Massachusetts : Safety by City
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Perhaps no place in Massachusetts makes you feel like you’ve taken a trip back in time than Sturbridge.
The town sits between Boston and Springfield, right on the Connecticut state line.
Sturbridge raises the bar on historical society walking tours and offers an immersive experience on 200 acres, complete with period-themed interpreters.
I can’t help but call this the Disneyland of Colonial Times.
However, it’s not authentic enough to leave out important things like electricity and indoor plumbing.
Digging back further into history, you can walk on preserved Native American grounds and a defunct mine to learn more about what propelled Sturbridge to fame today.
“Sturbridge is an unspoiled village, a rare example of what New England villages ought to be.
Its shaded green is unmarred by filling pumps or other unsightly encumbrances.”
– Old Bay Paths Book, 1942
You can usually tell how popular a tourist area is by the number of hotels, and Sturbridge has plenty.
Camping, yurts, and cabins are also options for those who like sleeping in the great outdoors.
The town is an hour from Boston and Providence, with a direct highway route to Hartford.
Warnings & Dangers in Sturbridge
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Sturbridge has a low overall risk with far below-average crime rates and a population of fewer than 10,000 people who want to keep it that way. If you aren't here for the village or wilderness, you'll risk being bored, but I promise you the activities here are worth exploring.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You won't find local public transportation, but the Greyhound bus system can take you to Boston and other big cities. Taxis and rideshares are available at a much slower pace than in other big cities. Having your own rental car is important to explore all the wilderness areas and nearby communities.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk with no pickpockets reported in 2021. 88 thefts were reported, and 28 of those were "other thefts," meaning it could be thefts in campsites or from yards. Don't leave things lying around here, but you also don't need a death grip on your purse or wallet.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You'll need to prepare for weather throughout the year, as there's a medium risk in each season IF a storm is approaching. Hurricanes or tropical storms that move inland can cause problems in this remote area, from flash flooding to landslides. Winter weather is common, and blizzards can cause treacherous travel conditions. Nor'easters are a risk from October through May. Tornadoes are possible, with a 2011 storm causing much damage to this region. All risks come with plenty of warning.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This is another low-risk, with fewer than five robberies happening each year. Even among those, most were at businesses or banks, not person-to-person robberies.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as this town is remote and small, with very few large gathering areas. You can also check the latest terrorism risk in America by visiting the Terrorism Advisory System updates on the Homeland Security website.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
This risk is low; any new scams will be found on the police department's social media sites. You can use the search function on the page to type in "SCAM" and see what, if any, alerts are in place.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women who are well-versed in outdoor safety should have a low risk here. A town this safe is the exception and not the rule in Massachusetts, so research other nearby cities like Springfield and Worcester before you visit.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Sturbridge's water comes from wells, and according to the 2021 Water Quality Report, all samples met or exceeded standards, and no violations were noted. The town can implement water bans if the source water runs low, but that won't impact drinking water - just sprinklers and outdoor water activities.
Safest Places to Visit in Sturbridge
You are encouraged to “Experience Sturbridge Like a Local” at experiencesturbridge.com.
This is the most inclusive list of things to do in the town, but you can also go to VisitCentralMA.org to learn about the region.
Each site has a travel guide available and different itineraries if you need help planning.
Old Sturbridge Village is the main attraction here outside the parks.
OSV.org offers a Visitor Orientation Video, so you can get the lay of the land and learn the dos and don’ts of visiting.
Unlike many New England attractions, this village is open throughout the year, with short periods of closures or reduced hours for special events or preservation.
More than 50 things to see and do fill the village, including:
- A working 17th/18th-century village with crafters and workers demonstrating life from the time period.
- Horse-drawn carriages
- Farm animal interactions
- Family-friendly games
- Gardens and trails to explore
Reservations are strongly recommended as the village does have a capacity limit and often sells out.
It’s open, rain or shine, but severe weather could impact the schedule.
For more questions, email email@example.com.
Tantiusques (“tan-te-us-quays”) lacks the bells and whistles of most parks, but its seclusion is part of its appeal.
Native Americans once mined the rich bedrock for materials, and then the settlers came to harvest the mines and use the graphite to build some notable structures in Boston.
Several building foundations remain from its early years, but the true showstopper is the scenic view at the top of the ridge.
Visit in the fall if you can to see sweeping views of the changing foliage.
Wells State Park covers 1,400 acres with 12 miles of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, or horseback riding. Anglers will want to gear up with various fish stocked in Wells Pond.
The park offers 55 camping/RV sites, 4 yurts that can fit up to six people, and a large group campsite.
The Burgess Discovery Trail runs through town and is ADA accessible with a bridge over wetland bogs, boulders left behind by glaciers, and wildlife sightings above and at ground level.
To review all the trail options in town, visit SturbridgeTrails.org.
Christmas season is another great time to visit Sturbridge for an old-fashioned celebration.
Even Old Sturbridge Village transforms into a holiday destination with hands-on gingerbread lessons and a Christmas Tree Trail.
While the trails in and around Sturbridge offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, the Ski Ward Ski Area is just 30 minutes away, with nine trails for all experience levels and an eight-lane tubing trail.
Rentals are available on-site.
Places to Avoid in Sturbridge
Sturbridge is not only a small town by population, but the area is also very remote.
You won’t find much of a downtown area, but Main Street does have basic inns, parks, and restaurants.
It’s just more spread out than in some other New England cities.
Because of this, there are no dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town to avoid.
As you’re getting closer to Sturbridge on the drive, pay close attention because there aren’t many exits to get there.
If you miss an exit, you might have to drive a while to turn around.
You shouldn’t avoid Sturbridge in the winter since it’s also a cold weather destination, but you should avoid trying to get by without winter accessories or a thick coat.
Boots are preferable, too, for slick sidewalks or hiking adventures.
To enjoy the parks and outdoor regions, you should know that Tantiusques is very rural with no amenities or park rangers.
Try a state park if you need to feel closer to a ranger station.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sturbridge
- Sturbridge has its own police department, but the website has a lot of outdated information. Use the Facebook Page @SturbridgePD to get the most updated information. The department’s main line phone number is (508)347-2525.
- Sign up for CodeRED notifications to get important safety information like weather alerts and road closures. You can also sign up for email alerts from individual city departments, like the water utility, on the city’s website.
- You should silence your mobile devices at Old Sturbridge Village to keep the authentic spirit. You can use your phone to take photos, but you can’t use a tripod or selfie sticks. Don’t feed any of the farm animals and bring your own water if you don’t want to purchase it at the village. Water fountains are not always available.
- A visit to Tantiusques comes with some safety advice. The parking lot is small and will not be plowed in the winter. The trail takes about 30 minutes without stopping. The old mine is blocked off, but there are caves throughout the trail. Bring a flashlight to explore the caves.
- During any trail hike, especially at Tantiusques, you need to download the trail map and use the trail markers, as it’s easy to get lost. This is a very wooded area, and it’s easy to get turned around or lost. Your mobile device might not work in many parts of the wild, so check your provider’s coverage map before you head out.
- You’ll need bug spray in this region from April through October. Find a brand that includes DEET for the best coverage. It’s best to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to avoid poison ivy and thick areas of mosquitos and gnats.
- Tantiusques is open to hunting during certain times of the year, so check the hunting schedule and wear bright orange if you’ll be on the reservation at that time.
- You’ll need a fishing license if you want to fish anywhere in the state. For this region, you’ll need a recreational freshwater license. Carry it with you at all times.
- Use Mass 511 to check road conditions before you head anywhere. You can create an account and set certain routes while opting into alerts for that route.
- If you’ll be using the Massachusetts Turnpike to get to Sturbridge, you should know that’s a toll road. Your rental car agency could provide a toll pass and add the charges to your bill. You can also opt to create your own account and pay the tolls directly. You won’t get stuck at a toll booth without cash because the whole system is cashless and billed by the license plate.
So... How Safe Is Sturbridge Really?
The town is safe and welcoming to visitors, with low crime rates and a genuine effect to help you make the most of your experience.
Violent crime rates are nearly half the national average, and theft rates are 35% lower.
The risk is exceptionally low, with just 16% of violent crimes happening against strangers.
Only one homicide has been reported in Sturbridge since 2011.
Some of the headlines from 2022 include a driver who threw a cigarette out of a window, causing a brush fire, and a pedestrian killed while walking on Main Street.
Car break-ins and catalytic converter thefts were also reported, a problem plaguing many American cities.
Too many car break-ins are due to cars being left unlocked, so don’t make that mistake.
You should review the Massachusetts Department of Wildlife website to see what kind of wilderness risks exist.
For example, Worcester County, where Sturbridge is located, is known to be a living and breeding habitat for black bears.
When I write these articles, I often can’t touch on all the things to do, but not Sturbridge.
Aside from unique historic inns and restaurants, I’ve covered the main points.
However, with so many major cities nearby, this is a great weekend getaway or day trip.
Just don’t visit other cities without reviewing the safety advice because few cities in this region are as safe as Sturbridge.
How Does Sturbridge Compare?
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- Visas - The pandemic really strained the U.S. State Department issuing travel visas. While they are available, the waiting list can be long. The department has new policies you should review to help expedite the process. You'll need a passport (that doesn't expire within six months) and a visa to get through Customs at the airport, but you won't need it to cross state or county lines.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here, and exchange any currency before you get to the small town of Sturbridge. In fact, you'll get lower fees if you take care of that at home. Make reservations in advance at the village or campsites, and be prepared to pay higher parking costs at state parks if you're not a resident of Massachusetts. From my research, the cost is usually 3-5 times higher than the state admission price.
- Weather - Since so many activities here are based outdoors, you should pack accordingly. This region gets the best and worst of all four seasons, and the weather can change abruptly. Always have an outer waterproof layer and comfortable but sturdy hiking or walking shoes. You'll be miserable here in the summer without bug spray. It can also get quite humid in the summer, so bring breathable, loose-fitting fabrics.
- Airports - Bradley International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport are the two closest, each an hour away, but in different directions. Even with Springfield being the third-largest city in the state, visitors use Bradley International Airport outside Hartford. Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport is also an hour away if your travels will take you in that direction.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a sigh of relief that isn't explored enough by travelers. While the cost of the policy will likely be up to 10% of the price, your health, transportation, and emergencies are all covered.
Sturbridge Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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