Worcester’s Canal District: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting

As the second largest city in Massachusetts, Worcester has a lot going on. But regarding neighborhoods within the city, the Canal District is where you want to be.

Within a few short blocks of the District, you’ll find an array of delectable international cuisines, unique shops, boutiques, and antiques you won’t find anywhere else, and an impressive collection of local art.

This unique neighborhood has been intentionally developed over the past 15 years as a destination spot, and it’s buzzing with activity.

The back of a building in the Canal District
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

A visit to the Canal District could consist of picking up brunch at one of the many eateries in the Worcester Public Market, followed by a stroll through the distinctive local businesses and artists in the nearby Crompton building.

Or, instead, you may visit the Canal District in the evening after a show or game at nearby Polar Park or the DCU Center, followed by a visit to one of the many breweries or music venues lining the Canal District’s streets.

Whatever you choose, the Canal District is worth a stop when visiting Worcester. Here’s what else you need to know about this unique neighborhood.

Where can I find the Canal District?

The Canal District is centrally located, although slightly south within the city’s limits. It consists of a triangular section with Kelley’s Square at the tip and Green Street and Harding Street forming the sides. You’ll also find a few spillover shops and restaurants parallel to Water Street and just south of Kelley’s Square on Millbury Street.

If you’re coming from 290, you’ll want to take exit 17 and drive west on 122A. The District is mere seconds from the highway on the right, just off Kelley’s Square with a turn down Green Street.

Which restaurants are in the Canal District?

The Canal District has a plethora of excellent eateries – something for everyone and every occasion.

One of the best places to explore this wide range of cuisines is the Worcester Public Market on Green Street. You’ll find thirteen different food stalls, The Wachusett Brew Yard, and a few adjacent restaurants and specialty food stores. Pick and choose among your favorites and then sit in the Market’s central seating area to dig in.

A walk down Green, Harding, or Water Streets reveals other distinct and fascinating restaurants. Here’s a list of restaurants within the Canal District organized by meal and occasion. Be sure to check on hours and days open before heading out.

Good restaurants for dinner:

The Canal District has several options for dinner.

Lunch options:

Cafes and restaurants for breakfast:

Here are the restaurants and cafes where you can find breakfast in the Canal District.

Pizza parlors:

Mochi Doh in Worcester Massachusetts
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Specialty food stores:

  • Mochi Doh (209 Harding Street) mochi donut shop with milk teas and Vietnamese iced coffee
  • OneZo (129 Water Street) Milk teas with housemade boba
  • The Queen’s Cups (56 Water Street) Handcrafted desserts
  • Table Talk Pies (65 Green Street), a staple in Worcester, carrying a variety of pies

Bars and pubs:

What are some interesting shops in the Canal District?

The Canal District’s creative flare comes alive in its many fascinating shops and boutiques. These stores have been carefully curated to showcase home goods, apparel, books, antiques, and horticulture you won’t find anywhere else:

  • Birch Alley (19 Harrison Street) home goods, gifts, and other treasures
  •  Seed to Stem (138 Green Street) “plant boutique” full of wonderful surprises
  •  Crompton Collective (138 Green Street) an extensive collection of handmade gifts and creative antiques
  •  The Haberdash (138 Green Street) women’s clothing boutique
  •  Bedlam Book Cafe (138 Green Street) used and new books + a cafe

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What is parking like in the Canal District?

There’s a lot of parking in the Canal District, but note that on game days at Polar Park or the DCU Center, parking might be more challenging to come by. Most parking spaces require payment of about one dollar or more per hour.

 You’ll also find lots of on-street parking in the District, but look at signs to ensure your chosen place is legal.

 Some of the closest parking lots to the District include:

  •  Canal District Parking (156 Washington Street)
  •  The Green Street Parking Lot (99 Green Street, between Green Street Dental and The Hangover)
  •  The Water Street Parking Lot (85 Water Street)
  •  The Harding Street Parking Lot (67 MA-122)
  •  Union Station Garage (225 Franklin Street)
  •  Chatham Street Parking (165 MA-122)
  •  The Expressway Lot C (40 Grafton St., literally underneath the expressway)
  •  Francis J. Mc Grath Municipal Parking Lot (3 Salem Street)

What other things can I do near the Canal District?

The Canal District is close to many other event spaces and locales, making it the perfect place to visit, either before or after.

The newly renovated Polar Park (100 Madison Street) is just steps away from the District, home to the Worcester Red Sox (known as the Woo Sox). Games are usually played in April and May.

Also down the road is the DCU Center (50 Foster Street), home of the Worcester Raiders ice hockey team and the Massachusetts Pirates indoor football. You’ll also find several other events at the DCU throughout the year, such as a Monster Jam or R&V Camping Show.

What’s the history of the Canal District?

In 1828, the Blackstone Canal opened and ran through this neighborhood, connecting Worcester to Providence, Rhode Island. While the canal was only open for 20 years, it was vital for transporting goods and people. It helped establish the Canal District as a commercial neighborhood.

During the first half of the 20th century, Eastern European immigrants, primarily Jewish, moved into the neighborhood, creating a market for international foods and other goods. The neighborhood gradually declined during the second half of the 20th century, especially when Interstate 290 was erected nearby.

Since the turn of the 21st century and the re-establishment of the commuter rail service out of nearby Union Station, the District has seen a tide of entrepreneurial investment, making it a hub for creatives, including food, music, art, shopping, and events.

Learn more about The Canal District here.

See related:

Worcester Public Market: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting

Top 27 Best Things to Do in Worcester Massachusetts

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A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

About Kerry Flatley

Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.

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