15 Best Things to Do in Grafton (MA)
Grafton is a loose cluster of historic mill villages southeast of Worcester in the Blackstone Valley.
During the Industrial Revolution from the late 18th century, Grafton was known for industries as diverse as shoemaking and furniture making and was the birthplace of watchmaking in America.
The site of the first European settlement in the 1720s, Grafton Common has a tranquil atmosphere with towering trees and historic buildings such as the Grafton Inn, which has been open to tourists since 1806.
Grafton has many interesting local businesses to explore, from popular lakeside ice cream stands to cheese shops importing all manner of gourmet treats from Europe.
1. Highfields Golf & Country Club
Grafton offers a round of golf at one of the area’s best public golf courses. This is the Highfields Golf & Country Club he opened in 2002 on the grounds that were part of the McGill Dairy Farm.
Avid golfer, John McGill commissioned Cornish Golf his design Mugeim to design a superior layout for his over 220-acre property on the edge of Blackstone Valley to accommodate golfers of all levels while challenging even the most experienced players.
Vast hills and breathtaking scenery characterize this course. The 18 holes take you on a journey through open terrain, wetlands, and lush natural forests.
Between rounds, you can socialize at his J&J Tavern, which serves delicious pub food with views of the 18th Green and the practice area.
2. Lake Ripple Dam
Drive north from Grafton Common along Worcester Street and in a few minutes you’ll see the lush banks of this 70-acre dam.
The Ripple Lake Dam was built on the Quincegamond River in 1982 and has several spots where you can descend to the surface.
They are open to the public at the very scenic Ekbrow Landing canoe and kayak launch at 111 Worcester Street to the north.
Here, at the northern end of the lake, it tapers to a picnic area and is abundant with birds in the summer.
A Grafton-owned gravel road is located on the south side of Brigham Hill Road, near which you can access the Grafton Land Trust trail. More on this later. According to the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, fishing is abundant with chain pickers, largemouth bass, and carp.
There are plenty of local shops around Grafton that are worth perusing. One of the best of them all is Pecorino, a European-style cheese shop.
A foodie’s Aladdin’s Cave, this place offers a delicious selection of local and imported cheeses, from Gouda to Gorgonzola, all cut and packaged to order.
An extensive selection of complementary specialties is also available, including charcuterie, fresh bread, crackers, spreads, honey, jams, olive oil, vinegar, nuts, dried fruits, and a selection of handcrafted European treats.
For the perfect pairing, head to our wine boutique with bottles from small, sustainable producers and our selection of craft beers.
4. Swirls & Scoops
Seasonal ice cream stands along Worcester Street and on the east shore of Ripple Lake make Grafton’s summer a little sweeter.
Each year, Swirls & Scoop will be open for six months from April to September, offering about 50 hard serves, as well as flavor burst soft serve ice cream, sundaes, dairy-free Dole whips, frappes, ice cream floats, and frozen lemonades.
Everyone has their favorite hard ice cream flavor, but notable ones include maple walnut, s’mores, black raspberry, cake batter, chocolate peanut butter, and pistachio.
5. Hassanamesit Woods
A quiet corner of South Grafton is home to over 500 acres of forest managed jointly by the city’s Conservation and History Commissions.
With that in mind, the Hassanamesit Woods Main Loop Trail offers a variety of downloadable guides, whether you want to learn more about the natural environment and the forest’s hidden human history, or you’re looking for an educational pastime for your kids.
Evidence of human habitation is found in stone walls, granite blocks with pit marks, pits in cellars, tracks of wagons, and multiple felled tree trunks. Naturalist guides lead trails that lead from oak forests to white pine forests to wetlands.
6. Airport Park
The city’s public parks with the best facilities are located in North West Grafton. Airport Park’s playground has plenty of equipment for all skill levels, and a separate jungle gym and swings for younger children and those aged 5-12.
There is also a soccer field, two spectator baseball fields, and a basketball court, and the entire complex is surrounded by a fully paved outdoor walkway.
Another option for parents is Perry Hill Park (3 Perry St), with well-maintained playgrounds and picnic areas just minutes north.
7. Hassanamisco Native American Museum
As part of a larger tribe called the Nipmuk Nation, the Hassanamisco Nipmuk Nation owns an 11-acre state-granted reservation in Grafton on the southwest shore of Lake Ripple.
Of course, Nipmuk’s history predates written records, but present-day Grafton became a “City of Prayer” when Puritan missionary John Eliot (1604-1690) converted the Hassanamikos family to Christianity in the mid-17th century.
Their reserves can be traced back to 1727, when they were first acquired by Sarah Robbins, a Nipmac woman, and have been passed down by generations of women since.
The homestead here is the oldest known frame house in the area to continue to be inhabited by Native Americans, and the reservation was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
At the time of this writing, the museum at this key location was temporarily closed for renovations.
8. Off the Common Antiques
In a place like Grafton Common where history is on every page, it’s natural to find great antique shops.
It’s just a short walk from Green on Worcester Street and has a wonderful home in an old petrol station that’s over 100 years old.
Off the Common, Antiques is much larger than it looks from the outside. A dog-friendly, accessible store that sells furniture, decorative arts, vintage clothing, and more.
In addition to antique treasures, the store also stocks contemporary crafts ranging from pottery to quilts, stained glass, candles, soaps, and leather goods.
9. Grafton Farmers’ Market
The Grafton Municipal Center at 30 Providence Road hosts a summer farmers market, usually on Wednesday afternoons from mid-June to mid-October.
Depending on the weather, the market may be moved to the Grafton Municipal Building gymnasium.
Even during the quieter weeks, there are dozens of stalls here selling local fresh produce, flowers, fresh seafood, honey, gourmet coffee, bread, jams, pastries, CBD products, and more.
Expect live music most weeks, and a range of craft sales specializing in everything from handmade candles to organic skin care products.
10. Gummere Woods & Marsters Preserve
Established in 1958, the Grafton Land Trust oversees hundreds of acres of nature and dozens of miles of trails throughout the city.
A relaxing forest walk is never far away. One of the best walks is on the west shore of Ripple Lake. There he has two adjoining lands and nearly 90 acres of mixed broadleaf and coniferous forest.
There is a parking lot with a large information kiosk on the north side of 5 Wheeler Rd on Worcester Street.
From here, you can hike south along the lakeshore or branch west into the forest on the Akene Trail. Attractions include a historic stone fireplace and the largest and oldest Black He Oak tree in Massachusetts, which dates back to the early 19th century.
11. The Willard House & Clock Museum
Willard Farm in North Grafton is considered the birthplace of early American watchmaking. In the late 18th century, brothers Benjamin, Simon, Ephraim, and Aaron Willard made watches here before moving production to Roxbury.
The most successful of the brothers was Simon Willard (1753-1848), known for his Banjo clock, which was patented in 1802 and became America’s first commercially successful wall clock.
At the museum in the former Willard Mansion, you can browse his 18th-century watchmaking workshop, the only surviving one in the United States, and browse a gallery of exquisite Willard timepieces.
The museum houses many other interesting items, including family furnishings, portraits, ephemeral items, and Thomas Jefferson-signed patents.
12. Grafton Common
It is interesting to imagine that the central parish of Grafton has the same contours as when laid out by the town’s first settlers in the 1720s.
It’s hard to imagine a more quintessential New England landscape than this oval green space. Partly shaded by mature trees, it is surrounded on all sides by elegant architecture.
Notable are the Congregational Church (1833), the Grafton Inn (1805), the Unitarian Church (1863), and the Georgian Revival Grafton Public Library (1927).
The granite fence posts that mark the green boundary have been here since 1845, and the newly restored stand was a prop in his MGM film Oh, Wilderness (1935), which was donated to the city after filming was completed.
This is where Grafton’s Summer is the setting for his series of concerts, which run on Wednesdays from mid-June through August.
13. Grafton Historical Society Museum
The Grafton Historical Society operates a beautifully designed museum that is open Tuesday and Sunday afternoons.
In 2018, the library moved into the long-vacant South Grafton Library building, a converted 1920s schoolhouse.
Inside, learn about 19th-century Grafton’s industrial excellence and see a diorama of an old factory, as well as some of the factory’s items such as shoes and furniture.
Fine women’s clothing, farm tools, ceramics, military uniforms, and other artifacts such as Civil War diaries provide a vivid account of life in the city for more than 300 years.
14. Silver Lake Beach
Located in the woods southeast of Grafton, this beautiful lake has a small sandy beach on its east shore.
From mid-June to mid-August, Silver Lake Beach is the perfect retreat, complete with circulated swimming areas, changing facilities, hot food vendors, picnic tables, charcoal grills, and more.
You can also rent a kayak or tandem kayak and take a short paddle around the lake. During the season, Silver Lake Beach is open to both residents and non-residents, but non-residents must purchase a seasonal membership to use this property.
15. Grafton Inn
Dating back to 1806, this historic inn is permanently located on the east side of Grafton Common.
Inspired by the architecture of Charles Bulfinch (1764-1844), who popularized the style, the Federal Design of the Grafton Inn was expanded nearly 60 years later when the Italian porch was completed.
The building is of wood framed with brick ends and topped by a magnificent dome/belvedere. It’s worth noting that it still serves its original function. It has seven rooms and a restaurant serving hearty pub fare, craft beers, and fine local wines.