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A TANK AWAY | STURBRIDGE

Spring’s alive with rural charms

Family fun at the village and beyond

Justin Kennick holds a new arrival at Old Sturbridge Village, where spring activities include visiting the newborn lambs. Justin Kennick holds a new arrival at Old Sturbridge Village, where spring activities include visiting the newborn lambs. (Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe)
By Ellen Albanese
Globe Correspondent / March 17, 2010

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For many folks, Sturbridge is synonymous with Old Sturbridge Village. The living-history site has done a good job of adding features to keep families coming back, but there’s more to Sturbridge than the village. Recreational areas, farms, and orchards beckon, and the town is a good base for visiting other Central Massachusetts attractions.

Stay
The Country Motor Lodge portion of the Publick House (277 Main St., 508-347-3313, www.publickhouse.com, $129-$149) may not have the charm of the 1771 historic inn ($169-$199), but the 92 motel-style rooms are large, comfortable, and economical (check the website for lower Internet rates). They overlook the outdoor pool and woods, and the complex is a stone’s throw from Old Sturbridge Village. The Fantaroni family has owned and operated Comfort Inn & Suites Colonial (215 Charlton Road, 508-347-3306, www.sturbridgecomfortinn.com, $109-$200) since 1956. Units include standard rooms, suites, and whirlpool suites. An on-site Dunkin’ Donuts and Cracker Barrel Restaurant and Old Country Store make the lodging popular with groups and families. With an indoor pool, the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center (366 Main St., 508-347-7393, www.sturbridgehosthotel.com, $99-$169) offers swimming and boating on Cedar Lake and a miniature golf course. At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park (30 River Road, 508-347-9570, www.jellystonesturbridge.com, campsites $40-$68, cabins $88-$106, trailers $135) you can park your RV, rent a cabin, or pitch a tent. A lake, two pools, and water slide offer warm-weather fun.

Dine
The landmark Rom’s restaurant may be gone, but the tradition lives on. Nicole Barran, the granddaughter of Romaldo Roscioli, who ran Rom’s from 1952 until 2008, and her husband, Andre, have opened Romaldo’s Restaurant (455 Main St., 508-347-9965, www.romaldos.com, dinner $9-$22) at the Hearthstone Inn. David Roscioli, Romaldo’s son, bought Giovanello’s Italian Market (139 Main St., 508-347-1440, www.romsandgiovanellos.com) and added Rom’s homemade meatballs, sauces, and other specialties. The site of the former Rom’s now holds a Mexican restaurant, Playa del Carmen (179 Main St., 508-347-7797, $6.50-$16.75). Owners Jorge Guzman and Carmen Scaffidi, who have a restaurant of the same name in Holden, have filled the dining room with lushly colored murals, decorative tiles, and hand-carved wooden booths. Also new to town is 420 Main Steakhouse & Martini Bar (420 Main St., 774-241-0386, lunch $8-$25, dinner $15-$29), in a thoughtfully preserved 1700s building with original wood floors and tin ceilings. Here you can sip an oyster martini or one made with peppers while waiting for your buffalo, elk, or venison steak. B.T.’s Smokehouse (392 Main St., 508-347-3188, www.btsmokehouse.com, $5.50-$20.50) serves Southern-style barbecue. The beef brisket is memorable, and we would happily consume anything topped with the bourbon caramel sauce that comes with the bread pudding. For a hearty and amazingly cheap breakfast, you can’t beat Annie’s Country Kitchen (140 Main St., 508-347-2320, $1.50-$9). Across the parking lot, Paoletti’s Fruit & Produce (136 Main St., 508-347-9228) makes overstuffed, underpriced sandwiches ($4.49-$5.79) and will pack your family a picnic.

During the day
Every weekend this month visitors can watch workers collecting sap and boiling it down for maple syrup and candy at K.E. Farm (317 Leadmine Road, 508-347-9323, www.maplesugarhouse.com). New features at Old Sturbridge Village (1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, 508-347-3362, 800-733-1830, www.osv.org, $20 adults, $7 ages 3-17) include the “Small House,’’ a tiny but typical starter home of the 1830s, which sheltered up to 12 people in 400 square feet; “Convenient and Fashionable: Furniture of Inland Massachusetts 1790-1830,’’ showcasing the considerable talents of Central Massachusetts furniture makers; and stagecoach rides in an authentically reproduced Concord stagecoach. Spring activities include maple sugaring and visiting the village’s newborn lambs. Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield (Route 9, West Brookfield, 978-840-4446, www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/central-ma/rock-house-reservation.html) is a great place to let children clamber over large boulders left by the glaciers, called glacial erratics, on their way to see the multistory rock enclosure Native Americans used for shelter.

After dark
Candlepin meets disco in “cosmic bowling’’ on Friday and Saturday nights at Bogey Lanes (199 North Brookfield Road, East Brookfield, 508-867-6629, www.bogeylanes.com). With black lights, fluorescent colors, and pulsating music, the lanes take on a dance club atmosphere. The Stageloft Repertory Theater (450A Main St., 508-347-9005, www.stageloft.com, tickets $8-$16) offers contemporary and classic musicals and plays. “The Drawer Boy,’’ a comedy by Michael Healey, continues through March 21. The musical comedy “Meshuggah-Nuns’’ begins March 26.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.