Since 1956, Valley Mill Kayak School has trained countless kayakers, including the first kayaking recipients of Olympic medals, on the deep waters of the Potomac River. A former Olympian and four-time freestyle-kayaking world champion, Eric Jackson personally designs the school's lesson plans around modern whitewater-paddling techniques. Eric trains each of the school's American Canoe Association–certified instructors, who, in turn, dispense their knowledge to beginners and proficient paddlers alike.
Through a wealth of small classes, private lessons, and occasional clinics taught by Eric himself, pupils discover such skills as paddling and basic strokes, or attempting to work your kayak into rhythmic-gymnastics routines.
Chef and wine connoisseur Nafi livens up gatherings with catered food, wine tastings, and other culinary services. Party guests feast on spreads of cupcakes or dishes that can be chosen according to theme such as regional cuisine from Paris or the Middle East. Customized wine tastings cater to all palates and levels of wine experience, and Nafi provides everything necessary for themed tastings or guided pairings with cheese or chocolate, with the guests' budget and tastes taken into account. Nafi also leads hands-on cooking classes in a variety of cuisines that meet in three-session intervals.
At Potomac Paddlesports, the first professional kayak school to be endorsed by the American Canoe Association, the team of American Canoe Association– and British Canoe Union–certified instructors patiently lead students through a methodical progression of flat-water paddling skills. The classes cover a variety of watersports, including whitewater rafting, river and sea kayaking, and standup paddling. The small-group classes are designed to keep students engaged, and longer trips down the Potomac challenge their skills with powerful rapids surrounded by lush scenery, interspersed with rare glimpses of bears putting on their bear suits. Outside of class, students can bond with fellow paddlers during weekly sushi meals and occasional movie nights. Further demonstrating their dedication to bodies of water, Potomac Paddlesports works to preserve the nation’s rivers, estuaries, and oceans, sharing this passion with its members through advocacy and donations to conservation programs.
Like a United Nations of varietals, some of the world’s tastiest wines from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Italy, and France are well-represented within Jackie’s Wine Bar. Connoisseurs savor the unique notes of each pour while investigating the black-framed pictures on Jackie’s coffee-colored walls and the shelves of wine bottles that vie for attention behind the bar by wearing chic designer labels. On Thursday evenings, free salsa lessons invite patrons to set down their glasses and grab their dance partner’s hand; Saturday nights feature live bands that serve dulcet melodies as aromatic bouquets serenade olfactory receptors. Fresh air courses through Jackie’s outdoor patio, where visitors can alternate between sips of wine or beer and bites of sandwiches, desserts, and appetizers.
A nonprofit community arts center, VisArts fills its studios with amateur artists learning techniques of creative expression, and acts as an exhibition opportunity for seasoned creators. Classes span a wide artistic spectrum, including concentrations such as ceramics and glass, many of which can be specifically tailored for the educational needs of children or resurrected Renaissance men in need of a new hobby. VisArts also enriches the community with a trifecta of galleries?the Kaplan, Gibbs Street, and Common Ground?and a thriving resident-artist program.
At TennisTopia, staffers help players optimize their thwacking abilities with a large inventory of rackets, balls, and other gear from brands such as Adidas, Nike, and Wilson and a variety of tennis-oriented services. Restringing keeps rackets in taut, top-notch shape, and the shop also equips male or female teams with the weapons and matching uniforms to wage battle against gophers popping up through the clay in the middle of matches.