20 Best Things to Do in Lowell, MA

Lowell, MA
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Lowell, Massachusetts, is a place whose many visitors have left their hearts at.

This city, located just about 30 miles northwest of Boston, shares the role of Middlesex County’s county seat with Cambridge.

Countless visitors have come and gone through its doors, all of them amazed and impressed by the city’s culture, arts, geography, and tourism attractions.

Among its most interesting attractions include the National Historical Park, the Brush Art and Gallery Studios, and the New England Quilt Museum.

The city also holds the annual three-day Lowell Lowell Folk Festival, featuring folk entertainment and traditional music on six different outdoor stages.

There’s also the Summer Music Festival that provides evening concerts of Irish, big band music, bluegrass, pop, and contemporary folk music.

Even the outdoorsy visitors can have their share of ‘heaven’ in Lowell as the Merrimack and Concorde Rivers offer canoeing, fishing, waterskiing, white water rafting, and fishing activities.

The city of Lowell also boasts the Lowell Spinners, the Boston Red Sox’s Single-A Minor League Baseball affiliate, as well as the Lowell Devils, an affiliate of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

Just walking around downtown lets you feel Lowell’s history through the cobblestone streets and numerous restaurants that feature various cultures.

No words are ever enough to fully describe the beauty of Lowell.

So, come and experience it for yourself.

Here are the 20 best things to do in Lowell during your stay:

Understand the History of Labor and Industry at the Lowell National Historical Park

A canal at National Historical Park
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Located on Kirk St, the Lowell National Historical Park commemorates the Industrial Revolution of America.

This is the perfect place to discover the Continuing Revolution, letting you see the changes that began during the Industrial Revolution that is still reverberating in the economy of Lowell some 200 years later.

Exterior of the Boott cotton mills museum at National Historical Park
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Here, you can see the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the ‘mill girl’ boarding house, and the Suffolk-Mill Turbine Exhibit.

Take advantage of the guided tours that tell you the story of the transition from farm to factory, chronicling labor and immigrant history.

Make sure to admire the canals, textile mills, worker mills, and 19th-century commercial buildings.

The hamilton canal house at National Historical Park
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Admire the Art and Craft of Quilting at the New England Quilt Museum

Exterior of New England Quilt Museum
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fascinated by quilts?

Then, go to Shattuck St to see the only institute in the Northeast that’s dedicated solely to the quilting art and craft.

Explore the country’s second-oldest quilt museum that houses classrooms, a museum shop, a library, and permanent exhibits.

With the aim to educate the people and quilters about the artistic expression and historical documentation of quilting, it also holds the Lowell Quilt Festival, which involves various partners across the city and region.

Thanks to its changing exhibitions, you’ll see the different works of quilters from all over the world.

Meanwhile, the museum’s permanent exhibition features 500 quilts that are always on view.

Still located within the National Historical Park, the Brush Art Gallery & Studios is a captivating place that the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission founded.

Go around and meet the 10 studio artists that produce photography, painting, sculpture, quilts, handwoven items, and illustrations.

Feel free to interact with them and learn about their talents.

It’s a nonprofit organization, so you are helping the organization by visiting it.

Learn about Lowell’s Industrial Past with a Visit to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum

Exterior of Boott Cotton Mills Museum
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Located in the Lowell National Historical Park, the Boott Cotton Mills Museum lets you into the industrial past of the city with stories of the workers, investors, inventors, and engineers who worked hard to make Lowell the country’s first successful planned industrial city.

Upon arriving, it’s best to stop by the information desk and talk to a park ranger to have a background of the museum.

After purchasing your ticket, proceed to the Weave Room, which features 80 historic power looms from the 1920s.

The machine room of Boott Cotton Mills Museum
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You’ll be amazed to learn that to this day that these power looms are still weaving cloth.

It’s an excellent way to feel even a fraction of what the workers felt at the time.

Don’t miss visiting the main exhibit at the museum, which is the Lowell: Visions of America.

There is a lot more to see and marvel at in this museum, so make sure to include it in your itinerary.

A machine at Boott Cotton Mills Museum
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Explore the Great Merrimack Valley

Located on University Ave, the Merrimack Valley shows you the beauty that’s unlike any other.

No matter what the season, it offers something delightful to every visitor.

Think canoeing, biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, hayrides, concerts, and strawberry picking.

The choices are endless!

Find Out the Significance of the Lowell Cemetery

Entrance arch of Lowell Cemetery
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Lowell Cemetery, located on Knapp St., was established in 1840 by some of the more prominent residents of Lowell, which was at the time the second-largest city in Massachusetts.

In the beginning, it served as a refuge from the mill city’s confines, which traded the noisy mills and crowded boardinghouses for an oasis of peace.

They designed it as a private, non-profit, non-sectarian cemetery corporation.

Pathway and landscape of Lowell Cemetery
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When it was dedicated in 1841, the city didn’t have any park yet, and this cemetery became a refuge for the locals where they were able to engage in bird watching, strolling, and flower-picking.

Today, coming here would also mean exploring its vast 85-acre area and uniting with nature.

Tourists include it in their itinerary to examine tombs and stones, which evoke memories of Lowell’s past among its residents.

The Lowell Cemetery is not just a park but a place of significant history as well.

Gravestone at Lowell Cemetery
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Visit the Permanent Home of the Lowell Art Association at the Whistler House Museum of Art

If the name Whistler rings a bell, that must be because it was mentioned in Mr. Bean’s first movie.

The Whistler House Museum of Art is the birthplace of James McNeill Whistler, who was a famous painter and etcher.

This attraction, located on Worthen St, is a museum that displays his famous works and holds shows by artist members.

Explore the permanent collection, situated on the first and second floors and bedrooms, with one that houses Whistler’s etchings.

Proceed to the top floor to check the working artist studio and the Park Gallery in the rear part of the house to see the new exhibits.

If you want to see the richness and history of Lowell’s art, then the Whistler’s House Museum of Art is the place to be.

Get to Know Lowell’s Streetcar Better at the National Streetcar Museum

A steam locomotive and trolley at National Streetcar Museum
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You may have seen trolleys in other parts of the country, but you can’t miss knowing more about the one in Lowell.

Go to Shattuck St. to find the National Streetcar Museum, where interactive exhibits, displays, and activities await everyone of all ages.

On average, you will spend 45-60 minutes letting the kids enjoy the hands-on activities in the museum.

Body of a trolley streetcar at National Streetcar Museum
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It’s captivating, especially if you are fascinated by railroads, cars, and transit.

After your visit, cross the street to get to Mack Building to admire the exhibit that explains the influence of street railways on the city’s development.

There are also trolley ride tours that the kids and kids-at-heart will surely love.

Interior of a streetcar trolley at National Streetcar Museum
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Experience the Hidden Jewel of Lowell at the Concord River Greenway Park

Southend trail of Concord River Greenway Park
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Located on Davidson St., Lowell’s Concord River is a cultural, natural, scenic, and historical resource of the city.

A hidden jewel that offers peace and tranquility, the Concord River Greenway Park serves as a multi-use recreational trail that connects the city’s largest open spaces to the center of the city.

Aside from preserving the natural beauty and character of the Concord River, the park also aims to preserve its historic corridor, including the dams, mills, and arch bridge.

You may want to spend an entire day here to fully explore its offerings and understand why it’s such a popular park among locals and visitors.

See the Religious Side of Lowell by Visiting the St. Patrick Parish

St. Patrick Parish is a no-ordinary Catholic Church because it is the oldest Catholic parish in Greater Lowell and the third-oldest in the Boston Archdiocese.

Standing in the heart of the Acre neighborhood, the church and its community are dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Enjoy Boating at the Lowell Heritage State Park

Trail near the river at Lowell Heritage State Park
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If you can’t get enough outdoor fun in Lowell, then you shouldn’t miss the Lowell Heritage State Park on Pawtucket Blvd.

Here, it’s not just about exhibits that teach you about the city’s historical network of mills and canals.

The worker sculpture at Lowell Heritage State Park
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It’s also about its 2-mile waterfront stretch, which is great for boating and concerts.

It has a lighted paved river walkway that’s perfect for picnicking, running, strolling, or walking.

Aside from the boating program, you can also go fishing and swimming (supervised) on the river.

Enjoy the Sight of the Majestic Pawtucket Falls in Lowell

The rushing waters of Pawtucket Falls
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Want to see stunning views of a majestic falls without the hike?

Then, Pawtucket Falls is the perfect solution as it combines views with easy access.

Located on the Merrimack River in Lowell, the water looks like it’s located in the middle of the wilderness.

However, these are formed by the action of a dam, which is a historic landmark.

The downstream of Pawtucket Falls
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It’s amazing to note that the waterfall is created thanks to a rare hydraulic structure that releases water over the falls during high water levels or a flood.

And since you don’t need to hike to see it, you can easily stand on the adjacent bridge over the Merrimack River.

It’s close enough for an excellent view but far enough to keep you dry.

It’s best to come here in the spring or after a series of rainstorms to see the falls in all its glory.

Learn the Human Story of Lowell at the Patrick J. Morgan Cultural Center

With the aim to ‘tell the human story of Lowell,’ the Patrick J. Morgan Cultural Center, which opened in 1989, is a partnership between the National Historical Park and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Located on French St, it lets you go through the center to find programs, projects, and exhibits that reveal information about the city that you haven’t read before.

And if you’ve heard about the Angkor Dance Troupe, this center serves as its home.

Going around, you can learn about the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Lowell History and LNHP’s ‘Mill Girls and Immigrants.’

It’s interesting to note that the center was named after Dr. Patrick J. Morgan, a public visionary and educator who believed that the city could be an agent for promoting the reconnection of people to their cultural traditions and become a model for other communities.

Enjoy a Lazy Afternoon at the Shedd Park

John D. Lord pavilion marker at Shedd Park
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When you reach Rogers St, you’ll see a gate that’s all too familiar to the locals.

The gate opens to Shedd Park, a 50-acre park consisting of baseball diamonds, tennis courts, picnic areas, and a water spray park.

Looking at the place today, you wouldn’t even begin to imagine that the land used to be privately owned and was characterized by dense forests and open fields.

Exterior of John D. Lord pavilion at Shedd Park
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Then, in 1910, the owner of the land, Freeman B. Shedd, donated the land to the City of Lowell without any strings attached for as long as the city followed his instructions.

These were to use the piece of land only for recreational park purposes or as a playground for the people of Lowell and ensure that no building is erected on it except for those that are in relation to the said park, among others.

Today, it is considered the largest in the city, with an area of 50 acres.

So, aside from its scenic views and excellent amenities, coming here means witnessing a gift that the Lowell citizens truly treasure to this day.

Visit the Park Dedicated to Jack Kerouac Park

Get ready to be amazed by the Jack Kerouac Park, located on Bridge St. and dedicated to the influential Beat Generation author by the same name who was born in Lowell.

Jack was a poet and author of famous novels such as The Town and the City.

Born in 1922, he used Lowell as the setting of many of his novels.

While here, make sure to admire the granite monuments that are embossed with excerpts from the works of the writer.

Notice also the pathway that features some crosses and circles that represent Kerouac’s Roman Catholic and Buddhist beliefs.

Watch a Show at Lowell Memorial Auditorium

View of Lowell Memorial Auditorium
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It's never too late to get into the Broadway spirit when you're in Lowell.

And the best way to start is by visiting Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

Constructed in 1922, this auditorium is home to various events, including conventions and trade shows.

View of Lowell Memorial Auditorium
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In the past, it was famous for hosting Thursday night bingo games.

Now, the auditorium stands as both a memorial space and an indoor entertainment facility.

Amenities like the Hall of Flags and displayed War Tablets tell the story of many soldiers, military men, and heroes of duty.

And, of course, mark your calendars for Broadway season at this spectacular venue.

Downtown's striking landmark, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, is on Merrimack Street.

View of Lowell Memorial Auditorium
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Learn More about African Culture at the African Festival

Lowell's extensive collection of festivals and events is remarkable—each in their own way.

The African Festival is notable in its promise of culture and heritage originated several miles away on another continent.

This annual festival, first celebrated in 2000, brings an abundance of arts, food, and live performances.

Many African immigrants also gather during this event to celebrate their shared culture.

Be part of the July festivities at the African Festival when you drive by Pawtucket Boulevard, where it is usually celebrated.

Enjoy the Waterfront Scenery at Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival

Craving for an immersive cultural experience while in Lowell?

Then, you might like Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival.

This annual event, first celebrated in 1997, is an explosion of Southeast Asian traditions.

But unlike the usual Southeast Asian celebration, this festival puts a highlight on water.

The Laotians, Khmers, and Thais all celebrate water festivals as a way to pay tribute and offer gratitude to their deities.

And this is what Lowell is trying to emulate with this August festival.

If you wish to join this yearly event, anticipate good food, crafts booths, and amazing performances.

There are also boat races you can cheer on.

Head over to Pawtucket Boulevard to see what Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival has in store for you.

Explore the Woodlands and Gardens at Rogers Fort Hill Park

Along Park Avenue, Rogers Fort Hill Park sits as a natural beauty.

It spans over 11 acres of grass and 23 acres of woodland habitats.

Its most charming points are its collection of heritage trees, including sugar maples, Beech trees, and Camperdown Elms.

Come by at any season, and you'll find there's so much to see and explore at this park, too!

Cool off by the fountain during summertime, or choose to admire the colorful gardens during spring.

Rogers Fort Hill Park's hill slopes are also ideal for those who prefer sprinting to actual hiking as an outdoor sport.

Ride a Boat across the Wetlands at Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsborough State Forest

While not exclusive to Lowell, Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsborough State Forest is an exemplary masterpiece of nature and wetlands.

As the name suggests, this state park stretches over the towns of Dracut and Tyngsborough, too.

It spans over 1,000 acres and offers a variety of activities for the casual visitor.

Among the things you can do within this natural attraction include horseback riding, fishing, and even hunting.

You can also hike along its 6-mile trails.

If you're in Lowell, you can reach Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsborough State Forest from Trotting Park Road.

Final Thought

Lowell is one place that fascinates people in different ways.

Anyone who has come here can attest to its amazing sights and stories, many of which go centuries back.

When coming here, make sure to spend at least three days to fully imbibe the unique vibe of the city.

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