When artists from Suzhou set about creating a Chinese garden in Portland, they immediately knew their inspiration: the Ming Dynasty. Like the dynasty's gardens, Lan Su Chinese Garden was designed as a natural escape from the everyday world. In addition to the verdant plant life, the grounds overflow with pavilions, courtyards, and studies where guests can take in the sights, meditate, write a poem, or guard the garden's bamboo from devious pandas masquerading as groundskeepers. Lan Su showcases hundreds of China’s 30,000-plus plant species, including 90 specimen trees. Beneath those sprout collections of magnolias, camellias, and rhododendrons, to name a few.
Though browsing the garden could take up an entire day, Lan Su offers plenty of other soothing activities, as well. At the teahouse, snacks and sweets accompany traditional presentations of organic, fair-trade teas, whose flavors change to reflect each season in the garden. The space’s other events range from lectures on acupuncture to games of mahjong.
In 1976, Joan Barnes—a Californian mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time—took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play and Music. In the decades since Gymboree’s founding, Joan’s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children’s’ cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classes that cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beck to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
Inside Tac-Ops Indoor Airsoft's 6,000-square-foot arena, military and urban-warfare missions either succeed or fail. Either you capture the enemy’s flag or their stronghold remains. Either you disarm a deadly bomb or it destructively explodes. Either you snatch the secret documents or the classified details of Elvis’s location fall into the wrong hands.
Tac-Ops outfits each player not just with objective-based missions that call for occasional alliances and full-out battles, but also with the necessary airsoft gear and safety equipment. Once fully strapped, sharpshooters receive their mission orders and unleash themselves on a war zone swarming with jungle foliage and fluttering with red lights. Players test both their mettle and their aim as they plunge behind obstacles and slip between flittering crimson rays. To hasten their field time, each BB hurler can sign Tac-Ops Indoor Airsoft's waiver beforehand.
It's hard to believe that Portland ever lacked a dearth of quality paddle outfitters, considering the many evergreen-lined rivers and nearby coastline. But back in 1986, the founders of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe felt there were too few options serving the area, so they launched their own garage shop. Their passion for the outdoors and paddle sports steadily built the company, and today, a staff of equipment experts advises guests on kayaking, canoeing, standup-paddleboarding, and rafting supplies. Beyond selling gear from vessels to apparel, staffers lead on-the-water classes and organize group trips. The shop also outfits customers for independent exploration with a fleet of rentals.
Farber Swim School’s instructors specialize in helping swimmers overcome their fear of water. One way they do this is by heating their 16-yard pool to 90 degrees, which helps to eliminate the initial shock of touching the water. Once students feel comfortable, the instructors—who are all lifeguards, competitive swimmers, or actual fish—begin their lessons, which range depending on the students’ needs. For instance, Baby & Me classes introduce youngsters to aquatic activity in the pool’s 3-foot shallow end, while more advanced students tread in the pool’s 8-foot deep end. Surrounding the four-lane pool, you’ll find locker rooms, a sun deck, and a hot tub that’s heated to 100 degrees.
As they enter the training circle at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. One minute is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.