15 Best Things to Do in Southbridge (MA)

Once an atmospheric mill town on the River Quinebaug, Southbridge has an industrial history dating back to the 18th century. The original sawmills and flour mills eventually gave way to the textile and glass-making industries. large scale The largest producer of these is the American Optical Company, which has been a boon to Southbridge for over 100 years, earning the town the nickname “Eye of the Commonwealth”. You can still see the huge American Optical building, which presides over the town’s commune, and there’s a museum documenting the company’s time in the town and the broader optical industry. Southbridge’s 19th-century wealth brought waves of immigration from Ireland and Canada, and the magnificent Notre Dame Parish Church (1916) is a testament to the town’s Canadian-French heritage.   1. St. John Paul II Parish (Notre Dame Parish Church) In the late 1860s, Southbridge had a large French-Canadian population, which had grown steadily since the 1830s and increased rapidly after the Civil War. The parish of Notre Dame was founded in 1869 and funds were raised to replace the original wooden tabernacle that had been erected in the town. All of this was realized in 1916 with the wonder building at 446 Main Street, with a tower 210 feet tall and a nave nearly 80 feet wide. It was designed by Quebec architect Joseph Venne (1858-1925), responsible for more than 60 buildings in the Montreal area, as well as three churches in Massachusetts. With many stucco moldings, the church has a Rococo-style interior, which also blends earlier Roman and Renaissance elements. This work was done by the Roman artist Gonippo Raggi (1875-1959), who also produced more than 30 oil paintings and six murals for the interior, while the Roman-style windows were decorated Imported from ‘Germany.  2. Gateway Players Southbridge’s cultural mainstay for half a century, the Gateway Players is a community theater troupe that hosts a season of shows at Elm Street Congregational Church (61 Elm St) in the town center. The group was founded in 1975 and quickly moved to headquarters donated by Ruth Wells, a member of the family that owns the American Optical Company. Showcasing the region’s creative and performing talent, a typical season runs from March to December, with up to five productions. In addition to Broadway-style musicals, you can experience original comedies and plays written by local playwrights.   3. The Ruth Wells Center for the Arts The elegant Gateway Players HQ is also a vibrant arts center, hosting exhibitions and classes year-round. On a spacious site at 111 Main St, it was Southbridge’s largest single-family residence when built in the mid-1820s for Ebenezer Ammidown, which spurred the town’s early industrial development. town. The house was owned by the Ammidown and Dresser family for most of its history, until it was purchased by Ruth Wells in the 1970s and later donated to the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities (QVCAH)… You can enter this majestic building to enjoy exhibits covering a variety of fields, from watercolors to photography. There are studio workshops open on Saturday mornings, while QVCAH has a store if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind piece of clothing, pottery, photography, jewelry, paintings, or home decor.  4. Sturbridge Coffee Roasters This fast-growing chain of mini cafes, based in Southbridge, started operating next to Sturbridge in 2004 and moved there soon after. Located near the Optical Heritage Museum, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters recently opened two more branches in Dudley and Charlton and set up a dedicated roastery in Southbridge in 2019. For many, it’s the best coffee for miles, even better knowing they roast their own beans nearby. You can visit for freshly brewed coffee, a strong beer list, hot chocolates, smoothies, teas, and a menu of snacks for breakfast and lunch. A variety of coffee beans or ground coffee are also available at the store, in 12 oz or 16 oz packages.  5. Bigelow Hollow State Park and Nipmuck State Forest Cross the Connecticut border and discover 9,000 acres of outdoor recreation opportunities in a state park nestled in a state forest. At Bigelow State Park, you’ll enter one of Connecticut’s largest uninterrupted forests, all part of the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. This federally designated site preserves a large swath of northeastern Connecticut and central Massachusetts, featuring a typical New England rural landscape, rarely without light pollution amid the western megacity. Northeast. You can embrace this solitude on 35 miles of trails, traveling to places as remote as the sublime finger-shaped Breakneck Lake, which is only accessible by foot. Bigelow Lake and the larger Mashapaug Lake are great places for swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing in the summer.   6. Escape the Pike This escape room attraction near Sturbridge is the brainchild of local owners David and Meghan Jaquith, who met in 2003 while in Afghanistan with US troops. As enthusiasts, the couple visited hundreds of escape rooms around the world, learned what worked and what didn’t, and filtered that experience into their very own Escape the Pike, which opened in 2019. What’s immediately striking here is the variety of genres and tones, from the family Christmas cheer of North Pole Meltdown to the tech thriller Spy2k to the post-apocalyptic fantasy Merlin’s Vision. Podunk and the Son of the Zodiac, immerse yourself in the story of the infamous serial killer. With satisfying puzzles, engaging environments, and friendly game masters, Escape the Pike games can accommodate up to eight players, with a 60-minute countdown.   7. Quinebaug Valley Rail Trail Southbridge Station was the terminus of Webster’s Southbridge and Blackstone Railroad, chartered in 1849 and quickly incorporated into the Boston and New York Central Railroad. For much of the 20th century, the road was used by the Providence and Worcester Railroad for freight before being abandoned. There is a long-term plan to turn this route into an 11-mile track between Southbridge and Webster. So far, you can do a short hike in the southeastern corner of Southbridge, hiking nearly two miles through the scenic