Lowell National Historical Park preserves the important industrial history of both the area and the greater United States. The factories here pushed the country forward and pulled along families from various backgrounds through its industrial factories. The Massachusetts town is a melting pot of America and important for so many reasons.
About Lowell National Historical Park
Established in 1978, the 141 acre park covers quite a few different sites to explore in the area. From canals to mills, to factories, the area was a hub of important industrial work and innovation.
The site was built on the banks of the Merrimack River and the river was vital to the operations of the site. Water was used in the canals, powered the mill, factories, and village. The industrial revolution was really won in places like this, and through revitalization you can explore and understand the history of this and that important era.
The town was an important site from the early 19th century (since the 1820s), and an example of early planned industrial cities. It also had some famous residents and visitors such as the local Lowellian Jack Keroauc and a visit from Charles Dickens.
Best Time to Visit Lowell National Historical Park
The park is open year round with seasonal hours for some of the sites and museums in off-seasons.
The best time to visit the park is in the summer and fall when the weather is the best and days are long. Spring has good weather too, but many of the activities are only during the summer and fall.
The one tricky part of summers is if the weather is exceptionally hot they may cancel outdoor tours. During the winter the same could happen for icy and other inclement weather issues.
Regardless it’s not as fun walking outdoors on cold short days of winter or hot humid days of summer.
Things To Do at Lowell National Historical Park
There’s quite a few things to explore in the area. You can spend an hour or even a half day in and around the museum and grounds (and of course the local town and along the river)
Boott Cotton Mill Museum
The Cotton Mill Museum is a former cotton mill that showcases the importance of the mills to Lowell as well as the industrial revolution era. The mill displays information on the people, processes, and history of the area. There’s information and a small shop as well as a lot of mill machines. Be sure to ask them to demonstrate the machines for you which is a sight to watch indeed. This is a fee-area and not something that’s part of the NPS passes.
Suffolk Mill Tour
Beyond the above Cotton Mill, visitors can explore the Suffolk Mill as part of a guided tour. Tours include both a tour of the mill as well as discussions about the overall historical park as well. These tours tend to be seasonal as well with tours offered daily generally during the season at different times. Check with the visitor center for up to date information. Visitors should plan for about 75 minutes and 1.5 miles of walking.
Daily during the main season, the park offers 90 minute walking tours of the historical park and downtown Lowell. These free walks are a great way to get acquainted with the town and park and a perfect way to really learn the history as well.
Tours begin at 10am at the visitor center and you should try to arrive at least 10 minutes ahead. The tours generally run from May to October.
There are quite a few walks you can do to explore the park and waterways of Lowell. Each of the stated walks is around 1 – 1.6 miles in length and take you along the river, canals, as well as related sites such as locks, dams, and mills. It’s a cool way to just get out and wander and see some great sites at your own pace.
Canal Boat Rides
During the summer and fall, the national park service has boat tours of the canals. The boat tour does require some walking (about ¾ of a mile) to the boat ramp and if you choose a visitor to Francis Gate.
The tours run from Mid-June to Early October. Generally from Thurs – Monday and then on weekends for closer to the end of the season.
Book your tour on recreation.gov
The Lowell National Historical Park has a trolley that runs through the park. The trolley runs between the Boott Cotton Mill, Visitor Center, and Suffolk Mill on Thursdays – Mondays (generally June – September). Trolley rides are free and a fun way to experience the site as well.
The main visitor center is a good spot to check out at Lowell. The center has information on the site, is good for finding out what’s going on at Lowell, book anything or do any ranger related activities. There’s a movie, a shop, and some exhibits on the history as well.
Where to Stay
There are no campgrounds or accommodation at the Lowell National Historical Park. However, there are some sites in the nearby vicinity.
- Loraine Campground: 85 sites; 20 miles (25 mins away). Harold Forest State Park
- Camp Nihan: 7 sites; 27 miles (30 mins). Saugus MA
- Pearl Hill State Park: 49 sites; 31 miles (45 mins). Townsend, MA
There is one main visitor center of the park and then a small visitor center at the Boott Mill Museum.
Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center: The main visitor center of the park. It has rangers available to provide information and is the meeting point for a lot of the tours of the site. Be sure to ask about any special events or if you need tickets to any of the activities of the park. There’s also exhibits here for the park that explain the history, machines, and people that existed here. There’s also the intro film for the site too. It’s the best first spot to stop.
Boott Cotton Mills Museum: The museum also plays the role of a small visitor center for the site as well. It’s not as good as the main center above, but you can get information, there’s a small shop, and of course the museum is a great place to learn (fee required) about the history of Lowell.
- General Admission is Free but there are some things that are fee based.
Boott Cotton Mills Museum
- Adult: $6.00
- Youth (6 – 16): $3.00
- Student: $3.00
- Seniors* (62+) 4.00
- Under 6: Free
Book Tours on [Recreation.gov]
- Adults $12.00
- Seniors (62+) $10.00
- Students (with ID): $8.00
- Youth (6-16) $8.00
- Children under 6 free
246 Market Street Lowell, MA 01852
- Open generally from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Some facilities (such as the museums) can be open for shorter hours during winter hours.
There are passport stamps at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center and Boott Cotton Mills Museum
Website: Official NPS Website
Getting To Lowell National Historical Park
Lowell National Historical Park is located in Lowell Massachusetts, about 31 miles (40 minutes) outside of Boston. The park is located about 10 miles off I-495 and off US-3N (Lowell connector). The park is located right along the banks of the Merrimack River.
The closest major airport is Boston Logan Airport (BOS) which is about 32 miles (40 minutes) from the National Historical Park.
There is a regional airport Manchester-Boston (MHT) which is also about 32 miles (40 minutes) from the park.
Tips & FAQs
- Make sure to ask for a demonstration of the Cotton Machines in the Museum
- Register for a tour of the canals ahead of time on recreation.gov.
- The park overall has a low visitor count. When we visited we were the only folks in the museum at the time.
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