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West Brookfield, MA, Travel Review

Off the Beaten Path in West Brookfield MA

One of the prettiest towns in New England West Brookfield features a classic village green, quaint downtown, historic Salem Cross Inn restaurant and scenic Lake Wickaboag.

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West Brookfield, MA, neighborhood

A tree-lined street with historic homes near the beautiful West Brookfield Town Common. (photo by Eric H.)

Article and photo by Eric H. 

(WEST BROOKFIELD, MA, New England USA) -- We live in a Boston suburb that keeps growing and growing. Sometimes, the increasing housing and commercial developments, heavy traffic, road rage and busy lifestyles beg for a wholesome trip back in time somewhere far away.

Fortunately for us, West Brookfield, MA, provides the relaxing, peaceful antidote within 90 minutes of our home.

The tiny town, located in central Massachusetts' unspoiled Quaboag Valley, left an immediate serene impression on our first visit with its appealing, historic, off the beaten path New England small community presence. The stunning, huge town common is one of the prettiest we've seen in New England with a magnificently detailed bandstand, truly wide open green spaces graced by shady trees, park benches, a baseball field, the incredible 1886 Rice Memorial Fountain and well-preserved Federal, Colonial and Victorian homes elegantly surrounding the green. It's a great place to walk, watch a baseball game, relax by the lake, attend a summer concert, or just watch the world go by at a much slower pace.

Lake Wickaboag

Lake Wickaboag (photo by Eric)

This is true New England in its most authentic form.  As part of a region called the Brookfields (including West Brookfield, North Brookfield and East Brookfield), this area perhaps represents the best of traditional small-town Massachusetts with winding country roads, lakes and ponds, apple farms, antique shops, church fairs, the aforementioned large village greens and a sense of community spirit and much-welcomed underdevelopment that you thought you'd never see again.

West Brookfield resonates as a hidden Massachusetts travel gem, far removed from the 21st century in the best sense, with its beautiful tree-lined side streets featuring fine, old neighborhoods, and scenic, secluded Lake Wickaboag. It is really like going back in time, as further evidenced by families congregating on their front porches, country roads with big farms and open land and virtually no commercial and industrial development.

West Brookfield Town Common

Sitting on a bench at the West Brookfield Town Common with quaint Main Street in the background (photo by Eric)

Some examples of old, impressive downtown architecture include the Town Hall built in 1859, the Merriam Gilbert Library built in 1880; The Ye Olde Tavern (food, drink and functions), built in 1760; and Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church built in 1889.

Local residents seem pleasant, stopping to say hello to us strangers and conversing with fellow neighbors. The folks here seem intelligent, articulate and really content and proud to live in their authentic New England town. Not everybody can say that about their community. Some say it's a great place to raise children, others talk about the "little things" that mean a lot to them -- concerts and little league games at the common in the summer, and at the same location a fall festival, and a tree lighting ceremony during the holiday season.

On our visits, we have enjoyed the following West Brookfield attractions:

Salem Cross Inn at night

Salem Cross Inn restaurant at night (photo by Eric)

The Salem Cross Inn -- The quintessential New England restaurant with classic New England fare within a beautifully restored 1770s Colonial structure. The hardwood floors, post and beam ceilings, candlelight dining, roaring fireplace, antique furnishings and some delicious Yankee Pot Roast, slow-roasted prime rib and apple pie are enough to make you realize you are officially in New England.

Lake Wickaboag -- For town residents only, we, as guests for a day, loved this quiet, scenic and clean beach right off the town center. For visitors, we recommend driving Lake Wickabaug Rd., to enjoy a full appreciation and views of this wonderful rural lake that feels like an aquatic branch office of an Adirondack Mountains lake in Upstate New York.

The Book Bear -- More than 90,000 used books are available at this huge warehouse-like building with knowledgeable, dedicated friendly service. The smell of old books and the chance of making new friends with old books brings in book lovers of all ages.  

West Brookfield countryside

West Brookfield countryside (photo by Eric)

Walking the downtown and common -- The downtown features a wide Main Street, lots of trees, the town common, an old-fashioned library, those big, old beautiful homes, and a local hardware store, a few places to eat, a convenience store, a small post office, and not too much else. A Dunkin' Donuts is really the only chain store in the center; otherwise, it's classic New England, a great place to walk and admire a true New England town.

Howard's Drive-in

Howard's Drive-In (photo by Eric)

Howard's Drive-In -- A long-time seasonal favorite featuring ice cream, sandwiches and more ambitiously steak and lobster dinners. It's family-oriented where you place an order at the outdoor counter and then eat at one of the picnic benches.

Brookfield Orchards

Brookfield Orchards in nearby North Brookfield (photo by Eric)

Brookfield Orchards in neighboring North Brookfield -- It's so quiet at Brookfield Orchards, you could hear a pin drop. It's a great place to go apple picking in the fall and shop at the barn-like country store where you'll find books, furnishings, antiques, toys, jams, jellies, incredible apple dumplings and locally-made cheddar cheese, and just about everything else under the sun.

West Brookfield is also close to Brimfield, home of the famous Brimfield Antiques Show, that runs the second week in May, July and September. West Brookfield also neighbors Sturbridge, a tourist destination featuring Old Sturbridge Village, a living, interactive outdoor museum re-creating life in the 1830s. Sturbridge also features many fine restaurants, lodging choices and shopping. Sturbridge is really a great day trip or vacation destination, in a different kind of way compared to the more placid West Brookfield.

If it's true New England peace and quiet you're looking for, however, West Brookfield is the answer. West Brookfield might look unassuming and definitely off the beaten path, but offers enough to do for a wonderful day trip, or possibly a place to call home for those in search of a simple, scenic and pastoral quality of life in the heart of New England. After all, sometimes, the housing developments, increased traffic, road rage and busy lifestyles do indeed beg for a wholesome trip back in time somewhere, thankfully, not too far away.

For more information on West Brookfield and the Quaboag region, visit the Quaboag Hills Region Web Site.

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