A Winter Getaway Might Be Closer Than You Think

  • Visit North Central
  • Posted on January 5, 2022

It’s been a long year. You need — no, you deserve! — a vacation.

A few invigorating days on the ski slopes or on cross-country trails through quiet, pristine woods. Visits to museums. Some fine dining. A tour of craft breweries. An evening of live music, or perhaps a theater performance.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? North Central Massachusetts can put your plans back on track. Just a few hours’ drive from Boston and New York, this region has everything you need to enjoy a first-class getaway at any time of the year.

The Great Outdoors

Standing proudly, and very visibly, in the heart of Massachusetts, Wachusett Mountain is a prime destination for winter visitors.  Wachusett Mountain Ski Area has everything you’d want for a day on the slopes: a vertical drop of 1,000 feet; 27 trails; eight lifts; restaurants, a coffee house and a host of other amenities to make your visit enjoyable.

And if cross-country skiing is your winter sport of choice — or you’d just like to enjoy a peaceful walk — we’ve got your covered; there are myriad trails in state and local parks throughout the region. In warm weather, those parks offer activities the whole family can enjoy, from boating to swimming, hiking and rock-climbing.

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Wagon ride at Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton, MA.

Love Animals?

When temperatures drop, a cozy ride in a horse-drawn sleigh may be just what you need to forget the hectic world around you. Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton has the horses, the sleighs, and even hot cocoa around a fire to brighten your day.

Or you could stop by a local farm for a friendly chat with creatures large and small … including cuddly alpacas at Plain View Farm in Hubbardston.

Local farms are great places to visit any time of the year, of course — in the spring, when apple blossoms turn the hillsides pink and white; throughout the summer, when farm stands and pick-your-own fields are overflowing with fresh, tasty treats; and in the fall, when glorious foliage offers a stunning backdrop for harvest fairs and family pumpkin-picking excursions.

Enjoy Art?

Did you know that North Central Massachusetts is home to a museum housing the largest collections of Russian icons outside of Russia? In addition to its ongoing and special exhibitions, the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton is a leading center for research and scholarship. A tour of this remarkable museum, housed in a former mill building, will open your eyes to a whole new world.

But you won’t want to stop there! It’s an easy drive to the Fitchburg Art Museum, spotlighting special exhibitions of contemporary New England art, along with historical art collections and exhibitions. Bringing the kids on your vacation? Don’t miss the interactive Egyptian gallery, with its realistic paintings of tomb walls, a miniature diorama about mummification, and even a real mummy! The Museum’s website offers from great tips to help the whole family enjoy your visit.

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Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster, MA.

Break Time

From familiar coffee shops and fast-food spots to homey family cafes and a world of ethnic restaurants, it’s easy to find the perfect spot for a snack or meal in North Central Massachusetts. While the landscape is quintessentially New England, the dining options travel the globe — from Brazilian to Asian, Greek and Italian (and, of course, traditional New England) fare will tempt your taste buds here. From long-time local favorites like Slattery’s Restaurant in Fitchburg and the Gardner Ale House to newer spots like the Lazy Bubble in Pepperell, dining choices abound here.

When you want to immerse yourself in the aura of the region, stop in for a meal (and maybe a concert) at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, which has been welcoming travelers for more than a century. Its iconic covered bridge is an ideal setting for vacation photos, too!

Lovin’ that historic New England atmosphere? In Westminster, the 1761 Old Mill has logged nearly century as a restaurant. Originally a sawmill, the popular dining spot has been run by the same family for three generations, so you know these folks are doing something right! Enjoy the sound of water rushing over the mill dam, watch the ducks swimming lazily on the mill pond, and relax in the Cracker Barrel Lounge.

Concerts, community theater performances, craft fairs, festivals — the local calendar is crammed with events to fill your days and evenings here.

When Day is Done

From country inns and B&Bs to fine full-service hotels, there are plenty of options when it’s time to rest before heading back out on the adventure trail.

Need a few tips? How about the Maguire House, that became one of Ashburnham’s first inns in 1764?  Set on over 40 beautiful acres, this B&B is a perfect getaway for visitors who enjoy being pampered.

The Chocksett Inn in Sterling is larger, with 27 rooms and a dining room in a central location in the region, close to farms, orchards, a winery and botanic garden. The new Groton Inn, a reincarnation of the oldest inn in America (which destroyed by fire in 2011) is a 60-room property that preserves its historic feel while incorporating modern amenities. Its halls and suites display works from local artists, along with photos and sketches of from the inn’s heyday. Want that country feel? The inn’s three floors overlook Gibbet Hill Farm, a scenic view replete with cows and, in the fall, stunning foliage.

And the choices continue … with the 112-room Colonial Hotel in Gardner, featuring elegant suites, spa services, restaurant and pub; and the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster, with 187 guest rooms, centrally located just off Route 2 and I-190.

Ready to Visit?

Make the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2 Westbound your first stop. You’ll find a friendly welcome, information on great spots to visit, and a gift shop spotlighting locally-made products to set the mood for your close-to-home getaway!