In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
In the past 40 years, the Southern Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut have seldom stood without an echo of laughter or music. That's because Woodbury Ski Area keeps them pulsing with skiers and snowboarders during winter months and warm-weather revelers and concertgoers throughout the summer. Tubing slides run down the hills throughout the summer, along with zorb balls—inflatable spheres that carry passengers to the bottom in 45 seconds.
Woodbury Ski Area's president Rod Taylor, who competed as a member of the U.S. Ski Team, maintains the facility with the same drive he used to become the national downhill ski champion and record holder for clearing 222 feet in the Glendale Jump contest. While helping to keep adrenaline levels high, Rod ensures the facility hosts more laid-back cultural events with concerts on the Woodbury stage. Past shows have featured legends including The Wailers, Fela Kuti, and UB40, as well as Muddy Waters, The Band, Bonnie Raitt, and Earl Scruggs.
Snap Fitness's around-the-clock gyms enable members to work on their physical well-being with a cornucopia of fitness equipment. With 24-hour access, members don't have to let The Man tell them when to help themselves to Snap's strength and cardio equipment, which features built-in TVs and other media diversions. For those who exercise during conventional hours, Snap's friendly, unintimidating atmosphere welcomes patrons of all ability levels, unlike schoolyard dodge-ball squads. Members also enjoy nationwide access to all Snap Fitness locations, ideal for working out while traveling. For a dose of custom advice, patrons can seek out a personal-training session with a certified coach, who helps them assess and address their fitness goals. Clients reap the benefit of individual attention as a personal trainer helps them tackle weight loss, prepare for an arm-wrestling competition, or unveil the mysteries of arcane cable-weight machines.
Marianne Chapin, owner of Kneading Hands Yoga for the past 10 years, takes a well-rounded approach to stress relief and wellness by marshalling years of yoga teaching experience. To help her run the studio, she has assembled a team of eight certified instructors who bring a wide range of skills to yoga classes. Available classes, all of which take place in a spacious and clean studio, include relaxing and meditative Hatha yoga, strength and stamina boosting hot-yoga sessions where temperatures of up to 98 degrees render muscles more pliable, and Pilates classes that build core strength and focus.
Western Connecticut Baseball Academy trains any level of ball player, from bench warmer to bench destroyer, adults and children, providing anything from an introduction to the game to advanced nuances of the stitched sphere. Instructors with college and professional playing and coaching under their belts, or in their pockets (whichever is more convenient), can convert a glove fumbling for grounders into a double-play-making giant leather hand of success. A bat that yearns for the delicious taste of the screaming fastball suddenly halted, quieted, and sent hurtling back in the opposite direction, can learn to feast upon its leather-clad prey, rather than retiring inning after inning hungry, wanting. Pitches that fail to enter the zone without getting picked off by any goon with a stick can be groomed to gain speed, confidence, and the ability to whisper little facts about historical architecture as they whiz by confused batters’ faces.
Don't be fooled. Though it looks like a relatively small coaster, the Wooden Warrior at Quassy Amusement Park packs some serious thrills. A turnaround through a pitch-black tunnel and ample amounts of "air time" have made this coaster a favorite for many; in fact, The Coaster Critic put it on the list of the top 25 wooden coasters in 2012. Along with Frantic, a new 360-degree spinning ride for the 2015 season, more than 20 thrilling attractions are sprinkled across the park grounds.
Once home to a summer resort, Quassy Amusement Park first began with a picnic area, paddleboats and a carousel. But Quassy really took shape around 1952, when the owners purchased some children's rides. A couple of the rides are still around today, including a boat ride that skims the surface of a circular trough filled with water, and two-seat jet fighters that send flyers up in an aircraft worthy of Flash Gordon. Of course, new kids' attractions have arrived over the decades, including the Frog Hopper, a seating platform that soars up a 16-foot tower and then descends with a series of quick, gentle drops.
Other areas cater to the whole family. The Grand Carousel spins with jumping horses and other animals that have the patience to sit perfectly still.
The largest attraction at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark is Lake Quassapaug, and the park makes great use of its waterfront location. In addition to lounging on the beach, visitors can take a boat tour or charter their own voyages on paddle boats.
Inside tip: When not on rides, park visitors should play a game of Whac-A-Mole or order some ribs at Quassy Restaurant.
Take a virtual ride on the park's star attraction, the Wooden Warrior.