Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Worcester, MA

  • Published 2022/11/08

Worcester is a city in Worcester County in Central Massachusetts.

It flaunts many points of interest built or formed over its 300-year history.

Because of the early development of this city, it features 285 districts and properties in the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors of Worcester can visit many of these destinations for free and offer charming glimpses of the evolution and growth of the city.

Worcester was founded as a town of the British New England colony in 1722 and named after the cathedral city of Worcester in England.

Incorporated as a city in 1848, Worcester became known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth” because of its central location in Massachusetts.

The heart representing the city symbolizes the vibrancy and warmth awaiting its visitors.

Check out what this city holds for you on the following list of free things to do in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Enjoy a Picnic at Elm Park

The waters of Elm Park

Jay Yuan /

Worcester boasts 1,200 acres of publicly owned land, with a sizable portion devoted to winsome recreational areas like Elm Park on Russell Street.

Established in 1854, this park spans 60 acres and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Park Avenue splits Elm Park in two, with much of the west side offering wooded trails.

This area also features four lighted tennis courts and a basketball court, also lighted.

Fall foliage at Elm Park

Jay Yuan /

The park’s eastern side holds ponds for winter ice skating and two restored iron bridges spanning Lincoln Pond in the middle of the park.

This side of Elm Park also provides a picnic area and a playground.

A short distance east of the park on Elm Street is the Worcester Historical Museum.

Visitors can learn much about local and national history for a minimal entrance fee.

A bridge at Elm Park

Jay Yuan /

Launch a Boat at Morgan Landing

Boaters eyeing Indian Lake can launch their watercraft at Morgan Landing on Grove Street.

This park spans 2.9 acres, with its boat launch located beside the tennis court and in this public facility.

You can launch motorized and non-motorized boats from Morgan Landing, providing a spacious parking area, walking path, and fishing dock.

Indian Lake provides plenty of opportunities for recreational fishing, with its ample population of panfish, especially black crappie.

Good-sized white and yellow perch, along with common carp, also live in the lake.

They are also abundant and average between five and ten pounds.

Stroll along the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District

Street sign of Massachusetts Avenue Historic District

Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Worcester has several historic districts.

The Massachusetts Avenue Historic District is one of the most striking stretches.

The Massachusetts Avenue Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

One historic site and 11 contributing buildings accounted for the district’s listing in the national registry.

The district’s historic buildings represent fine examples of several architectural designs, including the Arts and Crafts movement, Victorian, Bungalow, and Prairie styles.

Exterior of a house at Massachusetts Avenue Historic District

Mcvoorhis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For superb renditions of the Renaissance, Italianate, and Romanesque architectural styles, proceed to the historic Mechanics’ Hall District.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, this district struts a 19th-century look in several buildings.

Located between Foster and Exchange Streets, these historic Main Street structures include Mechanics Hall and the Worcester Five Cents Savings Bank building.

Take a historic stroll along the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District!

A house at Massachusetts Avenue Historic District

Mcvoorhis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swing to the Beat at the Elm Park Summer Concert Series

Park Spirit, a non-profit in Worcester, organizes and coordinates the Elm Park Summer Concert Series.

This non-profit, behind some 50 park events in Worcester, started free summer concerts in 1995.

The free shows in Elm Park on Elm Street are on Thursday nights.

Concert-goers can park on Russel Street or at the nearby grounds of the Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

The concert features a wide variety of music genres to make the event appealing to various musical preferences.

Explore the Farm on Green Hill Park

A pond at Green Hill Park

Monika Salvan /

Accessible via Officer Manny Familia Way, Green Hill Park is Worchester’s largest park at nearly 500 acres.

This scenic park spreads atop one of the seven main hills of Worcester and offers a wide selection of amenities.

The park features a free-of-charge farm open to the public and well-suited for families with children.

Picnic shed at Green Hill Park

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park’s diverse offerings include the 30-acre Green Hill Pond, where visitors can go fishing.

A state-wide Vietnam Veterans Memorial is near the pond.

Other park facilities include picnic areas, gazebos, playgrounds, an arboretum, a golf course, and ballfields for soccer, softball, and football.

Conquer the Worcester East-West Trail

You can tackle the Worcester East-West Trail from its trailhead on Esper Ave off Midgley Avenue and Mill Street.

This trail extends over 14 miles traversing 20 parks and green spaces of the city and offering fantastic overlooking views at high points along the way.

This trail will take you to the shores of Lake Quinsigamond on the easternmost border of Worcester.

Hiking westward, you will traverse God’s Acre, a nature preserve noted for its historical landmark Deed Rock.

Other interesting spots along the trail before it reaches Worcester’s western border with Paxton include Coal Mine Brook, Tetasset Ridge, and Cascading Water.

Enjoy the outdoors at the Worcester East-West Trail.

Take a Dip at Quinsigamond State Park

Benches overlooking the waters of Quinsigamond State Park

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Accessible via North Lake Avenue in Worcester, this state park has the 5.5-mile-long Lake Quinsigamond (also known as Long Pond) as a centerpiece.

Visitors can enter Massachusetts state parks for free but may have to pay for parking.

You can pick from two sites at the Quinsigamond State Park, one at Regatta Point, with picnics, swimming, sailing, and fishing facilities.

The other option, the Lake Area, also has a beach for swimming, a picnic site, and tennis courts.

Non-motorized boating is allowed in the lake; during winter, the park is suitable for cross-country skiing.

The park also features nature trails for hikers and runners.

Get a Tan at Shore Park

Shore Park is on the northern shore of Indian Lake, with waters over some 200 acres on the northwest side of Worcester.

Formerly known as North Pond, this lake was once part of the Blackstone Canal that connected Worcester with Rhode Island, stimulating economic growth in the region.

The canal closed at the end of the 19th century, with the railroad’s dominance serving Worcester and its nearby areas.

Indian Lake eventually became a lovely setting for recreational destinations like Shore Park.

This five-acre park offers a large beach for swimming, with a lifeguard on duty during summer.

Other park facilities include a picnic area, walkways, bathrooms, restrooms, and a first-aid room.

On the lake’s eastern side, a smaller, 1.8-acre Indian Lake Beach on Sherburne Avenue is also open to the public.

Stage a Photoshoot at Salisbury Park

Bancroft tower at Salisbury Park

Jay Yuan /

Visit Salisbury Park on Massachusetts Avenue, where the historic Bancroft Tower provides a perfect setting for a photoshoot.

The 12-acre park and its impressive tower hold fort atop Prospect Hill offer some of the most beautiful overlooking views of Worcester.

The Bancroft Tower is the only survivor among the three towers built on high points of Worcester.

The tower’s stone walkway features a locator map to help visitors identify the city’s distant hills.

Built in 1900, the castle-like tower honors George Bancroft, a prominent local politician, statesman, and writer.

Spend the Day at Coes Pond Parks

Worcester boasts several public recreational facilities around the Coes Reservoir that locals commonly call Coes Pond.

You can explore the 20.79 acres of green and blue reservoir space that constitute the Coes Pond Parks through its five miles of pathways linked to the East-West Trail.

This five-mile path includes the Coes Reservoir Boardwalk, accessible via Circuit Avenue North.

You can get to the Coes Pond Parks’ playground off Mill Street through the boardwalk.

The playground is of universal design with two fenced-in sections—one for the older kids and the other for the younger ones.

Visitors to the playground can enjoy a musical play area or try a rock climbing section.

There is a lot of equipment for climbing and options for parent-and-child swings.

The playground features a rubber surface and wide paths, making the playground accessible to seniors and visitors on wheelchairs.

Aside from its unique, multi-generational play equipment, the Coes Pond Parks also provides a picnic area, a fishing spot, and a birdwatchers’ blind.

Visit the Worcester Art Museum

Exterior of the Worcester Art Museum

Wangkun Jia /

Founded in 1896, the Worcester Art Museum is on Salisbury Street, among the attractions in the Salisbury Cultural District.

Admission to all visitors is free on the first Sunday of each month.

The museum is home to more than 38,000 artworks from across the globe, dating from antiquity to the present.

Welcome sign of Worcester Art Museum

Jay Yuan /

Its displays include some of the finest U.S. collections of Roman mosaics, masterpieces of American and European artists, and an outstanding collection of Japanese prints.

The museum also houses the John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection, one of America’s largest arms and armor collections.

Catch a Free Event at Worcester Common Oval

Year-round events are programmed at the Worcester Common Oval on Main Street, which you can enjoy for free.

This place hosts the Out to Lunch Festival and Farmers Market during summer, which the city organizes annually.

Besides the food stalls and wares of crafters and artists, this event also features outdoor concerts.

Free film showings are also hosted at the Worcester Common Oval during summer.

In winter, the fun shifts to the Oval’s 12,000-square-foot rink, where piped-in music enlivens the mood of skaters and visitors alike.

Meet the American Antiquarian Society

Exterior of the American Antiquarian Society

Harold Stiver /

The American Antiquarian Society is a learned association that meets in a research library on Salisbury Street.

The society offers free public tours of its headquarters and library every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.

Revolutionary War patriot Isaiah Thomas, a printer, founded the society in 1812.

Building sign of American Antiquarian Society

Keraniluna, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The public tours take visitors to the introductory gallery of the society and its 18th-century printing press.

The tours also cover the society’s conservation and learning lab spaces, the reading room, and the library stacks.

In the AAS library, you will find the largest and most readily accessible collection of books and other published materials printed through 1876.

Take the Kids to Cristoforo Colombo Park

Lion sculpture at Cristoforo Colombo Park's entrance

Tim Pierce, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as East Park, this public facility is on Shrewsbury Street and is part of a vibrant and busy commercial district.

A pair of stone griffins will immediately grab your attention upon arrival at the 23-acre Cristoforo Colombo Park.

The kids will delight in the Cristofor Colombo Park beyond these two sculpted winged lions.

They can try the park’s splash pad, ever-inviting in its water spouts.

Besides this attraction, the park also features a state-of-the-art playground, lighted football fields, two basketball courts, a tennis court, and an amphitheater.

On the park’s hillsides are trail links to the sprawling Green Hill Park extending to Lake Quinsigamond.

Visit the Hadwen Arboretum

Nature trail at Hadwen Arboretum

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This woodland sanctuary is located at the intersection of May and Lovell Streets at the heart of Worcester.

Hadwen Arboretum is named after a noted local horticulturist Obadiah Hadwen who willed this 6.4-acre lush, green space to Clark University in 1907.

Hikers can also access the arboretum as it lies mid-way through the Worcester East-West Trail.

The arboretum is a green preserve on the ancestral land of the Nipmuc Nation and features its trail network.

Along these trails are various herbaceous and woody plant species, including unique, century-old heritage trees.

A flourishing community garden of the Regional Environmental Council of Worcester is also located in the greenhouse.

Final Thoughts

Visitors can enjoy plenty of free things to do in Worcester, given its well-developed public parks and green spaces.

As delightful for visitors on a budget, the city holds events and festivals you can enjoy without burning a hole in your pocket.

Discover the free things to do in Worcester, Massachusetts!

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