockbusters, as well as critically acclaimed independent films and imported foreign masterpieces.
Hidden Creek AquaPark's sprawling grounds swim with watery entertainment for guests of all ages, from kids waiting beneath the water playground's dumping bucket to grandparents reading a good book atop lounge chairs. Swimmers can slip down the winding slide or take the plunge from a drop slide, which spits them out into the deep end of a pool that gradually descends from its zero-depth entry. Meanwhile, kids can keep themselves busy building castles and multistory housing units in a sand area. After practicing swan dives and cannonballs off the diving board, guests can storm the concession stand or relax on the lawn.
Pump It Up's two indoor inflatable arenas bounce socked striplings high off the ground with a plethora of kid-friendly bounce pads. Trained, amiable staffers supervise fun-filled visits where parents can leap around with their kids through gargantuan, air-filled bounce houses, skip down air-filled slides, and slither like snakes covered in bacon grease through an air-filled obstacle course. Attendees can also focus their free play for special events, such as custom birthday parties and themed, private team parties. These themed soirees immerse children in a schedule of interactive activities befitting a pirate or a superhero while melting off youthful energy faster than ice cubes thrown into a running DVD player. Both giant arenas are climate controlled and maintained according to rigorous guidelines enforced by the well-trained staff and local police. Supplementing its thorough rule enforcement with expert installation and anchoring, Pump It Up holds itself to strict safety standards.