15 Best Things to Do in Ashland (MA)
Originally developed on the Boston and Worcester Railroad, Ashland is a rapidly growing city whose population has more than doubled since the 1980s.
There are two major bodies of water in the city, built as a reservoir for Boston in the 19th century, but converted into a state park in 1947.
Both Ashland State Park and Hopkinton State Park are great outdoor centers, with miles of trails, beaches for swimming in the summer, and perfect conditions for kayaking and canoeing.
Recently renovated, downtown Ashland is bustling with life, with a thriving farmers market, a calendar of community events, and a popular pub that opened near the railroad nearly 200 years ago.
Ashland was participating in the Boston Marathon, but that was the starting point for the early years until the track was lengthened in the mid-1920s to accommodate the new standard marathon length.
1. Bay Circuit Trail
Ashland is set amid an epic system of trails that wind through Boston’s remote suburbs for 230 miles, from Newburyport in the north to Duxbury in the south.
There’s no better way to experience the true beauty of Eastern Massachusetts than by walking, biking, horseback riding, or skiing through these tree-lined communities with vast natural spaces.
For added convenience, you’ll never have to leave the MBTA station and the same is true for Ashland.
Crossing the city forest, the trail connects several undeveloped spaces in Ashland, including the beautiful Mill Pond Park, which we’ll talk about in more detail below.
2. Stone’s Public House
This Irish-American pub is located next to the railroad tracks in one of the most beautiful and historic old buildings in downtown Ashland.
Then known as the Railroad House, the inn was built in 1832, when the Boston & Worcester Railroad arrived in Ashland. The owner was shrewd businessman John Stone, who later leased the property to many innkeepers until his death in 1858.
Over time, the building fell into disrepair before it was revived as a pub in the 1970s and was continuously known for its spooky activities.
There’s a large courtyard, a roaring fireplace, regional craft beers, and a menu of traditional pub fares like shepherd’s pie, fish & chips, grilled mac and cheese, steak and potato fries as well as half-roasted chicken.
3. Sri Lakshmi Temple
The first and largest place of worship of its kind in New England, this temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Sri Lakshmi was consecrated in 1990.
Sri Lakshmi Temple was expanded in 2005 and again in 2018, providing the complex with a commercial kitchen, dining room, library, hall, and a new auditorium. Whatever your religious beliefs, this is a sight to behold, especially given the rich decoration of the main tower.
The temple is open to the public seven days a week and offers simple but delicious prasad (vegetarian food) at the canteen.
4. Ashland Town Forest
As if two state parks weren’t enough, north Ashland is a sprawling natural landscape that covers more than 660 acres and is open to the public.
Purchased in 1942, the Ashland Town Forest is adjacent to the smaller Cowasock Wood, which spills over into neighboring Framingham.
In this tranquil setting, you will encounter areas of upland and lowland marshes, mixed hardwood forests, spring pools, historic open pits, and numerous granite outcrops.
Ashland Town Forest is traversed by a section of the Bay Circuit Trail, part of a six-mile trail system on the site.
In spring and summer, the bush is embroidered with wildflowers, while some wildlife includes red foxes, red-headed vultures, red-tailed hawks, and the rare blue-spotted salamander in spring pools.
5. Warren Woods
On the east side of Ashland State Park, you can enjoy 120 acres of formerly farmland and woodland, managed by the Ashland Open Space and Recreation Commission.
Warren Woods was formerly owned by Henry E. Warren (1872-1957), an inventor with many patents, the most famous of which was the first synchronous electric clock.
The land was donated to Northeastern University after his death and was later acquired by the city in 2012 following a grassroots campaign by locals.
There are a series of trails through open fields and deep into ancient forests, while the Old Stone Trail loops around the town limits with Holliston to the south.
6. Modelville Hobby
Sure to inspire a sense of childlike wonder, you’ll find a sprawling hub of slot racing at Modelville Hobby (28 Eliot St).
There are five 1/24 scale tracks here, some of which are decades old. The store has been in existence in one form or another since 1965 and first moved to Ashland in 1978, where it was based at 58 Union St. for 32 years.
Modelville Hobby moved into its current 70′ x 100′ space in 2010. One of the tracks here was the first Sovereign track (220-foot track) ever built. More than half a century old, it was shipped from Texas and restored to running condition. Check out the Modelville website for regularly scheduled races, as well as two regional racing series that visit the facility.
7. Boston Paintball Ashland
In eastern Ashland, this year-round paintball facility appears on the map at the Apocalypse City arena.
Built like the set of a blockbuster movie, Apocalypse City is unlike some East Coast sets and features no fewer than 23 buildings, including a city hall, an apartment building, a two-story hospital as well as as scattered vehicles such as ambulances. , a tank, a police car, and a plane were shot down.
To accompany this you have a curling court with a bridge and moat, as well as an indoor court with inflatable obstacles, perfect for evening matches and small groups.
8. Puzzle Escape Ashland
Ashland’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Building is home to an intriguing escape room. Designed with great attention to detail, Puzzle Escape Ashland is the antidote to gimmicky corporate escape rooms.
There’s only one room here with a theme that changes every few months, so you can expect a new challenge every visit.
For example, when we press the button, the experience is “Ready – Set, Go?” “, in which you and your team have 45 minutes to locate the missing Boston Marathon before the start of the first race in 1897.
9. The Corner Spot
On the site of a demolished old house in downtown Ashland, there is a charming public space that serves a variety of purposes.
The Corner Spot has picnic tables under the awning so you can come here to dine outdoors with friends and family.
It’s always bustling here in the summer thanks to outdoor music performances and many games in the garden.
A gathering place, it’s also a prime location for businesses to open week-long pop-ups, testing the local market at The Shed, which has free Wi-Fi.
10. Mill Pond Park
Easy to miss, there’s a beautiful linear park in downtown Ashland, right off of Myrtle St. From the small parking lot on Pine Hill Road, you can head out to the riverside trail along the north side of beautiful Mill Pond, then head a little further. west along a portion of the Bay Circuit Trail, next to the Sudbury River.
This is a cozy place to spend a few quiet minutes, with a pedestrian bridge over the entrance to the mill pond, an observation deck, and a few benches under the shade of large trees.
Since downtown is only a short walk away, Mill Pond has secluded wooded banks that are simply breathtaking in the fall. On a hot day, you can have lunch at a local restaurant for a picnic in the park.
11. Ashland State Park
The 157-acre Ashland Reservoir is part of a group of reservoirs along the Sudbury River and its tributaries that were established in the late 19th century as Boston’s second-largest water supply system.
This became obsolete by the end of World War II and since then the reservoir has become a popular recreational area.
In summer, Ashland State Park promises swimming on a vast sandy beach, while the entire reservoir is surrounded by a continuous trail for hiking, biking, and skiing across the nation.
On the north bank, the original dam and spillway from the 1880s remain intact and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while if you have your own non-motorized boat, there is a gravel road on the south side, off Spring St.
12. Downtown Ashland
As we write this, the city is completing a multimillion-dollar revitalization plan for downtown Ashland, building new walkable streetscapes along portions of Main Street and Front Street.
This includes new ADA-compliant sidewalks, as well as lighting, landscaping, wayfinding, plants, and furniture.
Past the railroad, downtown Ashland oozes character, with unique and long-standing businesses, small parks, historic architecture, and a culinary scene that includes Italian fare, pub food, pizza, breakfast food, and bagel shops.
Outdoor events take place throughout the summer at Corner Spot, a testing ground for local businesses, while the Farmers’ Market attracts large crowds on Saturday mornings.
13. Boston Marathon
From the race’s inception in 1897 until 1923, Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland was the starting line for the Boston Marathon.
Everything changed in 1924 when the course was moved to Hopkinton Common to lengthen the course to 26 miles (385 meters) to match the new standard marathon length established at the 1908 Olympics.
At the original starting line on Pleasant St., there is a sign that says “It all starts here.” For a century now, the route has passed through Ashland for about three miles along Route 135.
Arrive early on Patriots’ Day to get a prime spot to watch the opening stages of the world’s oldest annual marathon take place. In general, the farther you go on West Union Street, the better the views.
14. Ashland Farmers’ Market
In business for over a decade now, Ashland has one of the best farmers markets in the MetroWest area.
Held on Saturday mornings, from mid-June to mid-October, the market has its own lawn parallel to the city’s central railway line.
You can check the market’s website for a weekly list of vendors as well as a calendar of seasonal events, from Sustainability Day in July to Tomato Festival in August and Apple Days in September.
During an average week, there will be fresh produce from up to five neighboring farms, as well as seafood, meats, a variety of baked goods, gourmet cheeses, talented artisans, and food vendors. drinks, pet supplies, prepared foods for many cuisines, and a regular food truck.
15. Hopkinton State Park
The majority of this 1,245-acre public recreation area lies within the boundaries of Ashland. Like Ashland State Park, Hopkinton State Park is located on the shore of a formerly active reservoir that was converted for outdoor recreation in 1947.
From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, this is a great place to swim or take the kids to play in the clean, shallow waters along two sandy beaches.
During the season, Boston Rowing operates at Hopkinton State Park and rents kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand-up paddleboards.
The vast forests surrounding the reservoir are dotted with trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. And if you want to party with friends or hold a family gathering, the park has 12 shaded picnic areas, with 250 picnic tables and no less than 165 charcoal grills.