Centered on a pretty town common, Burlington is a leafy suburb, 12 miles northwest of downtown Boston.
This was a small community until after WWII when the completion of Route 128 led to a tenfold increase in the population.
The meetinghouse, still standing on the town common, played a role in the escape of John Hancock and Samuel Adams from the British on the night before the Battle of Lexington at the start of the American Revolutionary War.
One thing that draws people from across the metropolitan area is the upscale Burlington Mall, which also happens to be where the comedy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) was filmed.
1. Town Common-Simonds Park
In typical New England style, the center of Burlington is dominated by a grassy space skirted by historic residences and civic buildings like the Town Hall, Police Department and Fire Department.
The Town Common has been a gathering place since before Burlington was even incorporated as a town, and has a special connection to the early days of the American Revolution, which we’ll talk about below.
This is all a gorgeous setting for weekly outdoor concerts at the bandstand on Tuesdays in June, July and August.
Directly west of the Town Common is Simonds Park, which is more for active recreation and abounds with facilities for baseball, softball, tennis, basketball, skating, street hockey, and also has a wading pool open in summer.
2. Mary Cummings Park
In the south of Burlington and spreading into Woburn is a large former farm and estate that was bequeathed the City of Boston by the philanthropist Mary P.C. Cummings (1839-1927).
The park opened in 1930 and is managed by the Trustees of Reservations, and is an idyllic place for low-impact recreation, with a mix of forest, wetlands, vernal pools and open fields.
You can hike the trails and cross a long section of boardwalk over the wetlands. In spring and summer the fields are flecked with wildflowers, and there’s an inspiring display of black-eyed susans in summer.
3. Burlington Mall
For many people in Greater Boston, the name ‘Burlington’ is instantly associated with this large enclosed mall, which opened in 1968.
Even in the face of changing consumer habits, Burlington Mall is in excellent shape, and has total occupancy, with close to 170 stores and services.
The selection of retailers is towards the upper end of the market, with branches of Apple, L’Occitane, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters.
There are also rare locations here for Irish fast fashion brand, Primark and the British cosmetics company, The Body Shop. For dining, there’s Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory, and an excellent food court with a branch of the regional star, Regina Pizzeria.
4. Burlington Historical Museum
Fronting Simonds Park on its southeast corner is the historic Center School (1855), a one-room schoolhouse built in the Greek Revival style, but with some Italianate elements.
From the turn of the 20th century this building served as a library, before becoming the temporary home of the police department in 1970.
Since then this has been the Burlington Historical Society’s Museum, showing off collections including Native American artifacts, 19th-century farming equipment, historic costume and much more.
The society was formed in 1964 to preserve the West School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1794 and still standing at the corner of Francis Wyman Road and Bedford Street.
5. Burlington Landlocked Forest
A wonderful and often overlooked asset for Burlington is a 250-acre expanse of hardwood, hemlock and pine forest, accessed via the parking lot on Turning Mill Road in Lexington.
The name for the parcel comes from its location, wedged between Routes 62, 3, and 128 in Burlington, as well as conservation land to the west and south in Bedford and Lexington, creating a long green corridor.
The forest, with 13 miles of trails, is preserved by a voluntary organization, providing a remote haven for hiking, running, mountain biking, dog walking and low-impact snow activities in winter.
Keep an eye out for herds of deer, for foxes, coyotes, and abundant birdlife, from songbirds to wild turkeys, barred owls and a variety of woodpeckers.
6. Burlington Sculpture Park
Facing the Town Common on its east side is a newly launched arts project, part of a long-term scheme to adjust Burlington’s identity, and extend its reputation beyond the mall.
The sculpture park’s committee has worked in partnership with the New England Sculptors Association to provide this space with engaging works of art.
When we made this list there were 11 sculptures, with artists from Massachusetts and the New England region.
One striking piece was Seraph by Joseph Ferguson, with panes of blue glass intended to transform the ground on a sunny day after fresh snow.
The long-term plan is for each work to be installed for two years, and there’s ample green space around Burlington Center for more sculptures.
7. Meeting House of the Second Parish in Woburn (United Church of Christ, Congregational)
One of the oldest surviving religious buildings in Massachusetts can be found in Burlington on the southwestern corner of Simonds Park. When this church was built in 1732, the area that would become Burlington was still part of Woburn.
The Minutemen are known to have gathered here in 1775, and the meetinghouse’s ministers helped with the strategic withdrawal of Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Dorothy Quincy from Lexington on the night of April 19, 1775.
After alterations in 1846 and 1888, the building has an interesting mix of Colonial, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival architecture.
8. The Burlington Players
This multiple award-winning community theater group performs at the Park Playhouse in Burlington’s Overlook Park.
The Burlington Players are an all-volunteer group, providing an apprentice system to new members hoping to develop their performance or production skills.
In a normal season there are four productions, and a few recent picks are Bridges of Madison County, Women in Jeopardy, Sweeney Todd, Things My Mother Taught Me and the Farnsworth Invention.
The Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMCT) has recognized the group many times for its acting, direction, props, costume design and lighting. The Burlington Players also run a Children’s Theater Workshop program for students in Grades 1 to 7.
9. Mill Pond Conservation Area
Less than a mile east of the Town Common sits the Mill Pond Reservoir, which is at the heart of a 140-acre conservation area managed by the Burlington Conservation Commission.
Mill Pond is the largest single space managed in the care of this organization, and there’s a loop almost two miles long, around the water, passing wetlands and vernal pools, and weaving through evergreen forest.
On the shores of the reservoir you stand a great chance of spotting waterfowl in the summer and during the fall migration, when buffleheads, ring-necked ducks and blue-winged teals have all been sighted here.
10. Burlington Public Library
Burlington residents are rightly proud of their excellent public library, which is close to the Town Common next to the police department.
This dates back to the 1850s, and was a modest facility that was relocated from building to building until Burlington’s sudden growth in the 1950s and 60s required a new purpose-built home.
The library opened in 1968 and was renovated and expanded in the mid-1990s. Over the last 20 years the library has added computers, Wi-Fi and a wealth of downloadable books, music and videos to complement its physical collections.
This is also a community hub, with a rare assortment of programs, for anything from art appreciation to children’s storytimes and craft activities.
Burlington is within shouting distance of historic Lexington where the first shots in the American Revolutionary war were fired on April 19, 1775.
Part of the Minute Man National Park, the site of the Battle of Lexington has been preserved at the town green, and at the Buckman Tavern here you can still see a bullet hole in the door, made by a British musket ball.
Visitable Colonial-era houses are strewn around the town, many with captivating stories to tell.
One, the Hancock-Clarke House was where Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Dorothy Quincy were staying on the eve of the battle before being ushered to safety in what is now Burlington after Paul Revere arrived on his Midnight Ride to warn of the approaching British regulars.
You can retrace Revere’s route along the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, a ten-mile rail trail from Bedford to Alewife station in Cambridge.
12. Kings Dining & Entertainment Burlington
The Kings Dining & Entertainment Chain has several locations, mostly concentrated in Massachusetts, but with branches as far afield as Florida and Illinois.
In essence this is a family fun center but for adults, with bowling lanes, an arcade, billiards and karaoke.
On the menu are sharable bites, pizzas, wings, tacos, sandwiches, salads, burgers and loaded fries, while the drinks lists features not only a wide assortment of cocktails, but also craft beer from local breweries on tap.
On weeknights there’s all-you-can play bowling, arcade and billiards for under $20 at the time of writing.
13. AMC Burlington 10
Across the Middlesex Turnpike from the Burlington Mall is a ten-screen multiplex that opened in 1994.
All of the screens have been updated in the last few years, and are fitted with AMC Signature Recliners, so you can kick back and watch your movie in total comfort.
AMC has also improved its concessions, with the likes of flatbread pizzas and mac & cheese bites. As ever, there’s a discount on matinee shows (30% when we wrote this article), and specials on Tuesdays when tickets are as low as $5.
14. Burlington Ice Palace
This full-service ice skating facility in Burlington is run by the town in partnership with FMC Ice Sports.
The Burlington Ice Palace opened in 1998 and has a wide array of programs, for basic skating skills, figure skating and hockey.
This rink is home to several teams, organizations and camps, including the Winchester Figure Skating Club, the Burlington Hockey & Skating Association, the South Middlesex Coyotes and StinkySocks Hockey.
There are several public skate and pick-up hockey sessions each week, and the facility has a snack bar, skate rentals, skate sharpening, free Wi-Fi and a party room.
15. Municipal Truck Day
Loved by kids, Burlington has a unique event that has taken place on the Town Common for more than two decades now.
Usually taking place on a Sunday in mid-September, the Municipal Truck Day brings a whole fleet of heavy vehicles, including big rigs, fire trucks, armored SWAT vehicles, APCs, plows, tractors, excavators, cement mixers, ambulances, monster trucks, road rollers, limos and many more.
Children will be able to take an up close look at these machines, get behind the wheel, hear the horns and sirens, and meet the people who operate them.