The YMCA keeps residents healthy and engaged in more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the country, but it traces its American origins to the streets of 19th-century Boston. Here, Thomas Valentine Sullivan carried on the mission started in London by George Williams: providing affordable recreation and residence to young men from cities and country towns alike. Over the last century and change, the organization's mission changed to keep pace with the evolving times; today, the YMCA of Greater Boston welcomes anyone interested in furthering the causes of "youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility."
This modern mission combines the Y's signature programming with new initiatives designed to keep citizens one step ahead of an ever-changing world. Members stay fit and active with everything from organized sports and fitness classes to lifeguard, CPR, and first aid lessons. But the Y's developmental programs go far beyond bodily strength; their enrichment and leadership courses equip youths with the confidence needed to take charge in their everyday lives, and ESL classes help newcomers to English embark on the next step of their linguistic lives.
In the early ’70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location—directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom—perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop—where P&H and Boréal kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
Overhead lights are illuminated as the sun dips lower on the horizon, casting a glow across duos engaged in baseline rallies that echo across Weston Racquet Club’s eight outdoor courts. Every day, the club’s staffers set up meetings like this between players of similar abilities—staff unconditionally guarantees a suitable partner for individuals any time they are looking for a match. Carefully selected pairs then take to indoor or outdoor courts, which feature cushiony surfaces ideal for players with tender knees or cowardly socks. Members can continue to hone their skills during one of the 30 complimentary tennis clinics offered per week.
Housed inside a restored country mansion originally built in 1858, the clubhouse winds back the clock with an art-deco-inspired interior reminiscent of a 1930s tennis club. After a day on the courts, guests can unwind in the 45,000-gallon heated pool or soothe their aching tennis ear in the hot tub. Weston Racquet Clubs’ 40-Love Café aids in refueling by serving a menu of sandwiches, salads, and tapas.
Fitcorp's trainers have big shoes to fill. Founder Gary Klencheski earned his exercise technician certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and served on the Governor's Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports for 20 years. Klencheski's passion and expertise trickle down through each of his gyms' eight facilities, where each personal trainer has a degree in exercise science, a nationally accredited certification, and the charisma of a dictator holding pompoms.
The gym's array of fitness services includes cardio and strength-training equipment, as well as group Pilates, yoga, boot-camp, and Zumba classes. Massage and acupuncture sessions keep the body in high gear, and an onsite nutritionist offers nutrition tips developed by registered dietitian Amy Boyce.
Housed inside Boston's monumental textile mill, the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation invites guests on a trek through American history with a collection of artifacts dating as far back as 1812. Throughout the building's hallowed halls, interactive displays cleverly disguise education as amusement, coaxing visitors both young and old to steer a 19th-century fire engine, play a foot-powered piano, and teach an antique telephone switchboard how to send text messages. Enduring exhibits also showcase Waltham's industrious past with displays dedicated solely to textiles, watches and clocks, and transportation, including bicycles and penny-farthings powered by shredded pieces of yellow journalism. Members can take advantage of such perks as complimentary museum admission, invitations to special events, and unlimited use of the museum library.
Light streams in through the studio windows, bouncing off the painted brick walls and illuminating the yogis—each like a cat arching its back in a sunbeam—stretching on the hardwood floor. At Shiva Shakti Yoga Center, instructors, each with at least 500 hours of training, tailor each 60- to 90-minute yoga class to accommodate the needs of students of all experience levels. Drawing on such methods as hatha, Vinyasa, vigorous, restorative, and Anusara, the dynamic of fluid sessions help strengthen muscles and center minds for yogis of all kinds. The studio also hosts occasional workshops with guest teachers to keep bodies limber through varied regimens.