Worcester Hills is a primarily rural area with scattered villages in Central Massachusetts.
The Worcester Hills are a large exurban area located in the hills west of Worcester. They are primarily rural wilderness or farmland with scattered villages. Unfortunately, the countryside is starting to get broken up by low density housing developments as the availability of cheap land has proved tempting for people looking to set up their own estates.
Worcester Hills consists of the bulk of the following towns & villages:
- Barre – Occupying the northwestern corner of the region, Barre is known mostly for its picturesque town common.
- Hubbardston – Sparsely populated town east of Barre
- Leicester – Semi-suburban town just west of Worcester
- New Braintree – Sparsely populated farming community with fewer than 1,000 residents
- Oakham – Home of Oakham State Forest and not much else
- Paxton – Village adjacent to Worcester and the location of Moore State Park.
- Rutland – One of the bigger towns, but not much here besides Rutland State Park
- Spencer – The largest town in the region, was and still is in some sense a manufacturing town.
A car is necessary to visit the Worcester Hills. There is no major airport less than an hour away and no public transportation into the region aside from an infrequent Worcester RTS bus serving Leicester. The southern portion of the Worcester Hills is accessible via MA Route 9 from east or west. MA Routes 122 and 122A run northwest from Worcester into the region, both connecting to MA Route 2, the major east-west highway in the northern part of the state.
A car is the only practical option for getting around the Worcester Hills. The area is several hundred square miles and attractions are fairly far flung.
Route 9 traverses the southern section of Worcester Hills, passing through Leicester and Spencer. Route 122 runs from Paxton to Barre, facilitating northwest-southeast travel within the region.
The Worcester Hills are a largely forested region, broken up by the occasional farm, orchard, or village. There is natural beauty to be found in all seasons, even the stark depths of winter when the forests are buried under a thick blanket of snow. Spring and summer are more amenable to visitors who aren't excited by the prospect of single digit temperatures and deep snow drifts. The forests and fields come back to life in mid-April and are in full bloom by May. Like the rest of New England, the forests explode with color in autumn starting in late September and peaking in mid-October. There aren't many specific attractions to be seen here, but be on the lookout for sweeping views of the surrounding countryside when traversing the hills and ridge lines of the region.
The Worcester Hills are filled with opportunities for hiking in the regions state parks and state forests. During winter, snowshoeing is also an option. There are quite a few farms in the area, some of which you can visit and see cheese and other products being produced on-site.
- Moore State Park, 1 Sawmill Rd, Paxton, ☏ . A peaceful 400-acre retreat in the heart of central Massachusetts, Moore was the site of grist and saw mills from 1747 through the early part of the 20th century. There are trails that let you explore what remains of the mill village as well as some that loop around a large open meadow at the top of a hill. There is also a trail that brings you to an old quarry and along the shore of the largest of the mill ponds. Moore State Park is only about 25 minutes from the center of Worcester and is a good spot for anyone seeking a quick escape from the city. Free.
- Rutland State Park, 2 Crawford Rd, Rutland, ☏ . 300 acre state park with swimming facilities. $5.
- Carter & Stevens Farm Store, 500 West St, Barre, ☏ . Dairy farm that sells its milk on premises. There's also a petting zoo, homemade ice cream, and an outdoor BBQ in the summer. You can also pick up some of the farm's produce.
- [formerly dead link] Cooper's Hilltop Dairy Farm, 515 Henshaw St, Rochdale, ☏ . Primarily a place to get milk and cream. The farm store sells other local products and they make their own chocolate milk as well.
- Westfield Farm, 28 Worcester Rd, Hubbardston, ☏ . Producer of around 1,500 pounds of Chevre every week.
- [dead link] Ashland Farm, 531 Oakham Rd, New Braintree, ☏ . 10th generation farm with 200 acres of vegetables, pumpkins, and livestock. All available for purchase at the farmstand.
- Heifer International Farm, 216 Wachusett St, Rutland, ☏ . Visit the headquarters of well-known charity Heifer International at their ranch in Rutland. Heifer offers day and overnight programs to learn about agriculture and poverty reduction for both children and adults.
- Kettle Brook Golf Club, 136 Marshall St, Paxton, ☏ . Kettle Brook is a fairly new golf course, built on land that used to be a dairy farm in the rolling hills of Paxton.
- Leicester Triple Drive-In, 1675 Main Street, Leicester, ☏ . Take in a double feature at this classic drive-in movie theater.
There aren't a lot of stores in the Worcester Hills and not even any areas concentrated with them, but you can find some interesting shopping opportunities scattered around the region's farms.
- Country Gourmet, 547 Summer St, Barre, MA 01005, ☏ . Well stocked store carrying cookware, coffees, teas, olive oils, vinegars, and over 100 bulk spices.
- St. Joseph's Abbey, 167 North Spencer Road, Spencer, MA 01562. Trappist abbey in rural Spencer that sells jams, jellies, and religious books. Also home of the only Trappist brewery in North America.
- Oakwood Farm Christmas Barn, 1 Northwest Road, Spencer, ☏ . Christmas decoration store located in a 160 year old barn
While the Worcester Hills are not quite an up-and-coming dining destination, there are surprising finds scattered throughout the region. You can find refined Mediterranean food in tiny Barre or visit some of the restaurants run by ambitious chefs trying to lure diners out of Worcester.
There are not many nightlife options in the Worcester Hills other than stargazing. Most restaurants will have a bar and beer lovers should be sure to track down Spencer Abbey Trappist Ale, made by the monks of St. Joseph's Abbey.