Road Trip: Route 28

An angler on the Merrimack River in downtown Lawrence, off Route 28.
An angler on the Merrimack River in downtown Lawrence, off Route 28.(CHRISTOPHER KLEIN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

Long before the construction of Interstate 93, Route 28 was the primary northern spoke radiating out from the Hub. Now the road less traveled, Route 28 meanders through a diverse conglomeration of prep schools and mill cities, woodlands and triple-deckers. While the journey from Leverett Circle north to the New Hampshire state line is less than 30 miles, it abounds with a full day’s worth of culture and recreation.


It’s never too early for a good matinee, and a pulse-pumping IMAX movie at the Museum of Science (1 Science Park, Boston, 617-723-2500,, $10) is sure to wake up even the sleepiest of sleepyheads. The five-story dome screen and digital sound system at the museum’s Mugar Omni Theater puts any home theater to shame, and to celebrate the theater’s 25th anniversary, the museum has revived its popular short feature “New England Time Capsule,” which it plays before select films.



Just 6 miles north of Boston, the vast rocky woodlands of the Middlesex Fells Reservation (617-727-5380, sprawl over more than 2,500 acres. At Medford’s Roosevelt Circle, take a quick detour onto South Border Road and park at Bellevue Pond, where the soundtrack of chirping birds and bubbling brooks quickly muffles the roars of nearby traffic. Hike to Wright’s Tower, the stone lookout that beckons like an enchanting fortress of solitude to stewing drivers creeping north in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 93. The tower itself is often locked, but the vista of the Boston skyline from the rocky precipice at its base is still spectacular. For a lookout open to hikers, try Bear Hill Tower, a 20-minute trek from the Sheepfold parking lot. The view from the four-story tower may not be the most scenic — thanks in large measure to an ugly, adjacent MWRA water storage tank — but it is panoramic, stretching from Boston to New Hampshire.


Don’t let the name fool you. Grumpy Doyle’s (530 Main St., Reading, 781-942-2822, grumpysreading
.com, lunch entrees from $8.99) is actually a pretty friendly neighborhood eatery. For lunch, the Irish pub serves up plenty of Gaelic standards — shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, Guinness beef stew — as well as dishes with a more international flair, such as shrimp and curry risotto and Brazilian steak frites. For a quick nosh, try the oven-baked pretzels served with cheddar beer fondue and Guinness honey mustard.


From the base of Wright’s Tower in Middlesex Fells in Medford, a view of Boston’s skyline — and sometimes of a clogged Interstate 93.
From the base of Wright’s Tower in Middlesex Fells in Medford, a view of Boston’s skyline — and sometimes of a clogged Interstate 93.(CHRISTOPHER KLEIN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)


It’s not an ivory tower, but a brick one that appears on the horizon of Route 28 as drivers approach one of the country’s elite prep schools, Andover’s Phillips Academy. Stroll the elm-shaded campus and visit the Addison Gallery of American Art (180 Main St., Andover, 978-749-4015,, which features one of the country’s premier collections of paintings, photographs, and sculptures by domestic artists. The museum, which recently completed a three-year renovation and expansion, regularly hosts rotating exhibits in addition to a permanent collection that includes works of such notables as Winslow Homer, James Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Don’t miss the fleet of model ships, including miniature versions of the Mayflower and the Santa Maria, on the ground floor.

4:30 p.m. CITY OF THE DAM

In the shadows of the brick smokestacks that pierce the Lawrence sky, Route 28 crosses the Merrimack River, which once powered this old mill city. Almost directly below the bridge is a 19th-century engineering marvel: the Great Stone Dam. The 900-foot-long granite colossus was the Hoover Dam of its day, the longest structure of its kind in the world when it was completed in 1848. To get an up-close view of the dam and the falls that often cascade over its top, stop at the riverside Pemberton State Park (978-794-1655), part of Lawrence Heritage State Park. Surrounded by shuttered textile mills, the park is a popular, and perhaps surprising, hot spot for fishermen. Watch as anglers on the banks and waist-deep in the rushing waters of the Merrimack cast lines and reel in herring, stripers, shad, and even salmon.


5:30 p.m. THE LAST STOP

The stone arches, turrets, and medieval-looking towers of the Searles Bridge spanning the Spicket River provide a fairy-tale welcome to downtown Methuen. As long as you’re just south of the border, albeit the New Hampshire border, dine at Mi Mexico Lindo (5 Pleasant St., Methuen, 978-682-2271,, entrees $10.99-$19.99). With Spanish-language channels on the televisions and piñatas hanging from the ceiling, Mi Mexico Lindo has a perpetual Cinco de Mayo vibe, and the menu is voluminous. Walk off the meal — and the homemade sangria — along the pathways flanking the Spicket River and its historic waterfall as the sun sets over the Merrimack Valley.

Christopher Klein can be reached at