Worcester is located in central Massachusetts, 40 miles from Boston and an hour from both Providence, R.I. and Hartford, Conn. With a diverse population of more than 175,000, it's the second largest city in New England, behind Boston.
Founded as a town in 1722, Worcester became a city in 1848. With a history that predates the American Revolution, the city cradled such native sons as Isaiah Thomas, the Patriot printer who rode with Paul Revere; and John Adams, the second U.S. President (who was also a Worcester schoolmaster).
In the 1800s, as Worcester grew with the Industrial Revolution, the city became the home of the monkey wrench and the world's first mass-produced valentine card. Red Cross founder Clara Barton was born in neighboring Oxford, and the first National Women's Rights Convention was held in Worcester in 1850. Frederick Law Olmstead (who later designed New York City's Central Park) designed Worcester's Elm Park in 1854 — making it America's first public park. By the end of the century, one of Worcester's nicknames — in honor of a local inventor — was "The Shredded Wheat Capital of the World."
The city has been home to legendary composer Cole Porter and best-selling Greek author Nicholas Gage. It was the birthplace of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Stanley Kunitz. In 1926, Worcester professor Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in nearby Auburn.
By mid-century, just north of Worcester in Leominster, factories were producing the world's first pink flamingo lawn ornaments, while in neighboring Shrewsbury, the legendary Hebert Candies company was inventing white chocolate. Comedian Dennis Leary was born in Worcester in 1957, when the city was home to WORC — the first radio station to play the Beatles. In 1963, the yellow "Smiley Face" was invented in Worcester.
Today, Worcester boasts an up-and-coming downtown as well as New England's largest urban wildlife sanctuary, Broad Meadow Brook. The city has 53 parks, the renownedWorcester Art Museum, the popular EcoTarium, and the unique Higgins Armory Museum (where else can you see a suit of armor for dogs?). Greater Worcester also has 13 universities and colleges, with a combined student population of more than 31,000. Worcester is one of only six cities in the country to win the All-America City Award five times.