Spend the morning learning the science and history of “sugaring” at Natick Community Organic Farm. Around campfires, visitors will learn Indigenous and Colonist historical techniques for making maple sugar. Learn about tree identification, how to tap, and more at their outdoor displays and tapped trees.
Afterwards, take a stroll through the Natick Center Cultural District, recently voted one of the most hospitable towns in Massachusetts. Home to more than 200 working artists, local small businesses, and cultural organizations, there is something for everyone! Check out unique boutiques like Five Crows, Baylee Bee, Calliope Papiere, Helen’s Handbags, Paper Fiesta, or the Hive. There are plenty of food stops along the way with Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, Buttercup, Comella’s, Eli’s Breakfast, Burgers, and Brews, and of course the world-famous Casey’s Diner a short walk down the block. And the Common is a great open place to relax. (While you’re wandering, see if you can find the tree with a face on it made from bike parts, a ton of mosaics, crosswalk murals, and a variety of other public art. Make sure to take pics of your littles with the butterfly wings mural!)
Once you have taken in all the sites, check into the Residence Inn Boston/ Natick (get winter discounts by entering promo code: ZJL during checkout). Just a short distance away, enjoy nearby shopping and dining at New England’s largest shopping mall, the Natick Mall, where the kids can enjoy some playtime at Jam Time or Level99 when they’re all shopped out. Grab some dinner at the fan-favorite Cheesecake Factory.
End the evening with a nighttime swim in the hotel indoor pool.
Book a one-of-a-kind class at Elsie Kaye Glassworks. Owner Holly offers special jewelry and metalworking classes for ages 7 and up from 9am-noon or flameworking classes for teens from 1-4pm during school vacation week. Kids can make bracelets, earrings, and their own unique glass beads. Parents can take a class too, or wander the beautiful adjoining shop full of home décor, jewelry, and more.
When you’re not at Elsie Kaye, book some time at Boston Paintball. This movie-set inspired paintball course in Ashland will get your competitive juices flowing (and maybe a little aggression out!). In between, enjoy lunch at Thaiminal, Westborough’s answer to amazing Thai food, or maybe at The Coop, famous for their wings and BBQ.
On your way to Franklin, pop over to Millis for the Twist Bakery, the “Best Gluten Free Bakery” in the country voted by USA Today’s 10 Best. Try their handcraft crave-able food including their best-selling lemon squares and then their full breakfast and lunch menu—it’s so hard to choose from their abundant menu!
No winter break is complete without a day of skating! Visit the Pirelli Veteran’s Skating Arena in Franklin for their public skate. Completed in 1973, the facility features a heated conference room, snack bar, skate rentals, and pro shop. Head across the street to the Franklin Sculpture Park to hunt up a wealth of public art…including “fish” on the bridge. Swing over to Mak’s Roast Beef, a family-owned and operated restaurant, for lunch. They feature North Style Original Roast Beef as well as a wide variety of other delicious items, including pizza, subs, pasta, salads and more.
Finish off the day by perusing the Cultural District in downtown Franklin, home to a wide variety of restaurants, local shops, artistic venues, and visual art showcase. Browse Pete’s Nerd Emporium and I have Coins and Collectibles for all your game board, comics, sports cards and collectibles needs. For books lovers, Escape Into Fiction is a must! A fiction-focused bookstore, the store also has a variety of unique items like small gifts, toys, and clothes, as well an art gallery that features local artists. And don’t forget the many food stops along the way! There is something for every appetite at Birchwood Bakery, Intermission Café, Maguro House, The Rome, Applause | Gelato & Unique Finds and Sante Fe Grill.
Time to hit up the best hidden breakfast gem in Framingham, J & M Diner! Wicked Bites calls it some of the most mouth-watering comfort food you’ve ever tasted. Fan favorites include the whisky BBQ maple pulled pork omelet (pulled pork in whiskey maple BBQ reduction sauce with bacon & cheddar cheese), the wicked monte cristo (cinnamon Danish cut in half, batter dipped French-toast style with grilled ham, turkey & swiss cheese), and the Reese’s peanut butter cup pancake.
Walk off that delicious meal at the Danforth Museum, home to the largest collection of work and ephemera by the twentieth-century sculptor Meta Vaus Warrick Fuller. The museum’s permanent collection focuses on American art from the 19th century to the present day. Changing exhibitions feature both historic works and the works of regional contemporary artists. Visitors can explore the five different galleries and even partake in a few artwork scavenger hunts and activity sheets. Download the Danforth Museum app (available in The App store and Google Play Store) for more information about each exhibition. When you’re done at the museum, walk across the street to the Framingham History Center, where you can view their new exhibition “Framingham’s Collective Journeys: Stories of Immigration, 1960 – Present,” along with a wide variety of fascinating artifacts such as John Hancock’s signature, slavery documents, suffragette pins and more.
On your way back to the hotel, grab a bite to eat at the family friendly pub fare, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Indulge in their renowned Deep-Dish Pizzas or new Carolina Gold sauce bone-in wings. But leave room for their world famous Pizookies desserts, a combination of warm and gooey with cold and creamy. Try the new cinnamon roll Pizookie, a fresh-baked cinnamon roll with house made cream-cheese icing, topped with rich vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.
On your way out of town, stop into the newly renovated Christa McAuliffe Center for their special Planetarium Fulldome 3D-animated film! Follow three young flies as they inadvertently stowaway aboard Apollo 11 and join Neil, Buzz, and Michael on their mission to pull off the very first moon landing. The McAuliffe Center was originally created in 1994 as a way to honor the FSU graduate and first teacher in space, who was killed in the Challenger space shuttle disaster in January 1986. The center is a complete interactive learning space that includes a large exhibit hall, planetarium and the Challenger Learning Center, which offers mission simulation programs—if you have middle schoolers in tow, you can sign them up for a half day workshop during school vacation week that lets them run a space mission themselves.