History, Arts & Heritage in Central Massachusetts
If you’re into folk art and Christmas collectibles, the first stop en route from Boston should be a visit to and factory tour of Vaillancourt Folk Art in Sutton. It is one of only three American factories that still craft Christmas plaster ware from antique candy moulds. The tours include a behind the scenes journey of what makes Vaillancourt chalkware such a fine collectible: starting with the pouring technique that still uses moulds dating back to the 19th century when a gift of chocolate was a special treasure and every small European village had a chocolate shop, to the hand painting, antiquing, and signing of each piece.
If you’re intrigued by natural beauty, then Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton warrants a visit. The chasm runs for a quarter of a mile between granite walls rising as high as 70 feet. Popular with picnickers and rock-climbers alike, the Chasm is believed to have its origin in the sudden release of dammed-up glacial meltwater near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 years ago. Hiking trails wind through this gorgeous 1,300 hundred acre park, culminating with the dramatic gorges, just begging to be tackled by the experienced climber or explored by curious kids.
After picking your apples, consider traveling back in time to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, which is a “must-see” destination to experience early New England life from 1790-1840. At Old Sturbridge Village you will come face-to-face with the past and the events that shaped life from the late 1700s to early 1800s. The Village will catapult you into a country town, where everyday life was a series of struggles and triumphs. Be a part of history as you journey into rural New England and come away with a profound sense of the past each and every time you visit. One of the country’s largest living history museums, OSV has a large staff of costumed interpreters, 59 historic buildings on 200 acres.
Visit Charlton Orchards Farm and Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery in Charlton for a taste of Massachusetts produce. The farm store, winery, and orchard stand on a farm founded in 1733. The views and vistas defy description. Their bakery produces fresh fruit pies, cider donuts, apple dumplings, and to-die-for gourmet cookies. Pick your own fruit is available beginning with strawberries in June, blueberries and raspberries in July and August, peaches in August, and apples and pears in September and October. The winery, producing the best in handcrafted fruit and grape wines, is open year-round and sponsors tasting events throughout the year.
Head back to the town of Sturbridge to explore the many shops and antique stores along the main streets before finishing out your day with a rich meal enjoyed by the fireplace at Publick House Historic Inn or at Vienna Historic Inn & Restaurant in nearby Southbridge, a charming historic inn with Old World Austrian, German, French, and Swiss cuisines. To the north in West Brookfield is another country gem of a restaurant, Salem Cross Inn. A family run restaurant since its opening in 1961, the Salem Cross Inn hosts a number of special events re-enacting colonial history and cooking including the Drover’s Roast.