At Van Houten Lanes, bowling balls thunder down the waxed stretches of 16 AMF synthetic lanes—and crash through the neat rows of AMF pins waiting at the end. All the while, an AMF automatic scoring system keeps an up-to-the-minute record of each player's successes and struggles. And yet bowling isn't all that this modern alley has to offer—a large-screen TV, pool table, and an internet-connected jukebox render the cocktail lounge comfortable enough to pass for "the new apartment" when parents come to visit. The bowling facility's café fuels play with cheesy calzones and signature Hoboken-style 32-inch pizzas—all of which can be washed down with craft beer from Flying Dog Brewing. Thanks to these ample amenities, including family-friendly touches such as lane bumpers, Van Houten Lanes frequently hosts events ranging from children's parties to fundraisers.
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Spanning the eastern shores of the U.S. from New York to Florida, Scuba Network’s staff has overseen thousands of completed scuba certifications throughout its eight locations. Group NAUI certification courses keep learning to dive simple with a three-step process that includes online academic training, pool sessions, and open-water dives with sharks that have had their teeth removed by a dentist. Staffers supplement dives with know-how on equipment, from masks and snorkels to underwater cameras.
At New Canaan Ski & Sport, shoppers looking for outdoor apparel and equipment benefit from the insider's perspective of owners Pam and Gio Alberino, a pair of erstwhile professional skiers. An arsenal of sunglasses, from Sunclouds ($49.99) to Oakleys ($90–$185) can shield pupils from the summertime's vicious UV onslaught, and Carve UPF 50+ bathing suits can do the same for delicate tushes ($38–$54 per piece). Toes greet the seasonal air in Reef or Scott flip-flops ($24.95–$69.95), and the evenly spaced holes in the store's Crocs ($24.95) allow for well-ventilated comfort and perfect polka-dot tan lines. Yogis can array themselves for body-bending exercises with Yogabela gear ($58–$94), and cyclists can encase their pedal-pumping stems in Sugoi, Descente, or Dakine cycling shorts ($60–$90). New Canaan Ski & Sport also offers tune-ups for bikes ($59.99 plus parts) and the instruments of ultimate-harpsichord practitioners.
Argentina–born soccer enthusiast Gustavo Szulansky opened Super Soccer Stars to provide the boroughs with a program that championed the personal development of youngsters rather than solely a skill-based focus. Since its debut in 2000, it's grown throughout the city, helping countless youngsters learn teamwork, boost confidence, and decrease arguments during home games played on the dining-room table. This rapid growth is due in part to the positive values Gustavo instilled from the first class. His coaches are carefully selected for their ability to cultivate a noncompetitive, sensitive approach to learning the game, and they dole out their knowledge in both classes and camps.
Super Soccer Star's Kick & Play program features family-friendly classes that help tots 12–24 months old develop pre-soccer skills and physical skill sets simultaneously. During classes, a team of talented and enthusiastic instructors and an athletic duo of puppet friends named Mimi and Pepe buoy budding soccer players with positive reinforcement, individual attention, and the merry clickety-clack of cleated tap dances. Designed with the help of early-childhood specialists, each age-specific class helps players build skills at their own pace with positive reinforcement, individual attention, and engaging original music.
ProPlayer Baseball Academy has a Hall of Fame dedicated to former standout students and instructors, many of whom have gone on to have big-league careers. It's a testament to the academy's clout, both as a year-round training facility and as a launching pad to the next level. Inside the 6,000-square-foot, fully turfed facility, coaches lead baseball and softball players aged 7–18 through private lessons, camps, and clinics. Four stationary batting cages let hitters tighten up their swings, and areas for long toss help players stretch their arms without having to cling to the spinning blades of a helicopter. But it's not just the game's budding stars who use these spaces: occasionally current big leaguers visit during the offseason to keep their skills sharp, too.