Southeast of Lowell, Tewksbury is a growing town of just over 30,000 on the hilly ground between the Concord River in the west and the Merrimack River in the north.
Next to Tewksbury Center sits the 800+ acre campus of the state-owned Tewksbury Hospital, established as an almshouse in 1852, and becoming a hospital for the mentally and physically ill by the 1880s.
There’s a museum in the Old Administration Building here, recording the history of the institution and public health in general.
Tewksbury has a lot of scenic public space along the banks of the Shawsheen River, and lots of inspiration for families, from fun centers to a long-running ice cream stand.
1. Public Health Museum in Massachusetts
Tewksbury’s most noteworthy landmark is the Old Administration Building (1894), standing as the focal point of the sprawling Tewksbury Hospital campus.
The hospital goes back further to 1852, and was founded as a state almshouse, adding a mental illness ward (the first in Massachusetts) and hospital ward as time went on.
The Public Health Museum in Massachusetts occupies part of the ground floor and opened in 1994 on the building’s 100th anniversary.
The galleries here chart the history of public health, celebrating landmarks in tackling infectious diseases, changing approaches to mental health, the field of nursing, and much more.
2. Tewksbury Town Common
A scene worth enjoying for a moment, Tewksbury Town Common is skirted by grand buildings like the Town Hall, Tewksbury Congregational Church and beautiful Georgian and Federal-style residences.
The Town Hall (1920) was built in the Colonial Revival style after its predecessor burned down in 1918.
In the shade of several hardwood trees, the common has immaculate lawns, a cute gazebo and war monuments at the east end.
The big annual event here is the festive Tree Lighting & Holiday Celebration, with Santa of course, but also marshmallows roasting on open fires, ice sculpture, hot cider and donuts, carolers and ornament decoration stations.
3. Tewksbury Community Market
The town has one of the top-ranked farmers’ markets in the state, held on Thursday evenings at Livingston Street Park, mid-June to mid-October.
This event gets bigger with each year, and had more than 30 regular vendors when we put this list together.
Usually you’ll find local fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers, honey, sauces, spice mixes, oils, nuts, baked goods and a roster of artisans for jewelry, handmade alpaca-wool products and artisan soaps.
There’s always a clutch of food trucks for dinner, making Italian street food, burgers and more, as well as vendors for drinks and desserts.
4. Melvin G. Rogers Park
Bounded by Marston and Rogers Streets, this blissful stand of pine forest was deeded to the town in 1959 by one Melvin Rogers, on the condition the “…premises be forever used only as park and playground and only for outdoor activities”.
Melvin was descended from Timothy Rogers, who in 1744 became only the fifth Tewksbury homesteader after the town was incorporated.
Along two miles of trails you’ll come across several impressive sets of glacial erratics, boulders deposited here by melting glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.
Close to one of these outcroppings is the Pollinator Garden, planted with species that attract butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds.
The city of Lowell is on Tewksbury’s northwestern boundary, and is a must if you’re interest is piqued by engineering and history. In the mid-19th century this was America’s industrial powerhouse as a center for textile manufacturing.
Those giant mill complexes, many of which are still intact, were powered by an intricate canal network, and this remarkable cityscape is preserved by the Lowell National Historical Park.
The essential attraction in the park is the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, where you’ll get the story of this planned industrial city and the inventors, engineers, investors and workers who made it possible.
Lowell has a vibrant downtown area with cobbled streets, brick industrial architecture and international dining.
6. Shawsheen Overlook
Opposite the Elks Lodge on South Street there’s a stunning patch of public land next to the Shawsheen River in Tewksbury.
Around ten acres, Shawsheen Overlook was deeded to the Conservation Commission more than 30 years ago, while the trail, benches and kiosk are all the work of volunteers who came together to beautify the overlook on Earth Day in 2018.
Sheltered by woods, the Shawsheen Overlook is somewhere to observe wildlife, launch canoes, go fishing or simply linger by the river for a while.
7. Foster Park Conservation Area
Not far upstream from Shawsheen Overlook there’s another beautiful riverside area, deeded to the inhabitants of Tewksbury in 1960.
On 23 acres, the Foster Park Conservation Area is made up of deep, rolling pine woodland skirted by wetlands at the confluence of Content Brook and the Shawsheen River.
With a winding loop beginning on Edith Dr, this a fine destination for gentle hikes, birdwatching, fishing and as a place to launch a kayak or canoe on the river.
8. Meadowlands Ice Cream
This ice cream stand at 328 N Billerica Rd has been in business serving homemade ice cream since 1964.
Meadowlands Ice Cream serves more than 25 flavors of hard ice cream, but also offers a range of monthly specials, numerous toppings, several hard yogurt flavors, as well as soft yogurt, sherbet, ice cream pies, cow pies, ice cream cupcakes and even ice cream pizza.
In addition to cones and cups, you can choose from sundaes, frappes, coolers, ice cream floats, ice cream to go and ice cream for your dog. Away from the road you can savor your sweet treat in a quiet grassy space with landscaping and picnic tables.
9. Vic’s Waffle House
Going back more than 30 years, this extremely popular diner is held as the best place to get breakfast in the Tewksbury area.
In fact people come to Vic’s Waffle House from much further afield, for these waffles, eggs, omelets and breakfast meats like ham, bacon, kielbasa, spicy Italian sausage and linguica.
The beef hash is homemade, as is the chili on the lunch menu, which also includes burgers, grilled chicken, club sandwiches, BLT, tuna melt and tenders on a bulkie roll.
First-timers with an appetite need to order the fried chicken and waffles (bone in or tenders), with some freshly squeezed orange juice.
10. Wamesit Lanes
A family entertainment center with multiple attractions, Wamesit Lanes is centered on a bowling alley with 36 lanes.
There’s a choice here between tenpin bowling and candlepin bowling, a style found in Massachusetts and the Northeast, with narrower pins and a handheld ball.
There’s an arcade with 60+ games, golf simulators and the Firewater Tavern. The latter has more than 30 beers on tap, a big menu of comfort food, from flatbreads to chicken parm, and a massive summer patio with games like cornhole and jumbo jenga.
11. Haggetts Pond
This nearby reservoir is a place for land-based recreation with marvelous views of the water. The reservoir is still active, serving the town of Andover, and only registered row boats are allowed on the water.
On the shores, a system of trails encircles the upper two thirds of the shoreline, through evergreen forest.
Go quietly and you stand a great chance of wildlife encounters, with deer, herons, eagles, turtles and beavers often sighted here.
Passing by the western shore is the converted railbed of the Lowell and Lawrence Railroad, opened in 1848 and eventually taken over by the Boston and Maine Railroad. This trail runs north to south from High Plain Rd in Andover to Bonnie Ln in Tewksbury.
12. Escapology Tewksbury
On the same stretch of Main Street as Wamesit Lanes and Vic’s Waffle House there’s a branch of the Escapology escape room attraction, which has locations across the country.
There are five rooms at Escapology Tewksbury, with dark and light themes, and with a variety of difficulties to suit newcomers and expert players.
Take Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure, in which you help the gang solve another mystery, or The Antidote, where you have 60 minutes to find an antidote before a biological weapons facility self-destructs to prevent an outbreak.
You won’t need any special skills for these rooms, and a dedicated Game Master can offer a hint from the Control Room if you get stuck.
13. Merrimack Valley Pavilion
This family entertainment center has an attractive setting, right on the banks of the Shawsheen River in the southeast of Tewksbury.
In summer the main draw at Merrimack Valley Pavilion is the 18-hole mini golf course, which has a tropical tiki theme with palms and a waterfall, presided over by Kong the gorilla.
There’s a 6,000-square-foot, multi-level laser tag arena, which uses the latest technology in a jungle-like environment.
The Vines meanwhile is a small ropes course designed for children, and there’s an arcade with 50+ games including redemption machines.
Parents can unwind at the café, which serves alcohol and has a big screen for sports, and you can round off your visit with a scoop or four of Richardson’s Ice Cream.
14. Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center
One of America’s great early civil engineering projects, the Middlesex Canal ran past Tewksbury to the west, linking the Merrimack River in Lowell with the Port of Boston.
This 27-mile waterway was completed in 1803 and paved the way for the likes of the Erie Canal.
You can find out all about the canal at this museum in North Billerica, housed in a portion of the Faulkner Mills, which anchor a U.S. Historic District, next to a scenic dam. On show are tools, maps, contemporaneous drawings and a working model of a lock.
15. Trull Brook Golf Course
This 18-hole public course is in the very north of Tewksbury where the eponymous brook flows into the Merrimack River.
Embroidered with flowers, Trull Brook Golf Course is on lush hilly ground, rewarding you with sensational views of the river and valley on a challenging course.
The greens are both fast and in tricky positions, which can result in a few three putts if you’re not on top of your short game.
No two holes are the same, and on some drives you’ll be encouraged to go for power, while others need to be accurate to avoid the abundant vegetation.
You can recharge your batteries at T’s Grille, which has a picturesque spot overlooking the 9th fairway and offers a range of breakfast items, subs, burgers, wraps and more.