Roughly equidistant to Boston and Providence, which are half an hour away, Bridgewater is a town of around 30,000 in Plymouth County.
The town’s central commercial area is on an historic square, with mature trees and a vibrant series of outdoor concerts on Thursday evenings, known as Bridgewater Music Alley.
Intertwined with the downtown area is the verdant campus of Bridgewater State University, which is well worth a visit on foot for architecture and leafy walkways.
At the turn of the 20th century Bridgewater was a manufacturing center, and intriguing vestiges of these factories, wrecked by the 1938 New England Hurricane, are preserved at parks and conservation areas.
1. Bridgewater Center
Bridgewater has a pretty downtown area, anchored by the Central Square, which is a narrow band of tree-shaded grass, framed by handsome old buildings.
Take a moment to admire the Greek Revival Old Town Hall (1843), the New Jerusalem Church (1871), Central Square Congregational (1821), and the magnificent former Bridgewater Academy building (1868), which has since become the new town hall, fronted by a fountain.
On Central Square, Broad Street and Summer Street there’s a small but strong collection of cafes and eateries for sandwiches, pizza, Chinese, breakfast food, pub grub and sweet treats.
On Thursday evenings in summer, be sure to catch Bridgewater Music Alley, with family-friendly live performances, children’s entertainment and food vendors.
2. Prisco’s Market & Deli
Located off Route 18 in Bridgewater, Prisco’s Market & Deli has a name that doesn’t quite indicate how much there is going on here.
Yes, there’s a mouth-water menu of hot and cold sandwiches (the meatball sub is a local star), as well as salads, wings, pizzas, calzones and fried dough, all complemented by a roadside ice cream stand for soft serve and hard serve, floats and Italian ice.
But this is also a family attraction, with 18 holes of mini golf, batting cages, basketball courts and a charming gift shop.
3. Bridgewater State University
On its east side, Bridgewater Center merges with Bridgewater University, so a walk around town can seamlessly become a tour of the leafy campus.
The largest of nine state universities in Massachusetts, this institution was founded in 1840 and among its famous alumni are WWE wrestler T-Bar (Christopher Dijack), TV conservationist Jeff Corwin and actor Robert Stack (1919-2003).
The campus is easy to get around on foot and is a quaint delight for its brick architecture, ample greenery and tree-lined paths.
You can check out an exhibit at the Anderson Art Gallery in the Art Center building dating back to 1904, while there’s a small museum dedicated to Abraham Lincoln in the Clement C. Maxwell Library.
4. Wildlands Trust – Great River Preserve
On the north bank of the upper Taunton River is a 125-acre preserve that was purchased by the Wildlands Trust in 2009.
The Great River Preserve borders two Department of Fish and Game (DFG) properties either side of the river, for a total of 230 acres of protected riverside habitat.
The Wildlands Trusts’ section features more than a mile of undisturbed river frontage, endowed with pine/oak woods, wetlands, vernal pools and open fields.
The preserve is a key habitat for the threatened eastern box turtle, and has a real sense of remoteness that has been heightened by the closure of the neighboring Auburn Street Bridge in 1995.
5. Olde Scotland Links
The municipal course in Bridgewater has been listed by New England Golf Monthly as one of the 25 Best Public Access Courses in the region.
As the name tells you, Olde Scotland Links has been designed like a classic links course, with an open layout, not many trees and plenty of exposed places where the wind comes into play.
The greens are always quick here, and this is a course that requires you to plan your shots well in advance. If you need a warm-up there’s a driving range, with mats for the public and grass tee boxes for members.
There’s comforting tavern fare at Barrett’s Ale House in the clubhouse, and the course has a small but well-stocked pro shop for any gear you might need.
6. Black Hat Brew Works
At Bridegwater’s Scotland Industrial Park there’s a small craft there’s a small but well-regarded craft brewery that was founded in 2015.
Starting out as a homebrewing operation, Black Hat Brew Works has a three-man team consisting of two brothers, Paul and Scott, and their friend, Jason.
The homey taproom here has ten beers on draft, and when we made this article there was a lineup of blonde ales, pale ales (try Fuzzy Bunny Slippers), a Belgian-style Tripel, a Witbier, a Stout and a Belgian Saison.
There’s no kitchen at Black Hat Brew Works, but you can expect local food trucks on weekends, for anything from nachos to wraps to pizzas.
7. Lake Nippenicket
Occupying a big patch of western Bridgewater is a 375-acre Great Pond, drained by the Town River.
The northern half of Lake Nippenicket is ensconced by wetlands, belonging to the Hockomock Swamp, the largest freshwater swamp in Massachusetts, at almost 17,000 acres.
Thanks to these wetlands, only the southern half of Lake Nippenicket has any kind of development.
You’ve got a car-top boat launch here to the west at Black Mallard Road, and a boat ramp on the southeastern shore at 99 Lakeside Drive.
The views from these spots at sunrise and sunset respectively are sensational. For fishing, ten different species have been recorded in the lake, among them largemouth bass, chain pickerel and black crappie.
8. Legion Field
Less than half a mile to the south of downtown Bridgewater is a large park for active recreation, also doubling as a venue for community events.
Legion Field is the setting for the town’s 4th of July celebrations, with an afternoon and evening of live entertainment, carnival rides, food trucks, inflatables for kids and a fireworks show.
The park has up-to-date amenities for basketball, baseball/softball, football and soccer, as well as a children’s playground and skate park.
9. Stanley Iron Works Park
Along the Town River in the very north of Bridgewater is a fascinating public park on a site with 300 years of iron and steelmaking history.
The Bridgewater Iron Works was founded at this spot as early as 1691, and by the mid-19th century was the second-largest producer of iron in the United States.
During the Civil War this facility manufactured ammunition, as well as heavy castings and forgings for the United States Navy, before steel plate and machinery for the Stanley Works.
The site was badly damaged by the Hurricane of 1938, and production finally ended in 1988. The park is strewn with the ruins of these old buildings, and you can see how the Town River was harnessed to power these works.
10. Stiles & Hart Conservation Area
Downstream on the Town River is another former industrial site where activity was interrupted by the Hurricane of 1938.
For more than half a century up to 1875, this place had been the site of an agricultural fairground with a large exhibition hall.
At the turn of the 20th century the land was purchased by the Bridgewater Brick Company, and operations continued under various owners until the hurricane caused irreparable damage to the buildings here.
Walking along this stretch of riverfront you can still see the clay pits, now surrounded by oak and maple trees, while the telltale mounds of defective bricks discarded a century ago still rise as high as eight feet.
11. East Bridgewater Cinema
Five minutes from Bridgewater Center, this small five-screen multiplex is managed by the local chain, South Shore Cinemas.
This is a nice alternative to enormous, impersonal and expensive theater complexes, with affordable prices in a cozy and friendly environment.
When we wrote this article prices were frozen at a flat $10 for adults, with admission for as little as $8 for matinees and all day on Tuesdays.
Keep an eye out for special events like National Cinema Day in September, when tickets are even cheaper. This is a first-run theater with all of the latest big releases, and a big selection of reasonably priced snacks.
12. Bridgewater Ice Arena
This dual ice facility, with two 200′ x 85′ rinks, opened in the town in 1995. The Bridgewater Ice Arena is home ice for junior hockey’s Bridgewater Bandits, competing in the United States Hockey League.
Another important tenant is Stonehill College, whose Skyhawks had just become a member of NCAA’s Division I Northeast Conference when we wrote this list.
The facility has programs for hockey and figure skating, and the Silver Lining Skate School has classes for all ages and abilities.
You can check the calendar for details of stick time and public skate sessions throughout the week, while there’s a cafe here and a pro shop equipped with the Blackstone Stealth Skate Sharpening System.
13. Marathon Park
Parents with children up to the age of 12 will love this park just west of Legion Field. Marathon Park is renowned locally for its unusually large, enclosed playground.
The equipment was updated as recently as 2022, and includes a seemingly endless variety of climbing structures, swings and slides, as well as a sandbox, music area and pavilion with seating.
There are designated areas for toddlers, children aged 2-5 and children aged 5-12, and this is all surrounded by a perimeter path. Parents out for some exercise will be interested to know that six laps equal a mile.
14. Reverend James Keith Parsonage
Close by at 199 River Street is a 17th-century building that is believed to be the oldest surviving parsonage in the United States.
In the care of the Old Bridgewater Historical Society (OBHS), the Reverend James Keith Parsonage was most likely built in the early 1660s, and in 1664 became the home of the newly ordained young minister, James Keith, who had recently immigrated from Scotland.
The OBHS acquired the property in 1961 and restored it to its early 18th-century appearance, when it belonged to Edward Fobes, longtime deacon of the Bridgewater Congregationalist Church.
Check the society’s website for details of opening times, while the HQ and main exhibit space is the purpose-built Memorial Building (1900) at 162 Howard Street, West Bridgewater, also home to the society’s research library.
15. Bridgewater Arts & Music Festival
We mentioned the July 4th fireworks at Legion Field, but earlier in the day another festival unfolds just west of downtown at Bridgewater Middle School.
From 10 am to 3 pm, this is an opportunity for skilled local crafters and artists to display and sell their creations, from jewelry to textiles, ceramics, glass and painting.
Prominent writers from the area are also present, for signings and sales. There’s constant live entertainment, with music performances and a magic show, while kids will be occupied with activities like face painting, sand art, balloon animals and a railroad ride.