This former mill town, the City of Spindles, located 35 mi/55 km northwest of Boston, was a pioneer in the U.S. industrial revolution. Lowell, Massachusetts, is now a thriving modern city with a lively arts scene centered on the Merrimack Repertory Theater, Lowell Memorial Auditorium and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Every July, the Lowell Folk Festival (the oldest multicultural festival in the U.S.) celebrates the city's diverse ethnic heritage with three outstanding days of traditional music, dance, foods and crafts.

The Lowell National Historical Park commemorates the city's industrial past. It's a preserved area of mills, canals and workers' houses that can be toured via trolleys and barges. The impressive former Lowell Manufacturing Mills building is now Boott Cotton Mills Museum, where costumed interpreters tend antique power looms and spin cotton. Look for the Homage to Women Monument in Market Mills Park, which honors the many female workers ("mill girls") who labored in Lowell mills.

The New England Quilt Museum, the only one of its kind in the Northeast, displays quilts in an 1845 landmark building that was once a bank. The vaults provide the museum with safe storage areas, and the high ceilings show off the quilts to their best advantage. Exhibits follow themes (protest quilts, holiday quilts) and are changed every few months.

Lowell was the hometown of Beat Generation writer and icon Jack Kerouac. His grave is in Edson cemetery, and there's a monument downtown that incorporates passages from his best-known work, On the Road. Artist James McNeill Whistler (perhaps best known for his painting of his mother) is another Lowell native. The Whistler House Museum of Art, located in the home where Whistler was born, displays some of the painter's work.

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