A Day in…Framingham, MA

Jack’s Abbey Brewery in Framingham, MA. They are open and have great outdoor space.

Framingham, the third city along the Boston Marathon route, is located 30 miles west of Boston. The city brings to mind images of clusters of shopping malls and car dealerships. Yet, beyond these commercial images, Framingham offers a surprising amount of plenty of natural beauty, conservation land, and charming farmhouses and other attractions worth visiting. 

Quirky Fact: Framingham was nicknamed “the largest town in the country” until it was voted to city status in 2017. As with most urban legends, the story was exaggerated, Framingham was the largest town in New England.

Here is an afternoon trip to Framingham to rebut the drive-by shopping-Mecca stereotype and take in its natural beauty:

Start your morning with a cup of coffee on the banks of the Sudbury River at the renovated Saxonville Mills. The refurbished industrial building with exposed beams, high ceilings, and expansive windows harken back to its former use as an early 19th century woolen mill and later as the Roxbury Carpet Company. Now with a renovation, Saxonville Mills Cafe and Roasting (2 Central St.) roasts their own coffee beans. Grab a pour-over coffee and a snack to start your day. The complex also houses The Mill Contemporary Art which hosts open studios the second Friday of each month.

The lush green from Callahan State Park!

Get some exercise and fresh air by hiking along the picturesque trails of Callahan State Park (1048 Edmands Rd.).  With Baiting Brook leisurely running through the conservation land, it has 7 miles of trails on 820 acres of land. Framingham hosts many conservation lands, but Callahan State Park is a personal highlight. Alternatives include Garden in the Woods or the New England Wild Flower Society (180 Hemenway Rd), a 45 acres woodland botanical garden, or  Nobscot Mountain (1 Nobscot Road, Sudbury, MA), 452-acre property between Sudbury and Framingham whose peak provides cascading views of the area.

The Moo Bus (home-made ice cream!) unfortunately is closed for the summer season. Photo from Eastleigh Farms.

After your hike, treat yourself with an ice cream from Eastleigh Farm’s Moo Bus. Their many soft cheese samples are worth trying. Also on the grounds of the farm, browse at the quaint Avenue C Design, a collection of some 20 artisans selling handmade and vintage goods, and at B. Barton and Co., an antique shop. The farm offers tractor and wagon tours of the farmland and animals. You will be surprised to find a serene dairy farm within the boundaries of busy Framingham.

Framingham also has two breweries which are worth a visit, Exhibit “A” (81 Morton St) and Jack’s Abbey (100 Clinton St). Jack’s Abbey has a robust outdoor beer garden which is great for social distancing.

A long weekend in Portsmouth, NH

This quaint New England harborside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime homes to art galleries, restaurants and bars. Settled in 1623, as Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth sits on the harbor of the Piscataqua River. This among many other New England small cities brings a thriving restaurant scene to walkable historic cities. This is a great long weekend or even day trip from Boston, MA, and is only a one hour drive. 

Friday:

Get settled into your accommodation, I recommend staying in the city center. Once settled, get some dinner from one of the many waterfront seafood restaurants: Old Ferry Landing (10 Ceres St), Surf Portsmouth (99 Bow St Suite 200W) and River House (53 Bow St) all offer great options. After dinner you can see if there is live music at Portsmouth Book and Bar (40 Pleasant St, Portsmouth, NH 03801) which is a bookstore and bar located in 1860 Portsmouth’s old Custom House and Post Office. 

Saturday:

I recommend starting your morning with a bike ride around Portsmouth and through New Castle Island. In New Castle take a detour off route 1B down the winding River Street which offers great views of the river and beautiful homes. For those looking to get some more miles in, you can bike all the way to the honky tonk, Hampton Beach and back (round trip is roughly 30 miles of SCENIC east coast greenway). Warning: The bridges into New Castle can be a pain (one has grates on the road and another is a single line of traffic, so you may have to wait.)

In the afternoon, make your way to one of the beaches in Rye, NH. Jenness Beach is a favorite, or if you are trying to get away from people, the river side of Odiorne State Park offers soft sand and few crowds. While in Rye, get some lunch from Ray’s Seafood (1677 Ocean Blvd, Rye, NH 03870).

Walk around the downtown and window shop before dinner. Grab some grub from barrio tacos (319 Vaughan St, Portsmouth, NH 03801). You can build your own tacos here and I recommend a margarita! For those who enjoy more seafood, I recommend The Franklin (148 Fleet St), which has a great oyster bar.

Sunday:

Start your morning with brunch from The Friendly Toast (113 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801). I recommend that you spend the afternoon at Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St, Portsmouth, NH 03801). Strawberry Banke is the oldest european settlement in New Hampshire. The museum is outdoor and encompasses many buildings which were in use from the 1630’s- 1950’s. Don’t forget to admire the river views and flower garden in Prescott Park which is across the street from the museum area. 

Cheers to a relaxing weekend in Portsmouth. NH! 

If you are interested in other ideas for weekend getaways from Boston, check out my article 5 Seaside Getaways from Boston.

A long weekend in Portland, ME

This quaint New England seaside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime warehouses to art galleries, restaurants and bars. This among many other New England state capitals brings a thriving restaurant scene to walkable historic cities that are easily manageable on a weekend. This is a great long weekend from Boston, MA, and is only a two hour drive. 

For those interested in literature I would recommend reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, or Maine by Courtney Sullivan, all of which are set in Maine.

Friday:

Arrive and get settled in your hotel. I stayed at Courtyard Portland Downtown/Waterfront (321 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101) which was an easy location to walk to everything downtown.

Get some grub at Fore Street (288 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101) then enjoy a rooftop drink at Top of the East (157 High St, Portland, ME 04101) on the top of the Westin Hotel to get oriented on with the city and if possible watch the sunset.

Saturday

Start your morning off with breakfast at LB Kitchen (249 Congress St), you order at the counter and get the food served to your table. 

Portland is great for a seaside bike ride. We rented bikes from Portland Encyclopedia ( 6 Commercial St). On your ride don’t miss both Bug Light and Portland Head Lighthouse (12 Captain Sprout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107) Take a break and grab a lobster roll from the Bite of Maine food truck, right outside the Portland Head Lighthouse. They will NOT disappoint!

After biking, relaxing over an IPA from Shipyard brewing company.  We spent some time at the brewery. After getting your hops on, window shop down the Old Port section of the city. This is quintessentially New England with the cobblestone street and colonial brick buildings. I did not miss out on tasting Portland’s favorite donut shop, Holy Donut (7 Exchange St), which is a great afternoon snack.

Get dinner at Eventide Oyster Company (86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101). This sleek and busy restaurant is great for any seafood lover. We ordered some oysters for the table and then continued to sample most of the menu!

Sunday

Get breakfast at Tandem Coffee and bakery or the standard baking company before heading for a last walk downtown and head home. 

If you are interested in other ideas for weekend getaways from Boston, check out my article 5 Seaside Getaways from Boston.

5 Seaside Getaways from Boston

5 Seaside Getaways to take this summer from Boston, while safely Social Distancing:

Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, MA
  1. Cape Cod, MA
Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, MA

No matter where you are coming from, Bostonians always call it “the Cape.” Cape Cod is known for beautiful beaches along its 400 miles of shoreline.  My favorite beaches are the ones along the Cape Cod National Seashore, especially Cahoon Hollow Beach in  Wellfleet on the Lower Cape. While the surf is rough, there are lifeguards on duty, a parking lot, and The Beachcomber, one of the best beach bars/restaurants in America. For family fun, you may want to try one of the more tranquil beaches on the bay side of The Cape. I have always enjoyed the Cape’s great bike trails, such as the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs from Yarmouth to Wellfleet or Shining Sea Bike Trail in Falmouth. For a scenic ride, take route 6A or “Old Kings Highway” (just to remind you are in New England) from Bourne to Provincetown, a distance of about 65 miles.

  1. Portsmouth, NH
View of Portsmouth, NH

One of the many charming New England seaside cities, I love biking from historic and vibrant Portsmouth, NH along scenic Route 1A, also known as Ocean Boulevard, to the honky tonk locale of Hampton Beach and back. The whole New Hampshire shoreline is less than 20 miles long, and is worth a drive.  Portsmouth has a few well-preserved museums dating back to the early colonial days of the 17th century. Portsmouth is surprisingly lively considering it’s in low-key New Hampshire. The downtown has many restaurants, bars, galleries and street performers.

  1. Portland, ME
Lobster roll from the Bite Into Maine food truck, located on Cape Ann near the Portland Head Lighthouse. This makes a great biking destination!

This quaint New England seaside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime warehouses to art galleries, restaurants and bars. This among other coastal state capitals is a walkable historic city that now has many breweries and is flush with colonial history. I love shopping in the quaint city center, biking down to the lighthouse and grabbing a lobster roll from the food truck. 

  1. Gloucester, MA

The North Shore city of Gloucester is known as a fishing port and it’s the setting for the book and subsequent movie The Perfect Storm. In fact, The Crow’s Nest dive bar is still located in downtown Gloucester.  I enjoy a beach day at Good Harbor Beach. For cyclists, the Essex Scenic Route is a beautiful bike route through seaside Essex, Gloucester, and Rockport. 

  1. Newburyport, MA
The pedestrian Inn Street in Newburyport, MA

This charming small city is also located on the North Shore. The stately brick Federal-style houses and the brightly- colored wooden houses come right out to the edge of the sidewalk, attesting to the early history of Newburyport, before cars were prevalent. The Essex County Superior Courthouse, designed by Charles Bulfinch and built in 1805, is a beautiful brick Federal-style building overlooking a pond. In the downtown waterfront area are many interesting shops and restaurants.

A day in…Andover, MA.

The urbane, classic New England town is located about 25 miles north of Boston via route 93.   It is home to one of the most prestigious and oldest prep schools in the country, Phillips Academy, colloquially known as “Andover” to its preppy student body. The downtown sidewalks are lined with historic brick buildings and fitted with gas lights. The neighborhoods consist of clapboard colonial houses interwoven with large well-groomed federalists homes and Victorians with wrap-around verandas. 

Andover is sometimes called the “Birthplace of America,” as Samuel Francis Smith wrote the patriotic song, “America,” while attending the Andover Theological Seminary. This Essex County town was originally settled by Cochichawicke Native Americans. Early European settlers incorporated the area in 1646 as Andover for the town in England that most of the settlers were from. Early prosperous industries included powder milling, paper manufacturing, and woolen mills. Now the town mostly serves as an affluent bedroom community. 

Here is your day trip itinerary to Andover, MA to capture the heart of the New England spirit.

For those looking for some exercise and fresh air, kick-off your Andover adventure by walking around Ward Reservoir, Harold Parker State Forest, Deer Jump Reservation or Pomps Pond. For those who prefer two wheels, saddle up for a bike ride on the Bay Circuit Trail, which runs through Andover. 

Enjoy a coffee at one of the local coffee shops. I prefer Ultimate Perk (96 Main St), which has both great iced and hot coffee.  Windowshop the boutiques featuring quaint homegoods and preppy apparel. Stroll through some of the neighborhood streets to take in the artisanry on the beautiful homes surrounding the downtown and campus areas. 

Take some time to stroll the 700 rolling acres of Phillips Academy,, which was opened in 1778 by Samuel Phillips. Two U.S. presidents, five Nobel Prize laureates and six Medal of Honor recipients call Phillips Academy their alma mater. The grounds have the feel of a college campus, rather than a a high school that educates 14-18 year olds. Enjoy a late afternoon at the Addison Gallery of American Art, which is located on campus. The gallery has frequent rotations and may warrant a few hours of your time. 

The Andover Inn hosted Jackie Onassis and sometimes Caroline Kennedy on various occasions when they would visit JFK Jr. in school in the late 70’s. 

End your day with fine dining at Samuel’s (4 Chapel Ave) at The Andover Inn, on the campus of Phillips Academy. The restaurant has recently been renovated and is far sleeker while maintaining  its original grace. Samuel’s serves seasonal ingredients of mostly New England food. I highly recommend the clam chowder for a starter!

For those looking for a night cap, the new Oakland Iron Brewing Company (18 Red Spring Road), is located in a refurbished Riverbend Mill. They have an outdoor beer garden and celebrate a family friendly “Oktoberfest” every fall. The exposed brick and high ceilings harken back to its former use as a cotton, wool, linen, and most recently a textile mill, before its renovation preparing for the production of barley, hops and yeast. Cheers to a day in Andover!

If you enjoyed exploring Andover, you may enjoy A Day in Cambridge.