Image via Worthpoint
Today’s city guide comes from Meaghan Dunn, a college student and co-owner of Mole Hollow Candles, a family-owned and operated handmade candle company in Sturbridge, MA. In this guide, Meaghan shares some of the fascinating and charming spots of Brimfield, MA (as well as the neighboring areas of Sturbridge and Brookfields). Thanks, Meaghan, for such a wonderful guide! — Stephanie
*A devastating tornado hit the Brimfield area this June. Please click here if you’re interested in donating your time or a financial contribution to the clean up and relief efforts.
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
Brimfield, MA, is known primarily for the thrice-yearly flea market that consumes the worldwide design, decorating and collecting communities. What many don’t realize is that the local area is home to a slew of treasures not related to the market itself, which are nearly as charming and exciting as the spools of vintage textile or the cut-glass drawer pulls that can be hunted down at the market. All of these attractions are open year-round, so they can provide a much-needed break from the occasional mayhem that is the flea market or can be seen at other points during the year when the traffic along Route 20 is less of a nightmare.
I have been a member of the Sturbridge community on and off since I was born, and my experience has been that the Brimfield area is so much more dynamic than just the flea-market culture that springs up in May, July and September. The area is rife with restaurants and shops run by terrific people who have a real passion for what they do. I hope that you will take the time to visit a few of these spots if you’re ever in town for the flea market or driving up I-84. (Hint: The exits for most of these places are the first two off of the I-84/Mass Pike interchange, so if you’re looking to escape traffic around the holidays or during the summer, these are great little stops to make.)
Please keep in mind that this area, like many smaller, relatively rural destinations, is not huge on nightlife. There are a few bars and a plethora of excellent restaurants, but if you’re looking for real nightlife, you will most likely be left wanting.
I’ve divided the guide by town/region: You’ll find sections for Sturbridge, Brimfield and the Brookfields. Most places are pretty close together, but you’re looking at a bit of a scenic drive if you venture from the market into the Brookfields, so keep that in mind when planning excursions.
There are so many places to visit, and this is by no means an exhaustive guide, so please stop anywhere that looks enticing — I’m sure it will be fabulous!
View Brimfield City Guide Map in a larger map.
Sturbridge is the first town that you will enter when exiting I-84 to get to Brimfield, and it is comprised of Sturbridge itself and the village of Fiskdale. It houses some of the more upscale dining restaurants and the majority of the shops in the area, as well as some chain hotels that are good options for lodging if you’re traveling with a family or if the smaller, independent places are booked.
Rovezzi’s Restaurant: Located in a charming old colonial, Rovezzi’s is known for upscale Italian food. The portions are good-sized, and the staff is very accommodating. Any of the seafood dishes are both fresh and delicious, and the desserts are not to be missed. 2 School Street, Fiskdale MA 01518
Sturbridge Coffee House: The only locally owned, independent coffee place in the area. Serves coffee/espresso/lattes and a selection of food that includes breakfast pastries and wraps. 479 Main St Fiskdale, MA 01518
The Whistling Swan and Ugly Duckling Loft: These two restaurants are located in an old colonial house, with the Whistling Swan downstairs and the Ugly Duckling Loft on the top floor. The Whistling Swan is less casual and emphasizes fine dining, while the Ugly Duckling Loft is one of the true bars in the community. It serves casual fare and bar bites around a sunken bar with a great atmosphere and live music. 502 Main Street Fiskdale, MA 01518
Cedar St. Grille: Run by the same owners as The Whistling Swan, Cedar St. Grille aims for the “American Bistro” feel, which I would interpret as traditional dishes reinterpreted with unusual ingredients (e.g., lobster sliders and crab nachos), and it gets rave reviews from everyone who visits. 12 Cedar Street, Sturbridge MA, 01566
The Publick House: Built in 1771, the Publick House is located in the center of Sturbridge along Main Street. It is quaint with a colonial feel and a great bakery that makes fantastic gingerbread houses around Christmas. I would recommend booking a room in either the Publick House Historic Inn or the Chamberlain House (both on the property) for a more authentic experience than the lodge. 277 Main Street Sturbridge, MA 01566
Sturbridge Host Hotel: The Sturbridge Host Hotel is located along Cedar Lake off of Route 20. It is independently owned and operated, and the only hotel on this guide that has an indoor pool. The rooms themselves are pretty basic and frill-free, but they allow pets, which can be a definite plus if you’re traveling with animals. 366 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA 01566
Shop, See & Do
Mole Hollow Candles: Mole Hollow has been making hand-dipped taper candles and hand-poured pillars and votives since 1969. We offer daily factory tours and have an on-site seconds store and gift store that is open from 10–5 daily. If you stop by and say that you read about us on Design*Sponge, we’ll give you a surprise! 208 Charlton Rd (Route 20), Sturbridge MA 01566
Sturbridge Pottery: Hand-thrown, glazed and fired pottery with a gallery that is open 9–5 daily. The raku are particularly beautiful, and depending on the day, you can watch one of the artisans at the wheel. 99 New Boston Road Sturbridge, MA 01566
Old Sturbridge Village: The largest outdoor living history museum in northeast New England. The village is a mainstay of the community and a great place to stop if you’re traveling with kids or have an affinity for colonial style. There are docents in period clothing, a working blacksmith, educational programs and many opportunities to see farm animals. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road Sturbridge, MA 01566
The Bird Store and More: As the name suggests, this store is full of all things bird related. It may sound kooky at first, but it is endearing and definitely worth a wander; the birdhouses are beautiful. 4 Cedar Street Sturbridge, MA 01566
Sturbridge Antique Shops: An antique cooperative located along Route 20. The selection is small when compared with the flea market’s, but if you’re driving by when there’s no market and want to do some shopping, it’s a great spot to visit. 128 Charlton Rd, (Route 20) Sturbridge, MA 01566
The town of Brimfield is the home of the Antiques Show & Flea Market. It is more of a “daytime” community than Sturbridge, meaning that most of the restaurants are oriented toward breakfast and lunch in order to serve the greatest number of people headed to the flea market. So, if you’re looking to get a drink at night or a late bite to eat, I would recommend heading to one of the places in Sturbridge, which tend to be open (slightly) later.
Francesco’s: A family-owned and operated Italian restaurant that features large, family-style portions. Very casual and friendly, which makes it a great place to stop after the flea market. 45 Palmer Road, Brimfield, MA 01010
The Apple Barn Cafe: Primarily a breakfast place with excellent waffles. The Apple Barn used to be a restaurant that was only open during the flea markets, but it was so successful that it is now open year-round, and the lot is always full. 52 Palmer Rd, Brimfield, MA 01010. (413) 245-4575
Hoo Ya’s: Traditional American breakfast and lunch. Eggs, hash browns, pancakes and large sandwiches. Hoo Ya’s is extremely casual, very popular and has an exceedingly friendly staff. 13 Main Street, Brimfield, MA 01010. (413) 245-3500
Yankee Cricket B&B: This five-room B&B is run by Bill and Shirley Simonic, who are the go-to people for all things Brimfield. The Yankee Cricket has a great reputation within the community, and I have heard that the pancakes are phenomenal. 106 Five Bridge Road, Brimfield, MA 01010
Nathan Goodale House B&B: Another B&B in Brimfield with a very good reputation. Like the Yankee Cricket, it fills up fast during the flea-market season, so call in advance to reserve a room. 11 Warren Rd, Brimfield, MA 01010
Shop, See & Do
Brimfield Antique Show and Flea Market: In the town of Brimfield itself, the main attraction is definitely the Flea Market. You can find a slew of treasures at these markets (anything imaginable really), and they’re quite the experience, with some unbelievable people watching. The dates for 2011 and 2012 can be found in the link, as well as directions to the fields.
The Brookfields are a collection of towns (East, West and North) that are about a half-hour from Sturbridge and Brimfield. They are charming rural communities with a few sparkling locations that offer a dramatically different atmosphere from what you would find in the two previous towns.
Salem Cross Inn (also mentioned in the “Stay” section): There are two restaurants on site — the Hexmark Tavern and the restaurant within the inn itself. Both serve traditional American food such as steaks, seafood and my favorite, chicken pot pie. The Inn also has a yearly roast that occurs in September and a series of “fireplace feasts” that take place on weekends from late fall to early spring. 260 West Main Street, West Brookfield, MA 01585
Clam Box: Serves fried seafood and ice cream. Prices are very reasonable, the food is delicious and the portions are huge. I strongly recommend the fried clams. 53 S Maple St. Brookfield, MA 01506 (508) 867-2047
Howards Drive In: Ribs, burgers, ice cream and fresh fried seafood. Howards gets consistently great reviews from locals, and it’s a great place to visit if you’re very hungry! 121 East Main St. (Route 9) West Brookfield, MA. (508) 867-6504
Salem Cross Inn: A classic New England Inn with a colonial flair that is frequented by a variety of celebrities. Family-owned and operated with great food (see above) and seasonal attractions. 260 West Main Street, West Brookfield, MA 01585
See & Do
Brookfield Orchards: Pick your own apples with a country store that sells fabulous apple dumplings and pre-picked fruit. Open year-round, but picking begins Labor Day weekend. 12 Lincoln Road, North Brookfield MA 01535
Ragged Hill Orchard: Pick your own blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears and apples. Picking spans from July to November depending on the fruit, and there is a country store that sells apple cider, pies and local food products like honey and jam. 94 John Gilbert Road, West Brookfield MA 01532
Paul Girouard: Paul is primarily a cabinetmaker, but he makes custom handmade guitars on the side. The woodworking is beautiful, and he can make them in basically any shape imaginable. The business name is Girouard Guitars.
Ann Malone: Ann makes the raku at Sturbridge Pottery. Her work is beautiful, and she has a pretty interesting background.
Halfhearted Comeback: A rock band that is headed up by two of our employees, Jed Giard and Matt Wright. Their music is loud but good, and they have been working on a few new tracks.