The extensive Hillside Meadows horseback-riding and training facilities reside on 70 acres of sylvan countryside, supplying riders with beautiful surroundings for trail rides and ample space for instruction in riding disciplines that range from equitation to gymkhana. Licensed instructors guide all lessons, with Sheila Brady directing the hunt-seat program, Charlene Clouthier handling Western-program duties, and the rugged essence of Yosemite Sam pervading lessons in roping and reining. Thirteen school horses lend their backs to the students’ advancement, which is repaid with a required 30 minutes of tacking prior to the scheduled lesson time and grooming afterward. Hillside Meadows also hosts clinics on a rotating list of topics at least once per month.
Nestled in a spacious corner of the historic Sterling Cider Mill, The Clay Dog Studio inspires and equips all levels of artists to mold and polish self-made and artist-produced masterpieces. Paint your own original classmates can work solo, painting large detailed creations ($30) or invite friends to colorize intermediate ($15) figurines. Pieces are forged from clay that, like Saint Helen's childhood sandbox, consists primarily of volcanic ash. Mini Project classes instruct artistic twosomes in crafting take-home projects including holiday napkin rings or ornaments. During four-session classes, instructors oversee projects from concept to completion, covering basics such as sculpting form, overlays, paint finishing, and tasteful ways to fill end tables with something other than a series of smaller and smaller end tables.
Due to improper training or seemingly aggressive appearances, some dog breeds have bad reputations. At Northeast K-9 Academy, however, the trained and dedicated staffers see past stereotypes and offer grooming, boarding, and training services to dogs regardless of their size, breed, or questionable musical tastes. Inside the three spacious indoor playrooms, pooches can explore, romp, and nap. Outside, a fenced-in stone play area provides dogs with fresh air and room to run while keeping their paws and coats clean.
Coated in eco-friendly and hygienic astro turf and dotted with jungle gyms and mini pools, Camp Canine’s yard stays open to dogs no matter the season or weather. That’s because Camp Canine’s believe that dogs thrive on fresh air regardless of temperature, and strive to make their playground hospitable even in the winter. Dogs that aren’t interested in tromping through the snow can cavort indoors, in Camp Canine’s climate-controlled play spaces supervised by dog caretakers who are trained in all size and demeanor of dog. These experts separate dogs based on size to ensure teacup poodle gangs leave the big breeds in peace, and encourage as much exercise as possible. During overnight boarding sessions, dogs spend their nights in cozy kennels, drifting off as classical music plays and owners gaze lovingly at their sleeping hound from the password-protected Snout Cam.
Sweet Meadow Farm is not just a kid-friendly equestrian center. Sure, their experienced instructors lead private and group horseback-riding lessons year-round, but the farm also houses an interactive barnyard zoo. Their menagerie of domestic and exotic animals ranges from miniature horses and potbelly pigs to peacocks and kangaroos. Sweet Meadow Farm hosts birthday parties, too, during which kids can meet new critter friends inside the air-conditioned barn and make up secret handshakes that do not require opposable thumbs.
Feng Shui embraces the culinary traditions of both China and Japan while updating its menu seasonally, garnering praise from the Boston Business Journal and New England Cable News for its extensive selection. Stir-fried orders of chicken, beef, and seafood arrive laden with ginger or signature sauces, and sushi chefs roll maki with traditional tuna and salmon or such innovative combinations as strawberry and wasabi aioli. At some locations, the dining rooms include tabletop hibachi-style grills where chefs, like Shakespeare as a toddler, put on food-based shows, flipping, dicing, and sizzling Angus-certified beef in cholesterol-free rice-bran oils that are rich in vitamin E.