From the Lowell Folk Festival to Axe Throwing, We’ve Got You Covered

African dancer in Lowell Folk Fest parade
An African dancer marches in a Lowell Folk Festival procession.

By University Relations and Community Relations staff

Campus may be quieter over the summer, but Lowell is buzzing with activity. From tried-and-true favorites like the Lowell Folk Festival and canal boat tours to more obscure options like axe throwing and chess, there is so much for students, faculty and staff to do in the Mill City in July and August.

Here are eight ways you can make the most of your summer in Lowell:

Asian dancer at Lowell Folk Festival

1. Get Your Folk On

In the mood for a free music festival featuring funk, bluegrass, honky-tonk and Chicago blues, not to mention Portuguese fado, Irish, Cajun, Greek, Haitian, Afghan and Ukrainian performances? Then the Lowell Folk Festival — one of the largest of its kind in the country — is your vibe. The three-day extravaganza takes over downtown July 28-30 and includes food and crafts from around the world.
Student workers from UML Kayak Center on Merrimack River in Lowell.

2. Get Paddling

When you climb into a kayak at UML’s Bellegarde Boathouse (500 Pawtucket Blvd.) and paddle out on the Merrimack River, the city seems to disappear. The UML Kayak Center rents all the equipment that you need and offers instruction for kayaking, canoeing and standup paddleboarding. It also runs special group outings, including sunset paddle tours (every Friday and Saturday), a stargazing evening paddle (July 17), a Lowell history and natural history tour (July 24) and a full moon evening paddle (July 31).
Performer floats in front of Western Ave. Studios in Lowell

3. Get Creative

Check out the works and wares of more than 350 local artists at Western Avenue Studios, the “creative soul of Lowell.” Located in converted mill space at 122 Western Ave., the collaborative is hosting a “Summer Sensational” at its Loading Dock Gallery throughout July and open studios and an outdoor market on Aug. 5. While there, you can grab a coffee at Nibbāna Cafe or an ale at Navigation Brewing Co.
Lowell Chess Club playing outdoors

4. Get in the Game

Virtual reality experiences in the metaverse may be the future, but there’s still something to be said for good-old-fashioned in-person activities. If chess is your game, or you want to learn, the Lowell Chess Club plays on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. at Pollard Memorial Library (401 Merrimack St.) and Sundays at 1 p.m. at Mill No. 5. Prefer trivial pursuits? Join a trivia night: Mondays at 6:30 p.m. at TreMonte (44 Palmer St.), Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Court (29-31 Central St.) and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Warp & Weft (197 Market St.). If you feel more daring, you can try axe and knife throwing at the Axe Shack (121 Church St.). Or, if pickleball is your thing, drop-in games at the Campus Recreation Center are open to everyone on Sunday mornings at 10. Check out the “Lowell MA Pickleball” group on Facebook for more info.
Concert stage at Boarding House Park in Lowell

5. Get Grooving

Bring your lawn chair or blanket down to Boarding House Park (40 French St.) and catch a concert under the stars at the Lowell Summer Music Series. Now in its 33rd year, this summer’s lineup includes Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (Aug. 3), Melissa Etheridge (Aug. 4), Patty Griffin (Aug. 11), the Robert Cray Band (Aug. 31) and moe. (Sept. 1). Grab tickets at

6. Get Cultural

As a Gateway City, Lowell is a vibrant mosaic of cultures — and home to summertime celebrations for all to enjoy. Be sure to check out the Puerto Rican Festival (Aug. 5 at JFK Plaza, Arcand Drive), the Southeast Asian Water Festival (Aug. 19 at Lowell Heritage State Park) and the Multicultural Festival (Aug. 26 at JFK Plaza). Oh, and Panela Restaurant (525 Hanover St.) hosts salsa dancing nights every Thursday from 8:30 to midnight.
Mill City Grows mobile market and vegetables

7. Get Your Greens

What’s better in the summer than fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables? Skip the grocery store and fill your reusable shopping bag at your choice of farmers markets around the city. Community Teamwork hosts a market on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Hamilton Canal Garage (350A Dutton Street). At Mill No. 5 (250 Jackson St.), there’s a Farm Market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. And Mill City Grows’ popular Mobile Markets can be found at various locations from Tuesdays through Fridays. 
Lowell Canal tours

8. Get Historic

When history is all around you, it can easily become overlooked as background scenery. Summer is a great time to become acquainted — or reacquainted — with Lowell’s role in the Industrial Revolution. At the Lowell National Historical Park, you can explore the Boott Cotton Mills Museum and Mogan Cultural Center, take a canal boat tour and ride on a trolley shuttle. Or, put on your walking shoes and explore the canal walkways.