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.
Looking to put a new spin on a classic family activity, the minds behind Glowgolf decided to give the game a phosphorescent update. Incandescent courses place friends and family amid a tropical-fantasy golf world of neon orange, green, and violet surroundings. Players putt luminous orbs through vibrant treasure chests and glimmering windmills while negotiating tricky obstacles near walls portraying black-light-lit aquatic scenes. With more than 20 locations spread over 10 states, Glowgolf's fluorescent labyrinths challenge human players and traveling gnomes.
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.
Play time speeds on unabated at Roll On America, a 30,000-square-foot wonderland containing an indoor skating rink, laser-tag arena, and arcade. Skaters trade in street shoes for traditional quad or sleek inline wheels and zoom across the floor, executing figure eights or even more intricate figure 16s. Inside a futuristic laser-tag arena marked by neon alien landscapes, would-be warriors duck and cover their way to victory by blasting indicator vests with high-powered beams. Post-tagging, Roll On America’s onsite eatery serves up snacks, and an arcade area houses more than 25 classic and modern games.
Joyous sounds reverberate off the walls at Mason Recreation Center, a decades-old entertainment emporium managed by a staff committed to keeping its guests entertained. Pins clatter on dozens of lanes designed for candlepin bowling, a variation on tenpin bowling that uses smaller balls and cylindrical pins that are not cleared away between frames so bowlers can hear their faint screams. The staff engineers the fun activities, hosting open bowling, overseeing league competition, and throwing birthday shindigs in private rooms. On several tournament-size tables, billiard balls clack against one another, and in the onsite arcade, video games bleep and purr like robots napping on magnets. In warm weather, the staff unfurls an 18-hole miniature golf course and opens an onsite sweets station that serves freshly scooped ice cream.
The rigid heddle loom is a relatively simple machine. Jennifer Baum, The Weaving Shed's owner and a juried fiber artist, likes it because a beginning student can set it up and start a scarf within 45 minutes. Along with the loom's simplicity, Jen appreciates the therapeutic value of its rhythmic, back-and-forth cadence. As students work the loom to steadily pull fiber threads into a hand-woven item, they also shed the stress of their day. Jen sees these transformations—both in the progress of the project and the demeanor of the student—as she guides the technique and lends tips to the up to eight students that attend each class in the newly-expanded studio.
Along with classes, The Weaving Shed also spearheads a Farm to Yarn program with local farms. The natural or hand-dyed sheep's wool or alpaca fleece becomes a sustainable, specialty fiber for weaving, knitting, felting, crotchet, and spinning projects. This interest in cultivating local fibers hits especially close to Jen's home, AKA Sunny Knoll Farm, where, with her husband and children, she helps raise an ever-growing alpaca herd. She describes the alpaca as a very "zen-lifestyle animal," even though scientific journals refer to them as "respiring shag carpets." Along with laughing at the "fun family adventure" that the experience has been, she also praises the hypoallergenic qualities of the fleece and its 22 naturally occurring colors.