In the heart of New England, you’ll find the second-largest city in all six states. If you’re planning on moving to one of the hilliest cities in the country (or the surrounding towns), then there’s a lot you should know.
Worcester, Massachusetts has held a mixed reputation for a long time now, and we’re here to clear things up. Here’s everything you need to know before moving to Worcester, MA!
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1. Woostah, Wormtown, the Woo
Phonetic pronunciation is not the Massachusetts way. Yes, it is pronounced “wuh-stur”, but don’t get it confused with Dorchester in Boston, since it’s pronounced phonetically. Next door to Worcester, you’ll also find Leicester, pronounced “lester”.
A common nickname for Worcester, as the counterpart to “Beantown” in Boston, is the affectionate “Wormtown”. You will find Wormtown labels throughout the city, most notably on the popular brewery, Wormtown Brewery.
“The Woo” is slightly less common, but it is now the name for the Minor League Worcester Red Sox, more commonly known as the “Woo Sox”.
2. Driving Is Stressful
In all honesty, driving in Worcester is not that different from driving in Boston, even though it has a fraction of the population.
Fortunately, they recently renovated the infamous Kelley Square, which was one of the most challenging aspects of driving in the city. Still, while driving around, you’ll see bumper stickers around the area reading “This car survived Kelley Square”.
Unfortunately, there’s a culture of aggressive driving in Massachusetts, and it extends outside of Boston. You will hear less horn-honking in Worcester but the drivers are just as aggressive and the roads are as poorly designed.
3. Commutes Are Long
Not only is driving difficult, but commutes tend to be a lot longer than average. Most of the high-paying jobs are in the Boston Metro Area, but that is quickly changing.
However, many people choose to commute for over an hour to the greater Boston area every morning, and if you choose to go at rush hour, that commute may quickly turn into 2 hours or more.
Rush hour is no joke in Massachusetts. Worcester residents who leave work at 5 pm or 6 pm coming from Boston are likely to make it home at around the same time.
Fortunately, there is the commuter rail, which is surprisingly far easier from Providence to Boston than from Worcester. If you choose to take the train, expect a nearly 2-hour ride for at least $18 each way.
4. Moving to Worcester Is… Affordable?
Moving to anywhere in New England is expensive, and Worcester is still far more affordable than Boston.
Although, for a city with such a defamed reputation, you’ll be surprised to see the rent and house prices. Currently, the average home price in Worcester is $350,082.
Also, you’ll find that the average rent is listed as $1,500, but that’s usually for a smaller, one-bedroom. Within the city, it’s challenging to find a two-bedroom apartment for under $1,700.
5. It’s a College Town
Per capita, Worcester likely exceeds most well-known “college towns” in terms of schools offered. If you’re looking to attend higher education or go back to school, then this is one of the best cities to move to.
Most notably, you will find Clark University, Assumption College, Worcester State University, and Worcester Polytechnical Institute (WPI), and that’s just to name a few.
If you’re looking to start out with an associate’s degree or take a certificate course, Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) is one of the best in the state. It currently offers over 100 degree and certificate programs.
Now, it doesn’t come with all of the classics
6. It’s Still Very New England
Although it doesn’t have direct access to the water or mountains, Worcester still has that quintessential New England feel.
Scattered with history, European architecture, plenty of trees, and rolling hills, you will truly feel as though you’re in the center of New England.
7. You Can Still Enjoy the Outdoors
Worcester has a surprising amount of nature parks, and unlike Boston, the outside metro area is not too densely-populated.
Most notably, you will find Elm Park and Green Hill Park, but there are plenty more scattered throughout the city.
If you want to truly experience nature away from the traffic, a short drive will get you to Mount Wachusett State Park, Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, and a lot more.
8. Get Ready for Hills
Whether you’re a runner, walker, or even a driver, get ready for a lot of hills.
While San Francisco is known as the “hilliest city in the country”, Worcester and Fitchburg residents know better than that.
Although the county is much larger, Worcester boasts over 420 hills compared to San Francisco County’s 22.
9. Worcester Has a Decent Arts Scene
Within the city, you’ll find the impressive Worcester Art Museum, which hosts thousands of guests each year from around New England.
Also, live music is very popular at many of the breweries, venues, and coffee shops around the city.
Not only that, but there is a surprising theater scene, especially at the Hanover Theater, where you can catch Broadway shows while on tour.
While it isn’t known for its arts scene, lovers of any type will find something for them.
10. Worcester Is Family-Friendly
With the wide variety of nature parks, art and historical museums, sporting events, and the beloved Ecotarium, families will have plenty to do both in and around Worcester.
Also, you will have easy access to the beaches in Eastern MA, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire with a drive of around an hour.
11. Crime Is Not Bad
The crime in Worcester was once bad, earning it a rather sad reputation in the Northeast. However, that’s changing rapidly.
Compared to the Massachusetts average, it is still high, but if you lock your doors and use common-sense precautions, you’re unlikely to run into issues.
12. Worcester Has Great Highway Access
If you want to get to any major highway in the Northeast, Worcester is located in a good spot for you to get there.
With access to the I-90, more commonly known as “The Mass Pike” or “The Pike”, you can quickly get to most highways in the state.
Not only is this great for commuters, but it makes weekend recreation a lot easier.
13. Minor League Sports Are a Big Deal Here
The Worcester Sharks are the local hockey team, and you can catch a game at the DCU Center downtown. It’s a classic Worcester pastime for a date night, hanging out with friends, or enjoying some family fun without having to go too far.
More recently, Worcester took the minor league baseball team from Pawtucket, RI, which were formerly known as the “Paw Sox”.
Now, the Woo Sox have an impressive new stadium for family-friendly fun for most of the year, which has also brought plenty of jobs to the area.
14. Worcester Has a Great Food Scene
Providence may soon have its title revoked as the “food capital of New England”. Worcester is opening restaurants and bars left and right.
If you’re looking for fancy Italian cuisine, head over to Shrewsbury Street and enjoy some valet parking and gourmet meals.
For a cheaper bite, Park Ave, Stafford Street, or Kelley Square will offer plenty of great options. Wings Over Worcester is easily one of the most popular food chains in the area, located right off Kelley Square on Water Street.
Within the city, you’ll find several Vietnamese Pho restaurants, authentic Chinese, hibachi, European, Latin American food, and every kind of food truck you can imagine. More of these restaurants are popping up as we speak!
15. One Type of Food Rules All
If you’re a fan of breakfast food, there’s a classic, old-school, must-try diner on Shrewsbury Street known as The Boulevard.
Here, you can order the “Big Bully Special” which comes with two pancakes or french toast, a whole loaf of white toast, 4 strips of bacon, ham, 3 eggs, and home fries all for $10.95!
Since it’s located near all of the big bars in town, they have a BYOB policy and they are open 24 hours a day, meaning that you can bring a 6-pack in once all the bars are closed and enjoy your Big Bully.
However, there are plenty more to choose from all around the city. Most notably:
- Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner
- Miss Worcester Diner
- Corner Lunch Diner
- Worcester Lunch Car Company
The list goes on. If you love breakfast food, you can write out a bucket list before moving here to try them all!
16. Enjoy a Drink
There are at least 5 streets in Worcester that are bustling with lively bars and clubs of all kinds, and more are popping up all the time. The Pint, Nick’s, and Raven are a few of the most popular.
If you’re also a smoker, Victory Cigar Bar on Shrewsbury Street is a popular destination, along with several hookah bars located throughout the city.
Now, if you’re feeling up to this scene, there are $1 draft beers of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Narragansett at the Hotel Vernon on Kelley Square, which is a seedy little dive bar known well by locals!
17. Dress for Every Season
Seriously, don’t move here if you’re used to one stable climate, as Worcester’s weather can change at the drop of a hat.
If you’re coming from Boston or anywhere south of Worcester, you’ll be surprised how much of a difference being inland can be.
In the winter, Worcester can get very cold. If you’re from northern New England, don’t worry. However, it’s still colder than you think.
During the summer, you will find some brutally hot days as well, as New England is warming faster than any other region on the planet due to climate change. In 2021, for the first time in my lifetime, we saw a 92-degree day in early May.
In 2022, we were also experiencing days with 67 degrees in February, also for the first time in my lifetime.
Essentially, be prepared for any season, as it can change day to day, especially in the spring and fall.
Honest Review of Living in Worcester
As someone who knows the Worcester area like the back of my hand, I do have to admit that I’ve never personally lived within the city.
However, I spend my first 23 years in Grafton, only 2 minutes away from the city limits, and I currently live in Fitchburg, a half-hour north.
I have spent thousands of hours in Worcester during my life, enjoying the nightlife on Shrewsbury Street, walking or driving around the Kelley Square region, and staying with friends in the city.
With that said, Worcester does not deserve the crummy reputation it has. The crime rate is not that high, the locals are friendly, and the people don’t actually sound like the stereotypes (usually).
If you’re looking for work around here, there are some great neighborhoods to live in, more buildings are popping up all the time, and there’s a lot of rich history and culture in the area.
Is Worcester the same as Boston? Of course not. It has its own identity and feel that some may appreciate and others may not.
All in all, there are worse cities to live in, even nearby. In terms of location, it’s hard to beat the easy drive to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Boston, or Providence, as well as beaches and mountains in under an hour.
Also, please understand that one person’s opinion should not make your decision. Personally, I am fond of Worcester, but others may not be.
For example, my ranking of the weather here as a 5 was because I think it’s fairly average for the region. Others may love or hate the weather here, and that’s entirely reasonable.
Find Your New Home
Now that you know more about the city, you can make an informed decision about moving to Worcester. It truly deserves a better reputation than the one that it has, and newcomers can easily build a happy life for themselves in or around the city.
As always, feel free to share your experiences of living in Worcester in the comments below and keep reading our blog for our latest reviews of your favorite New England destinations!
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