You know what a perfect destination is for families in the late spring and summertime? Massachusetts. Most families would make a beeline for places like Martha’s Vineyard, Boston or Cape Cod, but they would be missing out on some incredible finds throughout lesser known areas of the state. If you hope to cool down, explore and have an interest in the unusual, North Central Massachusetts, or Johnny Appleseed Country, will be right up your alley.
Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center
To greet visitors from every corner of the globe, there is a quirky stop right on Route 2 that is an attraction it itself. Locals are proud of their connections to the legendary story of Johnny Appleseed and they have the collection of memorabilia to prove it. Step into this roadside stop for some fun stories and take a peek at the collection of dolls, pins, stamps and more depicting the man who planted hundred of trees throughout the region. They have commissioned a local artist to paint an apple tree in various seasons along the walls as well. You can pick up a few local souvenirs there, from food items to flamingo lawn ornaments. Yes, flamingo lawn ornaments—those were also invented in this part of Massachusetts.
Great Wolf Lodge
Most residents of Massachusetts who venture inland will make a stop at the new Great Wolf Lodge. It’s a family vacation mecca of New England, boasting a giant hotel complex complete with two indoor waterparks, ropes course, mini golf, bowling, arcade games and much more. There’s supervised dance parties in the lobby, animatronic performances and even a wizard wand quest game to be played throughout the lodge (that is extra cost).
Do note that you need to stay at the resort in order to take advantage of its water parks. However if you are traveling with another family, only one group would need to stay, and you can get extra tickets if you know a guest at the lodge. If you want to just poke around, the arcade, gift shops and several restaurants are open to everyone during the day.
Fitchburg Museum of Art
In partnership with Fitchburg State, this museum is a wonderful tribute to some great local and international talent. Exhibits often rotate and most are bright, colorful and thought-provoking for even the youngest of visitors. The African textile and art section has a spot for kids to draw and create, while upstairs are some interesting sculptures mimicking funky music and sounds. The Egyptian artifact space has real mummies and crawl spaces for kids to explore and use as shortcuts. One of our favorite exhibits was a long hallway full of photographic portraits depicting local Latino families and personalities. It’s part of the initiative to include Spanish language signs and descriptions throughout the museum to make the space as bilingual as possible, as 40 percent of the town is of Latino decent.
Museum of Russian Icons
In a little brick building in a little town called Clinton, there is this incredible museum that might otherwise be overlooked by your family. While the material might be a little over the head of your kids, it is still well worth a quick trip inside to see a gem of a collection. Eccentric personality Gordon Lankton has amassed a large quantity of Russian Orthodox icons spanning centuries, many of which are housed by the museum, per his wife’s request. The space itself is beautifully maintained—kids will love pointing out the rotating colors of the LED lighting and listening to the soft Orthodox chanting music throughout the museum. You can explain to squirmy kids that some of the painters would do a brushstroke with a single hair between their own heartbeats—that’s how focused it takes to make some of these masterpieces.
In the basement, treat kids to some unusual Russian sweets in the tea room, chock full of Russian beverages, candies and cookies. There’s also a small Russian nesting doll exhibit next to the tea room kids will enjoy.
This mountain paradise really shows off the beauty of central Massachusetts, with rolling hills, green forests and plenty of fresh air. Although it is a bumping ski resort in the winter, Wachusett also has fun events happening throughout the year not involving snow. Catch festivals hosted by the mountain revolving around farmer’s markets, country music, road races and so much more as the weather heats up. The lodge provides fantastic local food from a variety of vendors to sample, including homemade waffles, fresh coffee and tasty pub food. Over Labor Day weekend you can even get some great discounted equipment from the ski shop on site to gear up for the winter season. Check their calendar of events for the best happenings around that welcome families to have a great time outdoors on the mountain.
Wachusett Mountain Brewing Company
This obviously isn’t for the kids, but it’d be a shame to miss a quick tour and taste at this popular state brewery after some fun at the mountain. There’s a small shop and a tasting room, along with posters and equipment that tell the fun and successful history of this brew. One of their most famous flavors is a blueberry ale, which is now accompanied by a seasonal strawberry.
Double Tree in Leominster
There is no need to book a cramped and outdated motel when visiting central Massachusetts. With a budding local and national sports scene, tourism opportunities and business gatherings, many accommodations in the area are rising to the occasion. An ideal option for families with kids is the Double Tree in Leominster. Situated only a short drive from Wachusett, the museums and plenty of great places to eat, this hotel has a little bit of everything for a wallet-friendly cost. It recently just underwent renovations too, so every room is modern, clean and outfitted with plenty of modern amenities.