15 Best Things to Do in Holden (MA)

Spread over a large area in northwest Worcester, Holden is a fast-growing small town of 20,000 inhabitants.

There is unlimited open space, with thousands of acres of forest for public recreation within city limits. These plots of land, often with interconnected trails, are maintained by the city or by organizations such as the White Oak Soil Preservation Association.

You can hike along the old Massachusetts Central Railroad, climb the hills for exciting views, explore waterfalls, admire unique icy spells, or simply get away from the world for a few hours on the road. an isolated trail.

The town’s historic center is often dismantled, but around Holden, you can find some great local businesses that produce chocolates or gourmet Belgian bagels the traditional way. system. 

1. Holbrook Forest

Holbrook Forest

Near Cascading Waters south of Holden there are many protected lands with interconnected trails.

Holbrook Forest here is maintained by the White Oak Soil Conservancy and there are paths to Kinney Forest next to and south of Worcester via Cook’s Woods and Cook’s Brook.

What makes these spaces special is that they are located on the southern edge of more than 3,000 acres of uninhabited wilderness, containing reservoirs for Worcester and therefore closed to the public.

This has allowed wildlife to thrive, which can be spotted on trails in conservation lands. As you walk through the 60-acre North Holbrook Forest, you’ll come across Cousin’s Rock, a particularly erratic glacial made of pegmatite, famous for its remarkably large crystals that you can observe up close. scene. 

2. Val’s Restaurant

Val’s Restaurant

In 1991, 22-year-old Valorie James opened a small pizzeria in Holden. Over the past 30 years, it has evolved into a full-fledged, award-winning restaurant with a patio, reception room, and two lounges.

Val’s Restaurant is a vibrant community venue, featuring live music indoors every weekend and outside on the patio during the warmer months. As for the food, the choice is varied.

Val’s has won rave reviews for its seafood and features many New England favorites like grilled black-dipped cod and strip clams. But that’s just one item, as you’ll find a wide selection of Italian, Greek, and American classics, from marinated lamb skewers to veal parmigiana.  

3. Cournoyer Vegetable Farm

Cournoyer Vegetable Farm

Just across the border in Paxton is a lovely farmers and farmers market, owned and operated by the Cournoyer family for over eight decades.

The stall is open from June to October and offers over 100 varieties of seasonal farm-grown fresh produce.

This includes tomatoes, peppers, radishes, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, cut flowers, corn, potatoes, broccoli, kale, lettuce, and more we can list. listed here. The selection is also complemented by locally produced fruits, berries, cider, and honey.  

4. The Bagel Inn

The Bagel Inn

Also on Holden’s team of great local businesses is a bagel shop at 785 Main St, which has been a staple for over 25 years.

The first thing to know about Bagel Inn is that these gourmet bagels are traditionally boiled and baked, daily, from scratch and use only fresh ingredients with no ready-made mixes.

The bagels themselves, available to dozens of bakers, come in every variety imaginable, whether you want ‘Everything’ or something a little less conventional like crisp cinnamon apples. There is a wide selection of buttercream spreads and breakfast sandwiches, available all day.  

5. The Farm at SummitWynds

The Farm at SummitWynds

With majestic views of Mount Wachusett, this quaint fourth-generation Holden ranch has been raising show horses since 1964.

Before that time, the site was actually a ski area, with a lodge, The Summit Tow, built at its highest point in 1945 and now used as a warehouse.

In addition to raising appaloosas and precious horses, SummitWynds also produces lavender, harvesting around 4,000 plants for beauty products, cooking ingredients, or simply for flowers.

You can visit to see lavender in bloom during the Lavender Farm Festival at the end of June and also the Sunflower Festival at the end of the season.  

6. West Boylston Cinema

West Boylston Cinema

The nearest movie theater is directly across from I-190 in West Boylston. One of the few things about the West Boylston Cinema is that it is independently owned but still has modern features like stadium seating, digital projection, and digital audio.

With five screens, this movie theater opened in what used to be a grocery store in 1997 and shows first-time movies at much lower prices than the big chains.

When we compiled this list, tickets for the morning and Tuesday are still only $6, and one of the perks of the concession is having self-serve butter for the popcorn.  

7. Mass Central Rail Trail

Mass Central Rail Trail

Holden is crossed from west to east by a proposed railroad that would eventually run continuously for more than 100 miles from Northampton to Boston.

The Central Mass Trail is located on the former right side of the Massachusetts Central Railroad, built between 1869 and 1883. When we compiled this list, the trail could be divided into six different sections and Holden is located on the Oakham to West Boyston Section.

You have several options for easy and safe walking or riding. From the Holden-Rutland metropolitan line at 68th Street, you can travel west to Barre without stopping. Or you can park at River St or Wachusett St in Holden and head east through a mantle of hardwood, past the remains of old mills on the Quinapoxet River to the Wachusett Reservoir.  

8. Asnebumskit Ridge Trail

Asnebumskit Ridge Trail

At 1381 feet, the top of Asnebumskit Hill sits right on the border between Holden and Paxton. This one looks west, with a moving panorama stretching for miles across central Massachusetts.

There is a parking lot near the top of the hill, but if you prefer a quick walk, you can also follow the trail on S Rd, just off Rte 31 southwest of Holden.

From here, you have a challenging but rewarding uphill hike, leaving behind the banks of Scott’s Creek to a succession of young woods, then into spectacular mature forests, lined with trees. Lush ferns in the bush.

There are more than 500 feet of elevation on this trail, but once you’re on the slopes the hike is fairly gentle. 

9. Oak Hill & Waterman Trail

Oak Hill & Waterman Trail

Also along Holden-Worcester Road near Holbrook Forest is another natural area acquired in the 2010s by the White Oak Soil Conservation Society. There is a small car park at 785 Salisbury St.

This little roadside patch, owned by Waterman, provides a bit of a guide as to how far the Oak Hill Trail will take you through the woods.

The path heads southeast through a serene woodland landscape, with spring pools and wetlands along Poor Farm Brook. Suddenly, you emerge into civilization at the new housing estate on Jordan Road, before heading back into the woods on your way back to the parking lot. 

10. Holden Hills Country Club

Holden Hills Country Club

Open to the public despite its name, this 18-hole golf course, dating from 1957, is nestled in a hilly and wooded setting.

Just over 6,000 yards behind the tee, Holden Hills doesn’t play for too long, but that doesn’t mean you can expect a low score.

This is a technical course that requires a good choice of shots and a precise approach to the game thanks to carefully guarded small lawns.

After the game, you can head to the Players’ Resort, with recliners, giant TVs, marbles, shambles, and pool tables, while Holden Hills Grill serves up comfort food like burgers and burgers, and has a shady patio.  

11. Holden Center

Holden Center

At the intersection of Main Street and Highland Street, you’ll be right in the heart of the 18th-century village of Holden, where public services remain. Holden Center is not a busy shopping district but is worth a visit for its architecture.

The Greek Renaissance Town Hall (1836), First Congregational Church (1789), First Baptist Church (1835), and Old Post Office Building (1880) are all clustered together and interspersed with a few houses with dignified antiques.

Perhaps the most beautiful is the Damon Memorial Building, home to the Gale Free Library, built in the Roman Renaissance style of locally quarried granite and opened in 1888.

Opposite the First Congregational Church are the weathered headstones of the old cemetery, founded in the mid-18th century.  

12. Trout Brook Recreation Area

Trout Brook Recreation Area

This 660 acres north of Holden sits on city preserves, with an extensive network of trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

There are over 16 miles in all, and the main trail, accessible from the Manning Road parking lot, is a light 4-mile detour, with many side trails if you want to lengthen or shorten your ride.

You’ll be greeted by a lovely little pond at the south end near the parking lot, marked by picnic areas and a pavilion that can be rented for day or night.

If you’re going to Trout Brook for mountain biking, most trails are easy to adjust and get quieter as you head north. 

13. Stewart’s Chocolates

Stewart’s Chocolates

The secluded stretch of Wachusett Street in Holden couldn’t have been a better location for a renowned chocolatier specializing in European-style gourmet chocolates.

Stewart’s Chocolates is based here (1116) on his lovely family farm, which dates back to 1803. The shop opened in 2014 and offers a wide range of exquisite candies made with premium ingredients, such as the best Valrhona and Barry Callebaut chocolates.

A range of beautifully presented flavors that almost make you dizzy, from lavender vanilla to tiramisu, ginger orange, lemongrass, amaretto cherry, and balsamic strawberry.

As of this writing, Stewart’s Chocolates plans to become a company that sells cocoa beans, exploring different sources of cocoa beans around the world.  

14. Mass Audubon’s Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon’s Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

On the western shore of Eagle Lake in Holden, the Massachusetts Audubon Society operates a 369-acre reserve, with a large wetland area and large mature forests with giant oak trees.

On the banks of the pond, you can observe a variety of waterfowl during their spring and autumn migrations.

Meanwhile, mature forests are nesting grounds for species like pink-breasted cardinals, scarlet lice, and crested flycatchers, and you might spot a striped owl perched on a tree branch.

One of the best times to visit the reserve is in late spring when mountain laurel blooms in delicate pink and white flowers. 

15. Cascading Waters

Cascading Waters

As we’ll see later in this list, the southern terminus of Holden, on the border with Worcester, is remote and undeveloped, with plenty of backcountry hiking opportunities.

Just above the line, the Greater Worcester Land Trust oversees several adjacent parcels of land, accessible from a parking lot on Olean St. On the blue-tinted Cascades Trail, most visitors’ goal is a stunning waterfall. a steep, wooded hillside.

If you want to keep hiking, the Silver Spring Trail and the Meadow Ridge Trail take you deeper into a rugged hardwood forest crisscrossed with beautiful springtime lakes and streams. 

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