Massachusetts is host to a home of former mill cities that have revitalized themselves and attracted a new wave of younger residents, with plenty of leisure and dining options to spare. Whether you’re on a tight budget or have only a day’s worth of time to spare, here are five outside-the-617 destinations worth checking out.
See: Kerouac Park
Jack Kerouac once famously said (wrote) that “the road is life.’’ Which is why the city dedicated an entire park to one of its most famous citizens and beloved authors in the United States, situated amidst a bit of greenery (and concrete), the perfect spot to sit and zen out while contemplating the Transcendentalist movement Kerouac and his cohorts were known for, aside from their literary prowess.
75 Bridge Street, Lowell | 978.979.4171
Eat: La Boniche
A $20 midweek prixe fixe menu that features farm-to-table fare? No, your eyes don’t deceive you; that’s La Boniche, an epicurean outpost located downtown. So, yes: go during the week and take advantage of a deal you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere—or enjoy their lunch menu, with entrees under $12.
143 Merrimack Street, Lowell | 978.458.9473
Stay: Samuel Fitch House
Aside from a few chains, Lowell is sort of devoid of unique accommodations—but since you’re already out of dodge, head to nearby Westford, just one town over from Lowell, and rest your head at the Samuel Fitch House, an 18th century farmhouse that’s been restored to its full glory.
91 Powers Road, Westford | 978.952.6888
Play: Catch a Spinners game
Take yourself out to the ballgame and catch the Lowell Spinners at LeLaucher Park. The MLB minors’ team is a breeding ground for future Red Sox recruits—and as an added bonus, ticket prices (and parking) are a fraction of what you’d pay at Fenway.
450 Aiken Street, Lowell | 978.459.2255
See: The Whittier Museum
Another famous wordsmith who hailed from Massachusetts is poet John Greenleaf Whittier, whose namesake dots several places north of Boston, including the Whittier Museum. The landmark is open seasonally, so take advantage of visitation privileges (and a slice of history) while you can.
86 Friend Street, Amesbury | 978.388.1337
A quick look around the scene at No. 8 Kitchen and Spirits and you might mistake it for a South End locale. Alas, cool exists in Amesbury, too, and it tastes divine. The grilled octopus and summer cavatelli are worth writing home about, as is the newly hatched restaurant’s painstakingly crafted cocktail list.
37 Main Street, Amesbury | 978.792.5476
Stay: Essex Street Inn
Another town, another border hop: this time, I’m suggesting you mosey on into downtown Newburyport, which is but a five minute drive from downtown Amesbury. Here, you’ll find the Essex Street Inn, which is quaint, convenient, and picturesque.
7 Essex Street, Newburyport | 978.465.3148
Play: Amesbury Sports Park
What’s a ZORB, you ask? Oh, just a giant plastic ball that houses you while you tumble down a mini-mountain used for winter snowtubing. In other words, your childhood fantasy grown up. Go play in one at Amesbury Sports Park, a place that caters to your inner kid (and won’t judge you for fist-pumping at the end of an epic spin down the hill).
12 South Hunt Road, Amesbury | 978.388.5788
See: Moraine Farm
Although it’s often used as the site of weddings (I’ve been to two here) and other special events, Moraine Farm, set on 175 sprawling acres of conservation land and forest, is stunning, and worth a visit if you’re in the area, which you’ll have to book ahead of time. Tip: wear sneakers—most of the grounds are unpaved.
733 Cabot Street, Beverly | 978.969.1738
Eat: Barrel House
A little bit French, a little bit American, a whole lot of dark, come-hither interior: that’s Barrel House for you. Downtown Beverly has undergone an urban revival, and it’s taken its dining scene with it. The food menu changes frequently, but if they have anything served in a cast-iron skillet, I highly recommend giving it a try.
252 Cabot Street, Beverly | 978.998.4627
Stay: Beverly Garden Suites
So, yeah: this isn’t exactly the sexiest place to stay. Which is why I recommend making do with a local via Airbnb. But if you favor the conventional, this place ranks consistently good in terms of reliability, and since you’ll be spending most of your time out of the city, out of your hotel room (I hope), you can’t go wrong with trending toward the basic side of the fence.
5 Lakeview Avenue, Beverly | 800.922.7535
Play: Anchor Pub
It’s not a trip to the North Shore without a trip to a dive bar, I say—especially since so many in the city are on their way out, with newer and glitzier spots taking their place. You can’t go wrong with Anchor Pub, which features ridiculously cheap mixed drinks, pool, and locals that speak in the thickest Boston accent you’ve evah heard. In other words, lots of low-brow fun.
20 Cabot Street, Beverly | 978.921.0504
See: Winnekenni Castle
So, castles: apparently, Massachusetts has many. The Winnekenni is definitely worth a stop if you’re heading to Haverhill, not only because it’s beautiful to look at—plus, there’s a lake you can walk around adjacent to the property—but when’s the last time you’ve been in a castle? Point taken.
347 Kenoza Avenue, Haverhill | 978.521.1686
Eat: The Tap
If you’ve already familiarized yourself with Haverhill Brewing Company’s selection of craft beers, then get thee to The Tap, its sister restaurant, where the entire selection is served on…tap. There’s a sweet patio out back that overlooks the Merrimack River, above-average pub fare that makes for quite a meal, and free parking out back.
117 Washington Street, Haverhill | 978.934.1117
Stay: Hampton Inn
This, again, is a situation where I’d suggest you check out Airbnb and make like a local with your stay. (For the record, Haverhill is only 50 minutes from Boston, so heading back to the city after you’ve explored isn’t unreasonable.) But if you plan on making a weekend of it, you’ll probably want to check in to the Hampton Inn, one of the few hotels the city has to offer and arguably, the nicest.
106 Bank Road, Haverhill | 978.374.7755
Mini golf, batting cages, and a climbing wall: you’ll find them all at Cedarland, where adults and children alike line up to compete in a battles of American pastimes. Get your camp—the cheesy kind—on, and be prepared to take yourself not so seriously for at least a few hours.
888 Boston Road, Haverhill | 978.521.7700
See: One of the city’s many art galleries
New Bedford hosts one of the largest groups of artist residents in the United States. Who knew? Take advantage of the culture and check out one of the city’s many art galleries, where you can see work from locally- and nationally-renowned artists alike.
Eat: Waterfront Grille
The city also operates as a fishing town, and if you’re in the mood for seafood, you’ve hit the jackpot. Then again, it’s hard to not love a restaurant that has its patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where your meal was likely caught only hours prior. I’m a fan of the cornmeal-crusted scallops, but if you’ve got a hankering for plastic bibs, you can’t go wrong with a lobster.
36 Homer’s Wharf, New Bedford | 508.997.7010
Stay: Melville House
What better way to rest your head than at an authentic New England B&B? Each of the Melville’s rooms possess its own authentic charms; depending on your needs and its availability, I’d go with the Herman Melville room, which just might inspire you to pen the next Great American Novel (or maybe catch up on your reading).
100 Madison Street, New Bedford | 508.990.1566
Play: The Pour Farm
And if you want to hang out with some of those aforementioned artists—or at least local hipsters—point your compass to The Pour Farm after dinner, where “fresh caught’’ microbrews and a cool, cultural vibe await. There’s also a decent amount of bar snacks on hand, heavy on the barbeque, if you’re still hungry.
780 Purchase Street, New Bedford | 508.990.1123