Monday, April 25, 2011

Underrated Downtown Districts in the Boston Suburbs

Articles and photos by Eric H.
There's an interesting discussion forum going on right now at City entitled, "What is the prettiest suburban downtown in Greater Boston?" Participants have been offering some great comments, mostly focusing on obvious choices like Concord, Hingham, Newburyport, Marblehead, Salem and Rockport. Each and every one of these communities deserves to be mentioned for their great downtown districts.

Although the question begs for specificity (how do you define a pretty downtown?), the detailed, thoughtful feedback amongst participants was enough to make up for the perhaps overly general inquiry.

I regard a pretty downtown as having a pleasing-to-the-eyes town common, a well-defined business district, big old homes, churches with tall white steeples and historic municipal buildings. What really makes a downtown pretty, however, is seeing it be utilized with events and community gatherings -- this showcases the vibrancy of a community. The combination of all these things create a classic New England look.

I would like to add several south-of-Boston downtown districts that might not be obvious choices, but that are able to exhibit the aforementioned criteria that make up a pretty downtown. I'll let the pictures do the talking from this point on in regards to these underrated downtown districts in the Boston suburbs (and slightly beyond):

Bridgewater, Mass.
Wrentham, Mass.
Taunton, Mass.
Dedham, Mass. 
Fairhaven, Mass.

Walpole, Mass.
North Attleboro, Mass.

Norwood, Mass.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wetherell's Lawn and Garden Comes to Norton, Mass.

This just in to our news room, just the type of story we like about hard-working New Englanders starting a local business...

Brothers Bill McKinley and Dan Lenoci will be opening Wetherell's Lawn and Garden Fri., April 17, at their 4,000 sq. ft. facility, 27 South Worcester Rd. in Norton, Mass.

Wetherell's features an enormous inventory of everything related and lawn and garden needs -- and beyond. This includes lawn and landscaping care items and professional grade machines, and the little things that make a big difference in the outdoor world -- bug spray, shovels, rakes, fertilizer, grass seed, etc. Pet owners can also rejoice as Bill and Dan will also be selling dog, cat, rabbit and bird food.

What gives Wetherell's a real "wow" factor is that Bill and Dan will also offer highly-regarded Vermont Castings and Napolean wood stoves, as well as fireplace inserts.

Bill and Dan are lifelong residents of the south of Boston area. Bill owned for many years McKinley's Auto Body in Abington, Mass., while Dan has extensive experience in the landscaping business. They are both excited about opening this new business venture in an area that needs this type of service.

"There's a real need for this type of (lawn and garden) business around here," said Bill. "We hear that all the time."

Wetherell's is named after the landowner, Hank Wetherell, a beloved local figure who served as Norton's fire chief for 40 years (1930-1970) and lived to be 100-years-old (he died on Oct. 20, 2006).

Wetherell's Lawn and Garden will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The telephone number is (508) 455-0042

Finding Wetherell's:

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Peaceful Meadows, Whitman, Mass., Leading in New England Ice Cream Poll

Peaceful Meadows, Whitman, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Peaceful Meadows ice cream stand in Whitman, Mass., leads our New England Vacations Facebook Fan Page Ice Cream Poll with around 17 percent of the total vote.

Coming in second is Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass., with about 14 percent of the vote. Rounding out the top 10 are Dairy Chief (now located in the CV Variety Store) in Dartmouth, Mass., Crescent Ridge Dairy in Sharon, Mass., Dairy Queen in Abington and Middleboro, Mass., Browns Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in York Beach, Maine, Richardson's in Middleton, Mass.,  Kimball Farm in Jaffrey, N.H., Bubbling Brook in Westwood, Mass., and Kimball Farm in Carlisle, Mass.

Others mentions include Kellerhaus, Weirs Beach, N.H.,  Howard's Drive-in, West Brookfield, Mass., Skinner's Sugar House in East Bridgewater, Mass.,  The Common Man Town Docks in Meredith, N.H., Gray's in Tiverton, R.I., Bedford Farms, Bedford, Mass., Erickson's, Maynard, Mass., Memories, Kingston, N.H.,  The Big Dipper, Prospect, Conn., and Emack and Bolio's, Orleans, Mass.

Additional mentions include Four Seas, Centerville, Mass., The Whole Scoop, Hanson, Mass., Heidi's Hollow Farm, Hanson, Mass., Uhlman's, Westborough, Mass., Beaks Ice Cream, Milton, N.H., Farfar's, Duxbury, Mass., Park St. Ice Cream, Natick, Mass., Whistlestop, Monument Beach, Mass., Hayward's Ice Cream Stand, Milford, N.H., Arnie's Place, Concord, N.H., Puritan Backroom, Manchester, N.H., Rich's Ice Cream, Oxford, Conn., J. Foster's, Simsbury, Conn., Mystic Drawbridge, Mystic, Conn., and White's in Ipswich, Mass.

We received mention of ice cream places with no town or city identified. If we did not know the mentioned ice cream stand or store without town or city name, it wasn't included on this list. Interestingly, we also received a vote for Carvel in Carteret, N.J. Now there's a classic New England city!

Thanks to all that voted. We recognize how much you enjoy eating ice cream! We'll keep you updated on additional votes coming in. If you'd like to vote, visit our Facebook Fan Page and scroll down to the April 7 "Ice Cream" post.

Dedham, Mass., in Contention for All-American City Awards

Downtown Dedham, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Nice to hear that the National Civic League has chosen Dedham, Mass., as a finalist for the All-America City Awards.

The only community in New England to make the finals, Dedham is the only community in New England to make the finals. This mid-sized town, southwest of Boston, is one of 26 communities nationwide competing for the honors.

We're not surprised about Dedham ending up in the finals. Ask anyone in these neck of the woods about community spirit and participation in Dedham and you'll get glowing reports. People really seem to care about their town -- you can see it in everything from the residential and commercial landscaping to community involvement. Additionally, not too many towns we know can maintain and improve an impressive traditional downtown while forging into the 21st century with a state-of-the-art open air shopping complex like Legacy Place.  Downtown, you'll find the Dedham Community Theater, Blue Bunny Books, the independent HR Wardle Pharmacy, several restaurants, some fabulous historic municipal buildings and a beautiful town common. The Dedham Square Improvements Project should make things even better, most notably creating better crosswalks and overall pedestrian safety. Legacy Place has many familiar stores and restaurants like L.L. Bean, Whole Foods Market. and P.F. Chang's. Without doubt, Dedham is a business-friendly town!

The National Civic League All-America City Awards uses the following criteria in its mission: "...each community must demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration by describing successful efforts to address pressing local challenges."

This year’s event will be held June 15-17 in Kansas City, Miss., where 10 winners will be announced.  Good luck to Dedham in the finals!

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Is Your Favorite New England Ice Cream Stand Or Shop?

Ice Cream Machine, Cumberland, R.I. (photo by Eric)
We have a fun mini-poll going on right now, asking for your favorite New England ice cream stand or shop. You can access the poll by scrolling down three posts (at this writing) on our New England Vacations Facebook Fan Page. If you don't see an ice cream stand that you'd vote for, please feel free to write in your choice. Please make sure to list the ice cream stand or shop's location, too, as we've received a few ice cream places without geographical mention.

So far, Kimball Farm in Westford Mass., is leading the pack, with Peaceful Meadows in Whitman, Mass., coming on strong! We've also received votes on ice cream destinations that tend to fly under the "ice cream radar." That's great to see as we're big fans on "hidden gems."

We'll post the final results next week of which ice cream stands wins the mini-poll.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Portsmouth, N.H., Wins Our Facebook Fan Page Mini-Poll As Best Small City In New England

Downtown Portsmouth, N.H. (photo by Eric)
New England has so many wonderful small cities, so we thought it would be a fun idea to poll our Facebook Fan followers on their favorite communities.

Portsmouth, N.H., won with 24 percent of the vote, followed by Burlington, Vt. (about 19 percent), Newport, R.I. (about 12 percent),  and a tie between Portland, Maine and Northampton, Mass. (both at approximately 8 percent).  Other cities that finished strong were Salem, Mass., Keene, N.H., and Montpelier, Vt. Some fans voted for communities that are technically towns -- Provincetown, Mass., York, Maine, and Bethlehem, N.H., to name a few.

For those not familiar with Portsmouth, this is a wonderful, little coastal town with a population of a little more than 20,000 people.  The feeling is small-town, but the number of downtown restaurants, diverse array of locally-owned shops and cultural attractions give Portsmouth an urban feel. It's a perfect place for strolling, especially the quaint, brick-tinged Market Square business district (and charming side streets), Prescott Park with its waterfront views, and Strawberry Banke -- an early settlement that features restored historic Colonial, Georgian and Federal homes.

For more on Portsmouth, we recommend reading our "Portsmouth, NH, Offers True New England Coastal Charm" article at Log onto our Facebook - New England Vacations Fan Page to become a follower of all things New England!



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