This summer, I had the pleasure of being invited to Hale Summer Club for a day to experience it for myself, and it flooded me with all the best memories of my childhood.
As I wrote on Instagram that day, it’s a magical land. Children there don’t ask for screens because they are too busy catching fish, digging in the sand, tie-dying t-shirts, taking boating and archery lessons, and having good ol’ fashioned fun. The adults relax because their kids are safe. I even saw a few READING BOOKS—big person books, not Eric Carles or Sandra Boyntons! Others were in an outdoor yoga class or doing aqua aerobics.
My visit was a great reminder that the best summer memories happen outside. I mentioned this in my previous post: summer doesn’t need to be elaborate, planned in detail, or far away to be memorable! Simple ingredients are all that's required: ample time together spent outdoors in nature.
If you’re in the Greater Boston Area and tired of cobbling together a thousand activities, Hale Summer Club has the perfect recipe for a memorable summer. Their Summer Pass offers unlimited recreation from Memorial Day to Labor Day for the entire family, and if you buy it before Columbus Day you’ll save 15%. They also offer options that appeal to working parents, such as the Off-Peak & Weekend (OPW) Pass, and a two-week Staycation Pass for those looking for just a few weeks of family fun.
As one of my readers, I invite you to join Hale’s email list. They’ve agreed to enter anyone who signs up via this link before October 8, 2018 into a drawing for a Hale Summer Club Staycation or OPW Pass (your choice), worth over $500.
What ingredients make a memorable and magical summer in your opinion?
Please know that I received no compensation or sponsorship in exchange for this article—just a complimentary Day Pass to visit!
TOURING HALE: An Inside View
My day at Hale began with a golf-cart tour of the property to get a feel for its beauty and history and gain an understanding of the educational and recreational opportunities offered there. It’s a storied place, founded 100 years ago and originally known as “Scoutland.” Luckily, my dear friend Kendra from K. Engel Photography joined and took some stunning photographs to share with you. She takes our family photos, and I'm obsessed with her beautiful work.
When I first visited Hale over a year ago for a hike with a friend and our children, I had no idea of the quantity and quality of the programming it provides! Hale Summer Club is the program best suited to the entire family, but it’s just one of many opportunities for outdoor learning and recreation at Hale.
At Hale Day Camp, an award-winning camp that is fully owned and operated by the organization itself, campers ages 4 and up hike, learn archery, swim in ponds, and mountain bike. Hale Outdoor Learning Adventures (HOLA), a partnership with Boston Public Schools that closes the summer learning gap among its fourth and fifth graders, offers similar recreational opportunities. Special events, such as an upcoming family music festival, happen throughout the year. Hale's Education & Adventure staff also customizes team-building programs for schools and corporations, which often include their ropes course.
Once we arrived at Hale Summer Club’s private entrance and checked in with the parking attendant, we unloaded our gear and walked the short wooded path to the beach. A community bulletin board greeted us with an announcement that a family campfire would happen that night for passholders.
The beach was bustling with activity on this sunny summer day. Families splashed about happily in the pond, with some children taking swimming lessons and some adults engaging in aqua aerobics, as at least half a dozen lifeguards diligently observed. Boats stood ready to be borrowed, and families had staked out waterfront real estate with beach chairs and umbrellas.
Shannon Obey, Hale’s Director of Family Programming and Events, met us there for a quick tour. Shannon spent her childhood summers at Hale Summer Club, and as I’d soon find out, so had many of its staff members. Vanessa, Hale Summer Club’s Assistant Director, grew up there as well, and mentioned she loved the community and experience so much that she wanted to continue to be part of it. In fact, people told me throughout the day that their young children wanted to be lifeguards there when they were old enough. This was my first hint that this is indeed a very special place.
Shannon shared the wide array of daily programming available for children of all ages and adults. High-quality swimming lessons are included for every season passholder. Every day, children can go on a guided nature hike, take boating lessons, fish, practice archery or yoga, participate in organized games, or work on crafts (on this particular day, there was an elaborate tie-dye station). All this in addition to swimming, exploring, using the playground, and building sand castles to their hearts’ delight! For even the youngest of children, Tiny Turtles Caretaking is included, and a few toddlers were enjoying playing in the sand together while their parents relaxed or participated in adult activities.
Meanwhile, adults can enjoy their own array of programming. This includes pond-side fitness classes such as yoga, Zumba, trail running, and total body workout, and it includes water activities, such as lap swim, aqua jogging, aqua aerobics, and sailing.
Plenty of parents could also be seen simply sitting under umbrellas chatting with friends or reading books while their children took part in organized activities or swam under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. Honestly, from the vantage point of a mother with a busy toddler, this looked like a slice of heaven to me.
At lunchtime, families convened at the picnic tables to enjoy meals they brought with them. Food isn’t permitted on the sand, and while this rule intends to help keep the beach clean, another pleasant outcome is forced family mealtime. Families who had scattered to engage in self-selected programming came together to share stories at the picnic tables as they scarfed down their meals before jetting off for more time playing.
My little Wike Baby couldn’t wait to get into the water, and under the heat of the August sun, neither could I. As she delightfully played in the shallowest section of the lake and dug around in the sand, I found myself chatting with parents nearby. What started as pleasant conversation led to me asking more and more questions about Hale Summer Club. I wanted to know: was this place as magical as it seemed?
Over and over again, parents enthusiastically told me how much their whole family loves Hale Summer Club—and because it offers such great value, each family with whom I spoke planned to rejoin yearly for the foreseeable future. I expected that most people would be from neighboring Westwood or Dover, but to my surprise, I quickly met passholders from Newton, Brighton, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Norwood. They told me that the drive was well worth it, and their children are often so tired when they leave—that good kind of tired—that they nap or quietly read on the way home.
The most seasoned passholder with whom I spoke was Robyn, mother of three from Norwood. She joined Hale Summer Club when she was looking for something for her older child to do all summer when she was pregnant with her twins—that was seven years ago. Robyn spoke volumes about the staff’s enthusiasm and expertise, beamed when she shared that her ten-year-old took on the ropes course with pride this summer, and gushed about how much her family looks forward to the Summer Club's campfire nights with s’mores, songs, and night hikes.
Diana, mom of four from Dorchester, described a frightful snow day when everyone was stuck inside. She knew she needed something great for her whole family the following summer. She joined the Summer Club that frigid winter day and now delightfully describes how her children are so happy outdoors together there—not always the case indoors!
Eileen, mom of four from Brighton, decided to give experiences rather than gifts for the holidays. She gave a pass to her family for Christmas, and they have been enjoying it all summer long. What she loves most is that her children have good ol’ fashioned fun in nature. Her children’s biggest worry is whether they should do arts and crafts or archery on any given day—and never once have her kids asked for a screen!
Nicole, mom of five from Newton, visited Hale as a guest and signed up for Hale Summer Club the next summer, which she plans to continue to do in the future. When I first spotted her, she was alone under an umbrella doing some reading for work. Her children were spread out around the area, swimming and taking part in programming. Nicole and her children come to Hale Summer Club almost every day, and what she loves about it is that she can "blink and not worry here” because her children are in good hands and the lifeguards are “on their game.”
A few people talked to me about the monetary value of Hale Summer Club. While families might ordinarily pay for so many summer activities separately, children can do most of them (and more) every day at Hale Summer Club while parents watch or participate. For families with multiple children, Hale Summer Club is truly a bargain, and the whole family can participate together as they make memories that last a lifetime.
At the end of the day, we packed our gear, waved goodbye to the gate attendants, and returned to reality—but with a refreshing view of what summer can be!
How can you resist? To be entered into a drawing for a Hale Summer Club Staycation or OPW Pass (your choice) worth over $500, sign up for Hale's email list before October 8, 2018 using this link! Additionally, if you'd like to hike with me and the Hike it Baby community at Hale, head over to my post about my giveaway for the new Hike it Baby book to find out how.