Settled in 1630 — the same year as its big sister Boston — Newton boasts a similar historic and cultural pedigree but with a small-town feel. Newton is a charming jumble of 13 villages, most with their own small downtown area and roster of events. Take a class on making artisan chocolates, peruse a modern American art collection or admire historical architecture, and see why the Newton area is such a beloved part of Massachusetts.
Food & Drink
Newton’s history as a culinary trendsetter extends back at least to 1891, when a local bakery began selling what came to be known as Fig Newtons (now just “Newtons”), named in honor of the town. These days, the city’s reputation is decidedly more modern, with restaurants Sycamore and Farmstead Table offering excellent new American fare. At Sycamore, locals know to order whatever “board” is on offer — recently, it’s been a spectacle of Berkshire pork in chop, rib and porchetta formats. Cozy, vegetarian-friendly Farmstead Table has a decidedly loyal fan base clamoring especially for the light-as-air popovers.
A more casual favorite is Blue Ribbon BBQ, boasting some of the best sauced-up meat in the Boston area. Nearby Buff’s Pub is a laid-back pick for a beer and locally-famous wings. Those wanting to jump into the kitchen themselves can visit Beth’s Chocolate for a class on making their own confections, or taste the small-batch bonbons and truffle pops.
Newton-based arts organizations like Highland Jazz and the New Philharmonia Orchestra offer full seasons of acclaimed music, and having to travel to Boston. One innovative group, Music for Food, has a Newton-based branch presenting talented musicians who donate their performances in return for audience contributions to local food banks. For a more casual setting (and maybe even a drink or two), Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub features a calendar of live music, including blues every Sunday.
Art aficionados can find inspiration at Newton Open Studios, an annual event held in early April that features over 160 local artists and craftspeople showing works that range from abstract painting to jewelry to ceramics. Year-round, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University showcases an impressive collection of American Art from the 1960s and 1970s, including some by luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, and Roy Lichtenstein. Admission is free, and knowledgeable students give tours on Sundays at 2 p.m.
Those feeling creative after taking it all in can exercise their artistic side at the New Art Center, an art education and exhibition space offering workshops and classes in everything from glass fusing to watercolor. Local artists show their work in the rotating galleries.
Perhaps the most noteworthy architectural draw to Newton are the dozens of styles found via structures across the city, and easily accessible through a series of brochures, maps and walking tours on the city’s website. One notable example is the Staples-Craft farm, originally one room when it was built in 1688, but which later underwent a renovation in the Federal style that was popular in Boston at the turn of the 19th century. Just around the bend at 1637-1651 Beacon St. is a series of commercial buildings in a Dutch style with a distinctive gable, known for their appearance in an 1896 issue of American Architect and Building News.
Built in 1790 to harness the power of the Charles River, The Mill at Newton Lower Fallsproduced some of the first paper used to print U.S. currency. These days, the Mill is a design hub, containing a collection of high-quality furniture and home shops. The building itself is made of granite, with much of the original stonework and detailing preserved.
Another local landmark is Echo Bridge, so named for the unusual echo produced by the bridge’s arch, which spans the Charles River between Needham and Newton. The 500-foot long bridge was the second longest masonry arch in the country at the time of its completion in 1877. Descend to a platform underneath the bridge to play with the echo, known to return the human voice up to 15 times, or walk across the bridge for picturesque views of a waterfall and hemlock-lined gorge below.