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Since forming in the 1920s, the Harlem Globetrotters have continued to entertain millions of parents, children, and general basketball admirers with a trademark blend of athletic precision and razzle-dazzle showmanship. For the team's 2014 tour, a rotating roster of Globetrotter favorites—including three female players—takes to the hardwood each game. Spectators might spot veteran guard TNT sharing a behind-the-back pass with dunker Quake, whose high jump once cleared 7 feet, cruelly dashing his dreams of working in a ceiling-fan store. The Globetrotters might also present a study in contrasts with 5-foot-2 Too Tall and 7-foot-4 Stretch, the team’s tallest member.
During each Globetrotters game, youngsters laugh along and witness the jovial jocks performing classic routines of unconventional passing and sudden transmutations of water into confetti. To infuse their visits with an extra shot of unpredictability, the Globetrotters also let fans in each city vote on special rules for every game; past rules have included the use of a four-point shot and the installation of a penalty box. Over the years, similar antics have followed the Globetrotters around the world, including to 122 countries and territories and all six continents on which basketballs grow naturally. The Globetrotters’ extensive travels haven’t gone unnoticed: they’re one of the few teams to earn a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as ambassadors of the sport.
Psychedelic lighting, clouds of fog, and thumping beats fill Laser Tag of Buford’s 7,000-square-foot, two-level arena. From behind rectangular obstacles and stacks of barrels, up to 28 players dodge incoming laser blasts while firing at foes during battles that commence every 20 minutes. Throughout each bout, computerized weapons and sound system¬–equipped vests help participants stay abreast of their score, while a large scoreboard updates sideline observers and astronauts watching from space. After their game, guests can explore the facility’s remaining 4,000 square feet, which house an arcade with more than 20 games and a concession stand stocked with snacks and drinks.
At Havana South Restaurant and Bar, a conga line of authentic Cuban entrees parades out of the kitchen, transporting diners to the Caribbean with dishes such as picadillo a la Cubana and ropa vieja in criolle sauce. The chef draws on his culinary experience to populate the menu with true Cuban cuisine.
Meanwhile, drink enthusiasts can marvel at servers using guava, mango, and passion fruit to brew up refreshing batches of house-made mojitos. The tropical flavor carries over to the eatery's decor as well. A life-size painting of palm trees and domino players on the beach may fool diners into thinking that they're dining on the coast, whereas crimson-hued walls compliment heated salsa nights that are speckled throughout the eatery’s event schedule. Spanish music constantly pours from the speakers, inspiring guests to get up and dance, a practice encouraged by the staff.
Kids 'R' Kids fosters a secure, loving environment in which children can cultivate educational and social prowess. Teachers are certified in infant and child CPR and first aid and participate in ongoing professional developmental training to amass lullabies able to put even power-crazed toddlers to sleep. Programs with customized curriculula are available for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged youngins, and children ages 5–12 can participate in before-and-after school services offering homework help and themed stations. Special programs cover topics to put kids in good stead for the rest of their lives, such as computers, health and fitness, and insider trading, and summer camps (still open for registration!) delve into the specs of activities such as sports and nutritional cooking. Weeklong classes range from $75 to $249 depending on location and class level.
At Great Play, kids are encouraged to break bottles—virtual ones, arranged on virtual shelves—in the center’s Interactive Arena. They are part of a hand-eye coordination game for kids, in which sensors track their “throws” and the computer-generated bottles projected onto the walls fall accordingly. Another version sees kids honing their throwing arms by aiming for an animated strike zone while a simulated crowd cheers.
But regardless of the specific games kids play on any given day in the 3,000-square-foot arena, each activity hews to the play center’s overall goal: to build kids’ motor skills and athletic abilities from an early age. Programs for younger kids focus on fundamentals, such as running, skipping, dodging, and tumbling. Meanwhile, athletic camps for older kids build skillsets that come in handy during pick-up games on the playground or at their first Olympic trials at age 3.