A former manufacturing town with Irish and Portuguese roots, Hudson is a resilient place that has bounced back from a few knocks down the years.
One was a fire that took out 40 buildings in the town center in 1894. Later, the shoe industry, which had been the town’s lifeblood, dwindled after WWII, and then during the Great Recession big employer Intel closed down its semiconductor facility in the town.
And yet for residents and visitors, Hudson is more inviting than ever. This is all down to a transformation that has swept over Main Street, turning it into a culinary destination with innovative businesses, and live music in the air all year.
A multi-use rail trail links downtown Hudson with Marlborough and Maynard, and in the last few years a high-profile military museum has opened on the east side of town.
1. Downtown Hudson
Always animated, sociable and fun, Hudson’s central commercial district fits most people’s idea of how a downtown area should be in the 21st century.
On Main Street it’s easy to shop local because there’s such a diversity of thriving businesses, many with original concepts that inspire curiosity.
None of this is by accident, as downtown Hudson’s metamorphosis since the early 2010s was a response to the Great Recession and blows to the town’s economy.
Dozens of events breathe extra life into the town center, like a weekly summer farmers’ market, seasonal pop-up markets, ArtsFest in June, Celebrate Hudson in September, and the weekly Downtown Music Series every Thursday and Saturday evening in summer.
2. American Heritage Museum
Fair to say that the Hewlett-Packard engineer, Jacques Littlefield (1949-2009), had a passion for historic military hardware.
Starting in the early 1980s he amassed more than $30 million worth of tanks, howitzers, armored cars, missile launchers and personnel carriers, with the aim of restoring them and presenting them to the public.
This dream was realized posthumously in 2013 when Littlefield’s foundation donated his collection to the Collings Foundation, a non-profit for the preservation and public display of transportation-related history.
The hardware at the American Heritage Museum is grouped by campaign or theater, mostly centered on WWII. So you’ve got the Eastern Front, North Africa, The Italian Campaign, The Battle Of the Bulge, D-Day, The Battle for Berlin, as well as additional zones for the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Gulf War and the War on Terrorism.
3. Assabet River Rail Trail
Bending through downtown Hudson is a multi-use rail trail that has been laid down in phases since 2005 and will eventually connect Marlborough with Acton.
The Assabet River Rail Trail is on the converted railbed of the old Marlborough Branch (completed 1855) of the Fitchburg Railroad.
At the time of writing the trail was practically completed, save for a 3.4-mile section between the South Acton MBTA station and the Maynard–Stow line.
The trail runs unbroken through Hudson from the trailhead on Wilkins Street, and is a safe way to commute between downtown Hudson and downtown Marlborough. If you need bike accessories or servicing, Assabet River Bicycles is right next to the trail downtown.
4. New City Microcreamery
You can discover the joys of liquid nitrogen ice cream at this one-of-a-kind shop that was founded in 2015 and has already opened locations in Sudbury and Cambridge.
If you’re wondering about the benefit of liquid nitrogen for ice cream, this super-cold substance creates a smaller ice crystal, giving the ice cream a much smoother texture.
Among the flavors are tried-and-tested classics like chocolate, mint chip, and cookie dough, as well as a range of New City creations, from cannoli to baklava, creme de menthe & chocolate, vanilla bourbon, and creamsicle.
Something that isn’t advertised is that there’s a speakeasy on these premises.
5. Wood Park
This delightful little public park is on a stretch of the Assabet River just upstream from downtown Hudson. This makes Wood Park a handy location for community events, held at the Victor Dyer Music Shell.
This goes for the Wood Park Summer Concert series, taking place all summer, with concerts kicking off at 6:30 pm and boasting a wide range of artists and styles.
The series is organized for families, and you’re encouraged to bring snacks, lawn chairs, blankets, and bug spray.
As well as a playground and picnic areas, there’s a footbridge over the river leading to the local Portuguese Club. You can also head down to the water under the bridge to cast a line or launch your kayak.
6. Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge
On the rail trail, just past the American Heritage Museum you’ll enter a National Wildlife Refuge, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and one of eight refuges that make up the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Laced with ponds, vernal pools and wetlands, this particular refuge has a mantle of pine and hardwood forest, and is a vital stopover for migratory birds in spring and fall.
One of the compelling things about the 2,230-acre property is that it’s on the site of the Fort Devens-Sudbury Training Annex established at speed in 1942, and with some 50 ammunition bunkers from the period cropping up in the woods.
These add a little mystery to a hiking, biking or cross-country skiing trip, while the abundant water attracts kayakers, with a launch and dock along off White Pond Road.
On the Assabet River Rail Trail, this award-winning escape room attraction is one of a few businesses to have taken up residence in the converted Hudson Mills complex.
Puzzlescape was founded in 2016 and moved to its current location in 2021, and has a playful and cartoonish feel.
The villain at Puzzlescape is “Pepe La Scuzz”, an evil mastermind that you have to foil at the main room, “The Legend of Pepe”, for 2-6 players and with a choose-your-own ending.
A couple of other rooms available when we compiled this list were the horror-themed Something Wicked (2-8 players), and the entry-level Escape the Cape, in which you have to avoid the traffic on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges (2-6 players).
This room is a fine intro for young puzzle solvers, as children aged 12 and up can take part without parents.
8. Danforth Falls (Danforth Conservation Area)
There’s 80 acres of town-owned woodland in the north of Hudson, managed by the local conservation commission.
The property is on the idyllic Danforth Brook, which runs down the east side and is stocked for fishing every spring. From Lincoln Street you can set off on a flat trail along the brook, tracing it back to a waterfall.
This is most impressive after a spell of heavy rain or in spring after the snow melts. The surrounding property also contains the 450-foot summit of Philips Hill, which has a slightly more challenging trail, with steep and rocky sections carrying you to a scenic western overlook.
9. Rail Trail Flatbread Co.
In Hudson’s long directory of endearing local businesses there’s the Rail Trail Flatbread Co., right across Main St from the New City Microcreamery.
This community-oriented and socially conscious flatbread pizza restaurant opened in 2012. The wood-fired, hand-tossed sourdough pizza is the headline here, with a choice of imaginative varieties (gochujang bbq chicken, spanakopita), including plenty of vegan and gluten options.
Poutine, tacos, burgers (including impossible burgers), mac and cheese, and other comfort food favorites are also on the menu, along with no fewer than 20 draft beer taps.
The roll call of awesome independent businesses on Main St continues with this craft brewery, with a large, rustic taproom and a beer garden that might catch you by surprise.
Beer-wise, Medusa is known for its hoppy IPAs, and the core brews are Laser Cat (Imperial IPA), LightRunner (Hazy IPA), Lola (IPA) and Duchovni (Czech Pilsner).
These are the stars, but are also just a few of the many beers on draft, whether your taste runs to malty, hoppy or sour.
There’s live music in the taproom on Friday nights, and the brewery has teamed up with local business Taco Gato, which now operates as a permanent, in-house taqueria for the perfect accompaniment.
11. Honey Pot Hill Orchards
Moments away in Stow there’s a family-run farm dating back to 1926, welcoming visitors for a range of activities in the growing and harvest seasons.
You can pick your own fruit at Honey Pot Hill Orchards, beginning in July with blueberries, plums and peaches, ramping up to an extended apple season that runs deep into fall.
There are more than 25 apple varieties growing at the farm, and you can check out a detailed picking schedule before you come.
The farm store stocks all of this fresh produce and much more, including jams and jellies, fresh pressed apple cider and baked goods like apple cider donuts.
Kids will have a great time seeing the farm animals, and you can solve mazes in fall and take a carefree hayride for a perfect day in the countryside.
12. Ferjulian’s Farm
Another long-standing agricultural business, Ferjulian’s Farm is family-owned and operated since 1942. On 70 acres, this is the only working farm in Hudson, and the stand is open from Patriot’s Day in April until early December.
The season opens with flowers in the greenhouse, and there are more than 100 varieties of annuals, as well as perennials, vegetables, herbs and hanging baskets.
The farm stand starts selling produce in June, and everything on offer throughout the season at Ferjulians has been hand-picked and tested for flavor.
July through September there’s a PYO flower-cutting garden, and then around early October is the ten-day Sunflower Festival, with some 30,000 blooms as high as five feet.
13. Hudson Farmers’ Market
On Tuesday afternoons, mid-June through September, there’s a farmers’ market in front of the Town Hall, right in the heart of downtown Hudson.
As well as this main market, keep your eyes peeled for pop-up markets earlier and later in the year, in April, May, November and December.
Every week the market’s facebook page publishes a list of attending vendors, as well as the live performer as part of the Market Music series.
On a normal week you can expect vendors for seasonal fresh produce, fresh seafood, pasture-raised meats, honey, spices, jams, breads, and sweet baked goods, along with a small contingent of craft vendors.
14. Art in the Hall
As well as hosting the farmers’ market, Hudson’s 19th-century Chateauesque Town Hall also serves as an art gallery.
Since 2004, the River’s Edge Arts Alliance has curated the Art in the Hall exhibitions, promoting the work of artists in the town.
Featuring work by artists in a whole spectrum of disciplines, these shows typically last for a few months and are refreshed several times a year so there will always be something new to check out. The gallery is open during normal working hours and is fully accessible.
15. ArtsFest Hudson
Hudson has an effervescent arts scene, and the simplest way to get an overview is at this festival on the first Saturday in June.
Like many of the events in a town that has reinvented itself, this is a new-ish tradition, but has truly taken off.
Morning until late in the afternoon there are two stages of family-friendly live performances, with an international roster of music artists, dance groups and more.
At the same time, there will be 50+ arts and crafts booths, showcasing the enormous breadth of Hudson’s creative talent. Smaller festival-goers can take part in activities like facepainting and crafts, while the curtain is raised in the morning with a 5K run.