May 3, 2024

Free Places to go for a Nature Walk with Your Kids in and around Central Massachusetts

Looking for some free activities to do with your kids? Let’s talk about some places to go for a nature walk with your little ones in Central Massachusetts! I’m in Lunenburg (north central MA), so most of these are within a 20-30 minute drive from this area, but I’ve included a few beyond that as well for folks a bit farther south or east, or anyone up for a drive. 

Free Activities in Central Massachusetts – Nature Walks

When I’m not working as a newborn and family photographer, I tend to be adventuring with my kiddos. I grew up running barefoot outside all day long. Picking raspberries in the garden, catching frogs in swamps, exploring trails in the woods. I love sharing this type of childhood with my own kids now that I’m a parent. And to be honest, I also suffer from social anxiety, so doing activities like play groups or museums, where there are a lot of other people around, stresses me out. Our favorite thing is to find places that are a little off the beaten path. 

Sharing nature with kids is a great way to give them confidence, a sense of independence, nurture their desire to learn & discover, and to enjoy the little things in life. We always like to remind our kids to be ‘a friend to nature’. Enjoy the world around you and treat it well! 

Below are some of our favorite Central Massachusetts free places to go with kids that you may not have heard of before. Some of these photos are of my own kiddos, some are from family photography sessions, all are fun adventures!

Wachusett Dam – Clinton, MA

free activities for kids in central massachusetts wachusett dam
  • For anyone not afraid of a LOT of stairs, this is a really cool outing! This is the largest hand built gravity dam in the world. 
  • Website/ Trail Map: Click Here
  • The link shows a hike from North Dike to the Wachusett Dam— we actually usually do the reverse of this. Park by the dam (265 Boylston St, Clinton, MA), walk down the stairs and up the other side. There’s a trail that heads left to walk all along the reservoir all the way to a lovely open grassy area.
  • Please note, no dogs allowed here

Gibbet hill – Groton, MA

coolest places to take your kids in central MA
  • This is a quick hike up the hill for a huge payoff. Right as you get to the top, you come across the ruins of an old castle— super fun and magical to explore. See if you can spot the raven that lives in the nest at the top of the tower! The view from the top looks like it’s straight from a New England postcard, overlooking fields and with views of mountains in the distance. You can almost always spot the cows grazing in the field.
  • Website/ Trail Map: Click Here

Blackman Field & Woods – Groton, MA

  • We were excited to discover this place last year. It’s a lovely stroll through the woods, and so exciting for the kids when you come upon what my children call “the city of bells”— six big bells mounted high in the trees, with hanging ropes to ring them. Just make sure to follow the signs that direct you to which trail will get you to the Forest Bells. And if you continue past the bells, you’ll get a great view over a pond where you might spy a beaver working on its lodge. 
  • Website/ Map: Click Here

Jewell Hill – Ashby, MA

easy walks with kids with beautiful views near worcester
  • This gem has a beautiful view of Wachusett Mountain basically right off the parking lot. Take a walk on the Willard Trail/ Fox Pasture Trail through the fields, or if you’re up for it, take the trail to the top of Jewell Hill. You’ll spy an old cabin on the way up, and at the top you’ll be rewarded by a lovely view from a rocky outcropping.
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Farandnear – Shirley, MA

free things to do with kids near worcester nature walk
  • A great spot for kids to learn about all different varieties of trees! The arboretum near the parking lot is full of different species of trees, including a lovely willow that kids will love. The blue trail is a great walk that will take you past Paradise Ravine, which is more manageable with kids than it sounds. Let them check out the (shallow) rushing water, and before you head home, make sure to stop by the visitor’s pavilion for some cool nature finds on display. If your kids are anything like mine, you will probably be convinced to bring home about 9 sticks that they found on the journey.
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Steele Farm – Boxborough, MA

boxborough ma great place for a nature walk with kids
  • Steele Farm has an easy down-and-back trail right through the middle of the field. Check out the pollinator garden and see what different insects and flowers you can name. See if you can find the old Christmas tree farm area with a bunch of Christmas trees still growing. Parking is an unpaved lot on Middle Rd in Boxborough.
  • Website/ Trail Map: Click Here

Lane Conservation Area – Lunenburg, MA

dinosaur trail free things to do with kids in massachusetts
  • This isn’t just your regular walk in the woods. Someone stashed toy dinosaurs in various spots along the trail, so you can have a scavenger hunt of sorts as you go (just make sure you leave them where you found them so more kids can enjoy the hunt!). It’s a fun game for the littles and a lovely little walk along Mulpus Brook. The full loop is about 4 miles, but you can also take different trails to shorten it significantly.
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Sholan Farms – Leominster, MA

free things to do with your kids in leominster ma sholan farms
  • A fun walk through the apple trees and down to throw some rocks in the pond! We park in the lot by the big barn and walk through the orchard. Turn left at the gazebo and follow the trail until it splits down to the right. This will take you down another path to the Heywood Reservoir. We tend to see lots of bunnies hopping around here!
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Chestnut Hill Farm – Southborough, MA

kid friendly nature walk in southborough with goats and open fields
  • Park in the designated trailhead parking lot and get exploring! There are walking paths by the parking lot, as well as if you cross the road and go through the gate just to the left. We do either the Bobolink Trail, the Field Road, or Beal’s Loop. It’s a working farm and they have goats that are regularly moved around to different areas— see if you can find where they are munching the grass on the day you visit. 
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Cook Conservation Area – Lancaster, MA

walking trail by a river, fun place to wander with kids in lancaster massachusetts
  • This trail meanders along the side of a shallow part of the Nashua River. Our kids lovingly call it the River Beach because there are some sandy areas along the edge. They love splashing in the water and looking for crayfish. Parking is off Rt. 70 just down the road (if headed toward Clinton/ Bolton) from the Kimball’s in Lancaster. Look for a weathered red sign.
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Bowers Springs – Bolton, MA

free activities with kids in central ma
  • A great, mostly flat area for a nature walk with kids. Take a different route on the trails every time and see what you can find. My son’s favorite spot is the trail that goes between the two ponds, where we always see frogs, and there’s a huge beaver lodge. Bring your pup here, it’s a popular spot for dogs to stretch their legs. 
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Sibley Farm – Spencer, MA

sibley farm walking trail

  • Trails through the woods, or trails up the hill through the field— take your pick and do some exploring. Last time I was there, I spotted a porcupine!
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail map: Click Here

Doyle Community Park – Leominster, MA

leominster ma free places to take your kids doyle community park
  • The blue loop trail going by the estate core and upper meadow is the perfect length for a wander. There’s a huge old climbing tree and a little pond with a sweet bridge for watching fish and frogs. It’s also very stroller friendly!
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here

A Few Places that Aren’t Quite Free, But Still Worth a Visit

New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill – Boylston, MA

new england botanic garden great for kids
  • My favorite part about Tower Hill is their conservatories that are open year round. This is such a welcome escape in the cold winter months, to go visit warm places full of plant life. But this place is incredible in every season, as the grounds are full of trails and gardens. There are always fun things to check out for kids, especially the tortoise fountains and The Ramble which is a magical garden area geared for children and interactive play. Things like a tunnel made entirely out of sticks, little playhouses, and a waterfall into a frog pond. 
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here
  • Free for Tower Hill members, or $21 per adult and $11 per child 4-12yrs

Fruitlands Museum – Harvard, MA

fruitlands museum fun family activities in central MA
  • The yellow loop trail here is just under a mile, which is great for a nature walk with littles. Catch a beautiful sunset from the top of the hill! They also have several museum buildings housing various historical exhibits.
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here
  • Free for Trustees Members, $5 otherwise for anyone over 5yrs

Wachusett Meadow – Princeton, MA

wachusett meadow princeton great spot for a nature walk with kids
  • A peaceful spot with views out over a pond, trails through the fields, lots of wildlife to be seen, and even a gaggle of sheep.
  • Website: Click Here
  • Free for Audubon members, otherwise $4 per adult and $3 per child 2-12yrs

Fun Wanders a Little Bit Farther Away

Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens – North Andover, MA

fun activities to do with kids in north andover ma stevens coolidge house and gardens
  • No need to follow any specific trail here, just wander around the property finding a treasure trove of beautiful things on stroller-friendly paths— from a lovely greenhouse, to a rose garden with its own tiny frog pond, to meticulously manicured flower gardens. Our kids’ favorite spots are the frog pond and running free on the grassy hill.
  • Website: Click Here
  • free for Trustees members, or $10 per adult, $5 per child 3-12yrs
  • Please note, no dogs allowed here

Minuteman National Park – Lincoln & Concord, MA

stroller friendly walking trails in concord ma
minuteman national park stroller friendly kid activity
stroller friendly places to bring kids in massachusetts
  • There are endless stroller friendly areas to explore at Minuteman, and you can wander for as long or as short as you’d like, but some of our favorites spots are:
    • Old Manse (the river runs through here and the kids will love taking the trail over Old North Bridge)
    • Hartwell Tavern (a quick walk to the old building, which is right along Battle Road— you might even see some staff in 18th century costume)
    • Samuel Brooks House (a lesser-visited spot, but that’s what makes it a lovely walk through the field. Follow the trail to the right to find a long boardwalk through the wetlands and keep your eyes peeled for red-winged blackbirds!)
  • Website: Click Here
  • Map: Click Here

Keystone Arch Bridges – Chester, MA

central massachusetts free things to do with kids keystone arches
  • The trail itself is quite long (2.5 miles out for a total of 5 miles round trip), but you can do as little or as much as you want. The first bridge is not far at all from the main parking lot. If you continue farther, the arches get bigger and bigger. The kids loved building rock towers down by the water and seeing a waterfall in the woods. 
  • Website: Click Here
  • Trail Map: Click Here

Now Get Adventuring!

A few parting words— don’t be afraid to let your kids get muddy, wet, or otherwise dirty on your adventures! This will be the highlight of their day, and the cleanup will be worth it. Go at their pace and watch how their eyes light up at the things that are seemingly insignificant, but wondrous in their mind. Let me know how it goes if you try out any of these spots! The above places are all tried and true, but you can also find more ideas by searching online for conservation areas and walking trails in your town. There are endless free places to go with kids in Central Massachusetts. And if you connected with my photos, please reach out below to set up a family portrait session! Happy wandering!

Fill out the form to inquire about working with me to create the adventurous candid family portraits of your dreams!

candid family photos