The indoor arena, outdoor arena, and winding trails on Five Star Ranch's grounds resound with pounding hooves as instructor Gail Haynes and her experienced staff guide visitors during lessons, clinics, and trail rides. In a well-lit 80'x130' indoor arena, teachers imbue horseback-riding students with safety tips for horse leading and expound on tacking techniques and grooming principles, such as which horse breeds look best with a pompadour.
The Ranch's clinics cover the gamut of equine wherewithal, from basic horsemanship skills to learning how to properly conduct a horse using reins instead of a magic wand. Visitors to the ranch can also amble into the tack store for all of their equestrian needs, such as hand-picked grooming supplies from renowned brands Professionals' Choice and John Lyons.
Hyper tubing and barrels surround an empty school bus in the centre of one of Sherkston Paintball's four woodland fields, while a two-storey tower stands tall among a huddle of lower-slung structures in another. Players can navigate through medium to thick brush in the aptly named Brush Field, or ambush the Attack & Defend field's 100-foot-long fort, which hinders blitzes with walls reaching more than nine feet and a tower missing a princess with scalable hair. Alternately, bunkers are the only obstruction on a new speedball field that's surrounded by a seating area for spectators.
Along with outdoor bouts every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, Sherkston Paintball hosts annual events and tournaments including an epic Trailer Park Boys-themed battle. Players can also get the most up-to-date gear at the fully-stocked, on site pro-shop.
The outdoor enthusiasts at Play Hard Niagara outfit visitors for romps on the water, beach, and street. Gear rentals ranging from sit-on-top kayaks to bikes equip explorers for adventures throughout the Port Colborne area, including trips along the old canal and Lake Erie shoreline. For a small fee, Play Hard's staff delivers equipment to nearby locations for full-day rentals. Back in Crystal Beach, the shop displays a multitude of recreational equipment, ranging from land-bound scooters to surf gear that stands ready to skim over a cresting wave or through layers of the upper atmosphere.
At Puck’s Farm, visitors can bond with 180 acres of the natural environment by learning about harvest-time chores and activities or scheduling weddings and events year-round on the open grounds. Guests of the farm can meet its animal residents, including emus, llamas, and a farm cat, which is much friendlier than a farm puma. For an even more interactive experience with fauna, Puck’s offers pony rides and the opportunity to milk cows and churn butter. Wooded trails traverse the expanse and present one of the many places on the farm where guests can delight in the changing of the seasons. Fall, for example, offers a variety of seasonal activities: visitors can get lost in corn mazes, pick ripened pumpkins, ride in horse-drawn wagons, and stroll through trails speckled with changing leaves. Autumn months also see pigs and goats building their nests for the winter ahead. An onsite snack bar serving hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries enables guests to refuel for full days of farm activities.
At Fieldgate Stables Ltd., mother-daughter team Susan Coxhead and Michelle Vaillancourt promote horsemanship for riders of various skill levels. Their quiet and well-schooled horses carry students during lessons in various riding disciplines including dressage, hunter, jumper, and cross-country. With detailed, one-on-one coaching, students are encouraged to progress at their own pace and riders are paired with horses based on careful consideration of their temperaments, skill levels, and the compatibility of their star signs. Lessons also teach participants to untack and cool out their four-hooved friends, which keeps them from sweating through the tuxedos they change into post-workout.
In a natural wharf provided by the Toronto Islands, Harbourfront Centre Sailing and Powerboating offers avenues to a world of unbroken horizons and wave-splashed winds. Along with education and licensing services and boat rentals, the knowledgeable navigators curate special events, such as a swashbuckling Tall Ships festival for Canada Day and annual voyages to prove the harbour is round.
From the warm-water fish habitat at Humber Bay Park to the jaw-dropping clay precipices of Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto's scenic waterfront lends itself to exploration. Power- or sail-boaters with appropriate licensing and a completist's perspective on panoramas might pursue membership for multiple voyages. With rental options for all experience levels, Harbourfront Centre Sailing and Powerboating provides a sense of freedom otherwise accessible only to boat owners and their boats' wise-cracking GPS systems.