So you’ve unpacked, settled in and are ready for the start of a new semester. Whether you’re returning to Lowell or experiencing it for the first time, the city’s unique history, heritage and location offer loads of options for entertainment, enrichment and fun. For foodies, art lovers, athletes or history buffs, Lowell is bursting with cool things to do. Drawing on suggestions from current students, alumni and others, we’ve put together a list of don’t-miss things to experience in the city. Now get out there and enjoy yourself.
Not many cities can lay claim to a National Historical Park within their borders, but Lowell is one of them. Lowell National Historical Park has preserved the city’s legacy as the hub of the Industrial Revolution and showcases its central role as a technology innovator as the country’s first planned city. Visit the Boott Mills to experience the roar of looms turning out cotton or take a canal tour for a front-row view into the city’s past.
As a city with a proud history of immigrants from all over the world, Lowell is home to numerous ethnic eateries. Diners can feed on Cambodian, Portuguese, Greek, Chinese, French fare and more. Dying for spicy wings? Head to Simply Khmer on Lincoln Street. Got a hankering for Chinese food? Visit the Eggroll Café by North Campus. Hungering for falafel? Find Marko’s Mediterranean Grill on Thorndike Street. From food trucks to white-linen dining, Lowell’s restaurant scene has got you covered.
Literature lovers flock to Lowell to visit the hometown of Beat writer Jack Kerouac. Lowell honors this famous native son with a park on Bridge Street that stands near the mills and the banks of the Merrimack River, two enduring images in Kerouac’s Lowell-based novels. The memorial consists of granite stones inscribed with excerpts from Kerouac’s writing, and stone benches that offer a tranquil oasis for picnics, relaxing and artistic inspiration. To quote Ti Jean himself, “Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.”
Lowell Memorial Auditorium and Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, Lowell is proud to present two unique venues where you can enjoy stellar off-Broadway musicals, plays and concert extravaganzas. The Merrimack Repertory Theatre, an intimate setting for theater lovers, has featured everything from Tony Award-winners like Proof to lesser-known, thought-provoking plays such as The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. The Lowell Memorial Auditorium is a 2,800-seat grand concert hall that brings such headliners as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the techno-rock band Bassnectar to town.
Lowell Cemetery Tour
Art is everywhere in Lowell, and a great place to see art throughout the ages and learn about the history of the city is on a Lowell Cemetery Tour. Established in 1841, the cemetery is final resting place to many prominent Lowellians, including the late U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas. Tours are offered several times a year and provide insight into the city’s past and the lives of the people who built the city.
The Mighty Merrimack
The most distinctive geographical feature of Lowell is the mighty Merrimack River, which offers abundant opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming and relaxation. Take a run along the paths that line the river or rent a kayak from the university’s boathouse. Watch world-class rowers in the Textile River Regatta, the largest single-day regatta in the country. Grab a frozen treat from Orchard Hill Ice Cream or Heritage Farm Ice Cream & Restaurant -- two spots along the river -- and watch the sunset.
A City of Festivals
Lowell is proud to play host to several unique festivals that bring the community together and draw visitors from across the country. Each August, the Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival, which attracts up to 50,000 people each year, is an opportunity to experience Southeast Asian culture, foods, crafts and dragon boat races. Come February, Winterfest warms things up with chili contests, a snowman-building challenge and the human dogsled races. For music and food lovers, the Lowell Folk Festival is a three-day spectacular in late July filled with performers from around the world and a bounty of food offerings. No matter the season, there is always cause for celebration in Lowell.
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
Lowell has plenty of green space to explore. The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is a great place to get outside, either by bike, skates or on foot. The trail starts in Lowell and travels through Chelmsford, Westford and other neighboring towns, eventually leading all the way to Framingham.
You Gotta Have Art
What better to witness the embodiment of Lowell’s motto “Art is the handmaid of good” than checking out the city’s lively art studio and gallery scene? In the fall, Lowell holds an annual open studios event in which work from more than 150 artists, filmmakers, jewelry designers and others is on display. Throughout the year, studios like the Arts Leagues of Lowell and the Western Avenue Studios have events where you can see the latest work from local artists, take classes and more.
Lowell is home to the Boston Red Sox single A minor league affiliate team the Lowell Spinners, who play at LeLacheur Park, right in the middle of East Campus. The ballpark, which is also the home field for the UMass Lowell River Hawks baseball team, is a great place to see future stars in action. In fact, 73 former Spinners have made the transition to the big leagues, including Will Middlebrooks, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis. Every game features a different theme and giveaways and the fans are part of the action.