The Worcester Red Sox, aka the WooSox, plan to host the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for Opening Day on April 12 at polar park. Accommodating up to 9,508 fans, Polar Park is big enough to feel like a real one and intimate enough to make baseball an up-close experience. In last year’s inaugural season, the Triple A affiliate of the Red Sox finished fourth out of 20 teams in the league’s East Division. There is a lot to look forward to this season. To find the park on the horizon, just look for the beaming yellow face of Smiley (the team’s mascot) with cap and bat, swinging for the fences. Polar Park, 100 Madison Street; 508-500-8888, milb.com/worcester; tickets from $8 to $42.
FLAVORS OF THE WORLD UNDER ONE ROOF
Worcester Public Market in the revitalized Canal District was shuttered by the pandemic just weeks after it opened in early February 2020. It’s all in the rear view mirror. The place is hopping, even on a weekday afternoon. Food stalls attract diners hungry for tastes of Ghanaian bowls, jerk chicken and Jamaican meat patties, Mexican tacos and quesadillas, Indian samosas and masalas, Middle Eastern falafels and shawarmas, pasta Italians and loaded burgers. For dessert, try the made-to-order Sub Zero Nitrogen ice cream. One corner of the market opens into the Wachusett Brew Yard, the well-established brewery in central Massachusetts. (See ‶Wootown is also Brewtown.″) 152 Green Street, Kelley Place; 774-366-6633; worcesterpublicmarket.org; Wed-Sun 11am-8pm, catering Fri.-Sat. until 9 p.m.
FARM ANIMALS GO URBAN
Nestled in the northeast corner of Worcester, Green Hill Park Farm is just one of the attractions in the verdant 480-acre park. The barnyard zoo is a big hit with the kids. Sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas watch from their corrals, as curious about visitors as visitors are about them. The farm also has a miniature horse, pigs, chickens, ducks, pheasants and pea fowl. Clumsy ruminants must make you smile. 127 Greenhill Drive; 508-799-1190, worceterma.gov/parks/activities/green-hill-park-farm; Tue-Sun 10am-2.45pm; free.
ORIGINAL BASE FOR LOCAL ART
After more than 40 years, ArtsWorcester finally has a permanent home and gallery space in the Printers Building in the heart of the rapidly redeveloped Portland Street neighborhood south of Worcester Common. The association of member artists mounts 15 exhibitions a year, three of which are reserved for members. ‶Material Matters″ through April 24, focuses on members’ responses to African art from the Fitchburg Art Museum‘s impressive collection. 44 Portland Street; 508-755-5142, artsworcester.org; open during exhibitions Thu.-Sun. 12pm-5pm; free.
THESE WALLS CAN TALK
POW! WOW! worcester began sponsoring mural extravaganzas in 2016. Less of a pandemic hiatus in 2020, they have been annual events ever since. As a result, more than 80 large-scale murals cover the city walls. Some of the artists are local, while others have national and international reputations as muralists and graffiti artists. Vibrant art also draws attention to some of Worcester’s Art Deco and Beaux-Arts buildings. For help finding the murals, visit the organization’s website. A compact self-guided walking tour of 14 murals is also available online at Discover Central Massachusetts. POW! WOW! worcester, powwowworcester.com; walking tour map discovercentralma.visitwidget.com/tours/discover-the-pow-wow-murals
THE HISTORY OF WORCESTER ON A ROLL
With particular emphasis on the humble hot dog, Catherine and George Tsagarelis launched George’s Coney Island in 1929. They beautified the place in 1938 with an Art Deco makeover that still survives, and erected the signature neon sign showing George’s hand holding a hot dog in 1940. George’s Coney Island remains a business family. The classic order is a hot dog with yellow mustard, the “secret” chili sauce and chopped onions. Some things are just too good to change. 158 Southbridge Street; 508-753-4362, coneyislandlunch.com; Sun.-Mon. 11am-3pm, Wed-Sat 11pm-7pm; hot dogs $2.35.
GRIDIRON ACTION IN SPRING
Back on March 12, the Indoor Football League Massachusetts Pirates began defending their 2021 league championship, which they won in exciting fashion with an overtime field goal against the Arizona Rattlers. The league’s only East Coast team, the Pirates call the DCU Center their home. Look for pirate gear at The Bay, the Massachusetts Pirates Pro Shop at 12 Portland St. DCU Center, 50 Foster Street; 508-755-6800, masspiratesfootball.com; season March 12-July 16; tickets $18 to $98.
THE RHYTHM CONTINUES
When Ralph Moberly bought a vintage Worcester Lunch Car restaurant in 1979 and grafted the structure onto the back of a two-story brick building, he created one of the quirkiest venues for rock and alternative music around. from the North East. The now legendary Moberly sold the business in 2002, but Ralph’s Rock Diner rocks indeed in all its eerie glory. Enter through the Chadwick Square Diner (now a bar) and head upstairs for some music. Monday nights feature the open-mic series Dirty Gerund Poetry. Check the Facebook page for the full schedule. 148 Grove Street; 508-753-9543, facebook.com/ralphsrockdiner; every day from 4 p.m. to 1:45 a.m.; covers free at $18.
Founded in 1856, the Worcester Craft Center remains the champion of the simple pleasures of handicrafts. People from all over central Massachusetts take classes in ceramics, glass, metals, and photography. The gallery store hits on all of these bases with works by artists from across the country and select WCC faculty members. It’s a great place to buy a unique gift or treat yourself to home decor crafts such as Simon Pearce glassware. 25 Sagamore Road; 508-753-8183, worcestercraftcenter.org; gallery shop Tue-Sat 10am-5pm
THE FUTURE BEGINS IN THE PAST
Over the centuries, Worcester companies have manufactured everything from derby hats and organs to lunch buckets and full-pressure high-altitude flight suits. But Worcester’s invention most ingrained in the American psyche is Harvey Ball’s smiling face. In 1963, the Worcester Mutual Fire Insurance Company’s marketing manager asked freelance designer Harvey Ball to draw “a little smile” to use as part of an employee morale campaign. Unsatisfied with the smile, Ball added two eyes. The smiley was born, and emoticons haven’t been the same since. For the full story, head to what the staff call “the ballroom” at Worcester Historical Museum. 30 Elm Street; 508-753-8278, worcesterhistory.org; Tue-Sat 10am-4pm; adults $5, seniors and students $4, 18 and under free.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be contacted at [email protected]