One of the windiest cities in the country, Brockton is a blue collar community of 100,000, about 20 miles south of Boston.
In keeping with its hardscrabble character, Brockton has produced a couple of the greatest boxers of all time, Marvin Hagler and Rocky Marciano.
Marciano is remembered with a monumental statue at Brockton High School, which he attended in the 1930s.
In 1883, Brockton was chosen by Thomas Edison as the place to test and popularize the world’s first standardized central power system.
Within a year he had supervised the wiring for the world’s first centrally powered fire station, powered theater, shoe factory and high school, all in Brockton.
Edison’s contributions can be appreciated at the Brockton Historical Society, which also preserves the pioneering alarm system he designed for the fire station.
1. Fuller Craft Museum
The only museum dedicated to contemporary craft in New England has a lovely pondside setting, by D.W. Field Park in Brockton.
Since 2004, the Fuller Craft Museum has assembled a celebrated collection of fine functional objects, including woodwork, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, sculpture and glass.
You can enjoy themed, group and solo exhibitions by some of the world’s finest makers, as well as workshops for all ages, for a range of skills, from wood turning to wheel throwing.
Awaiting you as you arrive on the wooded grounds is a superb outdoor sculpture exhibition, and you can download a guide to help you identify these works before you visit.
The man behind the museum was local resident Myron Fuller, a geologist and hydrologist who in 1946 left $1 million dollars towards the creation of an art museum and cultural center in memory of his family. This opened in 1969 without a collection, and started collecting crafts in 2004.
2. D.W. Field Park
The 650-acre park that occupies a big swath of northern Brockton has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2000.
D.W. Field Park was designed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and his son John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), and funded by a bequest from the local businessman Daniel W. Field.
The uniting feature here is a string of mostly man-made lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and these can be accessed via a six-mile-long, looping parkway.
A haven for waterfowl, the water bodies are a big attraction, but there are also miles of unpaved trails to wander or cycle. Cresting the park’s highest point is an observation tower, constructed from field stone and with 90 steps to the top.
3. Campanelli Stadium
Now playing collegiate summer baseball, the Brockton Rox were founded in 2002 as a member of the now defunct Northern League.
Since 2013 the Rox have belonged to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), made up of eight teams from around New England.
The name is a nod to Brockton’s sports heritage, as the city where the legendary boxers Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler grew up. Both men have retired numbers, representing their tally of victories (#49 for Rocky Marciano and #62 for Hagler).
Home field is Campanelli Stadium, seating 4,750. Tickets are sold at a flat rate of just $10, for an affordable evening of summer baseball action.
Also in summer, the stadium often becomes a concert venue, and Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, the B52s and Jack Johnson have all performed here.
4. Rocky Marciano Statue
The only heavyweight champion to have finished his career undefeated, Rocky Marciano (1923-1969), was born in Brockton and went to Brockton High School.
After an attempt to break into baseball, Rocky Marciano returned to Brockton in 1948 to embark on an extraordinary boxing career that would end with 49 wins from 49 fights, 43 by KO.
A larger than lifesize bronze statue of Marciano stands on the Brockton High School grounds, next to Campanelli Stadium, overlooking the football stadium named in his honor.
This monument was gifted to the city by the World Boxing Council, and was officially unveiled in 2012.
5. Brockton Historical Society
The local historical society was founded in 1969 and is based on a campus on Brockton’s west side.
The main building here is The Homestead, constructed in 1767 by Deacon Jeremiah Beals, and enlarged by his son around 40 years later.
At that time the building was known as the Solid Rock Inn, for the giant glacial erratic that continues to sit on the front lawn.
The Beals were descended from John Beal of Higham, who was one of the first shoemakers in America in the 1630s.
There’s an exhibit chronicling the history of shoemaking in America at the house, and others for Rocky Marciano, and Thomas Edison’s connection to Brockton.
6. Brockton Fire Museum
Given Edison’s involvement, the history of firefighting in Brockton is especially interesting, and in 1992 a building reminiscent of a Victorian-style station was erected next to The Homestead.
Containing a huge collection of firefighting artifacts, the Brockton Fire Museum is packed with absorbing things to see.
Among them you can check out Edison’s preserved electric alarm system, which would light up the entire Central Fire Station and release the horses from their stalls.
Also on display are a restored hand-tub pumper from the 1850s, helmets, badges, signs, lamps, flags, newspaper clippings, uniforms, photographs and tons more.
Another noteworthy feature is the memorial to the 13 Brockton firemen who died at the Strand Theatre fire of 1941, still the deadliest firefighter disaster in Massachusetts history.
7. Cape Cod Cafe Pizza
Bar pizza, baked in 10-inch pans and with a thin crust, is a South Shore tradition, available in pubs and bars across the area.
The mooted originator is located right here in Brockton. Now with four branches, Cape Cod Cafe Pizza first opened in Brockton in 1939, and has been in the same family since E. James “Papa” Jamoulis took over in 1947, after serving overseas in WWII.
The reason for the name is its position on Route 28, which back then was the only way to get to Cape Cod. A go-to order is the Meat Eater or Everything pizza, with the famous Greek salad on the side. There’s also an interesting lineup of local beer on tap.
8. Ames Nowell State Park
Overlapping with Brockton’s northeast corner is a large patch of pine and oak woods on the banks of Cleveland Pond.
Ames Nowell State Park is on 700 acres, with ten miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing in winter.
The pond is the park’s main attraction, and is fringed by wetlands that can be crossed on stretches of boardwalk.
The entire landscape is suffused with history: There were quarries here in the 17th and 18th centuries, while the pond was dammed for a factory in the 1920s. Coursing throughout the woods is a web of rustic stone walls.
9. Brockton Symphony Orchestra (BSO)
Brockton has its own symphony orchestra, considered one of the finest ensembles of its kind in the region.
The BSO was founded in 1948 and is made up of 65 musicians from the greater Brockton area.
A typical season involves up to ten professional-level performances at venues in or near the city, like the Oliver Ames Auditorium in Easton or the Brockton West Middle School Auditorium.
One annual tradition is the Family Concert, a free event for children up to eight years old and taking place at Boston’s Symphony Hall.
10. Tommy Doyle’s Pub & Grill
Another long-standing spot in Brockton is the Tommy Doyle’s Pub & Grill, now into its fourth decade and serving hearty South Shore pub fare.
The crowd is always in high spirits, and the menu is wide-ranging, but most people come for the seafood and bar pizza.
Of course, the lobster roll is a star menu item, but there’s special mention for the haddock, clam strip, scallops and lamb kabob.
As for the bar pizza, this comes in a classic 10-inch pan, with a choice of 15+ toppings. For a nice extra touch, you get complimentary popcorn brought to the table.
11. D.W. Field Golf Course
On rolling terrain this 18-hole public course within D.W. Field Park opened in 1927.
A par 70, D.W. Field Golf Course has a classic layout, with fairways framed by stands of mature trees, and constant views of the Olmsted landscape, and landmarks like the observation tower.
One quirk of this track is its accommodating landing areas, although you’ll need accurate approach play to deal with the small, sloping greens.
If you need any gear there’s a pro shop at the clubhouse, as well as a 19th Hole to relive your round with friends.
12. Westgate Lanes
This giant bowling alley by the south end of D.W. Field Park has been a part of the scenery in Brockton since 1959, and today serves as a complete family entertainment center for the area.
In terms of bowling, there’s a total of 62 lanes, with 50 tenpin and 12 candlepin lanes. To go with that there’s an arcade with close to 50 machines, including a full redemption center and 13 Brunswick billiards tables.
Then you’ve got the Westgate Pub & Grill, which has a full menu, with a wide choice of shareable appetizers available until late into the evening.
13. Carousel Family Fun Center
On the east edge of Brockton there’s a much loved roller skating rink, for birthday parties and regular public skate sessions.
Carousel Family Fun Center also offers skate classes on Saturdays, for basic, intermediate and advanced skaters. If you’re a parent then you’ll even get free coffee while you wait.
Keep an eye on the calendar for specials and events like adult skate nights and a summer skate camp for kids. For refreshments there’s a snack bar, serving party-friendly comfort food like pizza, chicken tenders and nachos.
14. Gowell’s Home Made Candy
Also in Brockton’s assortment of veteran local businesses is this confectionery shop that has been around since 1959.
Gowell’s Home Made Candy was established by Richard and Evelyn Gowell, and continues to make its range by hand at 727 North Main Street. The company has ten employees, a couple of whom have been on the staff for more than three decades.
Stepping inside, you might be shocked by the variety of treats. Chocolates are the forte of course, from malt balls to jumbo peanut butter cups, chocolate fudge, nonpareils, covered cranberries, turtlettes, truffles and assortments for all tastes.
Other treats include peanut brittle, gummies, Australian licorice and fresh roasted nuts.
15. Westgate Mall
This relatively modest enclosed mall first opened in 1963, and is surrounded by big box stores like Lowe’s, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Like many similar places, Westgate Mall has contracted a little in the last few years, but continues to have plenty of national chains, like rue21, Kay Jewelers, Lids, Bath & Body Works and Claire’s.
Bucking the trend for declining food courts, there was a good choice of dining options at the time of writing, like Sarku, Popeyes and Charleys Philly Steaks, with branches of Chipotle, IHOP, Dunkin’, Yamato Japanese Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings close by.