After years of teaching preschool, Sue Merlino graduated to a new passion in life when she turned her enthusiasm for bicycling and her hometown into a career exploring Concord's history atop a two-wheeler. Her resulting brainchild, Concord Bike Tours, wends through the heavily treed lanes of the city, elucidating the history of notable locations such as the Emerson House, the abodes of lesser-known abolitionists, and the site where Thoreau kissed his first tree. Four regularly run tours take up to 10 bicyclists on 2.5- to 3-hour journeys, with optional sidecars for children younger than 8 provided. Sue and her family will also plot custom trips for clients interested in longer rides, different scenery, or preparing for a Jeopardy! audition.
Since 1985, the FAA-certified team of pilots and instructors at East Coast Aero Club has shepherded citizens from Hanscom Field airport to the skies above Boston for sightseeing, introductory flights, and pilot-certification programs. The crew oversees a 35-aircraft-strong fleet composed of planes by Piper, Cessna, Cirrus, and Diamond, as well as helicopters by Robinson. The company’s entry-level educational program, Learn to Fly, matches pupils up with one of more than 25 certified flight instructors, who teach students how to read each craft's instruments and back issues of SkyMall.
But passengers don't just learn about flight; they also learn about the area around them. Scenic flights afford aerial views of the city, soaring from Hanscom Field over such sights as the Lexington battlefields, the Charles River, and the USS Constitution. Passengers can bring along cameras to capture the spectacular views and document any crop circles they spot in the outfield at Fenway Park.
In the early ’70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location—directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom—perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop—where P&H and Boréal kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
With three haunted houses, a spooky hayride, and a bustling carnival, Witch’s Woods is a Halloween theme park that rises from the mist for only one month a year. Ferried along by a sputtering tractor, Haunted Hayride passengers cower for 20 grueling minutes as they are assailed from all sides by zombies, werewolves, ghouls, and cows trying to nibble the hay. At the end of the ride, three paths lead to additional attractions, including Castle Morbid, in which medieval spirits chase interlopers through the halls and into the depths of the keep, where it becomes increasingly apparent that the weapons that once kept intruders out are now employed to keep them in. Nightmare Mansion is inhabited by a cursed family whose eternal life has left them as withered husks driven insane with rage at visitors who still possess the ability to die. The final path leads to the 3-D Keeper’s Crypt, where the undead shamble and scream as they pursue their prey, and where the walls themselves seem to be closing in.
A creepy carnival awaits survivors with rides, games, and more attractions. The Horror wood Chamber of Chills puts favorite Halloween and horror-movie characters on display, including such icons as Frankenstein, Freddy Krueger, and Mary Shelley’s original version of Shrek. Meanwhile, the Jack O’ Lantern Jamboree displays rows upon rows of professional carved pumpkins, eerily glowing at self-guided passersby.
Aeroballoon elevates adventurous patrons and their spirits 40 stories over the greater Massachusetts area in a tethered 20-passenger helium balloon. Cloud whisperers step into the gondola and strap on belt-like harnesses before a gentle liftoff, and their dirigible floats skyward at the relaxed pace of a sloth's kite. Riders relax and drink in the sights of Massachusetts and the rolling landscapes that encompass it. A high-tension cable connects the balloon to the ground at all times and offers a one-of-a-kind experience that cannot be re-created by bribing gravity to go on a 15-minute coffee break.
Since its inception as a nonprofit organization in 1985, Community Rowing Inc. has guided more than 15,000 students in invigorating rowing sessions held on the Charles River. Their experienced staff of Olympians and coaches helps students to become familiar with industry-standard boats and rowing machines through comprehensive introductory lessons and extended handshakes with the rowing arms. After gleaning the skills necessary to properly use equipment, students gain access to locker rooms, training areas, and any additional courses on the Charles River. The full-body, calorie-burning workouts are available throughout the week, allowing students to learn essential techniques such as sweeping, sculling, and dealing peacefully with the water road rage of aggressive gondoliers.