Westford Academy (1794), one of the oldest public schools in the United States, was where Paul Revere sent his son, and the original building now houses the local historical society’s museum.
The Town Common is a quaint slice of New England, edged by 18th and 19th-century architecture, including an historic church that has found a new purpose as an arts center.
Westford also stands out for its hundreds of acres of town-owned natural space, managed by the Westford Conservation Trust, which looks after a labyrinthine network of public trails running to all corners of the town.
1. The Butterfly Place
At this educational attraction in the far north of Westford you can observe hundreds of butterflies flying freely in a unique indoor habitat.
The Butterfly Place has species native to New England, along with a host of tropical species from all around the world.
These are free to fly around the Atrium, a large greenhouse habitat with beautiful vegetation and a constant temperature of 80-85 degrees.
Keep your smartphone ready or bring a camera for some dazzling pictures. You can also get up to speed on butterflies’ life cycles via static exhibits and an enlightening 15-minute video.
2. Westford Town Common
The heart of Westford for some 300 years, Westford Town Common is still integral to local life.
A triangular grassy space, the common is framed by beautiful architecture, including the Italianate Westford Town Hall (1875), the Federal-style First Parish Church (1794), the grand J. V. Fletcher Library (1895), and the Old Congregational Church (1829), now the Parish Center for the Arts.
There are several events on or near the common in the warmer months, like the Westford Farmers’ Market, close by at the The Roudenbush Community Center, and the First Parish’s Strawberry ‘N’ Arts Festival every June.
On the north side, opposite the Town Hall, you can get onto the Tom Paul Trail, maintained by the Westford Conservation Trust and meandering through the town for 2.5 miles.
3. Westford Museum
Another of the stately buildings by the Town Common is the Federal-style Westford Academy, completed in 1794.
This was home to the academy, one of the oldest public high schools in the country, until 1796, when the school relocated to what is now the Roudenbush Community Center.
The Westford Historical Society moved here in the 1970s after a restoration, and the museum shines a light on the rich history of the town.
The society’s collections are so large that only one fifth can be displayed at any time. At the time writing, there were riveting displays about domestic life in Westford, the town’s historic textile industry, granite quarrying, prehistoric Native American archeology and the Westford Knight (more later).
4. Kimball Farm
Now with four locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Kimball Farm ice cream brand was founded in Westford in 1939, and the property has become a popular attraction, filled with fun activities.
The building that still houses the ice cream stand dates back to 1908, as a dairy barn when the Kimball family was still in the wholesale milk business.
Everything changed in the 1930s when Jack and Clara Kimball acquired a freezer and turned their woodshed into an ice cream parlor. Today, Westford’s Kimball Farm is many things rolled into one. Of course, you’ve got 50 flavors of homemade ice cream to choose from, but there’s also a Grill & Seafood Shack, a Country Store & Cafe, and what can best be described as a small theme park.
Attractions include mini golf, pitch & putt, a driving range, batting cages, bumper cars, bumper boats, a wildlife demonstration area, a zipline, an arcade and an area for children to take pony rides.
5. Nashoba Valley Ski Area
In the south of Westford there’s a small-ish ski mountain that first opened in 1964. With 17 trails and a vertical difference of 240 feet, this is a great place for everyone up to intermediate skiers to learn and develop their skills.
If you’re just starting out, the series of rope tows in the beginners’ area move quickly, while further up the slope there’s a terrain park, and the Sundance Run for freestyle skiing.
A separate entrance leads to the tubing park, which has 18 lanes served by two rope tows and a conveyor, all accompanied by a separate lodge and restaurant.
6. Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
To go with the Westford Conservation Trust’s network of trails there’s a long-distance rail trail cutting across the southeastern corner of Westford on the right-of-way of the old Framingham and Lowell Line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
This is the ever-growing Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which has opened in phases since 2009, and will eventually run continuously for almost 25 miles from Lowell to Framingham.
Westford and neighboring Chelmsford are on the section completed in the first phase, and there’s a parking lot on Route 27, next to Butter Brook Golf Club.
From here you can walk or cycle north into Lowell, or head south in the direction of Sudbury where the trail will connect with the Mass Central Rail Trail.
7. Bobby’s Ranch
In pastoral countryside south of the Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Bobby’s Ranch is a trail riding center, founded in 1972. At that time “Bobby”, the owner, was 16 years old, and the ranch was established as a summer job.
In contrast to other equestrian centers focussed on boarding and training, guided western trail rides are the main source of business at Bobby’s Ranch.
It’s a good idea to place a reservation several days in advance, and children have to be at least nine years old and 48” to ride on the trail (one person per horse).
When we made this list, public rides were $50 on weekdays, and $60 on weekends, and you could book a private trail ride for $100.
8. Drew Farm
On a scenic hillside, this family-owned farm in Westford welcomes the public in late summer and fall for pick-your-own apples.
Ready from early September, Drew Farm produces seven different apple varieties, from McIntosh to Evercrisp, the latter being ready from mid-October.
There’s apple cider at this time of year, and the farm bakes its own apple cider donuts, while you’re free to take a picnic and enjoy the views of the foliage.
From October you can also come for pumpkins, and Drew Farm is known for its Pumpkin Light on Halloween night, lighting hundreds of jack-o-lanterns throughout the orchard. Earlier in the year the farm sells a wide selection of hanging baskets and bedding plants.
9. Parish Center for the Arts (PCA)
A beautiful sight on the southern corner of the Town Common is the old Congregational Church (1829), which gained its current appearance in 1896.
This building served as a church until the mid-20th century, and was converted into space for the arts after being purchased by the Westford Historical Society.
The facility has an exciting program of concerts and other community arts events, normally June through September.
There’s also a gallery at the PCA, offering a showcase for established professionals and talented amateurs through a rotating Artist of the Month program.
10. Stony Brook Conservation Land
This treasured parcel of Westford Conservation Trust land is the former East Boston Camps, purchased by the town in 2005. These 286 acres are hemmed by the two watercourses, Keyes Brook in the east and Stony Brook in the west.
Hiking here you’ll encounter steep, glacially-formed eskers, cloaked in woodland that harbors rich migratory and resident birdlife, from nesting great horned owls to scarlet tanagers.
In spring and fall the brooks attract a diversity of migratory birds, like pintails, mergansers, and wood and ring-neck ducks.
The trail along Stony Brook, with its marvelous wildflowers in spring and summer, is the only one to stay open during the camp season in July and August. Elsewhere, in the reservation’s northwest corner is a piece of rail trail along an old trolley line.
11. Nashoba Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
On the way to the Nashoba Valley Ski Area is a wooded property maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
One of many things going for this wildlife sanctuary is that it’s contiguous with Westford’s Richard Emmet Conservation Land, so this can be the starting point for an extended walk in more than 500 acres of nature.
There are more than four miles of trails weaving through white pine-oak forest, and into damper areas including a vernal pool that bursts into life every spring, a wetland habitat and a bog.
The longest trail is the Alan Emmet Loop, leading you past historic stone walls and a Cave Rock, an impressive glacial erratic.
12. Great Brook Farm State Park
A little way past Westford’s southeast corner is a 900+ acre state recreation area home to a working dairy farm.
You can come to Great Brook Farm for a tour on weekends, May through October, and kids will love seeing the barnyard animals, including cows, chicken, sheep and goats.
The seasonal ice cream stand is open at this time of year, with a wide assortment of flavors and sorbets.
Out in the park are close to 20 miles of trails, bringing you to important Native American sites and remnants of colonial settlement in the form of 17th-century cellar holes. In the winter months the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing.
13. One Stop Fun
Perfect for birthday parties or a high-energy outing, One Stop Fun is a center for younger children that’s packed with attractions and activities.
The indoor playground here has three stories of tunnels and tubes, several slides, a 40-foot rock wall and a separate area for toddlers.
Kids can leap and tumble at the Nashoba Gymnastics Academy, with Olympic equipment including bars, rings, a tumble track and a full-size trampoline, along with a foam pit and zipline.
Finally, the pool plaza is designed especially for children, and has slides and interactive play features.
14. Westford Knight
At 17 Depot Street, a short walk from the Town Common, there’s an interesting curiosity, labeled with an interpretive sign and plaque.
This is the Westford Knight, a glacial boulder with unusual patterns that have inspired some fanciful explanations.
While there’s now little question that these are natural markings, in the 19th century they were thought to be a Native American petroglyph, while a more recent theory has posited that this is the epitaph for a Medieval knight, who made it to the New World in the 14th century.
To honor this interpretation there’s a recumbent brass figure of a knight next to the rock.
15. Butter Brook Golf Club
Sitting in the rolling hills in the south of Westford is a semi-private championship golf course, designed by architect Mark Mungeam and opened in 2004.
The setting could hardly be prettier, with sweeping views, tall stands of mature white pine and the ever-present Butter Brook, which flows through the middle of this landscape.
There are four sets of tees, suiting players of all standards, and this track is 6,800 yards from the tips. You’ll need to take the course’s rolling topography into account when you pick your shots, but these natural features can play to your advantage.
The 6th fairway for instance has a large hillock that will set up an ideal approach angle if you catch the slope right.