A Central Mass. Stay-cation

If you’re parents of a bunch of kids, you know that planning a weekend away is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth — even if you don’t plan on bringing kids with you. You might end up in a hotel with an uncomfortable bed or noisy guests, and then that solid night’s sleep you’re after is ruined.

For this reason, my husband and I decided to stay home for a recent fall weekend in Massachusetts and send our kids to relatives for two nights. I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be doing something more exotic, but I really like my bed.

We were also looking forward to checking out some of the many things to do in Sturbridge and Charlton, Mass. These Central Massachusetts towns near us have become destinations for beer enthusiasts and foodies, and the outdoor attractions are a big draw too. We were grateful for some time to do the things that would be made miserable if we brought our kids. Here’s what we got ourselves into!

Treehouse Brewery in Charlton

If you have a dog and like beer, I am quite certain Treehouse Brewery is the place for you. Set back from Route 20 in Charlton, Mass. and surrounded by scenic hills and forest, this was an ideal spot to kick off our weekend. The weather was mild this fall afternoon, but the fires outside were roaring anyway. After we got our drinks from the taproom inside, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the covered picnic area, wishing we had brought our puppy since nearly everyone else did. There were also lots of babies and toddlers. I think 30 somethings believe they need to bring their kids to breweries to prove to themselves they are still cool, but we don’t feel compelled to do this.

The beer was tasty and I definitely want to go back to get Christmas gifts from the gift shop there — perfect for the “hard-to-shop-for” people on our list. There is no kitchen, but Treehouse hosts food truck vendors. We skipped those since we had big dinner plans.

Next stop …

Baba Sushi & Hot Pot, Sturbridge

This area of Massachusetts is actually a foodie’s delight, so deciding where to eat was tough. We hadn’t had sushi in a long time, and we were glad we settled on Baba Sushi & Hot Pot. We got our fix but were even more impressed with the hot pot experience. The meat and fish they provide for cooking is delectable, the broth savory and invigorating, thanks to the aromatic spices. It was perfect for a fall night. I marveled out how far we’ve come, sitting in a crowded dining room with soup-steamed windows felt so Pre-Covid. It was fun!

Broth + Mai Tai

Hiking in Sturbridge

We had great weather and I was eager to venture onto some of the many wooded trails and open farmland paths in Sturbridge. It was more leisurely than a true hike. We walked portions of the Leadmine Mountain Conservation Area, which took us through both woods and open meadow trails. Along the way, there were beautiful vistas with benches. Something I really enjoyed as a history enthusiast was the portion along the old Boston Post Road, once the main thoroughfare from Boston to New York. I left our hikes feeling like we just scratched the surface, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Leadmine Trail Conservation Area, Sturbridge, Mass.

A hidden gem in Charlton

On our way out of the area to pick up our kids, we pulled off Route 20 in Charlton and found a tiny bakery that sold phenomenal cannoli, among other Italian treats. We ordered some to thank the grandparents for our reprieve. I will definitely go back the next time we need a special dessert, or just have a hankering for something from Boston’s Italian North End but don’t want to drive an hour. I love finding local gems like this!

We would need a lot more time to hit all the food and nature sites these Central Massachusetts towns have to offer. There are breweries and vineyards as well as many shops and art studios. I look forward to slowly working my way through it all, or maybe taking another weekend soon to explore with my husband. I can dream!

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