In the Providence metropolitan area, Attleboro is a growing city, home to 50,000 people on the MA-RI state line.
For decades Attleboro was known as the Jewelry Capital of the World, thanks to a metalwork industry led by the L.G. Balfour Company, which was founded here in 1913.
Throughout that time this city was the source of the nation’s class rings, pins, badges and commemorative medals, and you can find out all about “The Jewelry City’s” manufacturing heyday at the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum.
If you’re in town on Saturday in summer, Attleboro has what may be the top farmers’ market in the state, while in December the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette puts on a dazzling light display attracting people from miles around.
1. Capron Park Zoo
Attleboro’s idyllic Capron Park has had a zoo since 1937, and this attraction was renovated in the 1980s.
At the time of writing the zoo had 100 animals from more than 40 different species, among them African lions, red kangaroos, amur leopards, kookaburras, servals, emu, ringtail lemurs, water monitors, dwarf caiman, sloth bears and golden lion tamarins.
There are indoor exhibits here for rainforest species like two-toed sloths and fruit bats, as well as an innovative building for nocturnal animals.
Something that keeps families at the zoo a little longer is the splash pad, which is more like a miniature water park, while there’s a large playground by the entrance.
2. Attleboro Arts Museum
A cultural mainstay for downtown Attleboro, this contemporary art museum has a history dating back to 1923, and moved into its spacious current building in 1994.
With 3,500 square feet of gallery space, the Attleboro Arts Museum puts on expertly curated exhibitions and juried shows that are refreshed every few weeks, presenting work by established and upcoming artists.
The Charles Thompson Museum School has a large program of classes and workshops for all ages, while the museum has a buzzing events calendar, culminating with its art auction in the fall and flower show in spring.
Also be sure to drop by the museum gift shop, which has accessories, decorations, ceramics, handmade toys, greeting cards and jewelry made locally.
3. Attleboro Area Industrial Museum
Industry, in particular jewelry manufacturing, is central to Attleboro’s story, powering sudden growth from the late 19th century onwards.
For some context on the time when Attleboro was the capital of the jewelry world, there’s a fantastic museum in a downtown building from 1899.
The Attleboro Area Industrial Museum has more than 17,000 objects in its collection, and featured five main exhibits when we made this list.
You could check out a craftsman shop from the mid-19th century, find out all about the L.G. Balfour Company, view machinery from the Eugene Hunt Machine Turning Company and see the preserved studio used by sculptor Philip Kraczkowski (1916-1996).
There are also smaller cases dedicated to the many other industries based in Attleboro down the years, including numerous metal buttons and pins.
4. National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette
More than a million people each year visit the U.S. National Shrine dedicated to the Marian apparition claimed to have occurred in 1846 at La Salette-Fallavaux, France.
On a peaceful campus neighboring a nature preserve, the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette is a Roman Catholic community, offering events, pilgrimages, workshops, guided retreats, seminars and for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The biggest annual event is the Christmas Festival Lights, launched the year the shrine opened in 1953.
This beloved annual tradition features a brilliant display of more than 400,000 lights, as well as concerts and masses in a season from Thanksgiving evening until January 1.
5. Attleboro Farmers’ Market
For more than a decade there has been a farmers’ market at Capron Park, every Saturday morning from mid June to the end of October.
Attleboro Farmers’ Market is often rated among the best in the state, with some 50 vendors during the summer peak.
For a taste of what’s on offer, you can expect local fruit and vegetables, fresh bread, honey, homemade sauces, wine, mead, pickles, farm-raised meats, charcuterie, pastries, pet treats, flowers, an international choice of prepared food and tons of crafts.
Bring an appetite, as there are normally a few food trucks present each week, for waffles, burgers, mac and cheese, cupcakes and more.
6. Downtown Attleboro
Attleboro’s once dynamic and bustling downtown area had lost a lot of its vitality by the end of the 20th century. The city has spent the last 20 years breathing new life into this district at the intersection of Main Street and Park street.
That work is paying off, with improved sidewalks, new central residences, street furniture and a lovely park on the Bungay River.
There’s a collection of locally owned shops for games, craft supplies, one-of-a-kind gifts and vintage clothes, along with interesting food and drink establishments, from a craft brewery to bubble tea shop and sushi bar.
7. Mass Audubon’s Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary
Newly accessible via the GATRA bus, there’s a lovely Mass Audubon sanctuary on 75 acres by Lake Talaquega.
Walking the calm wooded trails, it may come as a shock that this space was previously occupied by a bustling casino and hotel.
Now it’s all a natural retreat, with woods, red maple swamp and freshwater marsh that can be navigated on clearly marked trails.
There’s a Colonial house on the property, dating to 1759 and containing a nature center with insight into the habitats and ecosystems at the sanctuary, along with live displays of reptiles and invertebrates in terrariums.
8. Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary
Adjoining the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette there’s another Mass Audubon property, affording some quiet contemplation along wooded trails.
On more than 110 acres, Attleboro Springs has three miles of trails to explore, with a piece of boardwalk, a pond, a red maple swamp, an impressive puddingstone outcropping and an observation platform over a picturesque vernal pool.
At the main trailhead there’s an education pavilion, for details about the sanctuary’s diverse bird and plant species.
9. Capron Park
Although the zoo is of course the headline attraction at Capron Park, the remainder of the park is a blissful hangout, staging a number of free community events in the warmer months, including the farmers’ market.
What you’ll find are large grassy spaces with meandering trails and tall hardwood trees. On the west side is the Newell Shelter, hosting outdoor concerts every Thursday evening from the start of July to the start of September, with occasional Sunday concerts as well.
Also keep an eye out for occasional movie nights during the school summer break.
10. Lloyd G. Balfour Riverwalk Park
Behind Attleboro Public Library there’s a sweet public park on the Bungay River, with lawns, winding paths, benches and picnic tables, all under plenty of tree cover in summer.
It may surprise you that this is in fact the site of the old L.G. Balfour Jewelry Plant. Now you’re within a few steps of downtown Attleboro’s assorted eateries (Coney Islands, pizza, sushi, bubble tea, mochi donuts), so you could bring your takeout here for a meal alfresco.
Lloyd G. Balfour Riverwalk Park is also the northern trailhead for the Bungay River Walk, which follows the river’s tree-lined banks for about half a mile, coming out near the train station on Riverfront Dr.
11. Colonel Blackinton Inn
Heading into downtown Attleboro from the north you’ll pass this charming property on Main Street. The Colonel Blackinton Inn was built in 1850 by its namesake, who was the son of an early Attleboro settler.
This was a home for the colonel’s sons and their families, designed in the Greek Revival style, and today listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Like a tavern of old, today this is a dining establishment and bed & breakfast, complete with a sunny terrace that has dining and live music in the summer.
Some picks from the menu are walnut salmon, dijon crusted rack of lamb, chicken & shrimp rossini and maple glazed pork chop.
12. Skyroc Brewery
In a converted warehouse backing onto the Bungay River, Skyroc Brewery was the logical next step for the owner’s home brewing passion that was kindled a Father’s Day gift.
Now, Skyroc beer is stocked at bars and restaurants across town, but also into Rhode Island and Connecticut. You can call in at the taproom, which has 18 beers on tap, with a core of year-round brews and some out-there experimental creations to try.
A few flagships are 14 Karat (Golden Ale), I-295 IPA, Capron Park Porter and Ghost (NE Pale Ale), while a couple of less conventional beers include a NE IPA fermented with wine juice and the popular Blue Bomber, blueberry Wheat Ale.
13. Level Acres Farm
At the intersection of Route 123 and Adamsdale Road, this farm stand has been a fixture since the turn of the 20th century.
For much of that time this was the retail space for dozens of acres of surrounding farmland, but that was sold off for housing development in the 1980s.
Level Acres Farm was reborn a few years later, as a garden center and store, selling material and produce that comes from a variety of local farms in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The stock changes with the seasons, with perennials and annuals in spring; fruit and vegetables in summer; pumpkins, squashes and chrysanthemums in fall, and Christmas trees and decorations in the holiday season.
There’s also a trained pastry chef in house, baking pies, brownies, madeleines and cookies.
14. Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary
A little way out of town in Norton there’s a non-profit sanctuary for animals that have been abandoned or neglected.
At the most recent count, Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary had around 300 residents, and these are mostly domestic animals like horses, donkeys, mules, goats, peacocks, llamas, chickens, dogs and cats.
Their pens and paddocks are nestled in attractive parkland, with plentiful shade from trees, and many of the animals are able to roam freely around the grounds.
The sanctuary is welcoming to visitors, and puts on events throughout the year, like an Easter egg hunt in spring and a family field day with competitive activities in July.
15. North Bowl Lanes
Newly upgraded with upscale decor, this large bowling alley in North Attleboro has 40 renovated lanes.
The current owners took over in 2008 after relocating Southern California, and wanted to bring the kind of entertainment-oriented bowling experience typical of the Golden State to Southern New England.
There are family bowling specials and packages for children’s birthdays, parties and corporate events, along with a full bar and an up-to-date game room with more than 30 machines. Thursday through Saturday you’ve got cosmic bowling with intense music and a light show.
On Saturday afternoons this is more family friendly, with mom-approved music and specials on pizzas and soft drinks.