The Massachusetts town of Sturbridge has something for everyone, minus the crowds, noise and bustle of a major city. For Nutmeggers looking for a day-cation or a weekend getaway, Sturbridge’s location is a bonus. An easy 45-minute drive from Hartford, the area draws sightseers who would rather devote their vacation hours to fun than lengthy travel time in the car.
“Sturbridge is a great ‘hub and spokes’ town because of its highway access,” says Alexandra McNitt, executive director of the Chamber of Central Mass South. While its location has given rise to a “thriving wedding business,” with myriad choices from the rustic Highland Orchards to the top-of-the-line Publick House, most out-of-towners choose the Sturbridge area for its scenery and sightseeing opportunities.
Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum with an international reputation, is the area’s prime historical attraction, while antiquing, outdoor recreational activities, theater and unique events attract thousands of visitors each year. The Stageloft Repertory Theater, for example, “constantly receives five stars for its plays,” McNitt says.
Special events draw repeat visitors to the area. The highlight of the Village’s August calendar is the popular Redcoats & Rebels weekend Aug. 5 and 6. The largest military enactment in New England, the event features about 1,000 “soldiers” representing British, Irish, Spanish, Scottish, French, and Colonial troops. “There are cannon demonstrations and [soldiers] running across the fields in the village actively portraying battle scenes,” McNitt says. “It’s wild.”
“Kids love this event,” she says, adding that they can learn 18th-century dances, play 18th-century baseball and watch musket drilling. New this year is a VIP admission package that includes a barbecue chicken dinner at Oliver Wright Tavern, a special battle-viewing area and exclusive access to Twilight Encampment on Saturday evening. For more information and advance ticket sales, visit www.osv.org.
Adventure lovers of all ages flock to the C-Mass Geofest (www.c-massgeofest.org), a five-day festival built around an outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS devices to find geocache containers outfitted with a logbook and, often, items to trade. The main events will take place Aug. 19, but other activities scheduled between Aug.16-20 include a kayak trip, a barbecue at BT’s Smokehouse and a marshmallow roast and introduction to night caching. The Geofest, produced by the Chamber of Central Mass South and sponsored by the Sturbridge Tourist Association, also features classes, seminars and children’s activities.
“There is a really interesting group of people who attend,” McNitt says. “It’s extremely family-oriented, and you also find a lot of retired couples who are into this. [The events are] outside and largely free of charge, and it’s something you can do together.”
Other more adult-friendly activities center on a burgeoning craft beer scene and the famous Brimfield Antique Flea Markets. The final antiques sale for 2017 will take place Sept. 5-10 when the charming town of Brimfield (population: 3,609) turns into a mega-flea market. Thousands of dealers set up their wares at 21 different shows in and around the town. For more information, visit www.brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com.
Just in time for peak foliage season is the 28th Annual Harvest Festival Oct. 14-15. Set up on the Sturbridge Town Common and on the grounds of the Publick House, the salute to fall features crafters and artisans, specialty food vendors and trucks, farm-fresh produce, music and entertainment. A festival highlight is the scarecrow contest sponsored by the Publick House.
For the over-21 set, microbrew mania is alive and well in Sturbridge. “The region as a whole is really having a craft beer movement,” McNitt says. “A couple [of microbreweries] have opened in the immediate area and two more are opening soon.” Old Sturbridge Village also contributes to the craze with a summer Craft Beer & Roots Music festival each year.
Rapscallion brews its beers in a 1940s apple barn surrounded by a 150-acre orchard, and usually keeps about a dozen brews on tap. The brewery has a sister restaurant in Acton, Mass., while a food truck, open Thursday through Sunday, offers a menu for those who sample one of the dozen beers on tap. Rapscallion introduces its summer brew at its own Summerfest, and hosts live music on weekends.
Homefield Brewing, also in Sturbridge, opened in 2016 and combines a tapas bar, beers made with local hops, and live music. “They focus on bringing in jazz groups and have a kind of hang-out atmosphere,” McNitt says. The microbreweries complement a flourishing restaurant scene in the area.
The Sturbridge area offers myriad opportunities for an enjoyable getaway. For more information, visit www.sturbridgetownships.com.