15 Best Things to Do in Auburn (MA)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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South of Worcester, Auburn is a town of 17,000 incorporated as “Ward” in 1778. This name didn’t stick as it was too similar to the nearby town of Ware, so the new name of Auburn was chosen in 1837.

Auburn has a special place in modern history, as it was here that the engineer and inventor Dr. Robert Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first liquid propelled rockets, paving the way for the age of space exploration.

You can visit the site of this launch, which is now a golf course, while there’s a replica of the rocket at the Goddard Memorial Park by the Auburn Fire Department Headquarters.

When it comes to shopping, Auburn is home to the Worcester area’s main enclosed mall, and the open-air Shoppes at Blackstone Valley is a few minutes away in Millbury.

1. College of the Holy Cross

College of the Holy CrossSource: Wangkun Jia / shutterstock
College of the Holy Cross

Set on a steep hill just north of Auburn, the campus of the Jesuit liberal arts College of the Holy Cross is often named among the most beautiful in the country.

An emblem for this institution is the magnificent O’Kane Hall (1895), crested by a clock tower. This building is attached to the flagship Fenwick Hall, which is the oldest structure on the campus, dating back to 1843, and unmistakable for its pair of towers framing its portico.

The 175-acre grounds are a registered arboretum, and are well worth a self-guided walking tour. Sports-wise Holy Cross is a founding member of the Patriot League, and is one of just nine schools to have won NCAA championships in basketball (1947) and baseball (1952).

The football team, playing at the 23,500-capacity Fitton Field, has been in excellent form recently, claiming a string of conference titles since 2019.

2. Goddard Rocket Launching Site

Goddard Rocket Launching SiteSource: Kenneth C. Zirkel / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Goddard Rocket Launching Site

Aeronautical history was made in Auburn in 1926 when engineer Robert H. Goddard successfully tested the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket here.

Goddard launched this ten-foot rocket on what was then Ward Farm, and it flew for 2.5 seconds, reaching an altitude of 41 feet. Later the farm became Pakachoag Golf Course, and you can visit a pair of markers.

The more convenient of these is on the northwest corner of the course, easily reached off Upland St.

The marker for the actual launch site is in the middle of the course, on the 9th fairway. Your best bet is to arrive early in the day when the course opens, and visit this historic spot before the first golfers have progressed to the 9th hole.

3. Auburn Historical Museum

Auburn Historical MuseumSource: Auburn Historical Museum / Facebook
Auburn Historical Museum

Founded in 1967, the Auburn Historical Society runs this small museum in the old Tuttle Square School building, at 41 South Street.

This structure dates back to 1922, and is in the Bungalow style, with a remarkable Federal-style door surround and a fanlight in the transom.

This was used as a school until the mid-1950s, becoming storage, then the HQ for the Auburn District Nursing Association, and then a museum when it was leased to the historical society.

You can drop in on Tuesday and Saturday mornings to get to know the town via historical artifacts and photographs, covering topics like public transport, Robert H. Goddard, and the town’s sudden post-war growth.

4. Auburn Mall

ShoppingSource: fizkes / shutterstock

For many people in the area, the name “Auburn” is still associated with this enclosed mall, which first opened its doors in 1971.

Like many of its kind, Auburn Mall has contracted a little in the last few years, but when we put this article together there were still a lot of national and international chains.

On a condensed list are Aeropostale, Victoria’s Secret, Hot Topic, Macy’s, Kay Jewelers, Foot Locker, Lids, GameStop, Hot Topic, and American Eagle.

At the food court you can choose from Korean fried chicken, Cajun seafood and tacos, with branches of chains like Papa Gino’s, Outback Steakhouse, and Arby’s nearby along Southbridge St.

5. Elm Draught House Cinema

Movie TheaterSource: photastic / shutterstock
Movie Theater

This cozy cinema pub ten minutes away in downtown Millbury is a million miles from a corporate multiplex.

First off, the Elm Draught House Cinema is a second-run theater that first opened in the 1930s and still has the original seats from that time.

The venue was converted into a pub in 1983, and is a place to enjoy pub fare like personal pizzas, wine and beer, while watching a recent release on the big screen.

Check the schedule for classic and cult movie screenings, and you can ask for a cushion in the lobby to make the 90-year-old seats more comfortable.

6. Worcester Flood Diversion Channel (Pakachoag Trail)

Hiking TrailsSource: Belinda M Gordon / shutterstock
Hiking Trails

In Auburn and Millbury you can check out a flood control channel that was built in the late 1950s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and has prevented incalculable damage to industrial, public, commercial, and residential property since that time.

The project involves a dam across Kettle Brook, a 4,205-foot tunnel under Pakachoag Hill, and an open channel that runs for another 11,300 feet to the Blackstone River.

You can see where the channel emerges from the tunnel along the out-and-back Pakachoag Trail, which follows the bank for about ⅞ of a mile, after which you’ll come to a pair of picnic tables.

7. The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley

ShoppingSource: VGstockstudio / shutterstock

To complement Auburn Mall you’ve got the largest open-air shopping center in Central Massachusetts less than ten minutes away in Millbury.

Set near the intersection of I-90, Route 20 and Route 146, The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley has an upmarket feel, with brands like Nordstrom Rack, Barnes & Noble, LOFT, Old Navy, L.L. Bean, Sephora and Torrid.

You can do the whole mall then a movie thing here, thanks to the plush Blackstone Valley 14 Cinema de Lux.

There’s also a contingent of chain restaurants clustered around the movie theater, with locations for Red Robin, QDOBA, and 110 Grill to name a few.

8. Worcester

Worcester, MassachusettsSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Worcester, Massachusetts

Spread across seven hills like Rome, New England’s second-largest city is within shouting distance and has enough to hold your interest for days.

Head straight for the Worcester Art Museum (WAM), opened in 1898 and esteemed for its Roman mosaics, the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the Americas, Japanese prints, American painting and Impressionism.

Kids will be awestruck by the EcoTarium, a science and nature museum with indoor exhibits for hands-on, interactive learning, and outdoor enclosures showcasing New England’s wildlife.

There’s a palatial home for the performing arts in Worcester at the glorious Hanover Theatre, built in 1904 with sublime decoration in its Renaissance Revival auditorium.

9. Lemansky Park

PickleballSource: JennLShoots / shutterstock

Auburn’s main community park is bounded to the south by I-90 and to the east by I-290, which are both hidden behind the trees.

Lemansky Park is a space for active recreation, loaded with amenities for basketball, tennis, pickleball, baseball, softball, and soccer.

There are several multipurpose fields here, as well as a skateboard park, a top-notch playground for wee ones, a quarter-mile track, and a seasonal concession stand.

On the north side is the Town of Auburn’s dog park, with separate areas for dogs over and below 40 lbs. If you happen to be here in winter, the park has one of the best sledding hills for miles, as well as an ice hockey rink.

10. Major League Roast Beef & Wings

Major League Roast Beef & WingsSource: Major League Roast Beef & Wings / Facebook
Major League Roast Beef & Wings

A local eatery that has earned universal acclaim is this baseball-themed counter service fast food joint, famed for its roast beef sandwiches.

On a large menu are numerous roast beef options to pick from, including platters. One of the stars is The Bullpen, with thinly sliced roast beef, American cheese, tomato, onions and horseradish on a large, toasted onion roll.

Along with fries, onion rings are the time-honored side for roast beef sandwiches in this part of the world.

The restaurant also serves a range of other New England signatures like lobster rolls, clam chowder, steak tips, fish & chips, fried scallops and haddock.

11. Pakachoag Golf Course

GolfSource: photoinnovation / shutterstock

The Ward Fam where Goddard launched his rocket was turned into a golf course in 1939. This was purchased by the town in 1981, and was operated by private contractors until 2016 when Auburn took over the day-to-day.

By all accounts, Pakachoag Golf Course has improved a great deal since that time, and stands as an excellent nine-hole track with immaculate greens and interesting challenges.

As well as being the site of that launch, the ninth hole poses the trickiest test, with a dog leg that bends around a large water hazard which might make you think twice about taking a shortcut.

12. Blackstone River Bikeway

Blackstone River BikewaySource: John Phelan / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Blackstone River Bikeway

Auburn is on the northwestern edge of the famous Blackstone Valley, which became a hotbed of industry from the late 18th century.

A great way to encounter this heritage is on this greenway, which will eventually be 48 miles long, linking the cities of Worcester and Providence, and becoming a convenient artery for commuters, but also a recreation trail charged with history and beautiful scenery.

The bikeway is opening in phases, with three sections completed to date. In Auburn you’re right next to the Worcester to Millbury stretch, which is 2.5 miles long between the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester and the Main Street Parking Area in Millbury.

13. Stowe Farm

ApplesSource: Dmytro Sheremeta / shutterstock

Within shouting distance in West Millbury there’s an historic farm on 60 bucolic acres, worked by the Stowe family for several generations.

What was once exclusively a dairy farm has turned into an equestrian farm and orchard, welcoming the public for agritourism experiences in the fall.

In September and October you can visit to pick your own apples and pumpkins, catch some live music, and enjoy some hard cider.

Children will love every minute at Stowe Farm, meeting barnyard animals, riding a “cow train” and clambering over a wooden monster truck play structure.

There’s also a BBQ truck, and lots of seasonal and local treats at the country store. Horseback riding lessons are available all year round, and the farm hosts a popular equestrian camp in summer.

14. Bowlero Auburn

BowlingSource: Aleksandar Karanov / shutterstock

With 50 lanes, this immense bowling alley in Auburn has been remodeled as part of AMF’s slick Bowlero brand. Now you’ve got soft lounge seats, blacklight and huge HD video walls playing anything from live sports to music videos.

Friday and Saturday nights bring cosmic bowling, when the house lights go down and the music goes up.

There are all kinds of specials available at Bowlero Auburn, especially if you come from Sunday to Thursday. As well those lanes you’ll find a large arcade area, and a newly updated bar pouring a few regional craft beers.

15. Crystal Caves

Mini GolfSource: Andrey Armyagov / shutterstock
Mini Golf

Open for more than 25 years now, this seasonal family entertainment center combines a few attractions with an ice cream parlor serving more than 50 flavors.

For starters there’s 18 holes of mini golf, interlaced with flowerbeds, shrubs and water features including a crashing waterfall.

Crystal Caves also has eight batting cages, with both baseballs and softballs, and a variety of pitch speeds. Added to that is a pair of trampolines and a human gyroscope, for those with a strong constitution.


15 Best Things to Do in Auburn (MA):

  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Goddard Rocket Launching Site
  • Auburn Historical Museum
  • Auburn Mall
  • Elm Draught House Cinema
  • Worcester Flood Diversion Channel (Pakachoag Trail)
  • The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley
  • Worcester
  • Lemansky Park
  • Major League Roast Beef & Wings
  • Pakachoag Golf Course
  • Blackstone River Bikeway
  • Stowe Farm
  • Bowlero Auburn
  • Crystal Caves