White pines, hemlocks, and white birches flourish on the 140 acres of New England countryside that golf-course architect Ted Manning—a Robert Trent Jones protégé—and US Women’s Open champ Mary Mills sculpted into a championship golf course for Townsend Ridge Country Club. Golfers can leave breadcrumb trails to find their way back as they swing through the forested links, hitting over the stream that splits the 3rd hole’s ryegrass fairway before heading uphill on a 474-yard, par-5 12th hole. The course’s signature par-4 14th hole demands a cautious approach, as balls that land past the pin find themselves rolling down a steep slope. At last, with the clubhouse in sight, golfers finish up at the 18th by launching their balls over a pond to land on a double green shared with hole 9.
Although it’s a daily-fee course, Townsend Ridge creates the feel of a private club with a driving range hemmed by 35 hitting stations and a pro shop that hosts two swing simulators. These let players keep in shape during wintery months by tackling digital recreations of the links at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. For more structured practice sessions, golfers can join lessons and get professional answers as to what’s the best grip for hitting out of the sand and what kind of bird lays golf balls.
Course at a Glance:
The first and only toy museum in the world solely dedicated to aviation-related toys, the Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum hosts nearly 2,000 vintage and modern toys from around the world. Housed inside a former schoolhouse, Top Fun has since converted into an airy exhibit space with a multicolor airplane command center and model airports quizzically anchored to the walls. Enter a nostalgic enclave of blue-bathed walls, and peep at the historic tin flyers from Japan, Hungary, Germany, and the United States. Kids can whimsically surround themselves in toy models piloted by Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Olive Oyl, and popular Latvian cartoon character David Hasselhoff.
The Fitchburg Art Museum, one of North Worcester County's oldest cultural institutions, edifies eyes with a dozen prismatic galleries boasting a broad collection of European and American paintings, drawings, ceramics, and decorative art pieces. Cultural connoisseurs soak up a showcase of Greek, Roman, Asian, and pre-Columbian antiquities as well as artwork created by emerging and contemporary artists. The Jude Peterson Photography Collection, for instance, consists of 96 photographs including ethereal landscapes shot in stunning black-and-white that were collected by Jude Peterson, a New England art collector and museum supporter. The Fitchburg Art Museum also claims to provide a great introduction to museum culture for young kids who have grown tired of ball pits but still yearn for eye-catching entertainment.
Armadas of softball-sized red balls line the 10 alleys at Putnam Street Lanes, awaiting their turn to rocket toward the narrow, tapered pins characteristic of Worcester's own candlepin bowling. Computerized scoreboards keep track of obliterated pins, and score-boosting bumpers pop up upon request. During cosmic bowling, the center's neon walls alight with psychedelic effects to hypnotize the red balls into doing bowlers' bidding, be that picking up spares or retrieving a chocolate bar from the candy shop. Guests of legal age may bring their own alcoholic libations to enjoy as they imitate Fred Flintstone's famous strike celebrations or Queen Elizabeth's infamous gutter-ball tantrums.
Bowlers upend candle-shaped pins by hurling grapefruit-sized balls inside New Palace Lanes. Spanning two stories, the BYOB center plays host to corporate functions and birthday parties, with private party rooms where friends can slice ice cream cakes or devour them by diving in face first. Free Wi-Fi helps patrons research the origins of candlepin’s matchstick-like pins, and the facility’s big-screen TVs entertain bowlers between turns.
The focus of Legends Grille & Sports Bar is its giant, fully stocked red wraparound bar. From behind this centerpiece, bartenders serve draft beers, bloody marys, and other cocktails. In addition to bellying up to the bar for libations, patrons can order pub food, such as a Bruin burger, Wachusett chili bowl, loaded nachos, or a fried-haddock sandwich, while taking in the game on one of the bar's 10 televisions. In addition, guests can take in live music acts throughout the week.