After a lifetime of loving baking, founder Heather O'Toole's focus on the flour-based art form really flourished after meeting her husband. The two spent countless hours each holiday season in the kitchen baking for friends and perfecting her cupcake recipes, such as her chocolate chip cookie dough-stuffed chocolate cupcakes. With those friends' encouragements voiced through satisfied sweet teeth, she started My Sweet Escape Treats, making her triple sea salt caramel and strawberry basil cupcakes available to anyone within Worcester County. She puts personal touches on all made-to-order sweets, making googly-eyed spider and pumpkin cupcakes for Halloween. Then she and her team follow up those touches by hand-delivering them, instead of smushing them into thin cakepaper by shipping through the mail, to ensure freshness.
The Give Me Five pass grants access to five of any of the following activities: Kimball Farm's 300-yard driving range, nine-hole pitch-and-putt course, and batting cages will help golfers and batters adjust squeaky swings, and the Animal Adventures exhibit allows guests to interact with reptiles while discussing current events with talking birds. Give Me Fivers can also perform kinetic-energy experiments using colorful balls on the Waterfall Run or Forbidden Mine miniature-golf courses before boarding a bumper boat to faithfully recreate Star Wars on melted ice. The pass may also be used to acquire a play card (a $6 value) from the Olde Sawmill Midway Arcade.
The famous fairways at Doral, Sawgrass, and Pebble Beach that make avid golfers salivate are assembled in one place at Lancaster Golf Center, though with one key difference—they’re in miniature. The lilliputian course eschews the windmills and lava pits of normal mini-golf links for smaller replicas of full-sized bunkers and water hazards. Nearby, the center’s driving range challenges golfers to take more forceful swings. Its 78 hitting stations unfurl both natural grass and artificial turf, and there is cover and heating for winter practice as well as illumination for night or when everyone is wearing really dark sunglasses. The practice area also boasts an 8,500-square-foot putting green, a chipping area, and a sand bunker.
Golfers start keeping score at Lancaster's nine-hole executive course, especially at its fifth, sixth, and seventh holes, which compose an Amen Corner that claims 526 of the course’s 1,057 yards. Before trekking across the fairways, players can hone their form during lessons with teaching professionals Dennis Lanciani and Jim Cronin, who boast more than 43 years of combined experience teaching golfers not to illegally attach wings to their balls. As the instructors offer advice, students’ children can entertain themselves at nine batting cages or with bank-shot basketball. Before heading home, visitors of all ages can enjoy a frozen treat from the center's stock of Richardson’s Ice Cream.
Inspired by her passion for creating decadent treats for her friends and family, baker Gloria Casta?o opened Sweet Creations by Gloria as a way to share her signature desserts with others. From these modest beginnings, her bakery has risen in popularity and earned local renown for its made-from-scratch cakes and pastries. Though Gloria?s specialty lies in traditional Hispanic confections, she can just as easily recreate recipes from other cultures or accommodate dietary restrictions with vegan and gluten-free ingredients. A frequent shopper at the local farmers' market, Gloria fills her customizable cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops with fresh fruit whenever possible and slathers buttercream icing on bland stalks of broccoli.
Shannon Sylvia draws upon 20 years as a graphic designer while guiding a frosting-cloaked spatula across made-to-order confections at Shancakes. The shop’s 27 flavors of batter, which range from lemon to devil’s food cake, bake into everything from tiered cakes to dainty cupcakes. Staffers coat the treats in made-from-scratch buttercream or decorate them in the same fondant used on the TV show Cake Boss. The customizable goodies, which come in gluten- and sugar-free incarnations, can be adapted to suit occasions from birthdays to drills to make sure the President is ready for his birthday. In addition to cakes in the form of guitars, Coach purses, and princesses, the bakers forge cupcake-shaped pooch treats for jealous canines.
Ellen Fay spent nearly 20 years of experience as a professional baker before opening her small shop. Now at Aunty Ellen’s Creative Confections, she prepares fresh cookies, brownies, and cannoli every day. Her specialty treat is carrot cake stuffed with bits of carrot, pineapple, coconut, and a secret ingredient that’s written on the recipe card in invisible ink. Ellen recently told the Leominster Champion, “I want everyone to try my carrot cake…I want to retire on my carrot cake.”
Her bright pink and green bakery is inspired by Bermuda, a place she visited often as a child. Inside, a small seating area surrounds chilled display cases stocked with colorful cookies and cupcakes.