Friday, November 7, 2008

New England Town of the Day: Norwood, MA

Article and Photo by Eric H.

There's an affectionate old, local joke that once you live in Norwood, MA, you never leave. The reasoning behind this "townie" tradition makes perfect sense, given Norwood has always offered a sense of place with its close-knit neighborhoods, good schools, proximity to Boston and Providence, and lots of town activities going on in this southwest suburban Boston town of about 29,000 people.

One of the big draws in Norwood, MA, is its thriving downtown -- perhaps the best mid-sized town center in suburban Boston. Becoming something of a "restaurant row," with an amazing diversity of dining spots, Norwood also features many local Mom and Pop stores that collectively allow you to do all of your shopping downtown. Although the type of businesses are becoming more modern with boutiques and galleries, there's still a sense of yesteryear with Brenner's Childrens Shop for clothing, old school dining spots like the Lewis Restaurant and Grille, Norwood Town Square Diner and Mug n' Muffin, the Norwood Sport Center for candlepin bowling, and the Learning Well for school supplies. There's also the Fiddlehead Theater -- a renovated movie theater -- that features award-winning theater productions!

The aesthetics of the downtown are really nice, too, with a beautiful town common with a gazebo, stunningly beautiful old, large town buildings and churches, nice sidewalks for strolling and shops generally sprucing up their exteriors to augment Norwood's community pride. Right now, the downtown is all lit up with white Christmas lights and the largest town common tree transforming into a Christmas tree. During the summer, concerts on the town common represent and validate Norwood's myriad community events and activities.

The rest of Norwood is also tremendous, although South Norwood could use a face lift -- but even this section is full of community spirit and relative safety despite a sketchy look. Otherwise, you'll find pleasant, tree-lined streets with homes that meet every budget that can afford the Boston area. The yards are generally not big, but these pleasant neighborhoods still offer a "Leave It To Beaver" look that will make you feel right at home.

Back to the restaurant scene, we recommend the Mint Cafe for Thai, Japanese, and Korean cuisine, The Old Colonial Cafe for steak, seafood and chicken, Napper Tandy's for pub food and drinks, and Abbodanza II for authentic Italian cuisine and its take-out pizza section.

You won't read about Norwood in your basic travel guide, as it is a suburb rather than a vacation destination. That doesn't mean Norwood isn't worth visiting, however, as some of life's best experiences come in suburban packages for "locals" like us. Yes, Norwood isn't exactly Newport, RI, but in terms of residential suburbs, this is one of Boston's best. It's why many people never leave this proud town!

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