On both banks of the Merrimack River, Tyngsborough is a town by the MA/NH border and is recognized by its green-painted through-arch bridge.
Dating back to the 1930s and set next to the old center of town, this is the only crossing on the river for several miles in either direction.
Tyngsborough—also spelled Tyngsboro—is traversed by Route 3, which is the focus of a commercial corridor, with stores, visitor attractions, restaurants, an AMC theater, and the Pheasant Lane Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in New Hampshire.
You can leave Route 3 far behind, at an assortment of serene, town-owned conservation lands, and the 1,000+ acres of woods and wetlands of Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest.
1. The Butterfly Place
This one-of-a-kind nature experience is right on the Tyngsborough-Westford town line. In a lofty greenhouse, The Butterfly Place is an indoor garden alive with hundreds of butterflies, both exotic and native to New England.
In a kaleidoscope of colors, these insects can be seen in flight, soaking up the sunshine on leaves, or sipping nectar from the many flowers.
There’s a 15-minute introductory video for an informative primer about butterflies and their famous lifecycle, and you can observe eggs and caterpillars up close in terrariums.
The butterflies share their habitat with koi fish and quail birds, and there’s also a gift shop selling books, butterfly-themed gifts, and special hatch and release kits.
2. Parlee Farms
On a pastoral 100-acre property near the Merrimack River, this family farm started growing in 1987, and specializes in U-Pick fruit and flowers.
The pick-your-own fruit season at Parlee Farms is a long one, beginning with strawberries in mid-June and ending with pumpkins in late October.
Along with blueberries in mid-summer, the peak time is August, September and October, when the apple picking season is in full swing.
There are more than 20 varieties available, from Honey Crisp to Golden Delicious. Just check the website to see what’s ready before you come.
The farmstand is filled with farm-grown produce, treats like apple cider donuts, and a bounty of homemade or locally made gourmet items, including maple syrup, honey, jams, sauces and dressings.
3. Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest
In the southeast of Tyngsborough you can enter more than 1,100 acres of woods, woven with swamps, ponds, streams and vernal pools.
Overlapping into two neighboring towns, the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest has several miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, as well as snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in winter.
A network of fire roads and double track trails makes this an excellent place for easy bike rides in the woods, while there’s a growing singletrack system for up to three hours of serious mountain biking.
The single largest body of water, Lake Althea, is in the Tyngsborough part of the forest, with a car-top boat launch on Althea Avenue.
4. Old Town Hall
Tyngsborough’s most treasured historical building is the Old Town Hall, a fine wood-frame structure raised in 1834.
As you might tell, this was originally a church, built for the town’s Baptist congregation, in a style at the transition between Federal and Greek Revival architecture.
The building was sold to the town in 1857, and remained the town’s administrative home until as recently as the 1990s.
These functions were relocated after the discovery of a termite infestation, and the structure was given a multimillion-dollar restoration in the early 2010s, reopening in 2014.
On the National Register of Historic Places since 2005, the Old Town Hall now has a ceremonial role, hosting civic events and special hearings.
5. Sullivan Farms Homemade Ice Cream
Next to the Merrimack River, with a lovely grassy space at the back, this bustling ice cream stand has been in business for more than a quarter of a century.
Sullivan Farms Homemade Ice Cream has more than 50 permanent flavors, bolstered by another 30+ seasonal flavors, so there will always be something new to try when you come.
If there’s one flavor you absolutely need to try it’s the Vanilla Fudge Brownie, made with generous chunks of chewy brownie.
You can order a cup, cone, frappe, float, sundae, or banana split, and there’s also a lineup of frozen yogurts (95% fat free), from black raspberry to cookie dough.
6. Mascuppic Lake (Town Beach)
Just north of Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, the 209-acre Mascuppic Lake is a hive of recreation in the summer months.
At this time of year, the Town Beach is open on the western shore. Set within a park, the beach has more than 250-feet of sandy shoreline, as well as a variety of amenities including a walk-in boat launch, a playground, picnic tables, a restroom, and tetherball.
Away from the shore, the park hosts competitive youth baseball games, with three Cal Ripken youth baseball diamonds.
7. Pheasant Lane Mall
Parallel with the Merrimack River there’s a commercial corridor along Middlesex Road as it crosses the line into Nashua, NH.
Just over the line sits one of the largest malls in New Hampshire, with close to 140 stores and services.
Pheasant Lane Mall opened in 1986, and one of the interesting challenges was ensuring that the entirety of the mall was on the New Hampshire side of the line, where there’s no sales tax.
When they discovered that the state line had been drawn wrongly in their plans, the developers had to redesign the portion of JCPenney crossing the border.
Among the many national and international chains present at the time of writing were Target, Apple, Torrid, Foot Locker, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, Lush, LEGO, and Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Food-wise, you’ve got food court ever-presents like Sbarro, Sarku Japan, and Auntie Anne’s, along with branches of Chick-fil-A, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dairy Queen and Red Robin.
8. Sherburne Nature Center
This town-owned conservation area lies just west of Mascuppic Lake, and is named for the local Sherburne family, who in 1999 donated these 80 acres of lush hardwood forest, meadows, vernal pools and a beaver pond.
The Sherburne Nature Center has four well-marked trails to navigate, with sections of boardwalk over damper ground.
None of the trails are long, or on steep terrain, so this is one of a few places in Tyngsborough where you can get a small dose of nature before returning to your day.
There are plenty of benches and picnic tables, and the Nature Center hosts a number of educational programs and events year round.
9. Max’s Country Golf
A short way south of the Pheasant Lane Mall, Max’s Country Golf is a golf-oriented family entertainment center.
The big attraction here is an 18-hole mini golf course, in a theme park setting, with artificial rock formations, little rural-style buildings, a stream, and what is claimed to be the tallest manmade waterfall in the Northeast.
To go with that you’ve got bumper boats, baseball and softball cages, and a driving range with 50 tee stations. For a sweet treat, Max’s Country Golf also has an ice cream stand, serving Richardson’s Homemade Ice Cream, made not far away in Middleton, MA.
10. Long Pond Shores
The town owns another beautiful property, on the west shore of Long Pond. From 1950 to 1994, this was Camp Kiwanis, a Girl Scout camp that fell into disrepair until it was acquired by Tyngsborough in 2003.
Long Pond Shores is a delight, with almost 50 acres of verdant deciduous woods, laced with walking and biking trails.
A newly developed accessible trail from Alden Road to the lakeshore has also opened the property up for visitors with disabilities. There’s a walk-in boat launch on the water, as well as a choice of swimming areas.
11. Haystack Observatory
In a remote spot on the Tyngsborough-Westford line there’s an internationally important multidisciplinary research facility run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Established in 1960, the Haystack Observatory consists of a radio science center, ionospheric observatory, and astronomical microwave observatory.
In its own words, the Haystack’s mission is to “develop technology for radio science applications, and thereby to study the structure of our galaxy and the larger universe, to advance scientific knowledge of our planet and its space environment, and to contribute to the education of future scientists and engineers.”
If you’re keen to know more about how MIT’s scientists and engineers explore the Universe by studying radio waves, the Haystack Observatory has enthralling open house events every year, on the third Thursday in May and October.
12. Bell Trail
For a quick escape to nature there’s a 16-acre stand of woods right next to Tyngsborough’s town hall and public library.
This land was donated to the town by one Edward Bell in 1996, and is set next to a former mink farm. Occasionally, you might even spot a mink in the woods, descended from one of the escapees.
Under a mantle of hardwood and evergreen trees, the mile-long path is traced by original stone walls dating back centuries. The trail is well marked, and just the right length for a lunch break or family walk with younger children.
13. AMC Tyngsboro 12
Next to the Pheasant Lane Mall, in a shopping center on the Massachusetts side, there’s an AMC multiplex that has been here since 1991.
AMC Tyngsboro 12 was bumped up from six to a dozen screens in 1996, and has moved with the times. Recent updates have equipped all 12 auditoriums with giant, floor-to-ceiling screens, the latest sound technology and giant cozy recliners.
These have armrests that can be lifted to create a loveseat, so you can watch a brand new blockbuster like you’re in the comfort of your own home. Tyngsboro is also a location where there are 30% discounts on all matinees, every day before 4pm.
14. Tyngsborough Bridge
First completed in 1930 and then rebuilt in 1975, the steel tied-arch bridge crossing the Merrimack River in Tyngsborough deserves your attention, especially if you’re interested in engineering.
This replaced a wooden Whipple truss bridge, going back to the 19th century and continues to have the longest span of any steel rib through-arch bridge in Massachusetts (547 feet).
The Tyngsborough Bridge is also the second-oldest crossing of its kind in the state, and in 2009 came through a $19 million repair job, partly to reengineer the steel girders, and replace the original lead paint.
15. Tyngsborough Block Party-by-the-Bridge
The town’s affection for its record-breaking bridge is plain for all to see at this annual end-of-summer event.
On the last Saturday in August, the nearby Tyngsborough Common is taken over by a whole village of booths for craft vendors, food, and a variety of other local businesses.
Kids can meet friendly animals at the petting zoo, and take pony rides, while there’s a whole afternoon of fun contests and games for all ages.
You can enjoy several hours of live music at the Main Stage, and the day is brought to a close with a fireworks show by the bridge at dusk.