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Part of the ongoing “Head West” series. To see previous Head West posts, click the “Head West” tag at the bottom of the post to browse.
Throughout the past month or so, we’ve been shining a light on some of Massachusetts’ off-the-beaten-path travel ideas and vacation spots out west. Today, we’ll turn our focus to yet another part of the Bay State, one that offers a variety of unique scenes, activities, and experiences – Central Massachusetts.
Central Mass is well-known for its close proximity to all of New England’s major population centers, but there’s a whole lot more to the area than its fortuitous location; the towns of Gardner, Grafton, Westborough, and Worcester, to name just a few, feature savory dining, superb art exhibitions, various outdoor activities, and plenty of places to shop. In addition, many Central Mass towns also feature summertime festivals and fairs.
So, to help narrow your travel plans, here are some attractions that will make your trip one to remember:
Where to stay:
Beechwood Hotel, 363 Plantation Street, Worcester, MA 01605: The Beechwood Hotel offers luxury hotel rooms in the heart of Worcester, with convenient access to a bevy of local attractions. Any visitor at the Beechwood should make sure to drop by the Maria Gill Wilson Room, a unique room that features a decorative carved-wood ceiling and lovely stained glass windows. For reservations, click here or call 508-754-5789.
Westborough Inn, 4 Boardman Street, Westborough, MA 01581: A quaint, family-owned, colonial style inn, the Westborough Inn has all of today’s conveniences and is within walking distance of historic Westborough, where travelers will find no shortage of options for shopping, dining, and recreation. To book, click here or call 508-836-1900.
Colonial Hill Alpaca Farm and Bed & Breakfast, 235 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366: Colonial Hill, which sits right in scenic Johnny Appleseed Country, makes for a memorable experience. This award-winning alpaca farm doubles as a B&B, featuring three rooms that can accommodate a single traveler, a couple, or a family of four. An upscale continental breakfast, served at the guest’s leisure, is included, as are all of today’s modern necessities. The gift shop sells apparel made from super-soft Alpaca fleece, which is generously donated by Colonial Hill’s furry residents. To book a room, send an email or call 978-724-0301.
Where to camp:
Wallis Cove Cabins, 67 Island Road, Douglas, MA 01516: Wallis Cove’s hand-built cabins are hidden away in 100-acres of protected forest, providing a real getaway into nature. Travelers can fish, swim, and paddle around the private, azure waters of Whitin Reservoir. For ambitious types, a plethora of walking and biking trails will pose a welcome challenge. To make reservations, send an email or call 508-476-1708.
Oak Haven Family Campground, 22 Main Street, Wales, MA 01081: Located in the midst of a private 90-acre wooded reserve, Oak Haven has activities for campers of every stripe. The large campsites are outfitted with all of today’s modern amenities, with a recreation hall, grocery store, Laundromat, and even a baseball field. Planned events, which are scheduled for the weekends, range from contests to parades to karaoke. To book, send an email or call 413-245-7148.
Old Holbrook Place, 114 Manchaug Road, Sutton, MA 01590: Old Holbrook Place may be a small campground, but it’s well worth visiting. The site’s lake is a great place to swim, fish, or take a boat ride. If you aren’t one for the water, you can sit down for a picnic or take a relaxing amble around the lake. Old Holbrook is also conveniently placed near a bunch of Central Mass attractions, including Purgatory Chasm Park and the Worcester Art Museum. To make reservations, send an email or call 508-865-5050.
Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609: This world-renowned museum boasts a collection of more than 35,000 works from a number of fields, including painting, sculpting, photography, drawing, and decorative arts. The museum’s café is a great place for a bite, while the gift shop offers souvenirs. Also, for the months of July and August, general admission is free! Make sure to check the schedule of summer events. For more information, call 508-799-4406.
Davis Farmland & Davis Mega Maze, 145 Redstone Hill, Sterling, MA 01564: Visitors can sign up for pony rides, cuddle with the Farmland’s inhabitants, frolic in the Adventure Play & Spray fountain, barrel down the slip and slide, take a spin on the pedal car track, or adventure through New England’s largest manmade corn maze (which is set to reopen early August). Beyond the fun and games, Davis Farmland also serves as the largest private sanctuary for endangered livestock in North America. To see the catalog of summer events, check out the Cow-lendar. To get in touch, call 978-422-6666.
Higgins Armory Museum, 100 Barber Avenue, Worcester, MA 01606: This unique attraction will take you back to the times of knights and jousting. Higgins Armory is the western hemisphere’s only museum devoted to knightly armor, and it houses more than 4,000 pieces, drawn from England to Japan and everywhere in between. The museum also contains non-military artifacts, including works of art from the medieval period. For more information, call 508-853-6015.
Where to eat:
1790 Restaurant & Tavern, 208 Turnpike Road, Westborough, MA 01581: 1790 Restaurant & Tavern is now opening up for the summer, fully stocked with a variety of tastes that come fresh from land and water. Soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, steak, and fish are just a few of your options at 1790, which will leave you fed and happy. For more information and hours of operation, click here or call 508-366-1707.
Lalajava Coffehouse, 290 West Main Street, Suite 12, Northboro, MA 01532: A stop into Lalajava is the perfect way to start any full day or take a break from a full day that’s already underway. In addition to their selection of coffee, Lalajava bakes different delights each day, spinning out scones, biscottis, soups, and light sandwiches, among other treats. If you’re looking for a light meal, a snack, or just a quick caffeine fix, try out Lalajava. For more information, call 508-393-7625.
Gardner Ale House Brewery and Restaurant , 74 Parker Street, Gardner, MA 01440: If your mouth is dry and your tummy is growling, head on over to Gardner Ale House. The Ale House’s selection of beers is sure to whet your palate, regardless of whether you like light or dark brews. For eats, Gardner Ale House has lunch and dinner menus chock full of wings, quesadillas, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas. Night events take place frequently, often in the form of live music or contests, so take a glance at the calendar before you make your way to the Ale House, or call 978-669-0122.
Where to shop:
Grafton Country Store, 2 Grafton Common, Grafton, MA 01519: The Grafton Country Store has a variety of local and imported items for sale, including dinnerware, clocks, lamps, toys, candles, and candy. The store also keeps its own cafe, where patrons can stop by for a pick-me-up of coffee, locally made gelato, cookie, smoothies, and teas.
Haymakers Country Store, 177 East Main Street, West Brookfield, MA 01585: A country store located in two rooms of an old farmhouse that was built around 1850. The shop is fashioned after an old-time country store, featuring vintage, handcrafts, primitives, jam, jellies, candles and more. For more information, call 508-867-4401.
Walker Homestead, 19 Martin Road, Brookfield, MA 01506: For those seeking retro decoration, Walker Homestead makes a good stop. Walker Homestead carries a number of country antique goods and also forges its own trappings, which can be customized to fit any garden or home.
For a complete listing on all that Central Mass has to offer, click here.