Winter in New England brings many things, but usually snow and more snow. It’s no wonder it’s a hot spot for so many cold-weather enthusiasts. In fact, the Northeast saw millions of visitors last year just from skiing alone. And while the Northeast as a whole is a popular hub for winter fun, there’s one area so chock-full of activities and quintessential New England charm that it should not be missed.
North Central Massachusetts, a scenic region covering over 800 square miles with 27 communities and three cities, is not only home to New England’s most accessible ski resort, but it’s also an area known for its farms, wineries, festivals, art scene, family entertainment and more. No matter how you like to spend your winter downtime, you can find it here.
Discover all that’s in store for you in North Central Massachusetts.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Whether you’re a seasoned skier/snowboarder or a novice just learning the ropes, Wachusett Mountain is an ideal place to go to experience some wintery fun. Glide down the mountain’s 27 snow-packed trails, hone your skills on the racing course or simply enjoy an après ski treat (more on that later) – the choice is yours.
Children and beginners have many options when it comes to learning how to ski or snowboard at Wachusett. Lessons are held for all ages starting as young as four years old, in addition to the option of private and adaptive lessons that cater to an individual’s specific needs. Need some new gear before you take off down the slopes? Not a problem. Wachusett’s MTNside Ski & Ride shop offers plenty of options for men, women and children, from safety essentials like helmets and goggles to fun Wachusett logo gear that you can proudly sport back home.
After all your exertion on the slopes, there’s nothing better than a warm meal and a cold drink. You’ll find everything from hot cider and coffee (at the Bullock Lodge) to casual pub fare (Black Diamond Restaurant), sandwiches with a view (O’Brian’s Deck Bar & Grill) and local craft beers (Coppertop Lounge), all at your fingertips within the Wachusett resort.
More Winter Activities
If you prefer a slower-paced winter activity, winter hiking and snowshoeing opportunities can be found all around North Central Massachusetts, like at the breathtaking Wachusett Mountain State Reservation or Leominster State Park a bit further north. Check out the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary, as well, for a chance to spot some of the many protected local species of mammals, birds and insects.
Ice skating fans have a plethora of skating locations in and around the North Central Massachusetts area to choose from. From outdoor lakes in Barrett Park and Leominster State Park to the indoor Veteran’s Ice Arena and Gardner Veteran’s Arena, there’s no shortage of chances to lace up those skates.
Those seeking to go ice fishing will find the perfect spot over at Asnacomet Pond where trout run abundant.
North Central Massachusetts specializes in family fun. At Great Wolf Lodge, your group can enjoy the excitement of a water park in the middle of winter, play a game (or several) of mini golf, rock climb, Build-a-Bear and so much more.
If you’re not looking for an overnight stay, there’s the popular FunStuf Party Place, an indoor playground with lots of games, inflatable slides, a photo booth and even a giant keyboard a la the movie “Big.” Or visit Cornerstone Ranch for a charming horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow (open all winter long through March).
Food and Drink
Arguably the best part of any trip is the great food and drink you get to enjoy while experiencing a new place. From fine dining restaurants to family-friendly options, North Central Massachusetts boasts an abundance of culinary experiences.
Beer lovers won’t want to miss some of the best breweries in Massachusetts. Try Wachusett Brewing Company for seasonal draughts like the Frosty Day IPA (fruity and citrusy) or the West Coast IPA (citrus and pine hop). If you enjoy unique flavor combinations, River Styx Brewing Co. is known for its creative brews, including the Oreo-like Eros imperial stout, made with notes of chocolate and cream.
At Hardwick Vineyard & Winery, the award-winning wines are a winner with the public, as well. Enjoy a glass of Enfield Apricot, Hardwick Honey, Chocolate Raspberry and even Valley Asparagus.
After trying some of the beverages in the region, you might be wanting a little munch. Make it a point to stop for an apple cider doughnut at one of the many local farms, like Red Apple Farm, Carlson Orchards or Bolton Orchards.
Art and Music
Head indoors to enjoy all kinds of fine art at one of the region’s museums. Try the Fitchburg Art Museum where the first Thursday of the month is free for everyone, or the Gardner Museum to discover the rich history of its namesake city, also known as the “Furniture Capital of New England.” Other great choices include the Museum of Russian Icons (housed in a 150-year-old gallery space that includes a terrace, tea room and performance facilities), Gardner Area League of Artists and the Winchendon History and Cultural Center, a supposedly haunted location where you can actually investigate for ghosts!
If you’re lucky enough to be in town for a concert at the Groton Hill Music Center, this nonprofit educational center is the perfect place to enjoy some of the best performances in the state, including headliners like LeAnn Rhimes and classical shows including the Vista Philharmonic and Yefim Bronfman.
Start planning your North Central Massachusetts trip today.