Situated on 24 acres of woods and meadows in central Massachusetts, Cornerstone Ranch allows riders to savor New England's breathtaking foliage year-round with lessons, camps, and rides through scenic terrain. Owner Sue Connell and her family prep their fleet of horses with exhaustive training and pesticide-free fly-control practices, making the steeds even safer to ride than Smokey the Bear. Sue steers horse-drawn sleighs during winter months and gangs astride steeds during warmer weather, leading fellow riders through a labyrinth of woodsy trails. She and an equally experienced instructor helm riding lessons for all levels year-round and fold the same principles into weeklong summer camps. The camps cater to beginner and advanced equestrians alike, teaching kids how to catch, lead, tie up, groom, and outfit horses with bridles and saddles before mounting and riding them into kid-sized sunsets. Daily schedules consist of two rides, including group excursions and trail jaunts. At week's end, equestrians flaunt their new skills at a horse show for friends and parents.
EcoTarium’s three floors of exhibits creatively use wildlife, scientific concepts, and the museum’s natural history collection to help children discover the natural world. "Cyberchase—The Chase Is On!", a new interactive exhibit based on the PBS KIDS GO! math mystery cartoon and running for a limited time, allows visitors to protect the virtual universe by cunningly solving puzzles and math problems. "Bubbles," a seasonal exhibit, lets children discover different bubble shapes and stand inside a humungous bubble. Many animals such as a polar bear, bald eagles, and otters frolic peaceably within the museum grounds, which also features 55 acres of nature trails. Regular museum events, a digital planetarium, and free parking are also available.
The four-story Higgins Armory Museum details the long history of weapons and warfare across the world, delighting imaginations with thousands of historical swords, armor, and early firearms. The Gothic-inspired Great Hall features ancient arms and armor, tools of war from around the world, and an entire section devoted to medieval tournaments, including both jousting and fantasy jousting. Blending the mythology of several world cultures with sci-fi art, Beyond Belief follows the curious journal of Professor Rufus Excalibur Bell, a scientist exploring the weird aspects of time and space with fun, fictional exhibits such as gargoyle skeletons and the Miniscule Winged Specimen Influxator, a vacuum designed for trapping fairies.
In 1843, Charles Lane and Amos Bronson Alcott—father to writer Louisa May Alcott—founded a utopian and transcendentalist community in the fields of Harvard. More than 70 years later, visionary Clara Endicott Sears was so moved by their experiment that she decided to establish a museum on the same site to preserve its history. Today, the Fruitlands Farmhouse stands as a testament to the original settlers’ ingenuity, which surfaced in their trailblazing thoughts on veganism, sustainable living, and harnessing moon beams to power home stereo equipment.
Clara has incorporated the Shakers’ original office into Fruitlands, where it now shows off Shaker artwork and artifacts, many of which were donated by the Shakers themselves. Since then, the museum has also collected a curated assortment of more than 1,000 Native American artifacts, as well as a longhouse, dugout canoe, and traditional garden.
The brains behind the museum are still innovating today, curating permanent additions such as an art gallery with Hudson River School Landscapes. In addition to organizing school field trips, the staff also hires experts to teach classes and workshops on sketching scenes from nature, painting watercolor landscapes, and constructing 3D sculptures.
Pine Fall Farm stands against a backdrop of apple orchards, verdant fields, and tree-dotted trails, beckoning visitors to its picturesque grounds for equine education and boarding. Here, students of all ages can immerse themselves in equestrian knowledge, whether they’re learning how to gallop during a private lesson or attending horse camp to swap ghost stories with their favorite steeds. The family-friendly farm also runs Barn Club, a bi-monthly program packed with horse-related activities and field trips, and hosts horse shows where students can display their burgeoning riding skills.
A haven for exotic animals rescued from neglect or abandonment, Animal Adventures lets visitors interact with its furry and scaly refugees, teaching them firsthand to appreciate and respect the earth's diverse wildlife. Working with a rotating cast of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and marsupials, animal experts regale audiences with facts and the backstories of each animal, such as how they were rescued and which cartoon representative of their species best captures their regional accent. Though its denizens regularly find new homes, Animal Adventures's altruistic menagerie has included a massive alligator snapping turtle, a canadian lynx, and an asian water monitor. The sanctuary also offers day camps for youngsters looking to get closer with the animals, and an animal-adoption program for adults looking to support the cause by taking a critter home and putting it through college.