Weekend Sabbatical: Lowell, Massachusetts for the Afternoon

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Historical Mill District from the river

Last weekend, last minute, we decided to attend the Stout Festival at the Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Although we have enjoyed New England and the Boston area for four years now, we never actually spent any time in Worcester. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out both a city we haven’t enjoyed yet and one of the top rated beer bars in the world. And, yes, I did say world.

From Vermont, we usually take 89 south most of the way through Vermont and Massachusetts until we hit 93 south through Boston. This brings us through Lowell, MA which we hadn’t stopped at for a few years. Lowell is an old manufacturing center, mostly within the business of textiles. It is now, surprisingly, the four largest city in the state. The town is no longer centered on textile mills when it comes to the market, but the mills are still a major part of the town’s geography. In fact, much of the mill district has been restored, even becoming part of the Lowell National Historical Park.  Lowell is also the birthplace and burial place of Jack Kerouac, a well known novelist and poet of the beat generation.

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Upclose: Lowell Mill Equipment

We stopped for just a few hours, long enough to walk up and down the city streets, take in the old mill district, have some amazing lunch, and stop by Kerouac’s grave for the second time.

Highlights:

-History: You can learn a lot and get a better feel for the city if you take a moment to read the historical signs and outposts set up along the river, streets, and historical mill area. Having the mill as a backdrop to the city really allows you to envision it as it was in the 1800 and 1900’s.

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Jack’s Grave During Another Visit (Fall)

Jack Kerouac sites: Lowell is home to many important places in Jack’s early and later life. If you do some research before coming, you could stop by his childhood home, bars he frequented, parks he wrote in, and of course, where he is laid to rest.

-Culture and town life: When I hear of Lowell, I think of the average size Massachusetts town. However, Lowell is a city. Lowell is also a cultural hub, calling its home to many different ethnicities and cultures, evident by the different types of stores, churches, and clubs that call it home.

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Life Alive Wrap and Music

Before we left Lowell, we stopped by for music and lunch at Life Alive, located on Middle Street. This café calls a few different towns in Massachusetts home including Cambridge and Salem also.  There food is vegan and vegetarian, yet well known and delicious to all types of foodies. They infuse so much taste into every wrap, salad, and rice bowl, that it is hard to miss the meat. I heard this over and over from each meat eating foodie that stopped by. The atmosphere is also a lot of fun.

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New England Photo of the Day: Franconia Notch State Park, NH

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Franconia Notch State Park is located in the North West part of New Hampshire in the vast, yet pure white mountains. The park is made up of countless mountain hikes that run along the clearest of creeks, rivers, springs, and waterfalls. What is most unique about the area, though, are the boulders, rocks, and riverbanks that were formed by melting glaciers, over 25,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. The solid granite bedrock was smoothed down by years of erosion.

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The Basin (shown above) is a popular stop within Franconia and is an example of the glacial erosion along the great Pemigewasset River. Standing in front of the gigantic pothole, I get overwhelmed by thoughts of jumping in and splashing around. Interestingly enough, Henry David Thoreau, the American Naturalist, stood in the same spot in 1839. He described the pothole as, “perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.”

Franconia Notch is large and spread out with multiple places to park all along exits that jut off interstate 93. You could spend a 15 minute stop at the basin to days of camping because of the easy accessibility the park offers.

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Quick Trips: Gloucester & the Cape Ann Coastline

The Fisherman’s Memorial Statue, 1925.

Gloucester is a small, coastal town that I immediately felt a connection with the first time I visited. It is one of our favorite “quick trips” within New England, and we make sure we stop there every time we are in the Boston area. Located about a 40 minute drive north of Boston, Gloucester has both sandy, pristine beaches and rocky, wavy beaches. In and around Gloucester, you can also explore six different lighthouses and hang out at one of my favorite brew pubs.

Although part of the fun of visiting coastal Massachusetts is finding different beaches on your own, one of my favorite beaches is Wingaersheek Beach. I only recommend it in the off season, however, as it gets extremely crowded and can cost a pretty penny for parking. My favorite time to visit is in the off season, when it is freely open to everyone, and most of the visitors are locals and dogs. It can be too cold for swimming at this time, but you have the whole beach to play on, including exploring every little nook and cranny. You can’t beat the views from this beach, also, including one of Gloucester’s many lighthouses.

All over town you are likely to see the town’s logo, a captain steering a boat.

My favorite lighthouses to visit are the  Twin Lighthouses located on Thacher Island. They are also referred to as Cape Ann Light Station which is where Cape Ann Brewing (mentioned below) gets its name and logo from. Not only are these two lighthouses among some of America’s oldest (erected in 1789), but they point true North when a ship sites on both towers.

Cape Ann Brewing is the local brewpub right in town. They actually grow some of their hops on Thacher Island where the Twin Lighthouses reside. They offer a relaxing atmosphere complete with shuffle board and a deck right on the water. They also always have at least 6 beers on tap. If they happen to have their Tea Party beer on tap, make sure to check it out. It incorporates all of the teas from the Boston Tea Party that were destroyed. I’ll also personally recommend both the fish sandwich and fish tacos, but only after a game of shuffle board and a beer.

Wingaersheek Beach with a lighthouse in the distance.

Lastly, Gloucester is well known for its lobster and fishing history. If you are only able to visit Gloucester once, make sure to do you research the area so that you can experience both the history of the town and the seafood. I’d recommend this site to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. If you are lucky enough to live in New England (like me!), Gloucester is the perfect reoccurring quick trip.