At the foot of Great Blue Hill, Canton is home to more than 24,000 people, but has a lot of green space comprising reservations, ponds, historic estates and golf courses.
The Blue Hills Reservation runs across the northern end of the town, for awe-inspiring views, hiking and a range of visitor attractions, from a working meteorological observatory to a summer beach.
In the early 19th century Paul Revere—a key figure at the dawn of the American Revolutionary War—established a copper works in Canton, and this historic site has now been brought back to life with a heritage park.
The museum for Mass Audubon’s enormous art collection can be found in Canton, and the same organization manages the excellent Trailside Museum close by in the Blue Hills.
1. Blue Hills Reservation
A chunk of northern Canton is occupied by a 7,000-acre state park, comprising one of the largest areas of conservation land in Greater Boston.
The Blue Hills Reservation covers the namesake range of granite peaks, forming a prominent east-west ridge with astounding views of the Boston skyline, Boston Harbor and a sweep of the South Shore.
The tallest, Great Blue Hill, is partially within Canton’s town limits, rising 635 feet and standing as the highest point in the metropolitan area.
Climb the Eliot Observation Tower (1934) here for a stupendous panorama, while the Great Blue Hill Weather Observatory (1885) was a pioneer in the new science of meteorology in the late 19th century.
For a rugged adventure, Great Blue Hill is one of a chain of summits on the blue-blazed Skyline Trail.
2. Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate
On the edge of the Blue Hills Reservation is a refined 90-acre country retreat founded in 1902 by one Dr. Arthur Tracy Cabot.
Renowned architect Charles A. Platt (1861-1933) was hired to design a Colonial Revival mansion, with modern conveniences, formal gardens and grand carriage rides.
Later Cabot’s niece, Eleanor Cabot Bradley, and her husband, Ralph Bradley, moved here, adding a sunken camellia garden, ponds, and an art studio on the grounds.
A focal point next to the house is the Italianate walled garden, profuse with dogwood, azalea and rhododendron, and there are breathtaking displays of tulips and lilies in the spring and summer months.
Beyond the gardens are 60 acres of woods and wetlands, with bucolic views of a working farm. The Trustees of Reservations also rents this 90-acre estate out for wedding ceremonies in the summer months.
3. Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon
Opposite Canton High School is a museum for the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s large art holdings, which have grown since the founding of the organization in 1896.
Spanning a wide range of styles and disciplines, the collection can be enjoyed at smartly curated exhibitions all year round.
The museum is also part of a 121-acre property along the west bank of Pequit Brook, with two miles of trails criss-crossing through an area of pine-oak woods, meadows, red maple swamp, and vernal pools.
If you’re here for bird watching and photography there’s a bird blind in the meadow here.
4. TreeTop Adventures
This award-winning high ropes course in the woods in Canton attracts people from across Greater Boston.
TreeTop Adventures is designed for adults and children aged seven and up. Suitable for everyone from beginners to expert climbers, there are ten color-coded trails to choose from.
These are labeled in a similar way to runs on a ski mountain—three beginner, four intermediate, two advanced and one expert.
Each trail is set progressively higher above the forest floor, and comes with a range of increasingly challenging obstacles to negotiate, including tight-ropes, rolling logs, ladders, and almost 30 different zip-lines.
5. Paul Revere Heritage Site
Paul Revere (1735-1818), famous for his Midnight Ride to warn of the approaching British before the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, was also a pioneering industrialist. In 1801, he opened North America’s first rolled copper mill right here in Canton.
The site has been preserved as a nine-acre park by the Neponset River, with walkways, interpretive signs, a millpond, waterfalls and two historic buildings.
The restored Copper Rolling Mill and the Historic Horse Barn were both built by Revere’s son, Joseph Warren Revere (1777-1868), integral to the success of the company in the 19th century.
When we wrote this article there were long-term plans to establish the Paul Revere Museum of Discovery and Innovation at this site.
6. Canton Corner Historic District
There’s 300 years of history in the old center of Canton, on a stretch of Washington Street between Pecunit Street in the northeast and Dedham Street in the southwest.
Washington Street was laid out at the turn of the 18th century and this stretch became the site of Canton’s first meetinghouse in 1707.
The Canton Corner Historic District here was designated in 2009 and has architecture from those early years, notably the David Tilden House (1725) at 93 Pleasant Street.
The oldest public structure in the district is the First Parish Unitarian (1824) at 1508 Washington Street, a blend of Federal and Gothic Revival styles.
Close by there’s a stunning, newly revamped lakefront park, at the Earl Newhouse Waterfront on Reservoir Pond, with facilities for fishing, picnics, walks and non-motorized boating.
7. Blue Hills Trailside Museum
There are several visitor attractions dotted around the Blue Hills deserving your attention. The Blue Hills Trailside Museum, managed by Mass Audubon, has been open since 1957, and is a thoroughly modern and interactive intro to the wildlife and natural history of the range.
Something that makes the museum especially popular with families is the set of enclosures for live animals.
You’ll see red foxes, an otter, and several birds of prey, all of which have been rescued and can’t be released into the wild.
There are programs and special events for all ages at Trailside, as well as a much-loved summer camp, and a universally accessible path, with a rope guide and educational materials in a range of formats, from audio to braille.
8. Trillium Brewing Company
In 2017 this Boston-founded craft brewing brand opened a second location in Canton, at an enormous, 16,000-square-foot space, integrating a 30 bbl brewhouse, taproom, restaurant and patio.
Trillium has made a name for the exceptional quality of its artisanal beers, in particular for its hop-forward pale ales, with no fewer than a dozen among the 30+ on tap when we wrote this list.
The upscale food menu, with a range of shareables and wood-fired pizzas, features ingredients cultivated at Trillium’s own farm in North Stonington, CT, practicing sustainable, regenerative agriculture.
9. Ponkapoag Pond
Over 216 acres, this shallow impoundment is on the line between Canton and Randolph in the very south of the Blue Hills Reservation.
Due to the marshy environment, Ponkapoag Pond’s shores are almost entirely undeveloped, except for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s camp on the eastern shore.
Approaching from the Canton side, you can pick up the Ponkapoag Pond Trail from the YMCA center, with a rustic and narrow boardwalk zigzagging through the cedar evergreen forest and open marshland to the shore, linking with a walking trail that circles the pond.
10. Signal Hill
Rising above I-95 and the Neponset River the west of Canton is a 188-foot rocky knoll, sitting in a preserve managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
From these rugged ledges you can take in magnificent views of Great Blue Hill in the foreground and the Boston skyline behind. The climb is surprisingly light, following an old cart path through meadows and woods.
Birdwatchers can spot hawks gliding on the thermals between the river and the Blue Hills, and there’s archeological interest here in the form of charcoal, left behind by paleo-Americans some 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.
11. Houghton’s Pond Recreation Area
A splendid natural feature at the Blue Hills Reservation is this 24-acre kettle hole pond, fed by springs and formed at the end of the last Ice Age some 10,000 years ago.
Houghton’s Pond is ensconced in mixed woods and is named for a British settler who lived on the shore at the turn of the 18th century, and was the first in a line of Houghtons to farm the area. In summer you come to sunbathe and swim at the sandy beach that lines the northern shore.
There are five picnic areas on all sides of the pond, as well as a concessions pavilion by the parking lot, and facilities for active recreation to the southeast.
12. Blue Hills Ski Area
Just inside Canton’s boundaries, the Blue Hills Ski Area has been a go-to for winter sports in the Boston Area since 1950. In that time several generations of families have begun their skiing journey on this small mountain.
Blue Hills offers learn-to-ski programs for all ages and levels, and you can also book private lessons for one-to-one instruction.
The ski season is extended here with the help of snowmaking facilities that have been expanded year on year. On 60 acres there are 16 trails served by four lifts, along with a terrain park and nightskiing capability.
13. Global Flight Adventures
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take the controls of an airliner, this can be done safely at a state-of-the-art flight simulator in Canton.
Global Flight Adventures has a Boeing 737NG simulator, as close as you can get to the real thing. After a briefing, beginners will be able to perform at least one takeoff and one landing.
Student pilots can use the simulator to practice a number of events, while certified pilots can practice IFR flights and approaches here.
On a smaller scale, there’s also a Cessna 172 simulator, with 4K digital displays, for a taste of single-engine flying.
14. Brookmeadow Country Club
One of the top public courses on the South Shore, Brookmeadow Country Club is an 18-hole par 72 that has been open for more than half a century now.
This track is in an undulating landscape at the foot of the Blue Hills, and because of the slopes a few of the holes play a full club longer than they look. This is especially true for the 7th, 11th and the 18th hole, which is a very long par 4.
The club has a well-equipped practice facility, with a driving range dotted with targets at 50 to 250 yards, as well as a large green for putting.
You’ve also got the Grille Room for a meal and drink after your round, as well as the Halfway House between the 9th and 10th hole for a refuel.
15. Canton Ice House
This modern ice facility opened in 2016 and is home to several local high school teams, along with a range of men’s, women’s and youth hockey and skating programs.
The Canton Ice House has two NHL-size rinks, with a cafe set upstairs overlooking both sheets.
The facility is capable of hosting regional hockey and figure skating championships, together with dozens of local league games and practices every week.
Despite this loaded calendar, Canton Ice House squeezes in public skate, freestyle and skate and shoot hockey sessions all year round.