As you approach the Tri-Town area of Leominster (pronounced “LEH-min-ster”), Fitchburg, and Lunenburg, rooftops begin to supplant treetops and Boston radio stations crowd the dial. Although “The Hub” is still some 30 miles away, its gravitational attraction seems to compel a majority of cars to exceed the speed limit. If you already know that you would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than be caught driving in Boston, you can start looking for accommodations now, as you are within the sphere of the MBTA Commuter Rail service (617/222-3200) to downtown. Purely by way of an example, the 90-minute journey from end-of-the-line Fitchburg to Boston’s North Station, made 10 times daily on weekdays, five times daily on weekends, costs around $22 round-trip—equivalent to a couple of hours’ parking in most Boston lots.

Accommodations here, along I-495 on the perimeter of the Boston metropolitan area, are largely geared toward business travelers, though the aptly named Friendly Crossways Hostel (247 Littleton County Rd., 978/456-9386), just north of the Route 2/I-495 junction in the hamlet (not the college) of Harvard, has HI-approved dorm beds and a few private rooms.

Practicalities aside, one positive reason to spend time out here is the presence of Fruitlands Museum (102 Prospect Hill Rd., 978/456-3924, Wed.-Mon. Apr.-Nov., $14), a 210-acre indoor-outdoor art center. Spiritual heir to the historic Utopian colony that started (and failed) here in 1843, Fruitlands now houses the Harvard College museum of American arts and crafts, Native American lifeways, and Shaker design.

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