Discover Here and Now in Sturbridge, MA

Full of exciting dining and diversions, this destination town is about so much more than “days of yore.”

By Yankee Editors

Jun 20 2022


Old Sturbridge Village

Photo Credit : Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village

By Andrea McHugh; sponsored by the Town of Sturbridge

Blending American history and contemporary appeal, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, is a one-of-a-kind destination that invites explorers of all kinds. This picturesque town has been dubbed the “Crossroads of New England” since the 1600s, and the name rings truer than ever today: Sturbridge lies just an hour southwest of Boston, a short drive from Rhode Island, and minutes from the Connecticut border (the town’s central location is made clear at the nearby Tri-State Marker, a landmark since 1883). Sturbridge’s location in the heart of southern Central Massachusetts makes it an ideal rendezvous point for visitors meeting up from across New England as well as New York State.

Boasting a major cultural attraction in the form of Old Sturbridge Village — set on more than 200 scenic acres and dotted with 40 historic buildings — the town of Sturbridge has plenty more to help visitors fill their day trip or weekend getaway.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village

In the early days, Sturbridge was an important junction on an advanced trail system forged by indigenous peoples that was later traveled by west- and northbound English settlers. Thus, an impressive collection of restored buildings in the town date back to the 1730s — the greatest concentration of which can be found at Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast. It’s easy to feel like a time traveler here, peering in as long-ago rural New England life unfolds before your eyes.

But being far more than just a “ye olde” attraction, Sturbridge is hardly stuck in the past. Here you will find a flourishing culinary scene, local craft breweries, and skilled artisans creating modern-day heirlooms. Factor in the wealth of natural attractions — scenic rivers and ponds, endless miles of trails, thousands of protected acres — and visitors to Sturbridge can truly choose their own adventure.

For in-the-know foodies, top-notch dining is as synonymous with Sturbridge as history and antiques-hunting. Chef Brian Treitman, a Culinary Institute of America alum, is the mastermind behind B.T.’s Smokehouse, a lauded barbecue joint that takes a cue from Southern traditions by dry-rubbing meats before slow-smoking them (in this case, over local cherry and hickory wood).

Since 2007, chef Brian Treitman’s B.T.’s Smokehouse has been dishing up award-winning barbecue, from ribs to brisket to pulled pork.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of B.T.’s Smokehouse

Another culinary standout is chef Enrico Giovanello, who’s had his hand in a number of successful dining ventures, from Enrico’s Brick Oven Pizzeria to Cedar Street Grille, a reimagined classic bistro, and Avellino, a love letter to traditional Italian cooking. He also helped to hatch the seasonally driven menu at The Duck, a memorable dining spot housed in a rustic 19th-century barn loft. Meanwhile, chef Ken Yukimura has surf and turf covered: He and his team run the popular steak joint Sturbridge Porterhouse as well as Sturbridge Seafood, which draws diners seeking dock-to-plate fare such as pan-seared scallops, fish tacos, and mussels fra diavolo.

Though farm-to-table restaurants abound here, the town also delights food lovers with its weekly Sturbridge FarmersMarket on the town common. From early June through mid-October, local growers and artisan producers unite to offer the fruits (and veggies) of their labor, including beekeepers selling their syrupy nectar and bakers offering an array of sweet treats.

All summer long and into autumn, the Sturbridge Farmers Market is the place to meet local growers and artisans and load up on fresh produce and handmade gifts.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of the Town of Sturbridge

The market’s charm is undeniable as visitors and townsfolk gather, chat, and shop, many with a cold brew or latte from Sturbridge Coffee Roasters or The Rose Room in hand. In addition to picking up snacks, spices, crafts, and more, visitors can also collect no shortage of advice from locals eager to recommend a lunch spot or a favorite watering hole.

For the freshest suds, however, beer aficionados will want to make tracks to the area’s breweries. The standout here is Tree House Brewing Company: One of the most acclaimed in New England — and considered to be among the best in the nation — Tree House was founded more than a decade ago in a barn in neighboring Brimfield, and today the Charlton location, surrounded by age-old oak and hickory trees, is the flagship, which also boasts a distillery, a coffee roaster, and plenty of room to roam.

Chairs and picnic tables scattered across Tree House Brewing Company’s Charlton campus invite visitors to kick back with a brew, accompanied by tasty bites from visiting food trucks.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Tree House Brewing Company

Right in downtown Sturbridge, you’ll find Altruist Brewing Company, which crafts small-batch ales and IPAs to serve up in its lively taproom, sited in a 150-year-old-mill. Another popular spot is Rapscallion Pub, pouring craft beers from the acclaimed microbrewery located just up the road, in Spencer.

A different kind of spirits adventure can be had just a short drive from Sturbridge, at either Brimfield Winery & Cidery in Brimfield or Echo Hill Orchards Winery & Distillery in Monson. Family-owned and equally enchanting, these two destinations offer various award-winning vintages and events calendars filled with live music and fun food happenings. Come late summer, Echo Hill opens its orchards for folks to pick their own apples, peaches, sunflowers, pears, pumpkins, and wildflowers.

From its signature fruit wines to creative spirits such as blackberry moonshine and smoked maple bacon bourbon whiskey, there’s plenty to tempt the taste buds at Echo Hill Orchards Winery & Distillery in Monson. Plus: Check out the sunset tractor rides!
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Echo Hill Orchards Winery & Distillery

Though searching out antique treasures is a favorite pastime in any historic New England town, Sturbridge ups the ante with crafts and gifts to suit the modern palate. Its community of contemporary makers includes artisans Gary and Ann Malone, owners of the clay studio and gallery Sturbridge Pottery, which attracts collectors and intrigued passers-by alike. Main Street’s The Painted Stone Emporium is less of a shop and more of an eclectic treasure chest, with nooks full of crystals, jewelry-making supplies, plants, and locally made art and gifts. Also worth browsing is Lake Road Living, a clothing boutique that highlights locally made goods by women artisans, including jewelry and wellness products.

No two pieces are exactly alike among the handcrafted stoneware, porcelain, and raku created by husband-and-wife artisans Gary and Ann Malone at Sturbridge Pottery.
Photo Credit : Photo by Ann Malone/Sturbridge Pottery

Nature lovers, meanwhile, will find themselves in the heart of more than 6,000 acres of preserved land, as almost 20 percent of the town’s entire footprint is dedicated open space. Leadmine Mountain Conservation Area is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and bird and wildlife viewing. Locals agree a trek on Raven Rookery Trail is well worth the effort, as the path leads to a hidden, emerald-hued lagoon you won’t soon forget. But for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and swimming, you can’t beat Walker Pond at Wells State Park, where the best scenic view is arguably the cliffs of Carpenter Rocks.

Whether exploring by foot or bike, visitors to Sturbridge can take advantage of miles of trails laced though the town’s beautiful green spaces.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of the Town of Sturbridge

Though history will always be part of Sturbridge’s allure, and timeless scenes such as white church steeples and old stone walls will undoubtedly inspire an Instagram snap or two, you don’t have to look very far past its classic façade to find a vibrant destination for today’s travelers. Truly, Sturbridge remains a crossroads — of past, present, and future.

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