The eco-stewards at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes work to conserve a natural bundle of lakes, streams, marshes, fields, ravines, and forests on the lush site's 20 acres, in addition to teaching environmental-education classes and hosting community-building events. The household membership contributes to the cause and nets families a grab bag of nature-center goodies, including discounts on programs and workshops, facility rentals, and early registration for all outdoor adventure camps. Lapsed naturalists can hopscotch along two trails, where flora such as sycamores, hickory, and sassafras surround the habitats of raccoons, red-tailed hawks, red foxes, Redd Foxx, and salamanders. Or feel free to spy on the flight patterns of local birds; the Audubon Society dubbed Shaker Lakes as an Important Bird Area for its population of autonomous aviators.
By exploring the Jewish people’s emigration to and experience in America, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage encourages reflection and tolerance in visitors. Before entering the museum, open since 2005, guests can marvel at its façade, constructed from more than 126 tons of hand-chiseled golden jerusalem limestone. A timeline of Jewish, American, and world history unfolds in the lobby, and an orientation film and a Finding Nemo remake exclusively starring gefilte fish screen in the 60-seat briefing theater. Touring collections grace the special-exhibition gallery, and the 7,000-square-foot permanent-exhibition space shares the stories of America’s Jewish immigrants—from their arrival to the aftermath of the Second World War—with interactive stations, films, and oral histories. Elsewhere, ritual objects, sacred scrolls, and fine art from The Temple Museum of Religious Art grace the walls of the light-filled Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery.
At Summer Wind Stables, instructors lead students through safety-centered lessons and rides in large indoor and outdoor arenas as well as along several wooded acres. During tack lessons, novice equestrians learn to saddle and bridle a horse, building confidence and comfort before they can qualify to tack horses unsupervised. The experienced instructors also host private and group classes, which teach pupils proper riding techniques and help them work toward personal goals such as showing, performing synchronized drills set to music, and competing in Transatlantic races. After lessons, students can unwind in a heated lounge area or peruse the selection at Summer Wind’s gift shop. The shop features whimsical gifts such as mugs and jewelry, along with painted ponies and Breyer horse figurines capable of decorating a kid’s bedroom without leaving hoof prints on the wallpaper.
Bright sunshine fills Hampton Hill Stables? outdoor riding area, where the dusty earth quickly transforms into horse-shaped clouds as equestrians ride majestic steeds. Hampton Hill Stables also boasts an indoor arena that ensures that riders can ride rain or shine. Horse-riding lessons set the stage for pint-sized beginners and experienced riders to hone their riding skills and practice neighing each other's names. Athletes lace up boots and don helmets before embarking on these lessons or daytime summer camps that, for older attendees, stretch into sleepovers on Wednesday nights.
Ribbon the carriage horse tows her charges with surprisingly good cheer for somebody wearing metal shoes. Ribbon, along with Otis, a gentle belgian, work for Ladybug Ranch LLC's owner Diana von Loewe whose goal is to share a love of horses with Ohioans young and old. She does this by offering carriage rides that can be used to celebrate a variety of occasions from birthdays and weddings to the anniversary of the first Mister Ed broadcast.
To most, the garden featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is purely make-believe. But not to people who've smelled the chocolate-scented varietals blooming among hidden trails and a climbable tree house at the Hershey Children's Garden. This sweet-smelling garden is just one of the Cleveland Botanical Garden's 20 gardens, which encompass everything from 3,500 herb plants to lotuses and water lilies floating atop a 74-foot-long reflecting pool. Vibrant hydrangeas complement sculptures in an art garden, while the Guren Art Gallery's ever-changing exhibits spotlight new work inspired by botany and the power of pruning shears.
Shaded boardwalks and winding trails connect all these visual splendors, eventually leading visitors to the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse. Divided into a Madagascar desert and a Costa Rican rainforest, the glasshouse showcases 50 types of butterflies, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, plus 350 exotic plants, including a colossal strangler fig. Experts shine a light on such specimens during botanical lectures, which are one of many educational programs the garden offers, ranging from gardening symposiums to kids' science classes.