Worcester (Massachusetts)

Explore fine arts, history, and take in a show in Worcester, a medium sized city in Central Massachusetts about an hour's drive west of Boston. Worcester's seven hills and their valleys contain top notch museums, nine colleges and universities, beautiful parks, and food from all over the globe.

Understand

Worcester was established as a town on June 14, 1722 and as a city on February 29, 1848. It has a population of around 180,000 and is the second largest city in New England, behind Boston. Worcester is the home of nine colleges and universities, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, the Massachusetts Bio-Technology Research Park, and the American Antiquarian Society. Despite their large number, Worcester's colleges and universities have not left much of an imprint on the overall feel of the city--for better and for worse, it is not the least bit a college town. Worcester has a very low rate of violent crime compared to the comparably sized city Providence, Rhode Island. It also has lots of parks, greenspace, small bodies of water, and tree-lined streets.

Downtown Worcester, Massachusetts

Climate

Worcester is one of the snowiest cities in the United States, receiving around 70 inches a year on average. Typically, snowfall is dominated by large, long duration events and the city is usually hit with several noreasters each year and the occasional blizzard. As an older, hilly city, snow removal is very poor and only the main roads will be well cleared. Some side streets may be snow covered for days after a storm. Summers can be pretty hot, but not for extended periods of time. Spring and fall are both exceedingly pleasant, with temperatures during the day between 60-70 degrees and either blooming flowers or brilliant fall colors. Worcester's reputation for snow doesn't carry over into rain.

Neighborhoods

Montvale Historic District on the city's Westside

Get in

By plane

Logan International Airport in Boston or T.F. Green Airport in Warwick carry the bulk of passengers in the area, although they are each around an hour away from the city. Alternatively, you could fly into Bradley International Airport in Hartford which is a little over an hour west of the city. There is train service from Boston to Worcester. Worcester does have its own airport, but its not well served.

By train

Worcester only has one train station, Union Station, which is located right downtown next to the city's main bus terminal. From here you can also walk to the Blackstone Canal District or Shrewsbury St.

By bus

By car

Get around

Many of Worcester's points of interest are far spaced from one another. The only practical way to get around is by car (or bike). Public transit in Worcester is focused mainly on commuters. Cabs are no longer inexpensive, and are often more expensive per mile than cabs in other cities. If you're there for more than just a visit, bicycles are available from many used stores and are the best way to get around and explore. Buses in the city usually run every 30 to 60 minutes, with some running only every two hours depending on the route. Fare is $1.50 or $3.50 for an all-day pass. Buses on certain routes are often a half hour or more late, but be at your stop early as they often fly by a few minutes early in order to catch up for previous late stops.

By bus

Worcester does have a bus system, but it is infrequent and confusing to navigate. Unless you are going to or coming from downtown, the bus system is probably an inefficient way to get around the city as nearly all routes end at the main bus terminal at Union Station.

Taxi

On Foot

Worcester is surprisingly hard to navigate on foot. The city covers a large land area by New England standards and despite having a "downtown," the focal points for visitors are spread throughout the city, making them hard to reach on foot. Throw in poor sidewalks and aggressive drivers and you can understand why there aren't very many pedestrians.

By Car

The most efficient, if not the most enjoyable way to get around the city. Driving in Worcester is not for the timid. Although Boston may get the most attention for aggressive drivers in New England, Worcester is by most measures worse. A recent insurance study ranked Worcester as the worst city to drive in in the United States, based on accident rate. Traffic is not nearly as bad as in Boston, but there are significant backups at rush hour and lane markings may be nonexistent in parts of the city. Road quality is also laughably bad, so don't bring anything here that can't handle pot holes.

Unfortunately, there is no street grid to help orient yourself and driving here will probably require a GPS or someone else using a map to direct you. Interstate 190/290 can become very congested at rush hour (4-6 pm). Streets in the core city like Park Ave, Highland Ave, Main St, and Cambridge St, can be backed up at nearly any time of day, even on weekends.

See

There is a surprising amount to see in Worcester. Many travelers might only consider it worth a day trip, but this would be mistaken. The Worcester Art Museum alone is big enough to occupy an entire day. Leaving aside the city's museums, you may still want to take a stroll through one of the city's historic parks or college campuses.

Museums & Galleries

Worcester has a museum for everyone. In addition to the Worcester Art Museum, there is an interesting little history museum and a science and nature center that is great for kids. The Museum of Russian Icons is in nearby Clinton.

Mosaics, Worcester Art Museum
  • Salisbury Mansion, 40 Highland Street,  +1 508 753-8278. Historic house museum that is part of the Worcester History Museum. Admission to the house is included in admission to the history museum, just keep your ticket and present it at the mansion. Former home of the Salisbury family, once the wealthiest in the city. The house is now the oldest structure in the city, having been built in the 18th century. The tour covers the history of the house and the family who built it, but also touches on aspects of life in the very early history of Worcester.

Landmarks

Architecture buffs and photographers will appreciate Worcester's collection of historic buildings and monuments.

  • Worcester City Hall, 455 Main St. Worcester City Hall is a sight to see in its own right. Built in 1898 at the height of Worcester's industrial prominence, City Hall was built in the Italianate style and has an imposing granite exterior.
  • Burnside Fountain, located on the south side of the Worcester Common, is known to locals as "The Turtle-Boy Love Statue". The fountain features a boy and a turtle engaged in what any reasonable observer would have to conclude is an obscene -- or at least nonconsensual -- act. Not many, if any, people know what it truly represents, so judge for yourself.
  • Soldiers' Monument (Worcester Common). 60 foot monument built in 1874 in honor of Worcester's Civil War dead.

Parks

Elm Park Iron Bridge Worcester Massachusetts
  • Elm Park, 284 Highland St. The grand old lady of Worcester parks. The land the park sits on was purchased by the city in 1854 making it one of the first purchases of land to be set aside for a public park in the U.S. The park is currently undergoing renovations, but the old iron bridge over the pond in the middle has been restored.
  • Newton Hill (Across Park Ave from Elm Park). Technically part of Elm Park, but you need to cross Park Ave to get to it. Newton Hill has a disc golf course and trails leading to the top. The view would be impressive if not for the trees.
  • Institute Park (Salisbury St between Park and Grove). Sweeping park overlooking Institute Pond, built on donated land in 1887. Holds many festivals and concerts throughout the summer.
  • Green Hill Park, 50 Skyline Dr.. This 480 acre park is by far the largest in the city. In fact, it's so large, you may forget that you're in the middle of a city at all. Green Hill Park is located on top of a hill northeast of downtown and has walking trails, a lake, the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a public golf course complete with club house restaurant.
  • Hadwen Park (Along the east side of Heard St.). 50 acre park in South Worcester that has easy hiking trails and some wildlife.

Colleges

Wpi boytonhall

Worcester is home to many colleges and universities. A lot of the campuses are newer, with fairly dull contemporary architecture. However, the city's three oldest private institutions are quite pretty. Look for lectures open to the public at all three while you're in town.

  • Seelos Theater (Bottom of the campus). This theater shows a selection of oscar nominated and blockbuster movies once a week during the semester for free. Open to the general public. In fact, most of the audience is usually non-students.
  • Cantor Art Gallery. Campus art gallery showing both historical and contemporary works for the benefit of the community.

Do

Worcester has a plethora of activities for visitors to enjoy. In the spring, summer, and fall, there is nearly always some sort of festival happening. Worcester also has a track record of attracting solid musical performances. Pop stars at the DCU Center, classical at Mechanics Hall, and metal at the Palladium. Worcester's sports teams are all minor league, but offer affordable entertainment.

Festivals

Sports and Outdoors

Arts and Theater

Entertainment Arenas

Hanover Theatre Interior
Interior Mechanics Hall, dance, Worcester, MA

Learn

Worcester boasts a fair number of high schools, colleges and universities in its region.

Buy

Despite being the second largest city in New England, Worcester is not a shopping mecca. There is one small mall in the city that's of no interest to travelers. Downtown used to be home to many department stores and then a large indoor mall. The mall has since been torn down and the department stores are gone. There are three malls in the suburbs of Auburn, Millbury, and Berlin, but these also aren't of much interest to the traveler. Worcester does have a few interesting stores to check out though. Be warned: there isn't a main shopping district, these are spread throughout the city.

Blackstone Canal District

Eat

Worcester provides a dining experience to suit all tastes. Everything from massive, opulent fine dining restaurants to "is this even a restaurant?" holes in the wall can be found here. Major global cuisines (Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese) are quite common. You can even find Afghan, Salvadorian, and Polish food scattered around the city. Shrewsbury St. is the city's emerging "Restaurant Row," where you will find the greatest concentration and variety of dining options.

Inexpensive

Worcester is full of cheap places to eat. Most of these will get you a meal for under $10.

  • Major League Roast Beef, 503 Washington St, Auburn,  +1 508 832-4300. While it has a different name and website, Major League Roast Beef has the exact same menu (and probably same owner) as New England Roast Beef. If on the south end of the city and craving roast beef, you can come here instead of driving through Worcester.


Bakeries

Worcester is packed with neighborhood bakeries. Most people probably have a tribal loyalty to whatever their favorite is. You can find places that have been around for generations and hark back to the city's industrial heyday as well as newer, trendier spots.

Breakfast

Worcester is the center of the diner universe, being the hometown of the Worcester Lunch Car Company, which built most of the classic diner cars people associate with mid 20th century America. For breakfast the wealth of diners opens up and it is near impossible to choose. Here are some of the most cool and comfy:

Mid-range

Some of the most popular restaurants in the city are in the $10-$20 price range.

Splurge

Worcester's fanciest dining establishments will set you back at least $20 and probably more than $30 per person.

Drink

Worcester has a nightlife option to suit everyone. You can attend a lecture or poetry reading at a coffeeshop, find a bar to quench all thirsts, dance the night away in a nightclub, or take in some live music.

Bars

Worcester has a lot of bars as a result of its large college population. Unfortunately for the traveler, this makes many of them feel rather samey. For anyone interested in the raucous college set, the Blackstone Canal District is a good place to look, especially Water St. Still, with this many bars there are some unique and interesting spots that tipplers should explore.

A number of restaurants mentioned in the eat section also have good bars. The Boynton has one of the largest selections of craft beer in Worcester. O'Connors is a popular Irish pub with an decent beer selection. Smokestack Urban BBQ also has an extensive beer selection and outdoor seating. Bocado has a large wine selection and is known for their sangria.

Breweries

Worcester should probably have more breweries than it does. Two is not a great showing for the second largest city in New England. However, Worcester gets the most out of its two existing breweries, both of which are incredibly popular and make beer the city can truly be proud of.

Coffee

Worcester is not a coffee drinkers mecca. There aren't many non-Dunkin Donuts options to begin with and those that do exist probably won't excite anyone from Seattle, yet there are a few places with a decent atmosphere where you can get your fix.

Oddly enough, two of the better places to get a coffee in Worcester aren't primarily coffee shops. Crust Artisan Bakeshop located downtown serves Northborough's Armeno Coffee Roasters, although they do not have an espresso machine. Birch Tree Bread Company is a huge, brand new bakery located in the old Crompton Loomworks building that also has good coffee options and an espresso machine.

Sleep

The city of Worcester itself doesn't have very many hotels. There are a few downtown and a few clustered around UMass Medical School on the Eastside. There aren't any unique or boutique hotels, just standard chains aimed at business travelers and parents of college students.

Auburn

The following hotels are in Auburn, which is technically another town. This distinction is irrelevant except that you must remember to put in "Auburn" as the town on your GPS since some of the street names are also found in Worcester, Southbridge St being one of the city's main throughfares which extends into Auburn.

Go next

Worcester is in the center of New England and an easy drive to many destinations.

Routes through Worcester

Albany (Rensselaer) Springfield  W  E  Framingham Boston
Springfield Sturbridge ← rest area  W  E  Millbury Boston
Fitchburg Sterling  N  S  Ends at
Becomes  W  E  Shrewsbury Marlborough
Becomes  N  S  Oxford Norwich
Springfield Oxford  W  E  Shrewsbury Boston
Northampton Brookfields  W  E  Shrewsbury Boston
Ends at  N  S  Millbury Providence
END  W  E  Westborough Boston


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.