15 Best Things to Do in Harvard, MA

Harvard, MA
Emily Cotter, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard is a small town in Massachusetts' Worcester County, with a long and fascinating history dating back to the 1700s.

This small town, often mistaken for the famous University, lies 22 miles northeast of Worcester and 32 miles west of Boston.

For over 250 years, Harvard has earned renown throughout Massachusetts for religious and sociological activities.

People know the town for the religious group that resided in the Shaker Village, which Mother Ann Lee founded in 1781.

Today, Shaker Village is a fascinating historical attraction in Harvard because of its history.

At the same time, this town is also home to the Fruitlands Farm of Bronson Alcott, known for its metaphysical experiments.

Aside from its fascinating history, Harvard's streets have distinct uniformed homes and buildings that follow Victorian and Colonial architectural designs.

Visiting Harvard is a fascinating and worthwhile experience if you drop by its charming orchards, farmhouses, and centuries-old villages.

At the same time, this town offers exciting outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, swimming, canoeing, and sightseeing.

Check out the best things to do in Harvard, Massachusetts, for a broader idea of what this town offers.

Step inside the Fruitlands Museum

Farmhouse at Fruitlands Museum
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Fruitlands Museum is one of the finest examples of an ancient transcendentalist society.

This museum mainly features the lifestyle and culture of the Transcendentalist community through the artifacts in its exhibits.

It has a diverse collection of materials and art, giving you a deeper understanding of its community's culture.

Explore the museum and its 210 acres of land.

Wooden bench outside Fruitlands Museum's farmhouse
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Likewise, this museum is an exciting outdoor destination for its picturesque natural areas and miles of hiking trails.

Visiting Fruitlands Museum is an excellent way to get acquainted with Harvard's rich history and heritage.

Shaker village residence at Fruitlands Museum
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Hike through the Fruitlands Trails

The Fruitlands Trails is adjacent to the famous Fruitlands Museum, featuring its 3.1-kilometer loop trail.

Many hikers love to visit this trail not just for hiking but also for bird watching and cross-country skiing during winter.

However, it's also an excellent place for nature lovers since you can still enjoy its solitude most of the day.

The loop trails take you to wooden bridges, scenic forested areas, and wetlands with interpretive signs.

One particular place you'll come across on this trail is the Historic Willard Farm, a historical attraction.

Birdwatchers can proceed to the area's Red Loop, which leads to a meadow with numerous local and migrating bird species.

For a one-of-a-kind hiking activity in Harvard, head to the Fruitlands Trails and discover the town's hidden natural beauty.

Climb the Holy Hill of Zion

Back in the day, the Transcendentalist community worshipped at the Holy Hill of Zion in nearby historic Shakers Village.

The hill dates back to 1842 when leaders of this religious sect chose an elevated outdoor location as their worship site.

The Shakers Village in Harvard then selected a hill overlooking the main settlement on the western side.

Today, the site is a famous historical attraction in Harvard.

Visiting this place gives you a deeper understanding of how this religious sect does its daily activities, including its worship methods.

At the same time, you'll appreciate the solitude and calmness of the area.

While hiking, you can explore remnants of the Shaker Village, such as centuries-old cellar holes, old buildings, and stone walls.

The Holy Hill of Zion is the best outdoor and historical attraction to check out after visiting the Shaker Village.

Go on an Orchard Tour at Westward Orchards

Apples at Carlson Orchards
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Harvard and Worcester County are the premier cider makers in Massachusetts because of their vast orchards.

In Harvard alone, there are four orchards best known for their freshly harvested apples and top-notch ciders.

These orchards are Carlson Orchards, Doe Orchards, Old Frog Pond Farm, and Westward Orchards, each with unique and unique offerings to visitors.

Westward Orchards, in particular, is a fourth-generation, family-owned orchard that also grows various fresh produce.

Tractor at Doe Orchards
M. PATTHAWEE / Shutterstock.com

This orchard offers visitors seasonal produce, meat, dairy, eggs, and the signature cider donuts.

Meanwhile, the rest of the orchards you can visit in Harvard also serves cider donuts, best paired with a bottle of freshly brewed apple cider.

In addition, you can buy various food items or perhaps gift items at each of these orchards.

Tour each orchard and marvel at its picturesque views to complete your experience.

Dive at Bare Hill Pond

Bare Hill Pond is a famous outdoor recreation venue in Harvard, especially during summer and other special occasions.

The park is best known for its town beach and the Girl Scout Camp, which organizes various summer activities.

However, Bare Hill Pond also supports water activities like swimming along its beach.

Aside from swimming, you can also enjoy boating from sailboats, paddleboards, sailboards, crew boats, kayaks, and canoes.

It's a fun and scenic location to bring your family or travel buddies for an entire day of outdoor recreation.

Likewise, you can cast your line and enjoy fishing at this pond, home to various local fish species.

Spot Local Wildlife at Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge

Daytime view of Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge
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Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge along Still River Depot Road is one of Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex's eight wildlife refuges.

This one in Harvard offers nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts an excellent opportunity to commune with nature and explore vast acres of unique flora and fauna.

Activities like birdwatching, nature photography, boating, and hunting are the most extraordinary things to do at this wildlife refuge which spans over 1,667 acres.

The waters of Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge
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It's an excellent place to shake off stress and feel the calmness of nature.

At the same time, don't forget to enjoy yourself with various outdoor activities, especially boating through the Nashua River.

Aside from boating, you can also hike through five miles of trails meandering Nashua River, Oxbow ponds, wetlands, and forested areas.

Trail at Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge
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Meet Cuddly Alpacas at the Harvard Alpaca Ranch

The Harvard Alpaca Ranch along Old Mill Road is 5.7 acres of picturesque farmland.

This place mainly features cuddly alpacas, serving as the farm's celebrities.

The ranch offers visitors a one-of-a-kind tour featuring its herd of alpacas, each with its distinct personality and cuteness.

However, this alpaca ranch is best known throughout Harvard and Worcester County for its unique offering —an alpaca therapy.

This kind of activity lets visitors do alpaca-assisted therapeutic exercises on the ranch.

Many believe it's an effective way to shake off stress, anxiety, and depression, similar to animal-assisted therapies.

Aside from meeting alpacas, you can buy products made from alpaca wool at its gift shop for a unique souvenir.

Get Up Close with Animals at the Animal Adventures Family Zoo & Rescue Center

The Animal Adventures Family Zoo & Rescue Center is situated four miles or nine minutes south of Harvard in Bolton.

This fantastic attraction is home to over 400 rescued exotic animals.

Founded by Ed and Brenda Laquidara in 1997, it's now a refuge for neglected exotic animals that require loving and caring.

Today, it's a famous attraction frequently visited by many throughout Massachusetts.

Tour the entire zoo that houses various animals like Ring Tailed Lemur, Kinkajou, Mountain Coati, Carpathian Lynx, African Serval, Bobcat, Arctic Fox, Pearl Fox, Red Fox, Eurasian Eagle Owl, and many more.

This place receives over 300 animal surrenders annually, and remarkably, the staff and veterinarians can bring back most of the animals to good health.

Explore Harvard Shaker Village Historic District

Buildings at Shaker Village Historic District
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is Massachusetts' second oldest Shaker village and the third oldest in the entire nation.

This historical attraction is a fascinating place to discover.

Check out this village if you want to understand the Transcendentalist community and their beliefs.

The village has 12 Shaker buildings, including a worship ground and a burial ground used back in the day.

Stone barn ruins at Shaker Village Historic District
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Historically, the village served as the community of the Transcendentalists under its founder, Mother Ann Lee.

The religious sect's peak had over 200 members residing in the village.

Today, the village is a famous historical attraction comprising woodlands and open meadows teeming with wildlife.

Exploring the Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is an exciting outdoor activity.

Your adventure takes you to fantastic scenic trails that serve as Harvard conservation areas.

Learn about Mary Rowlandson at the Mary Rowlandson Monument

Mary Rowlandson and her family share one of the saddest historical accounts of the 17th century.

Head to the Mary Rowlandson Monument along Main Street to learn about Rowlandson's tragic story.

During King Philip's War in the 16th century, the Wampanoag, Nashaway/Nipmuc, and Narragansett tribes abducted Rowlandson, her three children, and her husband, Rev. Joseph.

For three months, the family traveled with their captors through the thick forests of New England.

One of Mary's children died from injuries while she and Joseph got separated through the woods.

They earned their freedom through a ransom at the Redemption Rock in Princeton.

Mary wrote a book that became part of Colonial America's historic fabric, commemorating their tragic story.

Today, you can see the Mary Rowlandson Monument honoring the family in Harvard.

Check out the monument and learn more about the history behind the famous story.

Celebrate the Apple Blossom Festival

Many people in Harvard look forward to the Apple Blossom Festival every May.

The festival highlights fun and festivities, which are excellent for the whole family.

The festival features food, music, arts, crafts, and various apple products like ciders, apple cider donuts, and much more.

Thousands of visitors throughout the county and other parts of Massachusetts converge at Harvard to celebrate this festival.

At the same time, many revelers love to watch the Nashoba Valley Concert Band perform during the festival.

Also, many visitors stay in Harvard to join the great Ducky Wacky Race right after the festival.

Bring your family to the Apple Blossom Festival!

Attend the Annual Harvard Flea Market

The Harvard Flea Market is the biggest annual one-day event every October in Harvard.

Every year, the flea market draws over 200 vendors to the Broomfield School in Harvard.

The event features novelty items from furniture, antiques, collectibles, household items, glass, toys, sports gear, clothing, and more.

The Harvard Schools Trust and the League of Women Voters of Harvard organized this festival.

If you're looking for a unique souvenir before returning, visit the annual Harvard flea market.

It is a treasure trove full of classic collectible cards, video games, Blu-ray DVD collections, vintage jewelry, lamps, gardening items, coins, and hidden gems.

At the same time, vendors sell food and refreshments to provide more fun and convenience to complete everyone's experience.

Shop and Dine at the Harvard General Store

Exterior of Harvard General Store
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard General Store has treated locals with delicious food, top-notch grocery items, and gifts since 1896.

This general store is a famous place for locals and visitors in town to shop for various things.

Besides being a top-notch shop, this general store also prepares delicious food at its restaurant and bakery.

It is particularly famous for its delicious breakfast menu, served all day.

You can order casseroles, breakfast platters, French toast, pancakes, bacon, freshly-brewed coffee, and lots more.

Before returning home, dine at the historic Harvard General Store to treat yourself to a heartwarming meal.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Engage in Outdoor Recreation at Bowers Springs

Bower Springs lies in the neighboring town of Bolton, Massachusetts, seven minutes from Harvard.

This natural area appeared after Harvard and Bolton partnered on a joint project to convert a 91-acre land into a recreation area in 1972.

Bowers Springs is a famous destination for ice skating and skiing in Harvard and Worcester County.

The entire natural area has various parts, with the Sprague woodlands 24 acres covering the town of Harvard.

Meanwhile, Bare Hill Sanctuary is a famous historical attraction in Frank Abbot's town, founded in 1963.

Aside from being an excellent outdoor destination, it also features vast apple and peach orchards, another reason to visit this attraction.

Locals love to visit this place for hiking, trail running, dog walking, and bird watching.

Spend the weekend at Bowers Springs!

Drop by Captain Pollard's Flintlock Farm

Captain Pollard's Flintlock Farm is a charming 1782 Georgian Colonial Farm in Still River, Massachusetts, five minutes southwest of Harvard.

This historic farm features an authentic 225-year-old New England Colonial-era plantation operated in 1782.

Its owner was Captain Thaddeus Pollard, a renowned Minutemanuring the American Revolution.

He was also a resident of Still River, a neighboring hamlet in Harvard.

Today, the historic farm is a famous educational-oriented tourist attraction that promotes Still River's agri-tourism sector.

Walking inside the farm and hiking through its vast fields helps you understand how New England Colonial-era plantations operated back in the day.

Captain Pollard's Flintlock Farm has also undergone numerous restorations to preserve its historical value.

Final Thoughts

Harvard is a one-of-a-kind town full of fascinating history, natural beauty, and hidden gems.

It's a fantastic weekend getaway destination for people from Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Bring your family or travel buddies and explore orchards, museums, and natural areas in this town.

Discover the best things to do in Harvard, Massachusetts!