Julie Fabing Burleson and Suzy Vinson Nettles feel that the kitchen is just another place for kids to flex their creativity. They opened Young Chefs Academy to provide kids aged 3–18 with cooking programs targeted to preschoolers and kindergarteners, elementary schoolers, and older kids ready for trickier techniques and intricate recipes. Regardless of a student’s age, he or she is always taught the pillars of home cooking, including how to be safe in the kitchen, how to properly handle and prepare food, how to bake, and how to talk down an oven that constantly overheats. While participating in the entertaining cooking lessons, kids may not even realize that each class also allows them to practice their math, reading-comprehension, and communication skills.
Whether settling a pool-hall bet or the question of who can finish a burger the fastest, gamers have been fueling their competitive spirits at Jillian’s of Chesapeake for more than 20 years. Balls tumble down nine lanes toward clusters of pins in the bowling alley, while players at the billiard hall’s 10 tables psyche out pool sharks by reenacting the ending to Jaws. Elsewhere, joysticks and racing wheels test hand-eye coordination on the arcade’s more than 100 video games. In between each frame, shot, or level, players can reenergize with salads, burgers, and flatbreads at the restaurant while catching up-to-the-minute sports and highlights. The facility’s private rooms and semi-private lounges further accommodate feasting guests, with bites from Jillian’s of Chesapeake’s catering menus keeping them pleasantly sated throughout their soiree.
Many of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks feature sparkling springs, rolling countryside, and wooded trails. Others, however, feature 230-feet waterslides and giant plastic mermen. That’s because the regional park chain includes a handful of recreational splash havens with towering slides, giant dumping buckets, and pristine pools.
Each waterpark is characterized by its own theme and unique whimsical décor, from the massive parrot that watches over Pirate's Cove to the lofty palm trees and grass huts that speckle Volcano Island. The latter location even boasts a landscaped mini golf course with 18 holes and challenging obstacles. All of the parks feature their own snack bars, where servers sling kid-friendly treats such as funnel cakes showered in sweet powdered sugar and popsicles with homework answers written on the sticks.
Kangaroo Jac's avenue of inflatable structures bustles with giggling swarms of children 10 and younger. During walk-in play, youngsters milk the all-access admission by repeatedly plummeting down the safe but steep fortress slide, hurdling over obstacles in the crossover course, and exploring the expansive Koombo Kombo—a two-story, inflatable dreamscape, elaborate enough to house a balloon animal Citizen Kane. Abiding by the facility's core values to provide "hassle-free birthdays," staff members help organize and clean up after parties, hosted in a private room where each child can gorge themselves on pizza, drinks, and birthday wishes.
The parent area's TVs and WiFi keeps adults up-to-date on national news, whereas the toddler area and MagicLand bounce zone keeps tots up to date on local gibberish. Throughout the year, Kangaroo Jac's supports the community by donating to local organizations and hosting dedicated playtime for children with special needs.
Green Ridge Recreation Center sprawls out over 76,000 square feet, giving muscle-molders, swimmers, and other athletes plenty of room to work up a sweat. The wellness center boasts a 1/8-mile walking track so security guards can practice wandering in circles. Strength-training equipment, free weights, and more than 60 cardiovascular exercise machines build muscle and raise pulses. While they run, exercisers can absorb the view of the surrounding hills or else turn to the personal television screens attached to many of the treadmills and ellipticals in case there are any good shows about hills on. Players pick and roll across two high-school-regulation-sized basketball courts in the air-conditioned gymnasium, which also hosts pickup and free-play volleyball sessions.
Owner Jessica Jones-Healey founded Tidewater Studios for the Arts Inc. in 2009 as a noncompetitive forum for kids to practice performing and visual arts. Winner of a 2011 Virginian-Pilot Reader's Choice Award for Best Dance Studio and Best Performing Arts Academy in Portsmouth, Western Branch, Churchland, and North Suffolk, the facility inspires children with engaging explorations into the joys of hand-made art, hand-played music, and hands-free dance.
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