Near the head of the Blackstone River Valley, this town was first settled by Europeans in the 18th century.
The modern story of Millbury really begins a century later with the Industrial Revolution. At that time a rash of textile mills cropped up along the Blackstone River and its tributaries, complementing a gun trade overseen by one Asa Waters (1769-1841).
Waters’ stately Federal mansion, completed in 1832, is now owned by the town, and is the venue for tons of events throughout the year.
Close by, Millbury Center is clustered with independent restaurants, while the classy Shoppes at Blackstone Valley is the largest outdoor shopping center in this part of the state.
1. Asa Waters Mansion
Millbury’s pride and joy is this sumptuous Federal mansion, built for the industrialist Asa Waters and his wife Susan Homan Waters.
The architect was Asher Benjamin (1773-1845), whose career marked the transition between Federal and Greek Revival architecture in New England.
The Asa Water Mansion is three stories high, capped with a low balustrade and fronted by magnificent fluted pillars, rising two stories and headed by composite capitals.
Home to the local historical society, this is a fitting property for cultural gatherings like fairs, recitals and seminars, and can also be rented for private functions like weddings.
If you’re in town in the summer, you can catch the annual concert series here on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For a look around the interior you can contact the Millbury Historical Society for a guided tour.
2. Purgatory Chasm State Reservation
Minutes from Millbury there’s a gigantic cleft in the granite bedrock, up to 70 feet deep and a quarter of a mile in length.
Purgatory Chasm has been a state park for more than a century, and is a real adventure to explore.
Trails bring you to strange formations, caves and ledges, and as long as the conditions aren’t slippery, you can spend an exciting hour or two scrambling along the floor of this canyon.
Some rocks have time-honored names like The Corn Crib, The Coffin and Lovers’ Leap, and after tracking these sights down you can pause at the tree-shaded picnic area, backdropped by big slabs of granite.
3. Millbury Center
At the intersection of Main Street and Elm Street, the old center of Millbury stands out for its dining.
In the space of a few blocks squared you can get Greek (Mykonos Cafe & Bakery), white tablecloth Italian (Calabria), Barbecue (The Coop Wings & BBQ), Chinese (Pearl Cafe II), Thai (Kai Mook), pizza and more.
We’ll also talk about the beloved Elm Draught House Cinema and Penny Pinchers Brewing Co later in this list. For history there’s 19th-century commercial all around, including the Romanesque Revival Cunningham Block from 1896, at 97 Elm Street.
Millbury’s most intact mill village is also just a mile from the downtown, at Bramanville, where you can check out the dignified Lapham Woolen Mill, raised in 1879.
4. Elm Draught House Cinema
If you like your movie theaters to have a bit of character you’ll be delighted with this second-run cinema in Millbury Center.
The Elm Draught House Cinema is a single-screen theater, with every third seat removed to provide a table for food and drink. The house specialty is personal pizza, and there’s a choice of beers on tap, as well as wines.
The walls are decorated with quirky movie memorabilia, while the movies themselves are recent releases. Check the schedule for special events, weekly features, comedy shows and live broadcasts of New England Patriots’ games.
5. The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley
Found near the intersection of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 146, Millbury is home to the largest open-air shopping center in Central Massachusetts.
The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley is divided between big box stores like Michaels and PetSmart on one side, and mall-style retailers on the other.
At the time of writing, a few chains included Barnes & Noble, LOFT, Sephora, a Banana Republic Factory Store, Old Navy, Athleta, L.L. Bean and Yankee Candle.
Food-wise you’ve got the likes of Red Robin, QDOBA, UNO Pizzeria & Grill, and there’s a 14-screen Showcase Cinema de Lux, which we’ll talk about below.
6. Blackstone River Bikeway
A 48-mile bikeway is in the works along the old route of the Blackstone Canal between Worcester and Providence. When we went to press, this was divided into a few sections, one of which runs from Worcester to Millbury.
This stretch is 2.5 miles long, and takes you from 205 N Main Street near The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley to the Blackstone River Valley Heritage Center at Worcester.
There are three parking lots along the route, and although you’ll never feel like you’re far from civilization, there are lots of picturesque stretches of riverfront and meadows, with plenty of opportunities for nature spotting.
7. Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
Not far north of Millbury Center you can visit the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in New England.
On more than 430 acres, Broad Meadow Brook is cooperatively managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, with interpretive trails leading through open fields, mature woods, marsh and streams.
There are five miles in total, and one designed for all comers is the Sensory Trail, a mile-long round trip with a rope and post guide system and 14 interpretive stations, also available as an audio tour or in braille.
In summer the butterfly garden here is a wonder, with brilliant color from its many blooms and the 80 or so butterfly species supported by the sanctuary.
There’s a fantastic nature play area for kids, as well as a universally accessible Nature Center hosting exhibits and the sanctuary’s many year-round programs.
8. Blackstone River Valley Heritage Center at Worcester
At the start of the bikeway in Worcester there’s a visitor center for the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Here at the headwaters of the Blackstone River you can get some context on the canal that took shape in the first decades of the 19th century, and the concurrent textile manufacturing boom at the epicenter of the American Industrial Revolution.
Interactive exhibits explain how a quiet county seat became a dynamic hub for commerce and industry, and friendly park rangers will fill you in on any details about the valley’s history and nature.
The center is in a stunning urban park, embellished with industrial-inspired art, and labeled with interpretive signage.
9. Penny Pinchers Brewing Co
Another of the many unique businesses worth discovering in downtown Millbury is a nano-brewery with a reputation for playful innovation.
Penny Pinchers Brewing Co uses traditional recipes for all of its beers, from hoppy IPAs to malty Porters, but always adds some of its personality.
That gives you the likes of the Yard Sale series, which includes ales infused with craisin or sweet potato.
Operating on a small scale, the brewery is able to try out new lines every few days, so there should always be something new to taste, whenever you come.
There’s a trivia night on Thursdays, and you’re encouraged to bring takeout food from Millbury’s international lineup of eateries.
10. Singletary Pond
One of the prettiest views in Millbury can be had from the northern shore of this 346-acre great pond. Singletary Pond is on the Millbury/Sutton town line, and its extensive wooded shores are lined with more than 160 lakefront homes.
But while almost all of the shoreline is private the pond is a valued recreation spot thanks to the free-to-use public boat ramp on the Millbury shore in the north.
This has recently been equipped with a dock, and the lake is popular for trout and bass fishing. On the southeastern shore is Sutton’s Marion’s Camp, a lovely recreation area with a beach, open to residents and non-residents late June to late August.
11. Blackstone Valley 14 Cinema de Lux
In keeping with the upscale air at The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley the multiplex movie theater here is a premium Showcase Cinema de Lux.
Under the same roof there’s a full-service restaurant and cocktail lounge, whether you want to dine-in before or after your movie or get something to-go.
For a mind-blowing movie experience, try to catch a show at the Showcase XPlus Laser large-format auditorium, with state-of-the-art screen and digital projection technology, paired with immersive sound.
All auditoriums have cozy, fully reclining seats, available for a small additional fee.
12. Rocco’s Doughnut Company
There’s an acclaimed mini chain of donut bakeries in the Worcester area, making enormous but reasonably priced donuts by hand and using old-school methods.
While Rocco’s Doughnut Company may be a relatively new business, it is steeped in donut-making history. Rocco’s is named for Rocco Astrella, who features in the logo, and owned one of the first Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in the 1950s.
A multigenerational business, Rocco’s Doughnut Company is the brainchild of Astrella’s son, Joe and honors his love for the craft.
This spot is known for getting the classics like the Chocolate Glazed right, while also offering innovative varieties like Fruity Pebbles, Pina Colada and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.
13. Stowe Farm
On 60 acres in West Millbury, this family-owned farm goes back six generations. Over time, Stowe Farm has evolved from a dairy farm into an equestrian farm and orchard, open to the public for a wide variety of agritourism experiences.
The most anticipated time of year has to be fall, when you come to pick your own apples (9 varieties) and pumpkins.
Little ones will have a great time at the Kids Corral, which has barnyard animals, pony rides, a cow train and a monster truck-themed playground. For grownups there’s live music, a BBQ truck, and a country store for treats like pies, apple cider donuts, cider and more.
14. Vaillancourt Folk Art
Based at the 19th-century Manchaug Mills in Sutton there’s a family-run company specializing in quality hand-painted chalkware ornaments.
For many, Vaillancourt Folk Art is synonymous with Christmas, and the store becomes a winter wonderland from early November.
There’s a unique decoration theme each year, and thousands of families visit from across the region. An annual tradition is the limited-edition Starlight Santa, designed by co-founder Judi Vaillancourt.
The design changes each Christmas and a portion of sales goes to child-focussed charities. The store has a museum showing all of the past Starlight Santas, going back to the company’s foundation in the mid-1980s.
15. Woolie World
At the end of Washington Street there’s a little park that is best known for its accessible playground. In the 2010s, Woolie World—as it’s known—was given a spectacular update to bring it up to ADA standards.
This is a colorful and engaging environment, with interactive elements, a network of wide ramps and a big range of equipment to keep wee ones active and entertained for as long as they need.
At the time of writing, the playground had recently been given another facelift, along with the neighboring little league field.