When Joan Barnes founded Gymboree Play & Music in 1976, she envisioned a facility where parents and children could play together in a safe and age-appropriate environment. In the following decades, Gymboree Play & Music spread to more than 30 countries across the globe, helping youngsters from infants to 5 years old develop cognitive, physical, and social skills. The company's instructors lead classes such as Play & Learn, its flagship course, in which parents and kids move through a seven-level program filled with storytelling, play activities, and debates on the merits of sandwich crust. Talented staffers also prep youngsters for school and foster development in areas such as music, art, and sports. Throughout all classes, they make use of custom play equipment designed by acclaimed playground designer and seesaw-tamer Jay Beck.
The Olive and The Grape's two locations celebrate the cuisine of the Mediterranean by packing shelves with vinegars and more than 30 olive and grape-seed oils from Spain, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and many other countries. Other products include seasonings to flavor grill rubs, marinades, and salad dressings and more than 50 types of pasta. Staffers also load up carriers with an assortment of their highest-selling products, including aged pomegranate vinegar, grape-seed oil, and garlic-herb seasoning, along with suggested recipes and pet names for select items.
Helmed by veteran knitter and patternmaker Kate Jackson, KNOTS - Knitting on the Square's in-depth classes help fledgling needlers build practical masterpieces row by row. Knot-makers study the nuances of knitting, learning how to cast on, bind off, and create the raised loop of the purl. During their two sessions, students fashion a pair of cotton dishcloths, adding a cozy sense of teamwork and enhanced high-five possibilities to routine kitchen chores. Supplies are not included and can be purchased at the establishment ($10–$12). The helpful hands at KNOTS also offer step-by-step guidance to knitters and crocheters of all skill levels during free Saturday morning workshops.
At Salon Laura Michaels, which earned a Best Boston Hair Salon award in 2005, stylists apply high-end products from brands such as Goldwell and Moroccanoil during haircuts, highlights, and conditioning services. Strands soak up a hydrating elixir during deep-conditioning treatments, which help prevent hair from breaking or becoming an actual bird’s nest. Stylists wash, cut, and style coiffures into face-flattering designs, adding partial or full highlights to attract attention more tastefully than a tub of popcorn chatting on a cell phone. During the one–two hours of pampering, visitors can take in Laura Michaels’ modern décor, which encompasses droplights, sleek wooden floors, and an end-table with quirky cut-outs.
Walking into a HobbyTown USA is like simultaneously immersing yourself in a science fair, toy store, and art-supply shop. With many crafty options ranging from 1/25 scale 1969 Camaro model kits ($19.95) to easy-to-care-for ant farms ($17.99), the store has something for any age or interest. Spice up familial gatherings and barbeques with strangers with outdoor activities, such as flying Turbo Jet 2000 gliders ($4.99) or kites shaped like 3-D space shuttles ($19.87), which, unlike real space shuttles, serve decent in-flight meals. For rainy days, pick up a 10-piece carving-knife set ($4.95) and an eight-color all-purpose paint set ($12.15) to repurpose any banister as a totem pole of achievement.