15 Best Things to Do in Sturbridge, MA

Sturbridge, MA
Jeff Schultes / Shutterstock.com

It’s safe to say that you won’t find a better piece of living history than Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

The town has become a critical part of American history since its settling in 1729, which you can see at the Old Sturbridge Village.

Inside this village, you’ll trace American history in microcosm through the lives of Massachusetts residents in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, Sturbridge also doesn’t suffer a shortage of tourist activities.

For one, you can grab your fill of delicious local food and craft beer.

Likewise, you can visit public parks and participate in the town’s vibrant arts scene.

All these options just show you that Sturbridge has retained its unique charm from past to present.

Do you want to know more about Sturbridge, MA?

Check out this list of the best things to do in town.

Step Into History at the Old Sturbridge Village

View of Old Sturbridge Village
Connie Hand / Shutterstock.com

If you want a truly immersive historical experience, look no further than the Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

You may not believe it, but this village is an outdoors museum, and it’s also the largest one in the Northeast United States.

You’ll see exactly how the early Massachusetts settlers lived in an 1830s rural town inside this village.

View of Old Sturbridge Village
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

You’ll find over 40 original buildings, such as homes, a district school, a farm, a bank, trade shops, and meetinghouses.

These buildings stand on 200 acres, with plenty of gorgeous scenery in between.

Historians wearing period costumes will also guide you through the trip.

Visit the Old Sturbridge Village at 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA 01566.

View of Old Sturbridge Village
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Grab Souvenirs at Sturbridge Pottery

Since 1976, the family-owned Sturbridge Pottery has become one of the city’s major tourist attractions.

The owners, Gary and Ann Malone, are master potters and veterans at their craft.

If you want to see them in action, just visit their store from April to December.

During your visit, you might also want to grab some of their wares yourself.

People all over the country buy Sturbridge pots, which make for unique and fun souvenirs.

Just browse their selections to see if there’s anything you like.

For example, you can get some platters, pie plates, or vases.

Visit Sturbridge Pottery at 99 New Boston Rd, Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Explore the Outdoors at the Westville Recreation Area

Along the Quinebaug River lies the Westville Recreation Area, another terrific spot to spend the day with family or friends.

For example, you can enjoy a picnic under the group shelters or the picnic cove.

You can also have a whole open field to yourselves if you like.

Otherwise, you can go out on the water from the park’s canoe or kayak launches.

If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the local wildlife along the riverside.

Of course, you can always just go hiking.

If you go out on the water, you’ll be cruising on a slow-current river, where you can also fish.

The park also offers a shiny ice-skating pond during the winter.

Likewise, the surrounding hills give you excellent sledding opportunities.

Reflect on Life at the St. Anne’s Shrine

The St. Anne Shrine in Sturbridge began out of a miracle and a promise.

What was the promise?

In 1879, Monsignor Elzear Brochu pledged to build a shrine devoted to St. Anne if she helped him regain health.

Four years later, he had the St. Anne Church built.

Several miracles have also helped spread the good word around the populace.

The Sturbridge Shrine received an authentic relic of St. Anne in 1893.

Today, the St. Anne Shrine also features a museum, which holds a collection of genuine Russian icons.

Many of these icons came from Assumptionist chaplains who served in Moscow from 1934 to 1999.

You can visit the outdoor chapel or the votive chapel if you simply want to reflect.

You can also follow the stations of the cross or pray for help from the various statues of saints there.

Visit the St. Anne Shrine at 16 Church St., Fiskdale, Sturbridge, MA 01518-1199.

Explore 1830s Sturbridge at the Salem Towne House

Front View of Salem Towne House
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside the Old Sturbridge Village, you’ll find the Salem Towne House, constructed in 1796.

The impressive house features design elements that wowed people in its day and continue to amaze to the present.

Salem Towne, Jr. inherited the house in 1825.

He and his wife Sally lived there, where Salem exercised his various pursuits, such as farming, land surveying, and leading the community.

If you observe the sitting room, you’ll find evidence of his many operations.

Inside View of Salem Towne House
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

On the first floor, you’ll also find a cast-iron stove, reflecting the wealth of the Townes in the 1830s.

Besides the stove, the house’s furnishings are also a blend of imported and locally made goods.

The fancy design of the house also reflects the Townes’ social status.

You can also find a garden outside, which is arranged symmetrically.

It also contains different types of ornamental plants and décor.

Enjoy Craft Beer at the Altruist Brewing Company

Indulge your love of beer at the Altruist Brewing Company, believing that beer can do great things.

The owners, Bob and Nancy, began this operation from their garage, attracting curious neighbors.

Eventually, word of mouth spread, and they made new friends from their well-received “tasting parties.”

True to its name, the company concocts hand-crafted beer with passion and love for the customer.

They always use excellent ingredients to create a flavorful and strong beer for everyone to enjoy.

For instance, you can enjoy their IPAs, stouts, ales, pilsners, and more.

Visit the Altruist Brewing Company at 559 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA 01518.

Go Hiking Along the Tantiusques Trail

The historic Tantiusques trail is another notable hiking area for travelers.

When you start hiking, you’ll pass through serene woodlands, ultimately leading to an abandoned lead mine.

This lead mine is a historical site where Indigenous peoples and European settlers extracted lead.

Historically, the Nipmuc tribe went to Tantiusques to gather graphite for making their paints.

When the Europeans settled the land, they mined lead from the site, making it one of New England’s first mines.

The mine began to boom and created fortunes for several entrepreneurs who founded pencil companies, among others.

Check Out Unique Items at Sadie Green’s Curiosity Shop

In the early 1970s, one woman started the shop because she wanted to earn from her passion for antique jewelry.

Combined with hard work and ambition, this love helped build success for Sadie Green.

Today, it’s one of Sturbridge’s premier attractions.

What can you buy at Sadie Green’s?

Besides jewelry, the store also offers various accessories and gift items.

For example, you can buy lamps, art glass, handbags, unique clothing, children’s toys, and various Americana.

Likewise, Sadie Green also reproduces vintage jewelry, such as items in the Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco styles.

The store assembles these items by hand with stamped metal findings that are period-accurate.

Visit Sadie Green’s Curiosity Shop at 283 Main St., Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Go Fishing at the Walker Pond

View of Walker Pond
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to fish in Sturbridge, you can go off Route 49 on the way to Wells State Park to find Walker Pond.

This brown pond is home to various warm-water fish.

Bring your rods and poles and fish for good-sized largemouth bass and chain pickerel to your hearts’ content.

If you want to trypan fishing, you can go for the pond’s large bluegills, white perch, and yellow perch.

In the winter, you can also go ice fishing at Walker Pond. It’s a major ice fishing spot.

Revisit History at the Sturbridge Common Historic District

If you still want more history after visiting the Old Sturbridge Village, you can head to the city center for the Sturbridge Common Historic District.

Why is this district important?

The district contains the town common, which the first settlers established in 1738.

For centuries, this place has stood strong.

You’ll find several historical buildings in various architectural styles inside the district.

For instance, you can drop by the 1838 Greek Revival Town Hall or the 1896 Joshua Hyde Library Building.

If you want to see the oldest building in Sturbridge, though, you’ll need to go to the Publick House, a tavern erected in 1772.

Since its construction, this place has become an unmissable south Sturbridge fixture.

The National Register of Historic Places recognized this district in 1977.

Visit the Sturbridge Common Historic District at 308 Main St., Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Stay the Night at the Publick House Historic Inn

In the heart of New England lies the Publick House Historic Inn, located at Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

This hotel is your spot if you’re looking to book a night in a historical building.

Since its construction in 1772, this place has served all sorts of customers.

First, it ran as a tavern, and now it’s a hotel.

At this inn, you’ll find two restaurants whose offerings are a blast from the past, reminding you of the lifestyles of the first settlers in the area.

The inn is also a prime venue for weddings, bridal showers, and other major events.

The Publick House Historic Inn also contains tall majestic elm trees that have stood on the property since 1791.

Colonel Ebenezer Crafts planted these trees in the 18th century, and they continue to shade guests to this day.

Book a night at the Publick House Historic Inn, located at 277 Main St., Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Spend the Day at Wells State Park

View of Wells State Park
6SN7, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At Sturbridge, there’s no better place to get lost than Wells State Park, a 1400-acre public space that’s perfect for outdoor recreation.

You’ll never run out of things to do in this park.

Why?

Its 12 miles of trails offer limitless options, such as hiking, horseback riding, and even cross-country skiing.

You can try following the one leading to the Carpenter Rocks cliffs among the trails.

These rocks get their name from John Carpenter, who ran a nearby sawmill.

Otherwise, you can grab your cameras and take all the photos you want of Walker Pond and the wooded valley around.

Visit Wells State Park at 159 Walker Pond Rd, Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Explore Nature at the Opacum Woods

This 266-acre property is the perfect location for travelers who want to see nature up close and personal.

Since it’s also a permanent conservation area, the woods also provide a home to various flora and fauna.

The woods contain four miles of trails, with specific Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green markers.

What can you see in the park?

You can traverse swamps, vernal pools, and woodland ponds.

Depending on your route, you can see unique wildlife living in diverse habitats.

Some of these animals are rare, too.

You might also find historical markers on your hike, so keep your eyes peeled.

Visit the Opacum Woods at 7-1 Old Brook Cir, Sturbridge, MA 01566.

Learn to Paint at the Brush It Off Paint & Sip Bar

Inside the Sturbridge Marketplace at the Falls, you’ll find the Brush It Off Paint & Sip Bar, a great outlet for your budding artistic impulses.

What can you do there?

You can learn to paint and create your masterpieces while sipping wine.

Bring your friends or family and paint the afternoon red!

Who knows, maybe you’ll even make new friends there?

Since it’s inside a mall, you can easily bring snacks to Brush It Off.

You can also order food from the Stone and Sparrow store below the studio.

Visit the Brush It Off Paint & Sip Bar at 559 Main St., Fiskdale, MA 01518.

Other Places Nearby

Study the History of Optics at the Optical Heritage Museum

Just minutes away from Sturbridge, the Optical Heritage Museum in Southbridge, Massachusetts, seeks to educate guests about the influence of optics on modern society.

This museum isn’t just for people with glasses.

We don’t think about optics very much, but this science gave us our smartphone screens, for example.

Inside the museum, you’ll find various exhibits detailing the history of optics.

You’ll find thousands of vintage artifacts, such as microscopes, Lensometers, and the first spectacles.

Likewise, you’ll see the evolution of protective eyewear through a century.

Visit the Optical Heritage Museum at 12 Crane St., Southbridge, MA 01550.

Final Thoughts

Sturbridge is the place for travelers who want a taste of history and nature in equal measure.

If you want to experience what life was like in the 1800s and follow it up with a journey to the woods, then book your trip to Sturbridge today!