15 Best Things to Do in Lawrence, MA

Lawrence, MA
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Situated in northern Massachusetts, Lawrence is an unassuming yet significant city in Essex County, home to more than 88,508 residents as of the 2021 consensus.

As a planned city, Lawrence first rose as a textile center, then branched off to manufacturing electronic equipment, footwear, paper products, and other items.

Today, the city offers several historic sites, small shops, and architectural wonders around its historic district.

That said, here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Lawrence, Massachusetts:

Relax at Riverfront State Park

The grounds of Riverfront State Park
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Located directly next to Merrimack River, Riverfront State Park is the perfect place to hang out and unwind after a long day.

The park offers a vast parking space, slides, picnic tables, monkey bars, gazebos, playing courts, and other facilities for everyone in the family to enjoy.

You can also find short walking and biking trails to enjoy the riverside views and crisp air.

A duck on the waters of Riverfront State Park
Sandratorres28, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take the family to Riverfront State Park and enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Bring takeout or packed meals for a relaxing picnic, play basketball or tennis, and rollerblade across the paved pathway.

Go for a walk or bike ride across the trails along the riverside and get a chance to spot birds, ducks, and swans.

Start Your Day at Sunnyside Diner

Before embarking on a fun-filled day around Lawrence, have a heavy breakfast at Sunnyside Diner.

The establishment has been around since 1926 and is a local favorite for homemade breakfast and lunch meals.

Housed in a 1950s-style diner, its clean and warm ambiance will make you feel at home despite being a tourist.

At Sunnyside Diner, try their breakfast dishes like loaded omelets, blueberry pancakes, grilled cheese, and house specialties such as biscuits & gravy, eggs benedict, and scramble roll.

You can also make your own omelet and choose between ingredients, like pepper, tomato, ham, cheese, and more,

If you’re having lunch at the restaurant, order a plate of fried chicken wings, a club sandwich, a mushroom provolone burger, or a char-grilled Angus cheeseburger.

Shop for Rare Finds at Canal Street Antique Mall

Canal Street Antique Mall is a former old mill building and is now an antique store located along Canal Street.

Housed in a vast 40,000-square-foot space, this is the perfect destination for bargain hunters, antique lovers, and those looking for a quirky souvenir.

The antique shop also has more than 120 dealers, decorators, and artisans supplying the store with one-of-a-kind items.

Take your time browsing through thousands of antiques like furniture, collectibles, comic books, jewelry, and tableware at Canal Street Antique Mall.

From crystal chandeliers, velvet couches, French country-style furniture, vintage telephones, and typewriters, there’s something for everyone.

There’s also a design center showcase that displays specialty home decor, art, and other works from Canal Street artisans, builders, and decorators.

Cross the Duck Bridge

The view from Duck Bridge
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Duck Bridge, also known as Union Street Bridge, is an important part of the city’s industrial history, as it is the oldest double-intersection Warren truss bridge in Massachusetts.

The bridge was built by Boston Bridge Works, a prominent engineering firm during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The bridge took its name from a nearby mill that once produced duck fabric.

To this day, the bridge still has most of its original features, including pedestrian railings.

Aside from its historical significance, you must visit Duck Bridge for the view it provides.

On your tour around Lawrence, stop by Union Street Bridge and catch amazing views of the Merrimack River, flanked by old textile mills and factories.

Taste Handmade Pastries at Fisichelli's Pastry Shop

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Fisichelli's Pastry Shop, a family-owned bakery in Lawrence’s food scene since 1915.

The bakery proudly serves 30 kinds of cookies, pasticiotti, cannolis, biscotti, and cakes.

Founded by Italian immigrant Orazio Fisichelli, the sweets shop served as a community bakery during the Great Depression.

Through the acts of charity from the residents, this would soon become the origin of the bakery’s well-loved products, like their traditional Italian cookies.

Stop by Fisichelli's Pastry Shop and try some of their pastries like black & white cookies, cherry almond macaroons, snowballs, and butter cookies.

Don’t forget to try their chocolate crema, vanilla cream, chocolate ricotta, and ricotta-filled cannolis, which are filled-to-order to ensure that customers get these pastries fresh and crisp.

Learn the City’s History at Lawrence History Center

For history buffs, get a deeper insight into the city’s development, its residents, and history at Lawrence History Center, located at Essex Street.

Founded in 1978, this nonprofit organization aims to collect, preserve, and animate the heritage of Lawrence and its people.

Here, you'll see pictures, oral histories, municipal records, ethnic group records, book collections, newspaper clippings, and other objects that document the city’s development.

Lawrence History Center also features exhibits, educational programs, and symposia to engage the community and tourists.

Its archival collections, records, and exhibits are valuable, especially for those conducting research, but it’s worth checking out if you have extra time.

See the Artworks Essex Art Center

Lawrence is more than its manufacturing heritage; it also has local art galleries and museums, one of which is the Essex Art Center.

The art center near Merrimack River aims to foster and nurture up-and-coming artists in Greater Lawrence through exhibitions, classes, and free programs.

The museum also holds regular exhibitions featuring local artists and has a clay studio, complete with hand-building and wheel-throwing tools, a slab roller, and other equipment.

Visit Essex Art Center and be in awe of the paintings, sculptures, and art installations in the gallery.

Exhibits in the museum frequently change, so visitors get to see something new on their visit.

Essex Art Center also offers classes on watercolor painting, acrylic painting, digital art, clay sculpture making, and more.

Explore Lawrence Heritage State Park

Visitor center of Lawrence Heritage State Park
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Heritage State Park is a 50-acre recreational space that preserves the industrial heritage of Lawrence.

Despite being smaller than typical state parks, it has plenty of activities and places to see, containing a visitor center, Pemberton Park, and Lawrence Riverfront State Park.

Furthermore, there are bike paths, picnicking facilities, and events like concerts, theatrical shows, and an annual festival.

Entrance of Lawrence Heritage State Park's visitor center
Bernie Ongewe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Lawrence Heritage State Park and get a deeper appreciation of the city as you learn more about the history behind its textile mills.

Stop by the visitors center, housed in a restored 1840s boarding house, then see the city’s mills and dam at Pemberton Park before heading to Lawrence Riverfront State Park to relax and use its facilities.

Buy Fresh Produce at Lawrence Farmers’ Market

Grab fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and other food products at Lawrence Farmers’ Market, a local market sponsored by Groundwork Lawrence, a nonprofit environmental organization.

The market features produce from local farmers and growers, supporting homegrown businesses while maintaining the city’s economy.

Buying from farmers' markets is also a more sustainable and healthy option, as most products here are free from pesticides and harmful chemicals.

Drop by Lawrence Farmers’ Market and shop for freshly harvested apples, pears, bell peppers, carrots, and more.

Since the farmers market is held seasonally, you’re assured that you can get the best and most fresh seasonal produce in the area.

Walk along the Methuen Rail Trail

The Methuen Rail Trail is a 2.4-mile that stretches from Manchester Street in Lawrence to the New Hampshire border.

It follows the route of the former Manchester and Lawrence leg of the Boston and Maine Railroad.

The trail has paved paths, making it ideal for jogging, trail running, cycling, and a leisurely walk along a former rail.

At the Lawrence side of the trail, there’s a playground, picnic area, and a connection to the Spicket River Greenway hiking area.

Along your walk along the Methuen Rail Trail, you can spot different birds like hawks, herons, woodpeckers, ducks, and more across its marshlands and meadows.

Dogs are also allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash.

Spend the Day at Den Rock Park

Den Rock Park is the only conservation area in Lawrence.

It is a 120-acre woodland and wetland with a large granite outcropping, making it a favorite destination for rock climbers and enthusiasts around New England.

The park also features several miles of hiking trails with different distances and levels of difficulty.

Whether you want to go for a relaxing afternoon walk or go for a thrilling trail run, you can choose among the trails available.

Put your rock climbing skills to the test, or walk along the trails to catch stunning views from the vistas.

For bird watchers, Den Rock Park offers an abundance of migratory and resident species like Blue Heron, Red Tail Hawk, KingFisher, and more.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Marvel at the Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens

Exterior of the Stevens-Coolidge House
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In North Andover, Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens is the perfect day trip from Lawrence, located 10 minutes southwest of the city.

It was a former farm turned summer home, which became an early-20th-century estate formerly owned by Helen Stevens Coolidge and John Gardner Coolidge, diplomat and descendant of Thomas Jefferson.

Today, the garden boasts 91 acres of well-maintained tulip gardens, vast meadows, greenhouses, and lawns with plenty of spaces for photo ops.

Garden of the Stevens-Coolidge House
Daderot at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens is also one of the three garden properties in Massachusetts hosting the Winterlights show.

At this seasonal event, see the gardens come to life with thousands of sparkling lights adorning its stress, bushes, and tunnels.

Facade of the Stevens-Coolidge House
Fletcher, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hit the Slopes at Ski Bradford

During the winter season, drive 20 minutes from Lawrence to Ski Bradford, a compact ski area in Haverhill.

The ski area has a mountain elevation of 272 feet and a skiable area of 60 acres.

Other features include 15 trails with various levels of difficulty, three triple chair lifts and six surface lifts, a carpet conveyor, snow-making equipment, and opportunities for night skiing.

With its short trails, elevation, and ski area, Ski Bradford is perfect for beginners and those who want to go all out on the terrain park.

For those with no ski experience or those who would like to improve their skills, group and private lessons are available.

Open for those aged four and above, the ski lessons have seven levels depending on the ability of the student.

Visit Winnekenni Castle

Exterior of Winnekenni Castle
Beckwith-Zink (Diane) from Haverhill, MA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From Lawrence, take a 20-minute drive to Winnekenni Castle, located in Winnekenni Park Conservation Area, Haverhill.

The castle was built by Dr. James R Nichols as his summer home, taking inspiration from the stone buildings he saw on his visit to Europe.

He named the castle and surrounding area “Winnekenni,” after the Algonquin word for "very beautiful.”

Explore Winnekenni Castle grounds and be in awe of its postcard-worthy fortifications.

You can also explore the rest of the park grounds overlooking Kenoza Lake and take a relaxing stroll along the trails.

With its vast space and dreamy landscape, the castle makes for a perfect setting for weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, and other private events.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Harold Parker State Forest

The waters of Harold Parker State Forest
Paul Mozell / Shutterstock.com

Harold Parker State Forest is a 3,320-acre park in North Andover, 15 minutes south of Lawrence.

The park is the perfect destination for those who want to take a break from the fast-paced city life and reconnect with nature.

Find several ponds, swamps, rocky outcroppings, vernal pools, rolling hills, remnants of farming and milling operations, and miles of trails here.

A brook at Harold Parker State Forest
Paul Mozell / Shutterstock.com

Visit Harold Parker State Forest and enjoy leisure activities like hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, boating, swimming, and more.

Facilities in the park include picnic areas, playgrounds, a pavilion, restrooms, showers, and trailers for those who want to go camping.

As you wander across the forest, get a chance to find water scorpions, wood frogs, beaver lodges, and other kinds of flora and fauna.

A trail at Harold Parker State Forest
Marie Christiane / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Despite its reputation as a former textile center, Lawrence offers fun activities and places to see.

Find historic bridges, old plastry shops and diners, and miles of nature trails.

If you’re planning for a quick weekend getaway, consider these best things to do in Lawrence, Massachusetts!

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