The sky is overcast, and an instructor stands off to the side of the riding area with a camera in hand. Chance, a leather-brown horse, stands poised, ready to jump over an x-rail. Moments later, Chance gallops toward the hurdle, throwing its front legs into the air and gracefully arcing over the lofty obstacle.
This is just another day at Aspire Equestrian, where passionate trainers lead private and group riding lessons for students of all ages and levels of expertise. With a community-like feel, the instructors at Aspire hope students riders gain a comfortable atmosphere to learn and enjoy their new skills. The equine enthusiasts also board horses and lease select animals to people who want to hit the trails on their own or secure better lawn seats at the next outdoor music festival.
Though the birth of a child changes the lives of all parents, it doesn’t usually spark inspiration for a new business. But for the Soon family, the arrival of son Jordan Alexander highlighted the need for a place where little ones can explore, learn, and socialize through interactive play. So the parents created Diddalidoo to fill this void.
The Soon family's playground welcomes kids aged 0–4 to play with toys and solve puzzles within its colorful confines. Separate areas cater to different age groups, with a baby area perfect for honing sensory skills and discussing the rising costs of rattles. A two-level playground looms over the toddler play area and creates laughs with its bright-yellow racing slides. Granting breaks from playtime, a quiet room caters to nursing mothers, a boutique shop sells gifts, and an onsite café serves up health-focused snacks and food for hungry teddy bears.
Dart Ops creates a safe indoor battlefield where players vie for victory using toy dart guns loaded with foam ammo propelled by short blasts of air. Neon-colored screens, walls made of mesh netting, and hanging targets pepper the arena space, which transforms into a monsoon of flying foam at the start of each friendly battle. As games progress, players can curl their trigger fingers around more advanced weaponry, including velcro-tipped darts that adhere to targets or the weak spots of enemy sock puppets. A marshall ensures fair play and organizes different types of game play, such as Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Protect the President. Aside from open play, Dart Ops' staff also host birthdays in a party booth and organize monthly Tour of Duty tournaments.
With hands gripped to the wheels of karts capable of cresting 45 miles per hour, up to 12 racers hum around the hairpin turns and straightaways of K1 Speed's indoor track during adrenaline-spiking sprints toward the podium. This brand of excitement can be found at all 20+ locations, where racers eschew the fumes and inflammatory skywriting of gas kart exhaust for European, eco-friendly electric karts designed to instantly accelerate out of curves, which are bordered by safety barriers that absorb impacts.
"I will honor Christmas in my heart," vows Ebenezer Scrooge near the end of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, "and try to keep it all the year." For five weekends around Thanksgiving through Christmas, the 750-plus costumed performers at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair honor this declaration.
Lauded as "charmingly over-the-top" by the San Francisco Chronicle and "dazzling" by the San Francisco Examiner, the fest comprises more than three acres of exhibition halls. Inside, the fair's creative team recreates Dickens' Victorian-era London, complete with labyrinthine lanes, scone-scented bakeries, quaint pubs, and a rowdy dockside. In the streets and on seven stages, carolers entertain crowds alongside notable guests, including Queen Victoria and Scrooge himself. yelling that famous catchphrase, "Bah! An icky humbug! Somebody squish it!"
GoKart Racer safely curbs the need for speed with its fleet of Sodi RX 7 European racing karts, which come equipped with hydraulic brakes, a four-point racing harness, and a 9-horsepower Honda engine that can reach up to 35 miles per hour. The speedsters weave through each facility's indoor European-style road courses, including the 3/8-mile SuperTrack, which has more than 20 turns, an elevation change, and the occasional hotshot, road-jumping frog.
Before the green flag waves, the staff members equip racers with a racing suit, a helmet, and a brief rundown of the kart's abilities and dietary regulations. They tailor races to different age groups by offering kids? karts, a driving school for minors, and racing leagues for experienced drivers, and they augment traditional racing with a laser maze. The facility also welcomely opens its doors for birthday parties and other events.