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 & 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 Beckwith to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
It's a big leap from the bustle of an athletic field to the solitude of a darkroom, but Calumet Photographic made the transition seamlessly more than 70 years ago. From its origins as a Chicago sporting-goods store, the company evolved into a one-stop shop for cameras and darkroom equipment and eventually into an innovator of photographic technology. In the 1960s, Calumet's most brilliant minds were behind the development of the Caltar large-format-lens line and nitrogen burst film.
Today, Calumet Photographic continues to manufacture and sell professional photographic products and software across the globe, boasting more than 25 retail stores throughout the US and Europe. Their shops abound with both new and used high-quality cameras and equipment, rental gear, and knowledgeable technicians eager to help customers find the right equipment for the job. The company’s extensive online catalog enables shoppers to purchase equipment from around the world and have it shipped directly to their home, studio, or mall photo booth they’ve claimed as a studio.
Since she was a child, Pla Schneider dreamed of writing and illustrating her own children's book. She earned a degree in visual communications and exhibited some of her work in boutiques and galleries, but she couldn't find that spark of inspiration. She was able to find a muse in her daughter, who inspired Pla's first book, Sassy Cassie A True Little Princess. At Sugar-n-Spice Studios, Schneider helps art students circumvent creative blocks by guiding them step-by-step in a fun, playful environment. Patrons dab acrylic paints onto stretched canvases, rendering images of flower-filled parks, technicolor giraffes, or mermaids swimming alongside seahorses and other imaginary animals.
Perched atop the hills of its namesake, Orange County Mining Co. pairs an eight-part champagne brunch with 19th-century nostalgia, as wagon wheels and cacti impart a rugged prickle to the restaurant's cozy atmosphere. The brunch offerings warm diners with carved prime rib and ham, cheese blintz, and other toasty tastes, before cooling palates with iced shrimp, snow crab legs, and lox. Ravenous miners can pile culinary ore into made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, and waffles, or gather steam with tamales and menudo at executive chef Horacio Barragan's Mexican station. To cap off appetites, baked delicacies and other sweets are either devoured or skewered for a dunk in the chocolate fountain.
Liberty Tax Service has numerous LA-area locations, but this Groupon is valid for six (see sidebar). Each location is staffed with professional refund hounds who can chase away the burden and stress of tax season and sniff out your maximum allowable refund. Unless you can find the square root of a tuber and divide it by half the value of zero, like Liberty's staff can, then you won't get the biggest refund possible. In order to get your full refund, bring a comprehensive selection of forms and reciepts, including your 1040s, W-2s, 560Zs, 2345Exs, and T-1000s.