Known for its importance in the American Industrial Revolution, Lowell is a city rich in turn-of-the-century history and natural beauty. As the birthplace of painter James McNeill Whistler, and author Jack Kerouac, this city boasts its fair share of famous sons as well. Here are the top 10 things to do in Lowell, MA.
As a landmark and museum, commemorating one of the city’s most famous natives, painter James McNeill Whistler, the Whistler House Museum of Art is a great place to start a trip to Lowell, MA. Renovated since its construction in the 19th century, this museum commits itself to the preservation of Whistler, other 19th century artists and regional artists in the Greater Merrimack River Valley area. Be sure to stop on the top floor to visit the artist in residence.
Mill No. 5 makes its home in the most unassuming of locations, yet one of the most characteristically Lowellian. On the fourth floor of an abandoned textile factory near Lowell’s downtown, find a variety of trendy enterprises, offering everything from a crafts and farmers markets, to an indie movie house and even a video game company. Mill No. 5 is a great in-the-know shopping center, which attracts Bostonians and New Yorkers for its refreshing variety.
Halfway between Lowell and Boston lies deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the tribute to the self-made, Jamaican-born capitalist Julian de Cordova. Encompassing an enormous 30 acres of sculpture, hills and woods, this park makes for a great stop en route to or from Lowell or Boston. With over 3,400 works in deCordova’s holdings, come away from a visit here reinvigorated, culturally satisfied and ready for the trip ahead.
Bursting at the seams with everything from historic fabrics, to period clothing pieces to great, galumphing pieces of factory machinery that illuminate times gone by, the American Textile History Museum is arguably the largest museum of its kind in the world. A fine calendar of touring exhibitions combines with some immersive and hands-on displays here to create a truly interesting day out no matter the traveller in question.
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Set in a 19th century, classic Greek revival-style building in Lowell’s historic downtown, The New England Quilt Museum is a realized dream of a community of quilting enthusiasts, intended to further the goals of preserving the region’s rich heritage in this rare craft. Offering an extensive collection of historical and contemporary quilts, this museum is a great stop off for the craft enthusiast, and a great starting point to learn more about this once popular, and characteristically American craft.
Often, the best adventures are the ones had enjoying a destination’s natural surroundings. The Merrimack River in Lowell offers such an experience, and with the help of the UMass Lowell Kayak Center, located at the university boathouse, such an experience really becomes possible.
Built in 1908, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell was the first Byzantine Greek church built stateside. The church is a great source of pride for the Hellenic-American population of Massachusetts, and for good reason. The inside of the church is stunning, and definitely worth a stop for pictures, or a mass.
Few bars can boast the same longevity that The Worthen House can. Built in 1834, this establishment is the oldest of its kind in Lowell, and proud of it! It’s pressed tin ceiling, unique artifacts and its legendary history of serving personages like Edgar Allen Poe and Jack Kerouac give this bar an advantage over all the others in town. Come here and try the Raven Potion, a drink celebrating the legend of Poe’s classic: The Raven.
Love him or hate him, Jack Kerouac did in fact contribute a great deal to American literature, despite his popular perception while he lived. Born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac in Lowell in 1922, a member of the prominent French-Canadian population living in the city and working its textile mills, he is buried at Edson Cemetery, along with his wife Stella.
As one of Lowell’s fully operating cotton mills for over a century, it is fitting that this once powerhouse in the textile industry has become a mill museum. There is no better place to see the conditions of a historic cotton mill than the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, which devotes an entire floor to conveying what a fully functioning textile mill used to look like. Another portion of the museum preserves the memory of the Lowell Mill Girls, who shattered stereotypes of women at work in their day.