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Outdoor Adventure Awaits in Worcester, MA

Numerous parks and ponds help make outdoor recreation something special in the Worcester area. 

By Cary Estes on December 12, 2022

Worcester MA (Worcester Commons)
Chelsea Ouellet/Discover Central MA

Worcester has worked diligently over the years to make sure that its development hasn’t been all sprawl. As a result, there is still plenty of green (and blue) within the growth, as evidenced by the 62 parks, more than 200 miles of trails and several public bodies of water in the area.

“There’s been quite a bit of public support in Worcester for setting aside open spaces and establishing parks and conservation areas,” says Deborah Cary, community advocacy and engagement manager with Mass Audubon, the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England.


the number of parks in Worcester

“That’s why Worcester today is a very green city,” Cary says. “We already had a pretty good parks system, to begin with, but we’ve added 1,500 acres of park and conservation land over the last 20 years.”

And all these outdoor spaces can be enjoyed throughout the year. There is nothing quite like walking in the woods as the leaves change color on a brisk autumn day or enjoying water activities during the warm summer months.

But the area also provides plenty of winter fun as well, including easy access to cross-country and downhill skiing, snowmobiling and ice skating. 

200+ miles

the number of trails in the region

“A lot of people ask what we do around here in the winter,” Cary says. “I always go, ‘What do you mean? There are plenty of things to do outdoors in the winter in Worcester.’ We’re always busy with outdoor activities around here year-round.”

Elm Park in Worcester, MA
Jackie Ricciardi

Making a Mark with Parks

An appreciation for Worcester’s parks and open spaces is as old as the city itself. The area of downtown, now known as Worcester Common, was utilized extensively by residents as far back as the 1700s.

Then in 1854, the city used public funds to purchase the land to create what is now called Elm Park, making it one of the first designated public parks in the United States. Both Worcester Common and Elm Park are on the National Register of Historic Places.  

435 acres

at Broad Meadow Brook, the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in New England

Numerous trails and walkways wind throughout Elm Park’s 58 acres. In addition to the wooded areas, the park has a lighted basketball court, four lighted tennis courts, a playground and picnic area, and a pond that is used for ice skating in the winter. In addition, a Summer Concert Series has been held at Elm Park since the early 1990s.

Spring beauty shots on the Hill in Worcester, MA 2022 Photo by Avavell Chang
Courtesy of Holy Cross

Green Spaces

The largest park in Worcester is Green Hill Park, located atop one of the city’s seven main hills. This 480-acre beauty includes a golf course, a lighted field for football, two softball fields, five soccer fields, a zoo, an arboretum, playgrounds and the 30-acre Green Hill Pond.

Some of the best views in the city can be found at Salisbury Park, featuring the 56-foot-tall stone Bancroft Tower. Meanwhile, with the help of the Greater Worcester Land Trust, Cascades Park has grown from a small city green space into a 157-acre wooded area highlighted by a 1.4-mile loop trail that travels past a 60-foot-high waterfall.

480 acres

at Green Hill Park, the largest in Worcester

Water also is an important component of Broad Meadow Brook, which at 435 acres, is the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in New England. 

In addition, there are 5 miles of trails, including a mile-long accessible trail with a rope that can be used for guidance by visually impaired individuals.

“It’s all about equity,” says Jennifer Madson, central regional director for Mass Audubon. “Everyone deserves healthy green spaces where they can go and have fun. Having these spaces be open and accessible is how we produce a more livable city.”

1,500 acres

of parks and conservation land that have been added over the last 20 years

For those who like to get out on the water, recreational opportunities can be found at Coes Pond, Bell Pond and Shore Park Beach. In addition, Quinsigamond State Park provides sailing and fishing at Regatta Point and swimming at the Lake Park area.

“The city established a lot of green spaces, and now they’re doing the same thing for blue spaces,” Cary says. “We have an incredible lakes and ponds program where people can swim at a number of places. That’s one of the things that makes Worcester special. There aren’t many cities that offer all these different kinds of recreation.” 

Want to know more?

To learn more about the Worcester area, check out the latest edition of Livability Worcester, MA

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