Near the head of the Mystic River Valley, Woburn is a suburban city some ten miles northwest of Boston.
Woburn was incorporated as a town in 1642, and a turning point came in 1803 with the opening of the Middlesex Canal.
This waterway brought with it the raw material to fuel a tanning industry that flourished until the middle of the 20th century, and is remembered in local names like the Woburn Tanners hockey team.
Obsolete for 170 years now, there’s a small stretch of the Middlesex Canal next to Baldwin House, the oldest home in the city, dating back to 1661.
Woburn has a revitalized downtown area with restaurants for all tastes, as well as big public natural spaces a stone’s throw away.
1. Horn Pond
A place of repose for Woburn, this glacially-formed pond is less than a mile from downtown and sits within a 500-acre conservation area. Horn Pond is the site of an Algonquin settlement, and has a varied modern history.
There were ice-making businesses here, as well as sand and gravel quarries, while a former drive passes down the western shore.
That road is part of a 2.2-mile perimeter loop, today accessible only to pedestrians and bicyclists. Horn Pond is a prime location for kayaking and canoeing in the summer, while some of the trails on the shore have exercise equipment.
Climbing steeply to the west is the 287-foot Mount Towanda, previously used as a ski area, and now a destination for hiking and mountain biking, with views over Woburn and Winchester, and southeast to the Boston skyline.
2. Woburn Center
Beginning just over 20 years ago, a long section of Main Street in downtown Woburn has been the focus of revitalization efforts.
These projects involved funding for facade renovations, traditional-style lighting and all kinds of streetscape improvements. Downtown Woburn is now a great place to shop, dine and have fun, backdropped by stately architecture and a cute town common.
Food-wise, things are cosmopolitan here, with tapas, Korean, Indian, Brazilian, sushi, Italian, Mexican, Chinese and American all on the menu.
A tradition on the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the Festival on the Common, with a tree-lighting ceremony, local performing arts groups and a slew of food vendors.
3. Woburn Public Library
Close to Woburn Common on Pleasant Street stands the first library building to be designed by the influential architect, H. H. Richardson (1838-1886).
Begun in 1876, the Woburn Public Library was a bequest to the city from the estate of banker, Jonathan Bowers Winn (1811-1873). The building is in Richardson’s signature Romanesque Revival style, using the basilican floorplan that appeared in later libraries.
The facade is composed of red ashlar Longmeadow and Ohio sandstone, with bands of red granite quarried in Westerly, RI.
Go in to check out the ornate timber trusses in the reading room and the high-arched ceiling in the study hall. On the lawn in front is a statue for the Woburn-born Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), who we’ll talk about next.
4. Lord Hobo Brewing Company (LHBC)
Founded in 2015, Lord Hobo Beer is now sold in 15 states in the Eastern United States, and has three locations around the state.
The brewery and headquarters can be found in Woburn, with a taproom that has blossomed from a modest establishment into a large space with seating for more than 400.
Since that first year the flagship has been Boomsauce, which is now the top-selling Mass-made DIPA in the state.
In a typical year, LHBC releases as many as 80 beers, but the core lineup includes 617 Lager, 617 Hazy IPA, Juice Lord (India Pale Ale), Angelica (Hazy IPA), Life (Session IPA), Free Bird (Golden Ale) and Glorious (New England IPA).
The taproom in Woburn has a 40-draft line system, with limited and brewery-only releases, as well as a complete food menu.
5. Benjamin Thompson House–Count Rumford Birthplace
In North Woburn you can visit the birthplace of Benjamin Thompson, a British-American Loyalist who went on to have a remarkable career in Europe after the Revolutionary War.
As well as a skilled military administrator, Thompson was a physicist and inventor, conducting groundbreaking investigating into the nature of heat, and developing improvements for chimneys, fireplaces, furnaces and kilns.
He was knighted by George III in 1784, and later entered government service in Bavaria where he was made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.
His preserved birthplace, with a gambrel roof and large central chimney, dates back to 1714 and is owned by the Rumford Historical Association, founded in 1877. You can take a look inside on Sunday afternoons, June through October.
6. Mary Cummings Park
On the line between Woburn and Burlington, these 216 acres of woods, meadows, vernal pools and wetlands were once the farm and estate of Mary P.C. Cummings (1839-1927).
In her will she left the estate to the City of Boston along with a large maintenance and care trust fund, supported by income from an office building next to Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston.
Cummings intended the park to be ‘forever open as a public pleasure ground’, and a century later this is a verdant oasis for walks along marked trails.
There’s a stretch of boardwalk over the wetlands, beautiful wildflowers in summer, and an RC flying field towards the north end.
7. Baldwin House (Sichuan Garden)
Woburn’s oldest home has been standing in some form since 1661, and is a prominent local landmark sitting next to a preserved stretch of the Middlesex Canal.
One noted former resident at the Baldwin House is the famed engineer Loammi Baldwin (1744-1807).
He surveyed and oversaw construction of the 27-mile canal, built from 1793 to 1803, and in operation until 1851. Baldwin was also responsible for the house’s current Federal-style design, dating from a significant enlargement in 1803.
Today the house is home to the Sichuan Garden restaurant, which also runs The Baldwin Bar in the same building. To the north, you can walk beside the canal for a few hundred feet, along the rail bed of the Boston and Lowell Railroad that replaced it.
8. Woburn Bowladrome
Candlepin bowling is a regional variation, specific to New England and Canada’s Maritimes. Dating back to around 1880, this style involves a handheld ball without finger holes, as well as tall and thin pins that are trickier to knock down than regular pins.
The local place to go for candlepin bowling is downtown’s Woburn Bowladrome, which was founded in 1940 and has 40 lanes.
As with any other alley there’s a pro shop, food and drink options, and bumpers available to younger bowlers. On Friday and Saturday nights there’s also glow-in-the-dark bowling, with blacklight and music.
9. Middlesex Fells Reservation
Southeast of the city, and less than ten minutes from Woburn Center is one of the top recreation areas in Greater Boston.
Over more than 2,200 acres, the Middlesex Fells Reservation is on craggy granite hills, containing a chain of reservoirs like Spot Pond, which is a water recreation hub, with canoe, kayak, pedal boat and rowboat rentals available in summer.
There are more than 100 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
Towards the south end, the ridges at spots like Wright’s Tower have wonderful views of the Boston skyline.
10. Cranberry Bog Conservation Area
On just shy of 30 acres there’s a peaceful and historically interesting conservation area along the Aberjona River in Woburn.
In 1905 the pond here was drained and turned into a cranberry bog, with plants that were protected from frost in winter by controlled flooding between November and April.
Cranberry farming continued here until the 1960s, and you can still see the dams along the river that were built to regulate the water flow.
There’s a trail along the western edge of the bog, offering an excellent vantage point to spot the birds and mammals that thrive in this water-rich environment and in the border woods.
11. Showcase Cinema de Lux Woburn
Part of the regional Showcase Cinemas chain, Woburn’s local movie multiplex has been around longer than it looks, and first opened in 1973.
The auditoriums are up to date with Dolby sound and Sony 4K, and are fitted with plush, power-operated luxury reclining seats for maximum comfort.
You can catch all the latest releases here of course, but film connoisseurs should keep an eye out for one of the regular classic movie screenings.
Alcoholic beverages are also available at the lobby bar, which has beer on tap and makes a selection of signature cocktails
12. Breakout Games
This escape room mini-chain has two locations in the Boston area, and the Woburn branch is just off I-95, near the Baldwin House.
Breakout Games has six hour-long challenges, for teams of up to eight people. Since many of the rooms are designed with teamwork in mind, the bigger the team the better. Naturally this will also spread the cost as you pay for the room, and not by the person.
Each room has a gripping and immersive theme, as you solve puzzles and discover clues to stop a sabotaged runaway locomotive, infiltrate a crime syndicate, or recover stolen museum relics from a thief’s mansion.
Another attraction for families to keep in mind in Woburn is a multi-level laser tag arena, billed as the largest and most high-tech in the Boston and New England areas.
XtremeCraze uses state-of-the-art equipment and a game system with multiple scenarios and formats, some based on the popular video game, Fortnite.
Under the same roof there’s also a bounce park, which is similar to a trampoline park but using inflatables instead.
There are no hard surfaces here, creating a safer environment where parents and children can have fun side-by-side.
On top of all that you’ve got a game zone, with redemption machines and classic arcade games like Space Invaders.
14. O’Brien Rink
Complete with a skate shop and snack shack, this rink is home ice for local youth hockey organizations like the Woburn Tanners (boys) and Mass Bay Warriors (girls), as well as Woburn High School’s boys and girls teams.
The O’Brien Rink also hosts learn-to-skate, hockey development and figure skating programs throughout the season, from September to March.
In partnership with the Woburn Recreation Department there are also scheduled public skate sessions, and you can rent the ice for private occasions, although availability is limited during the season.
15. Stone Zoo
There has been a zoo on the north shore of Spot Pond for close to 120 years. A member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Stone Zoo has around 60 different species on 26 wooded acres.
There’s a roster of engaging exhibits here, like Himalayan Highlands, home to yaks and snow leopards; Treasures of the Sierra Madre, keeping jaguars, coatis and cougars; Yukon Creek’s black bears, lynxes and arctic foxes, and Treetops and Riverbeds, where you’ll come across white-cheeked gibbons, colobus monkeys and North American river otters.
Children will adore the barnyard, with its friendly sheep, pygmy zebu and goats, while the zoo is loved for its walk-through Christmas light display, bringing extra cheer in December.