Because of its proximity to three major highways and the state’s two largest cities, Marlborough has become a desirable destination for major corporations. But Marlborough has much more than just a great location. Gourmet restaurants, plentiful shopping, a thriving downtown, a rich history, and a new professional sports franchise make the small city a worthwhile destination for visitors from anywhere in the region seeking a quick weekend away.
If you’re looking for chain hotels, Marlborough has many options. One family favorite is the Hampton Inn (277 Boston Post Road West, 508-787-9888, www.hamptoninn.hilton.com, $107-$209), which features a free breakfast, an indoor pool and whirlpool, free Wi-Fi, and a fitness facility. Those seeking more distinctive lodging should consider Longfellow’s Wayside Inn (72 Wayside Inn Road., 978-443-1776, www.wayside.org, $140-$175), just across the Sudbury line. Thought to be the oldest operating inn in the United States, the Wayside served as an inn and tavern for nearly 150 years starting in 1716. Henry Ford bought the property in 1923 with the intent of turning the historic structure into a living history museum. Eventually the inn was converted into a historic nonprofit. Each of Wayside’s nine guest rooms, furnished with antiques and country reproductions, boasts views of the inn’s wooded grounds. A new sister property, the Wayside Carriage House Inn (738 Boston Post Road, 978-443-2223, www.waysidecarriagehouseinn.com) offers classic New England decor with modern amenities such as a 32-inch flat screen television in each room. Both properties offer special packages with rates starting at $69 a night.
Start your day with the locals at Jakes Restaurant & Coffee Shop (30 Main St., 508-480-0414, cash only, breakfast $5-$10, entrees $6-$12). Here you can get classic comfort foods such as marinated steak tips and delicious breakfasts like the spinach, tomato, and feta omelet with corned beef hash from a fast and friendly waitstaff. The Sandwich Company (162 Church St., 508-303-3043, www.thesandwichcompany.net, $5-$9, cash only) is tucked away on a residential street and offers the best sandwiches in town. The Merchant of Venice wrap with chicken, pesto, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, and sprouts is a must-try. Zarape (33 Maple St., 508-485-5502, www.zarapemexicanrestaurant.com, $6-$17) serves up mouth-watering Mexican cuisine in a no-frills atmosphere. Look for the large mariachi figure outside. Kennedy’s Pub (247A Maple St., 508-481-8050, www.kennedyspub.com, entrees $8-$20) plates fresh seafood from its adjacent fish market in addition to tasty burgers, lobsters, steaks, and other home-cooked meals in a casual setting. Looking for something a bit more upscale? The menu at Fish Restaurant and Wine Bar (29 South Bolton St., 508-460-3474, www.eatatfish.com, entrees $14-$40) includes regional favorites like lobster and fish and chips, but it also intrigues with delights like sesame-crusted tuna and grilled swordfish with sweet basil-lemon aioli.
If the kids get restless, public skating is available daily at Navin Arena (451 Bolton St., 508-624-5580, www.fmcicesports.com, skating $5, rental skates $5). Miniature golf fans don’t have to wait until the summer to break out the putter. Trombetta’s Farm (655 Farm Road, 508-485-6429, www.trombettasfarm.com, adults $7.50, children $6) offers indoor miniature golf and homemade ice cream on weekends in the winter. As if golf isn’t hard enough in broad daylight, Glowgolf (601 Donald Lynch Blvd., Suite N161, 508-485-9900, www.opryglowgolf.com, adults $9, children $7) at the Solomon Pond Mall tests your ability to hit the ball through a windmill in the dark. This unique attraction is open after 4 p.m. weekdays when school is in, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11-6 on Sundays. When school is out, Glowgolf is open 10-9 on Monday through Saturday and noon-6 on Sunday. Outdoor recreation remains plentifulduring the winter months, and the 6-mile Assabet River Rail Trail (start at the corner of Lincoln and Highland streets, www.arrtinc.org) is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Marlborough and neighboring Hudson. Sports fans are anticipating the arrival of the city’s new professional indoor lacrosse team. The Boston Rockhoppers (121 Donald Lynch Blvd., 781-235-6100, www.bostonrockhoppers.com, tickets $11-$21.50) will play their first home game at the New England Sports Center on Jan. 12. There are six home games between January and March, and most of the roster are New England players. Those who enjoy more artistic pursuits should try the Coffee Loft (406 Lincoln St., 508-251-1431, www.coffee-loft.com) to have a cup of joe and then, in the same building, the Mad Hatter Gallery (www.mad-hatter-gallery.com), which specializes in work by local artists. The Wayside Country Store (1015 Boston Post Road, 508-481-3458, www.waysidecountrystore.com) was built in 1790 in Sudbury. Auto-industry pioneer Ford bought the building in 1928 and moved it next to Hager Pond in Marlborough. The store showcases hundreds of collectibles and an extensive candy counter at the Olde Tyme Candy Store.
The Lazy Dog (31 Main St., 508-229-2254, cover charge, usually $5, varies on weekends) not only has great pub food and drinks, but it has karaoke on Wednesdays, a DJ Thursdays, and live bands on Fridays and Saturdays. The Westender (493 Boston Post Road West, 508-485-1185, www.thewestendermarlboro.com) offers dart competitions on Mondays, karaoke every other Saturday, team trivia on Thursdays, and flavorful wings every day while fans watch sports on the big-screen television. Dante’s at Firefly’s (350 East Main St., 508-357-8883, www.fireflysbbq.com, cover none-$12) has live music every Friday and Saturday and open-mike nights every Wednesday. Enjoy the entertainment after some of New England’s best barbecue. The Halfway Cafe (820 Boston Post Road, 508-480-0688, www.thehalfwaycafe.com) has live acoustic music on Thursdays while patrons enjoy favorites from its extensive menu.Matt Taylor can be reached at MattTaylor0403@msn.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattTaylor0403.