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Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge.
With great emphasis on authenticity, this 200-acre living-history museum re-creates a New England farming village of the 1830s. More than 40 restored buildings were relocated from various sections of New England. Costumed interpreters demonstrate life as it used to be. The meetinghouse dominates the common, around which are craft shops, homes, a bank, a law office and a general store. Paths lead to an area where grist and sawmills operate by water power. Nearby are a blacksmith and cooperage and a working historical farm. Although Old Sturbridge is special any time, it's at its best in the fall, particularly around Thanksgiving time, the traditional New England holiday. The cobbler and his apprentice turn out low black boots in the shoe shop, their Shaker-style wood stove offering a pleasant blast of warmth on a chilly day. The preacher in Richardson Parsonage polishes up his Sunday sermon, while a teacher in felt top hat and black cape gives lessons at the schoolhouse. Tinsmiths are at work on small coffee pots and pepper boxes that ultimately wind up in the village's large gift shop. You can eat at Bullard Tavern, where a cafeteria dispenses chowder, chicken potpie and sandwiches, or order a snack at the Nooning or the Pantry. Or get a full meal at the new Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village.
(508) 347-3362 or (800) 733-1830. www.osv.org. Open daily 9 to 5, April-October; 10 to 4 November-December and mid-February through March, weekends 10 to 4 in early winter. Admission (valid for two consecutive days), adults $20, children $10.
>> Sturbridge Lodging Suggestions
Old Sturbridge Village Lodges, 391 Main St. (Route 20), Sturbridge. (508) 347-3327 or (800) 733-1830.
>> Sturbridge Dining Suggestions
Cedar Street Restaurant, 12 Cedar St., Sturbridge. (508) 347-5800.
The Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge. (508) 347-0397.
>> West Brookfield Dining Suggestions
Salem Cross Inn, Route 9, West Brookfield. (508) 867-2345.
>> Leicester Dining Suggestions
The Castle Restaurant, 1230 Main St. (Route 9), Leicester. (508) 892-9090.
Billboards around Worcester long proclaimed that while some cities have one college, Worcester has ten. (Quick, name them, er, Holy Cross. Uh, Worcester Polytech. Oh, and Clark University. We give up). The billboards are gone, their theme being replaced by Worcester's latest honor designation as an All-American city.
Long obscured in the shadow of big-city Boston, Worcester recently relinquished its status as New England's second largest city to Providence. Besides its colleges, Worcester is known for its industrial heritage, its Centrum arena and the Worcester Common Outlets, 100 designer outlets in what had been an early downtown shopping mall. Elm Park is the oldest public park in the nation and the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Broad Meadow Brook is one of the largest urban wildlife sanctuaries in the country.
Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester.
Opened in 1898 and extensively renovated for its centennial celebration, this first-rate museum shows New England's second largest permanent collection. More than 35,000 objects of art and culture spanning 5,000 years are displayed in 36 galleries. They range from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to impressionist paintings and pop art. The collection of 17th-century Dutch and Fleming paintings is renowned, as is the collection of early American art. The museum was one of the first to collect photographs as fine art and schedules changing exhibits of photos from the Civil War to today. The museum also proved itself a pioneer in other ways: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum Café and Stoddard Garden Court are open for lunch and beverages Wednesday-Sunday from 11:30 to 2.
(508) 799-4406. www.worcesterart.org. Open Wednesday-Sunday 11 to 5, Thursday to 8, Saturday 10 to 5. Adults, $8.
Higgins Armory Museum, 100 Barber Ave., Worcester.
During a childhood trip to Europe, Worcester native John Woodman Higgins purchased his first suit of armor and brought it home with him. Thus began a lifelong fascination with knights and armor that resulted in his building a four-story museum adjacent to his steel factory. He housed his collection in a building of surprising contrasts, from its steel and glass Art Deco exterior in an industrial area to the vaulted Great Hall interior of a Gothic castle. The only museum in the Western Hemisphere devoted solely to arms and armor traces their development chronologically from ancient Greece and Rome to feudal Japan and medieval and Renaissance Europe. More than 100 suits of armor include the tournament armor of kings and special suits for children and dogs. There are tapestries, paintings, stained glass and carvings related to knights and armor. A replica of an armorer's workshop, interactive displays, a touch table, try-on armor, arms and armor demonstrations, brass rubbings and sound and light shows are included.
(508) 853-6015. www.higgins.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 to 4, Sunday noon to 4. Adults $6.75, children $5.75.
EcoTarium, 222 Harrington Way, Worcester.
Formerly the Worcester Science Center (one of the first of its kind), this is a science museum and environmental center in a 60-acre park with nature trails through woods, meadows and wetlands. The museum building holds three floors of interactive science exhibits, a planetarium and a telecommunications center. Outside, a 42-foot-high tree canopy walkway a series of swinging bridges stretching 150 feet takes visitors through the treetops in a grove of oak and hickory trees and crosses a network of ecosystems where animals are shown in their natural habitats. The first such walkway for public use, it is modeled after those used in rainforest research. About 60 species of wildlife, including a polar bear, bald eagles, foxes and otters, may be viewed. An observatory houses one of the region's most powerful telescopes. The Explorer Express train gives 15-minute tours of the grounds every hour via a narrow-gauge railroad.
(508) 929-2700. www.ecotarium.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday noon to 5. Adults $7, children $5.
>> Worcester Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Beechwood Hotel, 363 Plantation St., Worcester. (508) 754-5789 or (800) 344-2589.
>> Worcester Dining Suggestions
Struck Café, 415 Chandler St., Worcester. (508) 757-1670.
The Sole Proprietor, 118 Highland St., Worcester. (508) 798-3474.
One Eleven Chop House, 111 Shrewsbury St., Worcester. (508) 799-4111.
Nancy Chang, 372 Chandler St., Worcester. (508) 752-8899.
Caesar's Bistro, 70 Southbridge St., Worcester. (508) 791-1400.
>> Princeton Dining Suggestions
Sonoma, 206 Worcester Road, Princeton. (978) 464-5775.
Harrington Farm Country Inn & Restaurant, 178 Westminster Road, Princeton. (978) 464-5600.
>> Ashburnham Dining Suggestions
The Victorian House, 16 Maple Ave., Ashburnham. (978) 827-5646.
>> Westboro Dining Suggestions
Arturo's Ristorante, 54 East Main St., Westboro. (508) 366-1881.
>> Northborough Dining Suggestions
Romaine's of Northborough, 299 West Main St., Northborough. (508) 393-8889.
This content is excerpted from New England's Best, by Nancy and Richard Woodworth, copyright 2002, published by Wood Pond Press.