After one look at the pristine pools packed with toys, and it?s no surprise why La Petite Baleen?s four San Francisco?area swim facilities are so popular with kids. What may be surprising, however, is that the flourishing network of schools started humbly in the backyard pool of John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid.
In 1979, the public school teachers were brainstorming ways to integrate their passion for educating kids with their love of the water. Starting with their own three children, some neighborhood kids, and their logo?Waverly the Whale, John and Irene began teaching swim lessons with a rather progressive philosophy: They approached swimming not just as an extracurricular activity, but as a means to boost self-confidence, build friendships, and learn to overcome fears.
More than 30 years later, La Petite Baleen has become a renowned family of schools, partnered with the U.S. Swim School Association and the Swim for Life Foundation. Part of the success has to do with how children are grouped. In weekly sessions, pods of tots of similar age, skill level, and personality evolve at a similar pace?earning individual achievement ribbons as they do. Kids make friends in the group, and the recurring scheduling means that they can stay enrolled with their new buddies indefinitely or until they grow their own dorsal fins. Each location?s indoor pools are kept at an inviting 90 degrees, in an attempt to make even the most timid student to feel comfortable in the water. Perhaps most importantly, the teachers participate in ongoing training designed to encourage empathetic, yet firm teaching methods.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with other classmates as the instructors assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
Emerald Hills Golf Course strings together nine par 3 holes that test short-game proficiency as players use shorter irons to propel their golf balls through course's frequent elevation changes. The sixth hole presents opportunities for holes-in-one with a downhill tee shot of just 120 yards into a bowl-shaped green, easily replicated from a backyard deck into an inflatable swimming pool.
Golfers hoping to shave strokes off their scores can work under the tutelage of the course's certified teaching professional, Chris Raddie. Players can then practice Chris's corrective advice after a lesson or before a round on the two practice greens or midsize practice cage, which can double as a penalty box for prevaricating scorekeepers.
Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 27 course * Total length of 1,156 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 54.2 from the back tees * Course slope of 88 from the back tees * Two sets of tees per hole
For more than three decades, ABC Tree Farms have provided the Bay Area with seasonal fun October through December. Summer inspires the first round of recreation in the form of Summer Fun Zones packed with inflatable bounce houses masquerading as castles and slides and fresh harvests of local cherries, peaches, melons, and other fruits. During October, they run 20 pumpkin-themed locations, some of which also feature inflatable bounce houses and other attractions. Once Thanksgiving passes, groves of Christmas trees spring up, having made their way south from Oregon and Washington. There they will stand until Christmas Eve, hoping to decorate homes or become the model that inspires a revamped line of evergreen air fresheners.
At Boomers!, thrill-seeking families and fun-enabling friends can attack a variety of appealing attractions, including mini golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and the button-mashing joys housed inside the exhilarating game room. The Vista location entertains families of sharpshooters with a blacklight-illuminated laser-tag arena before little ones climb and crawl through the Kidopolis play area. The El Cajon and San Diego locations let rivals celebrate the spirit of competition as they fly past each other in speedy go-karts or have a snail-paced Ferris wheel race at the kid's county fair. Unlimited pass holders at the El Cajon location can also scale the 32-foot-tall climbing wall, which, like America, enables citizens to climb to the top via myriad routes.
For more than a decade, Team Bay Tennis's founder and director Igor Savanovic has fine-tuned the swings of athletes ranging from beginners to pros. Savanovic and two other instructors tailor their instruction to varying levels of play. They work with graduated court and racket sizes while forming a personal rapport and motivational relationship with students. Adults hone strokes in clinics or one-on-one lessons that focus on technical aspects of the game, such as how to deal with hecklers.