Fun Things To Do In Sturbridge, MA

Top Destinations Nov 28, 2023

Nestled in the rolling hills of south-central Massachusetts, the charming town of Sturbridge offers visitors a delightful mix of historical attractions, outdoor adventures, and contemporary comforts. From exploring centuries-old mills and meeting antique-clad docents to sampling farm-to-table fare at critically acclaimed restaurants, this storied New England hamlet truly has something for everyone.

Below you'll find some of the most memorable and can't-miss fun things to do in Sturbridge, MA, ranging from world-class museums to hidden hiking gems. We've organized the attractions based on location and theme to make planning your Sturbridge getaway a breeze. Be sure to leave time to simply wander the quintessential New England streets, popping in and out of mom-and-pop shops along the way.

Old Sturbridge Village

For a contemporary counterpart to Historic Sturbridge Village's historical focus, head just down the road to Old Sturbridge Village. This living history museum focuses more on New England life in the period from 1790-1840. Spanning over 200 gorgeous acres, Old Sturbridge Village authentically recreates a rural New England town from the period.

Highlights include:

- The Center Meetinghouse, representing a church where the religous and civic lives of the community converged. Docents provide insight into Puritan worship and values.

- The Fitch House, an upper-class home decorated with Empire-style furnishings and reproductions straight out of the early 19th century.

- The Parsonage, home to the minister and his family, portrayed through vignettes of daily life.

- The Bullard Tavern, where you can imagine stagecoach travelers stopping for a drink and bite to eat.

- Traditional crafts shops like the tin shop, shoemaker, and blacksmith. Watch the village craftspeople demonstrate their trade using tools and methods from the time period.

- Heritage breed farm animals to visit, including oxen, sheep, pigs, and chickens. Don't miss the heirloom vegetable garden!

- Interpretive history theater and music performances bringing the 1800s to life.

Like its historic cousin down the road, plan to immerse yourself in Old Sturbridge Village for the better part of a day as you take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the early 19th century.

Sturbridge Restaurants

After a busy day exploring Sturbridge's living history, you'll no doubt work up an appetite. Luckily, Sturbridge boasts a stellar dining scene with everything from upscale taverns to mom-and-pop diners serving up local flavor. Here are some of the best restaurants to check out during your visit:

Publick House Historic Inn & Country Lodge

For a refined Colonial dining experience, head to the Publick House, open since 1771. Housed within a historic inn, the restaurant exudes 18th century charm with its low ceilings, dark wood, and copper accents. Chef de cuisine Michael Collins puts a contemporary spin on traditional New England fare like pot roast, chicken pot pie, and lobster bisque. Signature dishes include their melt-in-your-mouth prime rib and perfect pork osso buco. Save room for warm bourbon bread pudding or historic peanut pie for dessert.

Publick House Historic Inn
Source: Publick House Historic Inn

Cedar Street Grille

Tucked along the banks of Cedar Lake, Cedar Street Grille pairs creative American cuisine with breathtaking lakefront views. Located in a converted mill, the industrial-chic ambiance features highbeam ceilings and brick walls dotted with local art. Chef Philip Ross sautes, sears, and simmers local, seasonal ingredients into winning combos like pan-seared scallops over creamy polenta and crispy duck confit on a bed of goat cheese risotto. Don't skip the bacon-wrapped meatloaf or fried chicken & waffles.

Cedar Street Grille
Source: Trip

OSV Tavern

For a casual tavern vibe with locally-sourced fare, check out OSV Tavern at the Old Sturbridge Village. Belly up to the long wooden bar or grab a table by the flickering fireplace. Order New England brews on tap along with hearty pub grub like fish and chips, shepherd's pie, giant pretzels with beer cheese, and OSV's signature chicken pot pie topped with flaky pastry crust. Kids can choose from grilled cheese, PB&J, or chicken tenders. Stick around for live music on the weekends.

Rovezzi's Ristorante

Craving classic Italian? Rovezzi's has been dishing out hearty homemade pastas and saucy signatures for over 35 years. Located in a converted house, Rovezzi's cozy dining rooms feature exposed brick and strings of twinkling lights. Start off with mussels in a zesty tomato broth or meatballs blanketing rigatoni pasta. Move onto chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi over linguine, or eggplant rollatini. Leave room for canoli or tiramisu from their bakery up front. Buon appetito!

Rovezzi's Ristorante
Source: Masslive

Salem Cross Inn

For a one-of-a-kind farm-to-table experience, make a beeline for the Salem Cross Inn situated on 600 acres of field and forest. Dine inside 18th century timber-frame buildings warmed by roaring fireplaces, or enjoy the breeze on the outdoor patio. The menu shifts seasonly, but you can expect dishes like potato leek soup, roasted beet and goat cheese salad with candied walnuts, and chicken pot pie with herbs freshly picked from their greenhouse. Save room for the Mile High apple pie with fresh whipped cream - the perfect ending.

Salem Cross Inn
Source: Salem Cross Inn

Sturbridge Accommodations

After an action-packed day exploring historic villages, hiking through hemlock groves, or sampling Sturbridge's buzzed-about dining scene, you'll need a cozy place to rest your head. From stately colonial inns to family-friendly motels, Sturbridge offers a full spectrum of spots to spend the night.

Publick House Historic Inn

For quintessential New England ambiance, you can't beat the historic Publick House, located on the town common since 1771. The three-story taproom and joiner inn has been impeccably restored with hand-stenciled wallpaper, wide plank floors, and canopy beds. Unwind by the large fieldstone fireplace or soak in the antique clawfoot tub of your room. Rates include a hot breakfast buffet. With acclaimed dining and tavern onsite, you'll find everything you need right here.

Publick House Historic Inn
Source: Historic Hotels of America

Chamberlain Farm Bed & Breakfast

Nestled on 100 wooded acres, this restored 1784 farmhouse transports you back in time while still spoiling you with modern amenities like whirlpool tubs and wifi. Each of the seven guest rooms has a unique decor, from the Shaker-inspired simplicity of the Sturbridge Room to the Victorian rose theme of the Rosewood Room. Rates include a cooked-to-order breakfast made with goods from their garden.

Econo Lodge Meadows

For an affordable and family-friendly motel option, check into the Econo Lodge Meadows. While it won't win any historic awards, the clean rooms and convenient location make it a solid budget pick. Parents will appreciate amenities like an indoor heated pool, sauna, free wifi, and microwaves/fridges in rooms. An included continental breakfast provides fuel for the day's adventures, while Sturbridge Village is just a quick drive away.

Econo Lodge Meadows
Source: Booking

Nathan Goodale House

Vacation like a true VIP in this magnificent historic home built in 1746, boasting 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and a private 16-acre pond. The spacious kitchen, dining room, and living room with floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace provide old-world charm, while modern luxuries like a hot tub and sauna await you. With acreage begging to be explored and Sturbridge Village just minutes away, the location is ideal for soaking in quintessential New England scenery.

Trails and Hiking

Between the rolling hills, hemlock groves, and rivers cutting through Sturbridge, outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home. Lace up your hiking boots and hit one of these great trails winding through forests and fields surrounding town.

Heins Farm Conservation Area

One of Sturbridge's best-kept hiking secrets, Heins Farm Conservation Area packs over 5 miles of woodland trails into 60 unspoiled acres. Passing through mature forests and crossing Babcock Brook, the loop trail has a wild, secluded feel just minutes from Main Street. Link together the Ridge, Brook, and Farm Trails for the full route. The trailhead parking area is unmarked but located at 114 Leadmine Road.

Heins Farm Conservation Area
Source: Experience Sturbridge

Westville Recreation Area

Featuring over 300 acres of woods and a pristine swimming pond, Westville Recreation Area draws hikers, swimmers, and picnickers season after season. Trails range from easy 1-mile loops to more challenging 4-mile treks over varied terrain. Don't miss the scenic vista overlooking the pond from Vista Rock. Bring your pup too since the recreation area is dog-friendly. A small park fee applies during the summer swim season.

Rapscallion Brewery Trails

Just across the border in Stafford, CT, Rapscallion Brewery maintains an excellent network of hiking trails open to the public free of charge. The 7+ miles of trails provide a mix of peaceful woods and meadows, even crossing a fast-moving stream along the way. Trail maps are available onsite at the brewery. Finish off your hike by sampling one of their small-batch brews with unique ingredients like local honey, cranberries, or sweet potatoes.

Rapscallion Brewery Trails
Source: New England Microbreweries

Leadmine Mt Trail

For Sturbridge's best 360° panoramas, embark on the 1.5 mile hike up Leadmine Mountain. Located within the Leadmine Mt Conservation Area, the moderate trail runs over uneven terrain and rock outcroppings before reaching an open summit towering over 1,000 feet. Here you'll be rewarded with views stretching across the Quinebaug River Valley and four neighboring states on a clear day. The marked trailhead is located on the end of N. Monson Road.

Wells State Park

At Wells State Park, enjoy hiking along the shore of Walker Pond, formed by a dam along the Little River. The easy Pond Loop Trail spans 1.3 miles, winding over rustic bridges and footpaths lining the water's edge. For a longer 4-mile hike, tackle the Ridge Trail's rolling terrain and rocky outcroppings. With a sandy beach, bathhouse, and campgrounds, plan for a full day at Wells State Park. A parking fee applies during summer months.

Wells State Park
Source: Massachusetts Camping

Things to Do with Kids

From hands-on history lessons to splash pads and go karts, Sturbridge offers family fun around every corner. Here are some top attractions and activities for entertaining visitors of all ages:

Whistling Swan Sleigh Rides

Your kids will feel like royalty aboard a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the frosty fields and forests of Sturbridge. Whistling Swan's scenic 30 or 60-minute rides whisk you over rolling hills as the horses' hooves clip-clop through freshly fallen snow. For added fun, sign up for a themed ride like the Santa Sleigh or Winter Wonderland, complete with caroling and costumes. Available weekends in December and during snowy winter months.

Sleigh Rides
Source: BabyQuip

EcoTarium Museum

Just over the border in Worcester, this hands-on museum makes science concepts leap off the page through interactive exhibits and live animal encounters. Kids can dig for fossils, excavate an archeological site, walk through a human heart, explore simple machines and engineering principles, and meet everything from turtles to owls in the naturalists' animal room. Multiple daily science demonstrations like Tesla coil lightning shows make learning electrifying.

EcoTarium Museum
Source: OnlyInYourState

Davis Farmland

Pick your own fruit, hop aboard pony rides, and get lost in the mega maze at Davis Farmland, a family-owned farm and amusement park hybrid. Kids will love feeding friendly farm animals, racing down the four-story Giant Slide, or exploring the more than 30 imaginative themed attractions scattered around the grounds, including a pirate ship, treehouse, and enchanted castle. A day at Davis Farmland guarantees your crew will sleep soundly after all the fresh air and fun. Cash only.

History Buff Activities

Revel in Sturbridge's storied past at these sites illuminating various aspects of life and culture in this quintessential New England town and surrounding area over the centuries. History buffs could easily spend a week digging into all of Sturbridge's roots!

Tantiusques

This 1,000-acre property once belonged to John Tantiusques, a Nipmuc chief who purchased it from English settlers in the late 1600s. Explore the trails winding past foundations and cellars that once supported a thriving indigenous community in the 1600s and early 1700s. Interpretive signs provide context around this powerful example of Native American history and heritage in south-central Massachusetts. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Tantiusques
Source: Experience Sturbridge

Purgatory Chasm

While gorgeous in its own right, the chasm's name also relates back to fascinating local legends drawing on Native American spiritual traditions. Some 17th century European settlers believed it was too beautiful to be named by man and only Satan himself could've crafted such a place, therefore dubbing it Purgatory Chasm as it must've been carved out when Satan was cast from heaven. Hike down this natural 70-foot deep granite gorge to decide for yourself if supernatural forces were at play. $6 admission fee per vehicle.

Purgatory Chasm
Source: Scenic USA

Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway

Traverse history and scenery along this 42-mile National Scenic Byway stretching from North Sturbridge to Brimfield. Interpretive pull-offs detail important area industries like wool production, tin smithing, and agriculture through the centuries. Be sure to stop at the historic Thompson Common to see one of the region's best-preserved town commons bordered by period homes and churches. Nearby is Roseland Cottage, an elaborate Gothic Revival structure holding furniture of the wealthy local family who owned it.

Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway
Source: Housatonic Heritage

Westville Dam & Recreation Area

Take a tranquil walk along the Army Corps of Engineers' flood control dam to read about how engineers diverted part of the Quinebaug River in the 1960s to create Westville Lake and prevent downstream flooding. Interpretive signage describes how the Quinebaug River Valley ecosystem has thrived thanks to the introduction of this lake habitat. Nearby Westville Recreation Area occupies the site of old Westville Village, whose remains lie beneath the waters.

Fall Foliage Fun

As summer fades to autumn, Sturbridge transforms into a leaf peeper's paradise painted in vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. Cooler days, farmers markets piled high with produce, and fiery foliage make fall an ideal time to visit. Here are some top ways to enjoy peak New England autumns in Sturbridge:

Pick Apples at Brookfield Orchards

Celebrate the harvest season by filling baskets with honeycrisp, macintosh, and cortland apples at Brookfield Orchards. The family-owned farm opened in 1914 and offers pick your own fruits from late August through late October. Fill up bags of the freshest apples around, then head to the farm store for homemade apple fritters, turnovers, or crisp. Adults will appreciate the hard cider and apple wine tastings too!

Brookfield Orchards
Source: Discover Central Massachusetts

Bike the Scenic Country Byways

With mild autumn temps and trees ablaze, biking around Sturbridge's scenic country roads is ideal. Pedal along the quilted farmlands and vibrant maple groves of the Westville Lake Byway or woodlands and round barns of the Hamilton Reservoir Byway. Stop to snap photos of photogenic covered bridges along the way. Pick up trail maps at the Sturbridge Tourist Association office on Main Street. Mountain bike rentals are available at REI or local outfitters.

Foliage Train Rides on the Berkshire Scenic Railway

See the vibrant autumn scenery from a unique vantage point aboard the Berkshire Scenic Railway's fall foliage trains departing from nearby Lenox, MA. The vintage trains wind through the scenic Housatonic River Valley past blazing maples, oaks, and birch trees with views of the Berkshire mountains. Special luncheon, dinner, and wine tasting trains are available for a memorable outing. Trains operate select weekends in September and October. Tickets sell out fast!

Berkshire Scenic Railway
Source: Trains

Pick Your Own Pumpkins at Robin Hill Farm

No fall trip to Sturbridge is complete without a visit to Robin Hill Farm for pumpkin picking! Wander their 10-acre Great Pumpkin Patch to hand-select the perfect pie or jack-o-lantern pumpkin as you soak in the crisp fall air. Available pumpkins range from cute miniatures to giant field pumpkins weighing over 75 pounds. Don't miss their corn maze, farm animals, pedal tractors, and weekend hayrides. With so many scenic drives, orchards, and farms surrounding Sturbridge, you'll find endless ways to immerse yourself in the spirit of New England autumns.

Winter Activities

Just because the temperatures dip in Sturbridge doesn't mean the fun has to stop! From snowy sleigh rides to cozy taverns, these wintertime activities will have you wishing for a few more months of snow.

Sleigh Rides at Whistling Swan Inn

Bundle beneath thick wool blankets for a magical horse-drawn sleigh ride across frost-covered fields and snowy forests surrounding Sturbridge. Whistling Swan Inn offers old-fashioned sleigh rides ranging from 30 to 90 minutes. Specialty rides include the Santa Sleigh with caroling and the Winter Wonderland with costumes. Afterwards, warm up by the fire with hot cocoa and cookies in their historic Colonial inn.

Whistling Swan Inn
Source: Green Bay Press

Ice Skating on Cedar Lake

Once temperatures fully freeze Cedar Lake each winter, the town clears and maintains a giant oval for public ice skating directly on the lake. Skate rentals are available on weekends and school vacations for just a few dollars. On weekdays, you can skate for free if you bring your own equipment. Hot chocolate sold on the shore completes the Norman Rockwell-esque experience.

Cedar Lake
Source: Wikipedia

Snowshoeing at Wells State Park

Trek through a snow-covered winter wonderland by snowshoe at Wells State Park. The park rents quality snowshoes onsite for just $15 per day on weekends and during February school vacation week. Their equipment includes shoes sized for everyone from small kids to adults. Shake off the winter doldrums by exploring the park's scenic pond loop and ridge trails transformed by fresh snow.

Bowling and Arcades at Ryan Family Amusements

For indoor winter fun, head to Ryan Family Amusements in nearby Southbridge. Keep spirits bright with glow-in-the-dark bowling, arcade games, air hockey, skee ball, and billiards beneath neon lights. Parents can unwind at the sports bar with local brews on tap while kids enjoy birthday party rooms stocked with all the latest games and redemption prizes.

Ryan Family Amusements
Source: See Plymouth

Arts and Culture

Beyond its historic and outdoor attractions, Sturbridge boasts an impressive arts and culture scene. From critically acclaimed plays to folk music concerts, here are some ways to experience the creative side of this charismatic town:

Saint Anne Arts and Cultural Center

Visit this active hub for community arts, music, theater, and educational programs located in a former Catholic church built in the late 1800s. Grab tickets for one of their Broadway-quality stage productions or concerts showcasing local talent. Browse the two art galleries displaying member works in mediums like painting, pottery, and jewelry. Sign the kids up for performing arts classes or summer creative arts camps.

Saint Anne Arts and Cultural Center
Source: Trip

Joshua Hyde Library

Founded in 1693, the Joshua Hyde Library occupies an elegant brick library building constructed in 1838 and expanded in 1909. In addition to borrowing the latest bestsellers, make time to admire the charming period Reading Room with its dark woodwork, tall windows, and antique light fixtures. Enjoy rotating art exhibits and check out their schedule of author talks, book clubs, and children's story hours.

Joshua Hyde Library
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Brimfield Antiques Show

For loads of vintage eye candy, hit the Brimfield Antiques Show spanning over a mile of fields and barns along Route 20 in Brimfield, MA. Held three times per year in May, July, and September, thousands of dealers converge to sell every antique imaginable. Marvel at the incredible array of rugs, lighting, furniture, art, glassware, jewelry, watches, and more dating from the 18th to 20th century. Wear comfy shoes - you'll be browsing for hours!

Sturbridge delivers no shortage of cultural enrichment beyond just prime leaf peeping and village reenactments. Integrate a play, concert, art show, or book reading into your historical retreat for a fully balanced itinerary. The town truly offers something to engage and inspire every sort of traveler.

Brimfield Antiques Show
Source: Yankee Magazine

Outdoor Adventures

Between its expansive forests, babbling brooks, and scenic ponds, Sturbridge is truly an outdoor lover's paradise. Lace up your hiking boots, fuel up at the local diner, and make the most of the fresh air with these top outdoor adventures:

Paddle Westville Lake

Pack a picnic lunch and spend a day paddling the calm waters and secluded coves of Westville Lake. Rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, or stand-up paddleboards from the Westville Lake Recreation Area store. Paddling the entirety of this 1,000+ acre lake could take hours! For a quicker outing, head left from the beach to enjoy scenic views back towards the historic Westville Dam.

Swimming at Mashapaug Lake

Cool off on hot summer days at Big Alum's spacious beachfront along Mashapaug Lake. The sandy beach features a bathhouse, changing rooms, picnic tables, inflatables, stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals. After swimming in the crystal clear waters, grab lunch on their patio overlooking the lake. Buy a day pass or stay overnight in one of 30+ Coleman cabins onsite.

Mashapaug Lake
Source: Yankee Magazine

Hike Wells State Park

Explore over 2,300 acres of lush forests surrounding Walker Pond at Wells State Park. Follow the 1.3 mile easy Pond Loop Trail past babbling brooks, stands of mountain laurel, and rocky outcroppings circling the peaceful pond. For more challenge, hike the hilly 4.1 mile Ridge Trail to vista points with panoramic views. Relax on the beach or cast a fishing line after your trek. Daily parking fee required.

Disc Golf at Rapscallion Brewery

Enjoy New England's favorite tossing game at Rapscallion Brewery's 18-hole disc golf course in Sturbridge. Wind through the brewery's scenic trails, crossing footbridges and navigating wooded shots as you aim for chain basket holes ranging from easy to difficult. Discs available to rent affordably onsite. Cap off your game by sampling one of their small batch brews at the beer garden.

With so much natural beauty in Sturbridge, you'll want to dedicate at least a full day to reveling in the great outdoors during your visit. Leave the cell phone behind and reconnect with nature through hiking, biking, paddling, and more.

Rapscallion Brewery
Source: Rapscallion

Conclusion

With its unbeatable mix of historic charm, culinary delights, cultural gems, and abundant natural beauty surrounding every corner, it's easy to see why Sturbridge stands as a quintessential New England retreat. Follow this local-approved itinerary to experience the best this captivating rural town has to offer. From touring lived-in antique homes to hiking through blazing autumn forests to sampling farm-to-table fare at acclaimed restaurants, fun and enrichment await at every turn. With such a wealth of options, you may just have to visit Sturbridge more than once to soak it all in!

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