Short Stops

  • David Ginisi

With an abundance of restaurants, theatres, and entertainment spots, North Central Massachusetts offers great opportunities for an enjoyable night. But the region’s star really shines when families are looking for places to spend some “quality time” together. Youngsters – and the young heart – will be enthralled with the boundless family-friendly spots in Johnny’s backyard. Here’s a sampling of the fun things to do and places to visit of all ages.


The Sweetest Treat:

Winter is winding down and spring hasn’t officially arrived. But don’t despair. This is the sweetest time of the year in Johnny’s backyard; it’s maple syrup season!

In March, sugarhouses across the region send billows of steam skyward as sap from local trees is boiled down to create that luscious, mouth-watering delicacy. Of course, you’ve poured the sweet condiment poured over pancakes and waffles. But have you ever tried maple syrup drizzled onto trays of icy white snow, creating a gooey, yummy treat? It’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

Here’s a sampling of local sugarhouses where you can see syrup being made, and take home the taste of New England: Big Head Fred’s, 417 Flat Hill rd., Lunenburg, (508) 331-9589; Boggastowe Farm, 20 Shattuck St., Pepperell, (978) 433-5191; Dave’s Sugar House, 1033 Jones Hill Rd., Ashby, (978) 386-7235; Hollis Hills Farm, 340 Marshall Rd., Fitchburg, (978) 669-3130; Sweet Water Sugarhouse, 50 Brown Rd., Royalston (978) 249-3464; Townsend Hill Maple, 221 North End Rd., Townsend (978) 660-4847.


Tap Your Toes:

Sousa marches. Vintage rock. Dixieland jazz. Country sounds. Tropical steel drum tunes. Whatever your musical tastes, you’re sure to enjoy a visit to Johnny’s backyard. Summer is the season for outdoor concerts – and just about any day of the week, you can find a performance to enjoy. Grab a blanket or lawn chair, pack a lunch, and head out to relax under the summer skies to soak up some great music. And did we mention that these concerts are free?

From the venerable Leominster Colonial Band to the island-evoking Sensations steel drum group, musicians take to the bandstands on town commons and in city parks. Sunday afternoons… Saturday evenings… whenever you’re in the mood, you can probably find a band ready to entertain you, thanks to the sponsorship of local recreation commissions and cultural councils.

Ready for some music? Check out the calendar section of this issue of The Guide to see what’s on tap today!

Talk to the Animals:

Kids and animals – it’s a great combination when you’re looking for pure joy and plenty of great photo opportunities!short-stops-3

And with its abundance of farms, North Central Massachusetts is a great place for the youngsters to meet all manner of critters, from alpacas to goats and pigs… and more. For decades, Davis Farmland in Sterling has been entrancing kids of all ages with its collection of endangered farm animals, gathered from around the world. Kids can help farmers milk a goat, collect chicken eggs, bottle feed the babies, and groom the animals. Plain View Alpaca Farm, or course, is home to those soft and cuddly animals. The kids can get up close and personal with farm animals, too, at Hollis Hills Farm in Fitchburg and Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

Tiptoe Through the Daffodils:

Picture it: Sweeping fields of bright yellow daffodils, heralding the arrival of spring. Just in time to boost your spirits and get your gardening ideas flowing, thousands of cheery daffodils burst into bloom at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston. It’s a great time to take advantage of the Tower Hill’s weekend tours, introducing you to many wonders of this magical place snuggled into the heart of Central Massachusetts. And if you’d like to sing a round of “Tiptoe through the Tulips,” Tower Hill is still the right place to visit – there are acres of colorful tulips there, too… along with apple trees (of course!), the indoor Orangerie and Limonaria, and so much more to get your garden ideas flowing.


History on Display:

If the words “historical society” make you think of dark, dust rooms lined with old, books where visitors are cautioned to speak in hushed voices… well think again! The historical society of buildings of North Central Massachusetts are vibrant places that link the past and present, display intriguing artifacts from days gone by, host fascinating speakers and hold family-friendly events. What can you find in these hallowed halls (and elegant homes) in local cities and towns? In July, the Fitchburg Historical Society hosts and exhibition of Iver Johnson bicycles. Throughout the summer, the Narragansett Historical Society in Templeton invites visitors to enjoy tea and snacks in the garden. This summer, the Leominster Historical Society will present a play about the Underground Railroad. And don’t forget to visit the Winchendon Historical and Cultural Center for an Escape Room adventure, a Paranormal Night event, or a tasty trip to its old-fashioned ice cream shop!


Getting Around:

You can find details, including directions and hours, about many great family-friendly attractions in the “Destinations” section of this issue of The Guide. Explore! Enjoy! And be sure to tell them that Johnny sent you!