18 Hidden Gems in Worcester Worth Checking Out 

Posted: January 16, 2018

From architecture to wildlife sanctuaries, from monuments to art galleries, you are bound to discover at least one surprise on this list of destinations that make Worcester superbly unique. 

1. Bancroft Tower

Worcester’s storied feudal castle was erected in 1900, built 17 meters high from natural stone and granite. Two half-compasses set on either side of the tower point dubiously to the city’s seven hills. George Bancroft, for whom the tower was built, served as a eulogist at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

Accessibility: The tower is open to the public on Sundays in October. Salisbury Park is open to the public year round.

2. U.S. Presidential Museum

Local businessman and philanthropist Francis R. Carroll’s impressive collection includes items signed by every American president with the exception of our current Chief Executive who has not yet responded to Carroll’s inquiries. The museum also includes a vast array of materials from the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Accessibility: By private invitation.

3. The Whispering Wall

Walk toward the intersection of Lincoln and Highland streets to the sprawling granite bench that marks Worcester’s World War I Memorial, built to honor the men and women of Worcester who gave their lives during World War I. Position yourself at one end and instruct your partner to take a seat on the other side of the bench, 75 feet opposite you. Speak your truth to experience the curious auditory sensation of someone whispering directly into your ear.

Accessibility: Accessible to the public.

4. Worcester Historical Museum

The Worcester Historical Museum is the only institution devoted to Worcester history, and includes a research library of over 7,000 titles, an archive that houses thousands of documents, and a collection of artifacts, all vital to the study of Worcester history.

A few examples include correspondence of abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster, Blackstone Canal Company records, Civil War era diaries and letters, and artifacts related to Worcester’s industrial past including early woodenware and ceramics, weaponry from the colonial era through World War II, paintings and sculptures, and a significant costume and textile collection.

Accessibility: Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

5. Acoustic Java Roastery and Tasting Room

Not to be confused with Acoustic Java’s quaint coffeehouse on Main Street, the roastery is tucked within Whittall Mills - a historic industrial complex erected by the Crompton Rug Company in 1870. Carpets manufactured in the space were reportedly used in the White House.

Accessibility: Open everyday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

6. Bull Mansion 

Bull Mansion was built in 1876, it was designed by Calvert Vaux who was contracted by Daniel Wesson (of Smith and Wesson) for his daughter Sarah’s wedding present. Known as G.A.R Hall (Grand Army of Republic Hall), it is an ornate Victorian Gothic/Stick style granite mansion, which is on US National Register of Historic Places. Today, the space occupies a New American Bistro, featuring hand-crafted, bold-flavorid food and drinks and hosts lively entertainment and private functions rooms.

Accessibility: Opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sundays at 11 a.m. 

7. Massachusetts Vietnam War Memorial at Green Hill Park 

Dedicated in June 2002, the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial spans four acres of land in Green Hill Park, including a pond, walking paths and the stone Memorial. A place to provide a dignified, quiet, natural location for reflection and learning, the Memorial is designed in three sections called places -- PLACE OF FLAGS, PLACE OF WORDS and PLACE OF NAMES. 

Accessibility: Open to the public. 

8. American Antiquarian Society

Founded in 1812 by Revolutionary War patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society is both a learned society and a major independent research library.

Today, the library houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States. You can even find the tea that was thrown off the ships at the infamous Boston Tea Party. 

Accessibility: Tours are open to the public on Wednesday, but are temporarily suspended due to construction on the building.

9. Major Taylor Statue at the Worcester Public Library 

Worcester's 1899 world-cycling champion Marshall W. “Major” Taylor was a crowd favorite in an era when bicycling was more popular than baseball, admired not only for his athletic prowess but also his strength of character.

This two-sided memorial at the entrance of the Worcester Public Library features a granite wall showcasing a larger-than-life bronze statue of Taylor standing with his bicycle at a velodrome, and a bronze bas relief of Taylor in action, launching his famous “come from behind” sprint on the track.

Accessibility: Outdoors. Open to the public.

10. Higgins Armory

One of America’s first steel and glass buildings ever constructed, built in 1929 by prominent industrialist John Woodman Higgins as a museum of steel and armor.

Accessibility: Available for private use as an event space.

11. Worcester Market Building

You’ve probably passed by what was once the largest grocery-supply marketplace in the country without even realizing it. The 22,000 square foot hall opened in 1915 with a terracotta facade that brought iconic agricultural imagery to the corner of Main and Chandler Street.

With a startlingly deep foundation of reinforced concrete and non-absorbent floors, the building was deemed “absolutely rat-and-vermin-proof” by its original operators. By 1917, 25,000 customers were reported to visit the market on a typical Saturday. In its glory, the building had capacity to accommodate 4,500 shoppers at a time.

Accessibility: Closed to the public

12. deadhorse hill

Located in what was once the ‘Bay State House’ hotel, the home of Worcester Automobile Club. On New Year’s Eve 2018, Executive Chef Jared Forman will recreate one of the hotel’s original menus including caviar, foie gras, truffles, and champagne.

Accessibility: Open for guests Tuesday-Sunday

13. Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner

Manufactured by Worcester Lunch Car Company in 1930. According to the National Register of Historic Places, this diner operated at at least three separate locations throughout the city before settling at 148 Grove Street. Ralph’s tile and wood finishes represent common interior design prior to the popular use of stainless steel.

The space offers a full length marble counter with fifteen stools and a full bar. A sign out front still reads, “Chadwick Square Diner and Tables for Ladies.” The diner was originally a popular spot to gather after big band dances, but these days Ralph’s is known for live music, burgers, and chili.  

Accessibility: Open to guests 21+ everyday from 4 p.m.-2 a.m.

14. Broad Meadow Brook

Worcester possesses the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in New England. Trails are exceptionally well marked in the 400 acre expanse including an entire mile that is universally accessible.

Accessibility: Open to the public from dawn to dusk.

15. Sprinkler Factory

This 6,000 square foot art gallery boasts sky-high ceilings and plenty of natural light. Once home to Rockwood Sprinkler where Howard G. Freeman patented twenty-two inventions, now the space hosts artist exhibitions twice per month.

Accessibility: Open to the public Saturdays and Sundays 1-4 p.m.

16. Sweet Jane’s Designer Consignment 

Main Street’s high-end designer consignment shop is a treasure trove for label-lovers and fashionistas. You won’t leave empty handed.

Accessibility: Opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

17. Forum Theater at Green Hill Park

An amphitheater constructed in the 90’s as part of the park’s Memorial Grove. This eerie natural performance space is frequently slated for repurposing or demolition, but keeps hanging on. Forum Theater is just a short walk from the goats, llamas, pigs, and chickens at Green Hill Park Farm, open Wednesdays-Sundays.

Accessibility: Open to the public at Green Hill Park.

18. Flying Dreams

Flying Dreams may have inherited the original home of Wormtown Brewery, but they have built up a culture that is all their own. Their Mass style IPA, Pond Jumper, was brewed in honor of the first hole at Maple Hill Disc Golf Course where the players favor hazy juice bombs to refresh and invigorate.

Accessibility: Open Wednesday - Sunday

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