15 Best Things to Do in Groton (MA)

With a population of just over 11,300, the town is located in the Merrimack Valley on the banks of the Nashua River and is a hotspot for summer activities like canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Groton was first settled by Europeans in 1655, not long after a man named John Tinker established a trading post along the Nashua River to trade with the Nashaway Indians.

The town has a fairly old center with 18th-century residential and public buildings, as well as the residence of prominent politician George Bootwell (1818-1905), a member of the local historical society since the 1930s. I have.

Groton is also known for his two famous preparatory schools, the Groton School, founded in 1884, and the Lawrence Academy of Groton, which dates back to 1792.  

1. Autumn Hills Orchard

Autumn Hills Orchard

Perched on the site of three hilly drumlins, the Groton Orchard offers views of vast ridges of mountains such as Wachusett to the west and Monadnock to the north.

Autumn Hills Orchard has a busy schedule with raspberry and blueberry picking beginning in July.

Peaches, nectarines, pears, and grapes are available here during the season. The main crop here is apples, with over 30 varieties. Harvest begins in August and continues until October.

If you visit here in the fall, you’ll be amazed by the foliage that can be seen for miles from the ridge.  

2. Bancroft’s Castle

Bancroft’s Castle

At the top of Gibbet Hill are the haunted ruins of the house built by politician William Bancroft (1855-1922) as a gift to his wife, Mary.

With its field stone exterior and imposing tower, the building was designed to look like a fairytale castle and was intended to be part of a larger home until William ran out of funds.

The building was later used as a sanatorium and later as a lodge for his club Groton Hunt, but it burned down during the 1932 Independence Day fireworks display, leaving only the outer walls.

Today, Bancroft Castle adds an air of mystery and drama to the majestic panorama from the top of Gibbetts Hill.  

3. Nashua River Rail Trail

Nashua River Rail Trail

This 20.5-mile multi-use trail continues through Groton on a route from Iyer in the south to Nashua, New Hampshire, in the north.

Groton is an important stop on the trail for hikers and cyclists stopping for snacks and drinks as it passes close to Main Street and the Groton Center.

Not far south, this trail runs along the east side of the Groton School grounds, where you can stop and enjoy the beautiful views across the pond.

The Nashua River Rail Trail runs along the abandoned trackbed of the Hollis Branch of the Boston and Main Road. This route was established by him in 1848, but long before that, the route was in the footsteps of the Nashaway Indians

4. J. Harry Rich State Forest

J. Harry Rich State Forest

North of Groton, the J. Harry Rich State Forest protects about 500 acres of forest along the winding Nashua River. One way to get there is via the Nashua River Rail Trail which runs along the east side of the property.

From here, you can access hiking trails that follow the meandering river currents, along the banks and through wetlands in the woods.

Many waterfowl can be seen along the river in summer, and the terrain is mostly flat, making it ideal for traveling with children. 

5. Groton Farmers’ Market

Groton Farmers’ Market

For a farmer’s market, it doesn’t get much better than this quaint old farm with an 1840 barn.

The Groton Farmers Market is held at Williams Barn on Friday mornings from July through October, with an additional Thanksgiving Market in November.

This is an opportunity to support numerous small businesses in Groton and neighboring communities.

Think of seasonal produce, honey, eggs, jams, sauces, syrups, meal sets, baked goods, and even handmade beauty products, candles, pottery, and jewelry. For the little ones, the market often hosts petting zoos and weekly live music.  

6. Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

This 441-acre property in southeastern Groton is under the control of the Audubon Society of Massachusetts and is located in a federally designated Critical Environmental Risk Area.

The Rocky Hill Wildlife Refuge is set in a landscape of high granite outcrops and rocky hewn landscapes surrounded by extensive forests.

One of the reserve’s ecological importance is due to the spring-fed pools that fill with life in the spring. One of his highlights while exploring the trail is a rocky outcrop with unobstructed views of beaver ponds and treetop heron nests.  

7. Luina Greine Farm

Luina Greine Farm

Ruina Grain Farm, located in the rolling countryside near the Groton Center, specializes in alpaca wool. On weekends in the fall, the farm is open to the public for free tours.

For adults and children alike, the best part is the chance to spend time with the farm’s cute animals, including friendly alpacas, goats, sheep, ponies, and donkeys.

The farm shop, located in a beautiful hut, is still open today and sells scarves, socks, hats, coats, and stuffed animals made from alpaca fiber. 

8. Groton Country Club

Groton Country Club

Despite its name, the city’s facilities are open to the public wherever you live. The heart of Groton Country Club is a 9-hole golf course with a linked layout and a variety of tees for players of all skill levels.

A challenging par 35 with beautiful views from the tee if played from the tip.

The complex also includes Groton’s public outdoor pool, bordered by swimming and exercise lanes and a shallow area for young children to splash.

Groton Publick House also has tennis and pickleball courts, and a cozy bar and restaurant. 

9. Kalliroscope Gallery

Kalliroscope Gallery

Groton is the home of Paul Matisse (born 1933), the grandson of Henri Matisse and a respected artist in his own right, known for his kinetic and interactive installations.

In 1982 he purchased Old His Baptist Church in Groton as a residence with a studio and gallery within the sanctuary. Much of Matisse’s work is acoustically focused, and the church’s excellent acoustics lured him into the building.

Over the years, it was also the venue for Groton Hill Music’s (formerly Indian Hill Music) series of chamber concerts featuring well-known national and international artists and performers. The series has since moved to the Groton Hill Music Center, but at the time of this writing, it was our understanding that the Caliloscope Gallery would continue to host shows and performances after its temporary closure during the pandemic.  

10. Grotonfest

Groton’s biggest annual event is the last Saturday in September with numerous stalls on the Legion Common by the Groton Centre.

At Grotonfest you can find all local businesses, services, clubs, and other organizations in and around the city.

In addition to having a variety of artisans selling their products, there are numerous food trucks selling everything from tacos to cannoli.

Gronfest offers a program of performances and demonstrations throughout his day, including Irish dance, community theater shows, karate exhibitions, and numerous live music.  

11. Groton Center Historic District

Groton Old Town, at the intersection of State Routes 119 and 40, is a preserved historic district with layouts dating back to the 17th century.

For example, the First Parish Church, built in 1755, was his fourth parish hall in the city on the same site. In 1775, Groton’s Minutemen assembled at the pre-battle common before fighting the Battles of Lexington and the Battle of Concord.

Paul Revere, famous for his pre-battle Midnight Ride, had connections with Groton.

He was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge in his adjacent Groton Inn, which was destroyed in a fire in 2011 and rebuilt as a boutique hotel, and in 1819 his foundry, still the first Cast the bell that is installed in the tower of the parish church. 

12. Groton History Center

Across from City Hall in Groton Center is Bootwell House, a stunning mansion built in 1851 for George Bootwell, the 20th governor of Massachusetts.

An ardent abolitionist, he later became Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of the Treasury and was instrumental in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Bootwell and his family were the sole residents of the house until it was donated to the Groton Historical Society by his daughter Georgiana.

The Society maintains Bootwell House as the Groton Historical Center. Inside, Ulysses S. Grant stayed in 1869, perusing Bootwell’s personal desk and book collection, examining historical maps of Groton, and admiring the antique tableware and furniture in the kitchen.  

13. Nashoba Paddler

With its gentle currents and pristine banks, the beautiful Nashua River is perfect for paddling.

There is a rental shop just across the river on the main street of Groton. At Nashoba Paddlers, you can rent a variety of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards for a quick trip upstream or downstream.

A little further upriver is Crescent Lake in the woods of Groton Town, known as Dead River. Many tours are held from spring to autumn. You can spot certain wildlife such as beavers, turtles, birds, and wildflowers, admire the foliage in autumn, and paddle after dark under the full moon in summer. 

14. Groton Town Forest

Located on the Nashua River, Groton has lush woodlands with 23 miles of hiking trails. The Groton Town Forest was founded by him in 1922 to commemorate the residents of Groton who lost their lives during World War I. Grotontown Forest is only the second land of its kind designated in Massachusetts.

The space has expanded from its original 180 acres to over 500 acres and features three marked loop trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the winter.

The terrain on these old cart roads is easy for the most part, but if you want a bit more strenuous trails, you can also venture out onto his backcountry trails, a dream for any mountain biker looking for challenging singletrack.

The 10.4-mile-long Town Forest Loop trail takes you through several glacial curls and curl ponds, offering diverse scenery. 

15. Gibbet Hill

The idyllic slopes of Gibbet Hill rise steeply to the east of the Groton Centre. With cinematic views of the Merrimack and Nashua River valleys, it’s easy to see why this hill is a popular location for historical dramas.

The most recent film shot here was Little Women (2018), directed by Greta Gerwig, where a key scene with Joe and Laurie was shot.

If you hike to the top, the scenery at sunset is spectacular, and there are also castle-like ruins described later.

On the slopes is Gibbet Hill Farm, which has been raising award-winning Back He Angus cattle for over 60 years. The property features Gibbet Hill Grill, a farm-to-table restaurant. Built-in 1906, the barn is used as a venue for private events.  

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