Worcester, Massachusetts

Woo-Town

Downtown Worcester
Downtown Worcester
Worcester City Hall
Worcester City Hall
Beer Garden
Beer Garden
Polar Park, Home of the Worcester Red Sox
Polar Park, Home of the Worcester Red Sox

186,433

Population

Sunny Days: 197
65100 Affordability
80100 Schools
60100 Diversity
76100 Safety

LookyLOO Review of Worcester

WooSox On The Rise!

Worcester was a textile and manufacturing center of the region until the 1950s. It went into a steep decline after that and took 50+ years to get a recovery started. A series of fortunate and unfortunate circumstances kept Worcester tantalizing close to full-scale recovery but just a bit out of reach.

Worcester missed some of the earlier booms in New England in part due to its location just a bit too far from Boston. The fact the Mass Turnpike avoids Worcester meant the city never had the late 20th-century economic boom other cities with direct exits received.

It also meant the commute into Boston was just long enough to prevent locals from feeling like the city was a reasonable option. That idea of being just a bit too far out of reach also extended to Worcester’s reputation. Always known as a working-class city it was never treated as a first-class option for those living in the suburbs and cities west of Boston.

Despite its history, Worcester prides itself as a community that has combined the best parts of both large and smaller cities. The growth in biotech in the area, the continued health of the dozen or so colleges and universities, and how smaller “second-tier” cities across the country are growing due to an explosion in costs for major cities, are attracting businesses and people to Worcester.

It’s a city on the rise and within easy reach of the other northeastern hubs but without their costs.

Lifestyle

Worcester is a mix of blue-collar families and rising professional and middle and upper-class families. The dozen colleges in the area give it youthful energy, plenty of bars, and cheap eats for nights out.

The downtown area, particularly the Canal District, has been completely rebuilt after decades of failed efforts to do so and it now has a good selection of excellent restaurants, upscale gastropubs, and tons of bars and live music. There are other bigger music and event venues including The Palladium and the DCU Arena. Worcester is also the Gateway to western Massachusetts and is surrounded by stunning state parks and freshwater recreation opportunities.

If you want to see what locals do for fun and culture in Worcester check out the calendar of events.

Worklife

Worcester has an interesting mix of biotech, health, tech, education and entrepreneurial businesses all in growth mode. The U Mass Medical School drives excellent health industry jobs and the dozen schools in the area mean there are always 35,000+ students here buying food, spirits, and tickets to shows.

Despite the collapse (what collapse?), the education backbone of the city always provided security to investments and businesses that took advantage of the in-school and graduating populations. While Boston is only 45 or so miles away, the economy here is more self-contained than you’d think and people tend to work in the area and not commute into the bigger city.

Worcester's entrepreneurial vibe is strong. The roots for this begin with the universities in the area with strong startup cultures. Clark University has an excellent Entrepreneur and Innovation Program. and WPI is an engineering and tech powerhouse with a history of hands-on education and importantly the first Robotics Engineering program. The city scene is supported with good infrastructure for startups via the Venture Forum Community, a 5 Minute Pitch Mentoring Program and solid coworking and incubator spaces in Venture X and WORCLab.

Schools

The Worcester Public School System has a large city's mix of high and low-performing schools. Increasing diversity in the population, with English as a second language for some, means test scores slide even in schools with excellent programs. Niche.com rates the district with an overall "B-" grade but there are A's and B+'s in the mix, with schools like Worcester Tech High School and University Park Campus School getting excellent grades at the high school level.

It could be the high volume of colleges in the area but the school system performs at a high level for college prep even in schools with lower performance scores. So you've got that going for you.

Why Now?

Cities like Worcester, in the 200k range population range, are booming due to lower costs, business incentives, and better community vibes than many major cities provide. In Worcester you also get to be centrally located between all the northeastern majors: Boston is an hour away, Providence is 45 minutes, Springfield is less than an hour and NYC is only 3 hours away. You really can’t beat it for convenience in this area of the country. You also skip a lot of the traffic chaos of the other biggies.

Reviews of Worcester from Locals

M Taylor
Lived in Worcester
Updated 18 months
★★★★★

"Worcester is the latest “it” city. The transformation in a few short years is astounding. Worcesterites have always had an inferiority complex due to its proximity to Boston and Providence, but the last several years has caused even the most cynical Worcester native to strut just a bit. Years of decay have completely reversed itself as developers from Boston and elsewhere have recognized the potential and comparatively low cost.

Barely a day goes by without an announcement that a new development is in the works or an underused factory area is going to be retrofitted for the latest in technology."

For more reviews of what living in Worcester is like from locals check out: Reviews From Locals

Neighborhoods in Worcester

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Downtown Worcester

Young Professionals/Young Families

Downtown, which was the center of the city in the manufacturing era in the 20th century, reaps the benefits of the massive brick buildings that were abandoned in the late-20th century decline. These buildings now house renovated condos and apartments, groovy new commercial spaces, and restaurants, bars and cafes for the locals.

The neighborhood is also home to the most exciting entertainment venues with DCU, the home of the city's minor league hockey team and other on and off-ice events, and The Palladium, the major music, events and Broadway traveling show venue.

Housing in the neighborhood includes some single family and 2 and 3-decker homes, but much more condo/apartment options in the historical buildings and new developments. One great benefit to the neighborhood is its walkability to Worcester Common, the city park that hosts movie nights and other outdoor cultural events and Union Station, the region's premier train center. Prices for housing in Downtown run from $650k for homes, $400k for duplexes and $170k for condos. Rents for apartments average $1,900 per month.

Families send their kiddos to either Union Hill School or Belmont Street Community School through sixth grade, and then Worcester East Middle School and North High School. The elite Worcester Academy is also in the neighborhood for those favoring private school. It's a day/boarding school for grades 6-12 that scored an ["A+" on niche.com](https://www.niche.com/k12/worcester-academy-worcester-ma/.

Canal District

College Students/Young Professionals

Canal District is the hottest spot in the city with the neighborhood constantly opening new restaurants, bars, music and community events for the growing young population to enjoy. It’s also home to The Public Market, the Worcester Ice Rink, and the newly opened Polar Park, where the Triple AAA Worcester Red Sox play. If it’s happening in Worcester chances are it’s happening here. Highland Street is another popular area in part due to its proximity to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a nationally renowned engineering school. The area features restaurants, nightspots and stores that cater to college kids and young professionals who want to live amidst the college scene.

  • Canal District
  • Highland Street
  • Downtown

West Side

Families

The neighborhood known as the West Side is the most “posh” choice a family can make in Worcester. Notable for big beautiful homes, winding tree-lined streets and excellent public schools it also has a beautiful park, cafes and a country club for those who want to be close to the links. Shrewsbury Street is another interesting option. Known as “Little Italy” because Italian immigrant families set up shop here in the early 1900s the area is now notable for both the density of families living here as well as booming commercial district that lines Shrewsbury Street.

  • West Side
  • Salisbury Street
  • Tatnuck Square
  • Shrewsbury Street

Forest Grove

Families

Forest Grove is one of the most coveted family neighborhoods in Worcester. It's built for those who crave beautiful outdoor spaces and larger homes on secluded tree-lined streets. Outdoor gems in the area include Indian Lake, Nick's Woods and the campus of Assumption University. Indian Lake has a wonderful beach, boat dock, tennis court and a trail for those craving a gentle hike. Nick's Woods is part of the Worcester Land Trust and has a number of hikes/walking trails alongside a coldwater creek filled with brook trout.

The neighborhood has a small commercial district, Grove Street, with restaurants and the Oak Barrel Tavern and a nice cafe spot: Bean Counter Bakery Cafe.

Average home price for Forest Grove is $530k which is reasonable considering the size of the large colonial estates and half-acre + yards. Students are zoned for Nelson Place Elementary, Forest Grove Middle School and Doherty High School. Doherty rates the highest, at a B on niche.com.

City Corner

Calendar of Events & City Guide

Museums & Culture

  • Mechanics Hall Concerts & Event Center
    Mechanics Hall is internationally regarded as one of the world's great concert halls for its superb acoustics and inspirational beauty. Regionally, it is considered to be Worcester's finest meeting place.

  • Worcester Art Museum
    The Worcester Art Museum has a collection of over 38,000 objects, assembled since its opening in 1898. With an excellent mix of art from the local community and the international art world, it serves as a cultural venue for Central Massachusetts and beyond.

  • Worcester Historical Museum
    Founded in 1875, Worcester Historical Museum is the only organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting Worcester’s unique and diverse history from all time periods and subject areas.

  • American Antiquarian Society
    The AAS has assembled the world’s largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, children's literature, music, and graphic arts material printed before the twentieth century in what is now the United States.

  • Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
    A large urban wildlife sanctuary, with over 400 acres. It offers open trails, outdoor programs for kids and adults, and multi-day nature camps throughout the summer.

  • EcoTarium Museum of Science and Nature
    The EcoTarium museum of science and nature is an indoor-outdoor experience with three floors of indoor interactive exhibits, live animal habitats, daily Science Discovery programs, hikes through forest and meadow nature trails, outdoor imaginative play, and a train ride (seasonal) around the 45+ acre campus.

Transportation

Worcester has its own regional airport, that does a good job getting locals to New England and some more distant East Coast cities, from Maine to Florida. There are some nonstops outside the east coast but this will mostly act as a puddle jumper to Logan Airport in Boston or one of the NYC airports if you’re traveling across country or over the pond.

Worcester has a commuter rail on the MBTA line running thru Framingham and then on to Boston. Amtrak also runs through Union Station on the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited Service that runs from Boston out to Chicago with a stop in Worcester. City public transport is limited to the bus line called the WRTA.

Health & Hospitals

Worcester has a world-class hospital in UMass Memorial Medical Center. It’s both an excellent general hospital as well as a teaching and cutting-edge research hospital. You could hardly do better at a city this size. Saint Vincent’s is another popular general and emergency hospital in the center of the city so both are convenient for locals with city-based distances all less than 30 minutes.

Internet Connections

The fastest digital connection in Worcester is via Earthlink Fiber at 5Gbps. Others including Spectrum and Verizon offer 1 or 2 Gbps.

Co-Working Spaces