15 Best Things to Do in Haverhill (MA)

Near the New Hampshire border and connected to Boston by the namesake MBTA commuter line, Haverhill is a city with a lot of recreation space within its limits.

There’s a ski area ten minutes from downtown, as well as a cluster of lakes home to a hilltop castle from the 1870s.

At Haverhill’s industrial peak before WWI, one tenth of the shoes manufactured in the United States were made in this city. Even now, Haverhill has the nickname, “The Queen Slipper City”.

Many of those fine old factories have been preserved in Haverhill’s vibrant downtown area, and have a new lease of life as lofts, offices, restaurants and shops.

1. Winnekenni Castle

Winnekenni CastleSource: BillDamon / Flickr | CC BY
Winnekenni Castle

Haverhill’s most famous landmark was built in the 1870s for the local chemist Dr. James R. Nichols.

Inspired by the Medieval strongholds he had seen while visiting England, Winnekenni Castle has a fairytale design, with rustic stone walls, crenellations, Gothic pointed windows, two towers and a smaller corner turret.

With restored Victorian interiors the castle opens for scheduled public events on weekends throughout the summer. You can come anytime to stroll and take picnics in the wooded parkland, which is sensational.

There are miles of trails here, including the waterside Dudley Porter Trail, wrapping around most of Kenoza Lake. Winnekenni Castle is a delight at any time of year, but the colors in fall are spellbinding.

2. Museum of Printing

Museum of PrintingSource: Printhusiast / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Museum of Printing

A compelling attraction with a purpose-built home, the Museum of Printing preserves the history of printing and typesetting technology, craftsmanship and the graphic arts.

As an organization, the museum goes back to 1978, but only relocated to its current premises in Haverhill in 2016. It all began as an effort to preserve hot metal typesetting equipment being replaced by the Boston Globe.

The inventory has expanded over the years to include early Gutenberg-style manual presses, earlier copiers, an exceptional collection of typewriters, phototypesetters (thought to be the country’s largest collection), data storage media, bindery machines, thousands of wooden display fonts and much more.

3. Downtown Haverhill

Downtown HaverhillSource: Ryan Garrett / shutterstock
Downtown Haverhill

In a familiar story, Haverhill’s commercial core has witnessed a lot of revitalization in the last couple of decades.

But where this city differs from many places is the light touch of these improvements, preserving Haverhill’s brooding industrial character while making it easier to enjoy on foot and by bicycle.

One transformative project is the boardwalk that extends along downtown’s riverfront. This delivers you to Riverfront Park, the setting for Team Haverhill’s Riverfront Ruckus Festival in September, with live music, classic cars, food vendors and fireworks.

One block in from the river, around the Washington Street Shoe District, beautiful old shoe factories have been converted into lofts and offices, with trendy independent businesses below.

4. Buttonwoods Museum

Buttonwoods MuseumSource: John Phelan / Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0
Buttonwoods Museum

It’s impossible to spend some time in Haverhill and not be curious about the city’s history. This can be explored at the Buttonwoods Museum, perched high above the Merrimack River to the east of downtown.

The museum is named for the sycamores (buttonwoods) planted on the property in the 1740s. Later, in 1814, the wealthy Duncan family built the grand Federal mansion standing here today and housing the Buttonwoods Museum, along with the 1710-1810 John Ward House and the 1859 Daniel Hunkins Shoe Shop.

This is all a showcase for some 400 years of local history, with particular focus on the shoe industry, as well as ancient Native American finds, military artifacts, decorative arts and textiles.

The museum also maintains an important collection of documents and furnishings relating to Supreme Court Justice William Henry Moody (1853-1917), who passed away in Haverhill. Moody had been the junior prosecutor in the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case in 1893.

5. Ski Bradford

Ski BradfordSource: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism / Flickr | CC BY-ND
Ski Bradford

There’s a ski area in the southeast of Haverhill on Bradford’s Dead Hill. Covering 48 acres, Ski Bradford is a small-ish mountain, perfect for anyone learning to ski.

In fact, there’s always a big flock of younger skiers finding their feet here, but fortunately the three chairlifts and six surface lifts always keep things moving.

Ski Bradford has 15 trails, and although more than half of these are black diamond (difficult), intermediate skiers should be comfortable on these short-ish runs with never more than a couple of turns.

A big draw is the expansive terrain park, a state-of-the-art facility with boxes, rails and jumps for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

6. Washington Street Shoe District

Washington Street Shoe DistrictSource: Marcbela (Marc N. Belanger) / Wikimedia | Public domain
Washington Street Shoe District

One very atmospheric part of downtown Haverhill awaits on Wingate and Washington St, between Railroad Square and Essex St. This is the site of Haverhill’s booming turn-of-the-century shoe industry. At one time there were over 60 shoe factories in the space of just a few blocks.

Exploring these canyons of high brick frontages you can distinguish between the earlier and daintier Italianate factories and the more austere and much larger factories that followed later in the 19th century.

On both streets the first floors are occupied by boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes.

7. John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace

John Greenleaf Whittier BirthplaceSource: j33pman / Flickr | CC BY-SA
John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace

The historic homestead in which the Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was born has been preserved as a museum for more than 130 years now.

Remembered as one of New England’s fireside poets, Whittier is perhaps best known for the narrative poem Snow-Bound (1866), set at this very property.

The homestead dates back to 1688, and was built by Whittier’s great-great-grandfather. Since 1893, the house, landscape and outbuildings have been maintained to reflect the poet’s time here (1807-1836) as closely as possible.

There’s a calendar of history-oriented events at the homestead featuring talks, special tours, food events, poetry readings and plays.

8. Riverside Park

BasketballSource: Giddrid / shutterstock
Basketball

This attractive public park is on a bend in the Merrimack, with unbroken views to the wooded south bank.

If you come to Riverside Park in winter you stand a good chance of spotting bald eagles hunting along the river, while turkey vultures can often be seen in the warmer months.

This is also a place for active recreation, with facilities for baseball and softball, along with open fields, basketball courts, paved trails and a playground.

Still in use, Trinity Stadium here was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, completed in 1937. The New England Patriots played their first exhibition game at this very place in 1960.

9. Rocks Village Historic District

Rocks Village Historic DistrictSource: Lori L. Stalteri / Flickr | CC BY
Rocks Village Historic District

For another dose of Haverhill history, you can make your way to East Haverhill’s Rocks Village, which grew up by a ferry crossing in the 1640s.

The first bridge at the crossing was built in 1795, on the site of the current multi-truss steel bridge, which was erected in 1905. No fewer than 15 of the 25 buildings around the four-way junction here date back to the 18th century.

One prominent structure is the Hand Tub House (1829), the village firehouse, which is open during village events, along with the neighboring Toll House, containing interpretive boards on different aspects of Rock Village’s past.

At 29 Main Street you’ll find the Ingalls House (1750), birthplace of Mary Ingalls, the subject of the poem “The Countess” by John Greenleaf Whittier.

10. Haverhill Farmers’ Market

Farmers MarketSource: Arina P Habich / shutterstock
Farmers Market

Taking place downtown from late June to the end of October, Haverhill’s farmers’ market has been on the scene since 1978.

There are normally more than 30 vendors here on Saturday mornings, selling local fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, flowers, wine, maple syrup, spice mixes, popcorn, jams, preserves, pet treats and freshly made baked goods.

Added to that you’ll find prepared food (pierogies and tacos are a specialty), as well as services like knife sharpening, and a wide choice of crafts. Also part of the experience are live music performances, children’s activities and food demonstrations.

11. Bradford Rail Trail

Bradford Rail TrailSource: Marie Christiane / shutterstock
Bradford Rail Trail

When we wrote this article the Bradford Rail Trail was in the process of being extended, and will soon link with the two-mile Groveland Rail Trail to the southwest.

The initial ½-mile stretch is on the south bank of the Merrimack River, between the Basiliere and Comeau bridges, on what used to be the Georgetown Spur of the Boston and Maine Railroad.

This carried passengers from 1851 to 1931, and freight up to 1981 before being abandoned. Along the trail you can check out historical and educational markers, as well as a series of five sculptures, forming an art walk.

12. Tattersall Farm

Tattersall FarmSource: Tattersall Farm, Haverhill MA / Facebook
Tattersall Farm

On scenic rolling land, this 150-acre farm belonged to the Tattersall family for most of the 20th century. When the last surviving member of the family, Mary Alice Tattersall passed away in 1999 she deeded the land to the City of Haverhill.

Now Tattersall Farm is preserved as a slice of New England rural life in times past, with 19th-century plantings, working hay fields, meadows and a tangle of wooded trails for activities like hiking, jogging and cross-country skiing.

In the wooded portion of the farm you can track down a magnificent and historic red oak, close to 15 feet in circumference. Tattersall Farm is the setting for various educational programs and events like bee-keeping workshops, a food festival and wildflower walks in spring.

13. Srybny Farms

CornSource: Robert F. Leahy / shutterstock
Corn

In the same family since 1917, this local 100-acre fruit and vegetable farm is coming up for its fourth generation.

On a typical year Srybny Farms opens at the beginning of May with a greenhouse for perennials, vegetable plants, potted plants and more.

Then from early July you can visit the farmstand for a bounty of fresh produce, like beans, tomatoes, peppers, various fruits and several different corn varieties. The farmstand remains open until around mid-October, depending on the weather during the season.

14. Willow Spring Vineyards

Willow Spring VineyardsSource: Willow Spring Vineyards, LLC / Facebook
Willow Spring Vineyards

In the rambling hills in the west of Haverhill there’s a winery at a charming 18th-century barn surrounded by two acres of vines.

These grow French hybrid varieties designed to suit the region’s shorter growing season and extreme temperatures. Willow Spring Vineyards is part of a sprawling farm, on more than 20 acres, which can be admired from the wraparound deck or next to the hearth.

The selection of wines is crafted with grapes from Willow Spring’s own estate, or sourced from local growers. In this range are varietal wines like Cabernet Franc, Marquette, Marechal Foch (red), and Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Vignoles and Vidal Blanc (White).

The winery is a popular location for private events and weddings, and also puts on wine-pairing dinners, painting workshops and special Friday evening events by the hearth.

15. Lake Saltonstall (Plug Pond)

FishingSource: Vladimir Kayukov / shutterstock
Fishing

In Haverhill’s big lineup of beautiful spaces within minutes of downtown is the 45-acre natural pond, Lake Saltonstall.

You can reach the tranquil green banks on foot or by bike from Winnekenni Castle, and there’s a public recreation area to the southeast. This spot, with a small sandy beach, boat launch, swimming area and fishing pier is restricted to Haverhill residents.

For non-residents passing by there’s a grassy area with benches, landscaping and a boat launch on the west side next along Mill St. A few of the fish species often caught here are bluegill, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed and largemouth bass, while trout are stocked in spring and fall.

 

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Haverhill, Massachusetts (MA)
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15 Best Things to Do in Haverhill (MA):

  • Winnekenni Castle
  • Museum of Printing
  • Downtown Haverhill
  • Buttonwoods Museum
  • Ski Bradford
  • Washington Street Shoe District
  • John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace
  • Riverside Park
  • Rocks Village Historic District
  • Haverhill Farmers’ Market
  • Bradford Rail Trail
  • Tattersall Farm
  • Srybny Farms
  • Willow Spring Vineyards
  • Lake Saltonstall (Plug Pond)