Traveling doesn’t always have to be glamorous or super far away. Memories and learning can happen anywhere, even in your home state. We’re big believers in balancing ‘fancy’ destinations and getting a feel for places nearby too that might surprise you.
Next time you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., consider a stop to Central Massachusetts. For us living near Cape Cod, it’s only a 90-minute drive to Worcester, the main hub of the region bursting with possibility.
While I’d been there many times growing up, it was a first for my toddler daughter and a fist for a trip with just the two of us. But Central Massachusetts was a perfect spot to eat, unwind and unearth some wonderful experiences as a mother-daughter duo.
City sights with a toddler in tow
As soon as we pulled into the city, snacks were on the mind. Toddler-friendly and downtown, the massive BirchTree Bread spot was ideal for a casual bite. We shared a zucchini pizza and I had a strong coffee to get the afternoon started,
Finding a good base to jump off from is key. A Marriott has never done me wrong and is a good way to ensure a quick weekend will be comfortable. The AC Hotel is central, clean, bright, and happy to accommodate toddler accessories as needed. There’s a restaurant onsite and plenty of delivery options nearby for both business travelers or people like me who have a 2-year-old in bed by seven.
Chewy asian-style donuts are going to be the next thing since frozen yogurt, mark my words. Amazing bakeries seem to be popping up everywhere specializing in these tearable, tasty treats. Mochi Doh is a great one to check out in downtown Worcester, boasting “pon de ring’ donuts flavored with matcha, biscoff cookies, pandan, fruity pebbles, and more.
Sticking with the sweet treats theme, you should definitely not leave town without a box of cupcakes from The Queen’s Cup. Everything’s made from scratch at this women-owned bakery. The selection of baked goods is huge, making a decision of just a few cupcakes and minis really tough. My favorite was a seasonal peach ring flavor.
One more sweet spot has to be mentioned on this trip! Crust bakery has lots of sugary options, but they also have fresh baked bread loaves, savory breakfasts, and rich coffees to go. There’s two locations, and breads are also offered at places like the BirchTree Bread Company so you can knock out a two-for-one visit.
For an afternoon of sipping and people watching, bring your buddies (or your toddler and dog!) to Redemption. This is a women-owned business and the first certified B Corporation brewery in Massachusetts. Even someone like me who’s not huge into beer found some nice drinkable lagers and other fun varieties to take home in 4-packs. Food trucks often make appearances too, and we enjoyed a few vegan treats from Vuture Food while sipping and petting all the dogs.
It was time to burn off some energy somewhere close by and engaging. The Ecotarium offers various exhibits and installations that would delight any kiddo curious about our world. The highlight is the Planetarium, where they have a toddler-friendly Sesame Street-themed show my daughter loved. The fun train was also a great way to get a little fresh air.
Beyond Worcester day trips
Just outside Worcester is a lovely walkable property that welcomes embracing nature and exploring the elements. You can climb and play through The ramble, which welcomes families to appreciate a new 1.5 acre garden. Or visit during the first flush of spring to see 25,000 daffodils in bloom. There’s seasonal events too, like live music in the courtyard with a beer garden in the summer, or a festival of lights during the holiday season.
I grew up visiting Old Sturbridge Village, so it’s been a classic for families and visitors to Central Massachusetts for decades. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the AC Hotel and downtown Worcester, so you can spend the whole day in Sturbridge or just pop over for an afternoon. If you have older children or are keen on history, you’ll want to optimize your time here though. Overall, it’s a working 19th-century village full of period actors and activities to help you learn about this space in time.
We spent hours wandering the village, finding the animals to ogle and exploring the buildings. There was even a woman who kindly played a classic on her guitar for my toddler – Mary Had a Little Lamb from 1830.
There’s lots more to experience in Central MA! It can’t all be seen in a weekend. Hopefully this gives you a jumping off point to start and makes you want to return in the future too. PS, when you go, take a bunch of local snacks home with you! Polar Seltzer has a cult following, and Wachusett chips are classic.
More Massachusetts Posts and Inspiration
- Plan for P-Town: 24 Hours in Provincetown, Massachusetts
- What to see in Plymouth, Massachusetts besides the rock
- Review: The Hahvahd Tour in Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Johnny Appleseed Country in Massachusetts: A Blast for Kids