Black Bear Saloon may have all the wood paneling of a Wild West watering hole, but it boasts many modern amenities, including 33 plasma televisions that deliver sports from around the globe thanks to a DirecTV sports package. Cooks keep stomachs fueled for the action with a selection of wraps, sandwiches, and Angus-beef burgers.
After a game has aired, the staff dims the lights and cranks up the volume on the bar’s speaker system and turns the stage over to a live DJ every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Saturday, before the rise of the moon transforms the mild-mannered dining room into a dance floor, the saloon hosts the kid-friendly Cub Club. The club’s staffers lead tykes in crafts, games, and Wii activities, which gives parents time to grab a relaxed afternoon meal or nap on the cool floor behind the bar.
LA Boxing’s fight-centric gyms ditch the polished look of wood-floored workout studios for gritty, competitive spaces filled with 150-pound punching bags and intense workouts. Like a baker molding gingerbread men, LA Boxing sculpts six-packs with boxing, kickboxing, and mixed-martial-arts classes. Although instructors and students agree that the gym’s atmosphere may enkindle intimidation in first-time attendees, most experience boosted self-confidence after conquering their first class. Private training sessions further stoke courage with workouts that leave patrons with the exhilaration of having survived 12 rounds in the ring or five minutes in a high-school lunchroom.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, which was cofounded by the legendary dancer himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form using their expert eyes. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Heat floods the expansive Bikram Yoga Norwalk studio, loosening taut muscles as students of all levels perspire through static, strength-building poses. Certified instructors lead these students through the 26 poses that strengthen and stretch the body, modifying the trickier postures in order to accommodate beginners. The studio itself stays at a balmy 102?107 degrees with 40%?60% humidity in order to help facilitate deeper stretching, increase blood flow, and destroy stowaway snowmen.
Home to more than 1,000 marine animals, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk entices visitors of all ages with glimpses of the Long Island Sound’s rich ecosystem. Pintsize adventurers thrill at the touch tank, which puts friendly rays and other inhabitants of the Sound at arm's reach. Sharks swiftly navigate a glass-enclosed exhibit, giving visitors an up-close view of the powerful creatures without having to disguise themselves as bigger sharks. The friendly staff members feed seven harbor seals three times a day, inviting landlubbers to watch and ask questions as the whiskered inhabitants chow down. A six-story screen displays larger-than-life images in the IMAX theater, as educational tales of seafaring critters and jungle dwellers inspire folk ballads about the family cat. The behind-the-scenes tour steers visitors through the jellyfish nursery and fish kitchen before piloting toward the Open Ocean exhibit, where participants can toss in fish to feed the sharks, and then after-dinner mints to curb the indecorous effects.