15 Best Things to Do in Northbridge (MA)

This charming city is located in the Blackstone Valley, where America’s industrial revolution reached its peak in the early 19th century.

Part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Northbridge is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the area’s industrial history.

Visit factory communities such as Whitesville and Lynnwood, shaped by the textile industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and discover the remains of the Blackstone Canal, built in the 1820s and once a thoroughfare between Worcester and Providence.

These include the mysterious Purgatory Rift and the scenic beauty of the Blackstone Valley slopes at Lookout Rock and Goat Hill in Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park.  

1. Purgatory Chasm State Reservation

Across Highway 146 from West End, Creamery is the rocky site that was once owned by Whitin Machine Works.

Designated a state park in 1919, Purgatory Chasm is a dramatic 75-foot-high depression in granite bedrock that is nearly 400 meters long.

Chasm trails lead to chasms, caves, and massive formations, making for an unforgettable adventure during the summer months. However, it is closed in winter due to the danger of freezing.

Climbing is permitted with permits, and the reserve also has a visitor center, picnic areas, and a playground.  

2. Purgatory Beer Co.

Housed in a rustic stone outbuilding (Building C) within the Lynnwood Mill complex, the craft brewery was founded in 2017 by two friends.

The tasting room at Purgatory Beer Co. is warm, comfortable, cozy, and always full of fun. When it comes to beer, the menu is ever-changing, offering a wide range of styles and flavor profiles, from hoppy IPAs to bold porters.

Enduring favorites are the smooth Two-Car Garage (Double IPA) and the lemony What a Fool Believes (IPA). In the summer there is an outdoor area with parasols and you can order freshly baked pretzels to accompany your beer.  

3. Pirate’s Cove

Lynnwood has seasonal seafood fries and ice cream stands that everyone associates with New England.

Pirates Cove is open his March through October and offers seared clams, seared scallops, clam pies, fish and chips, lobster rolls, clam chowder, as well as a wide range of non-fish items such as hot dogs, burgers, wings, and tenders.

One of his treats at this spot is the frozen desserts, which are available in over 25 flavors of Soft His Cream His flavors, as well as a variety of flavors from his award-winning Maine-based Gifford’s Ice Cream. The top flavors in the latter are the popular chocolate and black raspberry.  

4. Lookout Rock

Parking lots along the Blackstone River and Quaker Street in Canal Heritage State Park serve as trailheads to this stunning lookout.

The trail winds through rock-studded woodlands on a gentle slope to Lookout Rock, one of the most scenic hens in the Blackstone Valley.

From here you can see the roaring Blackstone River, Riverbend Farm, Goat Hills, Rice Ponds, and beautiful sunsets (bug spray is a must in the summer).

For longer hikes, you can also park at Rice City Pond in Uxbridge and hike the King He Phillips Lookout Trail, which is about four miles round trip through the woods. 

5. Sparetime Recreation

Candlepin bowling is available at this bowling alley on Church Street in downtown Whitensville.

This tenpin bowling variant originated in Worcester in the 1880s and differs from other bowling in many ways. For one, the pin is taller and narrower, making it much more difficult to throw strikes.

In addition, it is a small ball that fits in the palm of your hand without finger holes. Despite all these differences, Spare Time’s recreation has all the hallmarks of a modern bowling alley, including the necessary bumpers if you’re traveling with young children. The place also boasts a busy event calendar, with regular events like comedy, trivia, and even karaoke.  

6. Shining Rock Golf Club

This 18-hole golf course, open to the public near the center of Northbridge, is easily overlooked as it is surrounded by new residential developments.

After years of planning and turmoil in the development phase, the course finally opened in 2010.

Shining Rock Golf Club benefits from steep elevations, smoothly sloping greens, and spectacular views of the Blackstone River Valley.

You will be playing memorable holes such as a very short but very technical par 4 and a long 200-yard par 3. In recent years, the golf course has added a driving range to its practice facilities. 

7. Mendon Twin Drive-In

There are only two drive-in theaters left in Massachusetts, one of which is about eight miles east of Northbridge in Mendon.

The Mendon Twin Drive-In he opened in 1954 and added his second screen in 1998. Gone are the old-fashioned speakers mounted on metal poles, replaced by FM radio.

Both screens are equipped with full digital projection and sound, and the owner recently opened his 5,000-square-foot terrace where you can order beer and wine.

The drive-in cinema is open every day during the school summer holidays and on Fridays and Saturdays most other periods, in season from March to November. 

8. Southwick’s Zoo

Just 10 minutes from Lynnwood, this family-run zoo has been a major area attraction for over 60 years.

This attraction is spread over 300 hectares on a former dairy farm. In the early 20th century, bird-loving owner Justin F. Southwick began collecting exotic birds, and the zoo grew from there.

Today, the Southwick Zoo is home to over 100 species of his animals, including big cats such as cheetahs, Bengal tigers, and lions, as well as New England’s largest collection of primates. Adding to the zoo’s allure are numerous additional attractions, such as the Woodland Express Train, which runs through North American exhibits and wilderness wetlands, and the Skyfari Sky Ride, which offers a bird’s eye view of several exhibits such as the Deer Forest and the African Plains.  

9. Foppema’s Farm

Foppema’s Farm, a local seasonal produce center, operates its shops in a rustic post-and-beam building built in 1998.

The farm specializes in growing fruits and vegetables. The 75 hectares of land grow fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and apples, as well as a wide range of vegetables from sweet corn to zucchini.

This season usually starts around June with greenhouse vegetables, early vegetables, and rhubarb and doesn’t end until the week of Thanksgiving.

Autumn is a wonderful season here. Alongside winter squash and gourds, you can taste farm-fresh cider.  

10. West Hill Dam Reserve

West Hill Dam, east of the state park, was built on the West River by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the late 1950s.

This was a flood control project in response to the massive flooding of Blackstone Valley caused by Hurricane Diane in 1955.

Located in the heart of a USACE-run reservation, the dam welcomes visitors who enjoy activities ranging from mountain biking to fishing.

There are more than 30 picnic areas in two different areas, including the Harrington Pool beach area and 7 miles of hiking trails through forests and meadows. There’s also a horseshoe pit, sand volleyball courts, and an accessible playground.  

11. Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park

Consisting of rivers and the old Blackstone Canal, this 1,000-state park combines stunning natural scenery with industrial history.

Find out more at the River Bend Visitor Center in Uxbridge. On the second floor of this center is a museum detailing the role of canals in transporting raw materials and goods between the valley’s new industrial centers in the 19th century.

You can paddle and paddle a canoe along the river. On land, extensive trails lead to several scenic spots on the high slopes of the valley.

One of them is Goat Hill, where you can see most of the canal with its granite locks and towpaths. The river widens at Rice City Pond on the south side, another beautiful spot that attracts a wide variety of bird species. 

12. Whitinsville

One of the most worthwhile things to do in Northbridge is to take the time to explore each factory village.

A great place to start is Whiteinsville, considered the most complete example of a Rhode Island system mill village.

Founded as a textile manufacturing center by the Whitin family in the early 19th century, it has shaped local life for over a century.

Locally, Whitin Machine Works developed into the world’s largest manufacturer of textile machinery, employing 5,600 people in its heyday. Known as ‘The Shop’, the factory complex still dominates the village, taking on new roles as offices and light industrial spaces. For six generations, the Whitin family built the town hall, library, church, school, and recreational facilities in this village, as well as more than 1,000 working-class homes, most of which still stand today. 

3. Linwood

Preserved in the US Historic District, the mill village was first developed in the early 19th century when the Munford River was dammed for hydroelectric power generation.

Mills sprung up during his century, including the impressive Linwood Cotton Mill, and the village was settled by French Canadians working in the textile industry.

Lynnwood’s main building is the cotton mill, built in 1866 to process cotton and produce cambric, satin, and shirting fabrics, with a mansard roof in the Second Empire style.

In its shadow are owner houses of the same type, and the district preserves semi-detached houses, dormitories, and tenements built for workers.

Today, the factory complex houses senior housing and a number of local shops, including a creperie (Maison de Manger), a Purgatory Beer Company, a barber shop, and a fine liquor store (Mill House Wine & Spirits).  

14. West End Creamery

The VandenAkker family has been farming this property in Whitesville since the early 20th century. The farm’s main product changed over time from eggs to milk to cream.

West End Creamery has focused on agritourism since the fourth generation took over. You can stop by various spots from spring to autumn. A highlight is the 18-hole farm-style miniature golf course, nine of which are ADA-compliant. At the end of the year, the Fall Festival features pumpkin fields, pony rides, a giant corn maze, and more.

During your stay, don’t forget to try some of the finest local ice cream. The Snack Shack serves corn on the cob, hot dogs, and cold sodas throughout the summer. 

15. Massachusetts State Police Museum & Learning Center

This attraction is located next to Whiteinsville’s scenic Town Common in the beautiful 1905 Whiteinsville Bank Building.

In this article, learn everything you need to know about the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), from its founding in the mid-1800s to its mission today.

This veteran-focused museum features historic cruisers and motorcycles, military uniforms, equipment, insignia, patches, original teleprinters, historic station logs, and JFK-related memorabilia.

The Learning Center hosts youth workshops covering various aspects of law enforcement, including forensics, public safety, and criminal justice.  

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