Lowell's unique status as the country's first planned industrial community has been recognized with the designation of the Lowell National Historical Park. Covering 141 acres of downtown land, the park's textile mills, canals, museum exhibits, and nineteenth century buildings are connected by trolley service. The Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center is a restored 1836 boardinghouse for young women employed in the textile mills. It features an early nineteenth-century kitchen, bedrooms, and exhibits on labor history. The Pawtucket and Eastern Canals have been enhanced by walk-ways, landscaping, and public art, and boat tours are available. Other sights include the Lower Locks, the Appleton Mills, the School Street Cemetery, which dates from the 1770s, and the Homage to Women statue, which honors the American working woman.
The Lowell Memorial Auditorium is home to the award-winning Merrimack Repertory Theatre and plays host to a number of other cultural events, from touring Broadway musicals to boxing matches. Originally built in 1922, the restored facility seats 3,000. UMass Lowell's College of Fine Arts presents jazz and other music and dance events on campus at Durgin Hall. Outdoor concerts are presented in the summertime at Boarding House Park.
Whistler House Museum of Art, birthplace of artist James McNeill Whistler, has been preserved and is operated by the Lowell Art Association. The painter's works are featured among the museum's collection of nineteenth and twentieth century art. The New England Quilt Museum and the Boott Cotton Mills Museum reflect the community's link to the textile industry. The Cotton Mills Museum also houses the Tsongas Industrial History Center, New England Folklife Center, Lowell Historical Society, and Boott Gallery. The American Textile History Museum focuses on the origins of the Industrial Age and the history of American textiles. Brush Art Gallery and Studios is a non-profit workspace where visitors have the opportunity to observe local craftspeople engaged in the creative process. University Gallery is the city's leading space for the presentation of contemporary artists. Pieces of sculpture evocative of the city's industrial past are on view throughout the downtown.
Arts and Culture Information: Lowell Office of Cultural Affairs, 66 Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)441-3800
The Lowell Folk Festival is the largest free folk festival in the country. Featuring ethnic music, dance, and entertainment on outdoor stages, this three-day event takes place in July. The Lowell Summer Music Festival takes place Friday and Saturday evenings at Boarding House Park, from July to September. This eclectic mix of concerts includes bluegrass, big band, zydeco, pop, and folk music in an open air setting. Touted as a celebration of beer, music and food, the Lowell Rib 'n' Brews Festival takes place in September. Also in September is the Lowell Irish Festival. The first weekend of October brings Jack Kerouac fans from around the world to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, an homage to the On the Road writer and Lowell High alumnus. Lowell kicks off the holiday season with its City of Lights Parade in November, featuring marching bands, floats and holiday decorations. Other events include Winterfest in February, Patriots Day Celebrations in April, and Doors Open Lowell in May, a celebration of the city's historic architecture.
Lowell is one of just three New England cities with two professional sports teams. The 6,000-seat Tsongas Arena is home to the Lowell Lock Monsters, an American Hockey League affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, and UMass Lowell's top-ranked River Hawks hockey team. LeLacheur
The Sun newspaper sponsors the Lowell Golden Gloves boxing tournament, held in January and February each year. This multi-match event pits youth level boxers from all of New England against one another, with winners going on to the annual tournament. The Golden Gloves matches are held in Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
Lowell offers a full range of recreational activities. Sailing, fishing, waterskiing and other water sports are popular pursuits on the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. Lowell-DracutTyngsborough State Forest is located within the city, with 6 miles of trails for hiking, skiing, horseback riding, backpacking, and cycling; a 30-acre lake there is used for skating and fishing. Lowell also maintains 34 playgrounds, 42 tennis courts and 6 golf courses. Atlantic Ocean beaches are less than an hour's drive; the White Mountains are a two-hour drive to the north in New Hampshire.
Lowell offers downtown shopping with small department stores and other specialty shops. At the Boott Museum Store, books, prints, cloth, posters, and other historical items can be bought. Lucy Larcom Park (named after a local author and "mill girl") along the Merrimack Canal is the site of a Friday Farmer's Market.
Indian, French country, Italian, and Lebanese restaurants coexist happily with Lowell's oyster bars and seafood houses. The Athenian Corner Restaurant is reputed to offer New England's largest selection of Greek food.
Visitor Information: Lowell Office of Cultural Affairs, 66 Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)441-3800. Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, 9 Central Street, Suite 201, Lowell, MA 01852; telephone (978)459-6150; fax (978)459-4595