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 one cleverly disguised frog, 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.
The next time you're on the roof of a five-story building, look down at the ground, and you'll get a rough idea of just how high people climb at Touchstone Climbing. The gym's seven locations feature lead walls that rise as high as 50 feet off the ground, though height isn't the only dimension that makes the space feel immense. Each spot has at least 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain, not to mention as much as 3,000 square feet of bouldering.
To prevent newcomers from feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the environment, the gym holds introductory classes. During these sessions, participants learn the basic techniques they'll need if they want to conquer the gym's crack systems and boulder problems. The classes are also an opportunity for students to scope out the terrain features at each location, such as Diablo Rock Gym's steep prow, which juts out crookedly like a thumbs up from a dizzy ballerina. While they're at it, the visitors might notice something else: the social nature of the gym. As the San Francisco Chronicle recounts, the fact that lead climbs require two people means that climbers are constantly asking around for new partners and chatting back and forth as they ascend.
Each location also boasts a weight room, cardio machines, and a studio space for everything from yoga to spinning to core classes.
Certified therapists Hernan Goldstein and Siannan Gall named their joint practice Dryad after the mythological spirits of oak trees, which are also symbols of healing and longevity in many cultures. Hernan graduated from the National Holistic Institute, where he studied Swedish, deep-tissue, sports, and shiatsu massage. He also pursued advanced training in pregnancy and prenatal bodywork and myofascial therapy. Before joining forces with Siannan, he worked in spas and with chiropractors and cared for his own clients. In keeping with his American Massage Therapy Association membership, Hernan aims to foster both physical healing and self-awareness.
Raised by a family of dancers, massage therapists, and medical professionals, Siannan was primed early on for a healing career path. She graduated from the Institute of Conscious BodyWork, where she studied deep-tissue, sports, and prenatal massage and myofascial release. Despite being finished with school, she continues to study the human body through anatomy and physiology courses while adding new massage techniques to her repertoire. Siannan also never relinquished her love of dancing, which she fuels by performing, competing, and doing jigs on street corners whenever someone says the word "pancake."
Though SEE Eyewear’s specs are only found in their stores, their designs sprout from imaginations around the world. Winner of reader's choice awards in cities ranging from San Francisco to Nashville, SEE Eyewear stocks its frames directly from fashionable frame crafters and passes on the savings of doing business at the source to customers. The company calls on fashion designers from France, Italy, and other style-conscious countries to create one-of-a kind designs to be featured on store shelves and client faces. Before that happens, though, each potential frame goes through a rigorous design and review process to ensure its distinctiveness and quality before it can be added to the national eyewear shop’s exclusive coveted selection.
From cat-eye to horn-rimmed and perfectly round to wayfarer-inspired, the cost of each frame includes single-vision lenses, giving customers the simplicity of a flat price that doesn’t require customers to pay an extra prescription fee or mine their own bifocal quarry. SEE Eyewear also trains its staff members to be aesthetically savvy so they can find the perfect fashion-forward, vision-correcting specs for any face shape, mood, or fashion sense.
After walking through the studio’s namesake entryway, visitors to Funky Door Yoga Polk Street are greeted by the grunts of Bikram practitioners carried on waves of steamy heat. The stretch dojo's seven-day schedule boasts early-morning, afternoon, and evening classes that take place in a classroom stoked to up to 105 degrees, the perfect temperature for facilitating flexibility or melting a corporate rival's ice statue in effigy. Students run through Bikram Choudhury’s 26 poses that pique muscles, organs, veins, and ligaments while the sweltering heat flushes toxins from the body. After a 90-minute session, students can hop into one of Funky Door Yoga Polk Street's showers, or down a bottle of water or sports drink available for purchase. The studio also stocks rentable mats and towels for greenhorn yogis not quite experienced enough to levitate.
The bright studio helps students fine-tune posework with wall-to-wall mirrors, and the expansive floor space affords enough space to execute even the most complex poses. Two nearby parking lots and metered parking afford convenient parking for car-toting students.
In one room, skincare specialists swath bodies in an all-natural seaweed gel, sprinkle on a potpourri of nourishing herbs, and let infrared heat draw out their toning and detoxifying qualities. In another, acupuncturists realign clients' chi and fine-tune their physical and emotional fields. And behind any door, massage therapists may be kneading tense muscles, chiropractors may be adjusting injured backs, or aestheticians may be resurfacing complexions to a radiant glow with oxygen facials.
A staff of professionals from many areas of expertise come together under the roof and stress-zapping force field of Balance the Clinic, where they work together to bolster physical and emotional health with natural remedies and clinically tested treatments. In addition to consulting with any of these staff members, guests also can retreat into the privacy of an infrared sauna. From a private changing room, individuals or couples step into a hypoallergenic, odor-free basswood chamber equipped with a sound system that sets the sauna gently vibrating in time with relaxing music.
Discover places for health and fitness, attractions and things to do.