On the Assabet River in the MetroWest region, Maynard is an irresistible town, known for its lively downtown and percolating arts scene.
Set close together, there’s a local movie theater, an innovative performing arts venue, and the massive ArtSpace studio complex, home to a community of more than 80 artists.
Maynard was incorporated in 1871, so is quite a new town by Massachusetts standards.
The name comes from Amory Maynard (1804-1890), the, founder of the Assabet Woolen Mill, which powered the local economy for more than a century, and made cloth for Union Army uniforms
Within moments of downtown Maynard you’ll find yourself in the pristine nature of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, and you can get there via a stretch of rail trail that was completed in 2018.
1. Downtown Maynard
As a flourishing 21st-century central business district, downton Maynard would give any town a run for its money.
There’s art, entertainment, culture, great food and drink, and a buzzing social calendar. Packed onto a relatively short section of Main Street and Nason Street are dozens of small businesses.
In terms of food you’ll find everything from Korean to deli food, and that selection is matched by the stores, whether you’re shopping for a one-off work of art, outdoor gear, comics, musical instruments—you name it.
There’s history too, with lots of stately commercial architecture from Maynard’s textile-making heyday, as well as a lovely view from the shore of the old Millpond.
June through September, the parking lot here is the setting for one of the best farmers’ markets in the MetroWest region.
2. Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge
Most of southern Maynard is taken up by a 2,230-acre National Wildlife Refuge, spread across four different towns in two sections, along the uninhabited floodplain of the Assabet River.
Maynard is on the larger northern section, in an area of wetlands, old farmland, and pine and hardwood forest containing vernal pools.
Something intriguing about this land’s human past is that it was a WWII-era ammunition storage facility.
The military presence continued into the second half of the 20th century, and today there are strange reminders in the form of large bunkers more than 80 feet in length. The refuge brims with wildlife, and is treasured as a resting place for migratory birds.
3. Fine Arts Theatre
Maynard wouldn’t be Maynard without this lovable triplex movie theater that has been on the scene since 1949.
Before then this building was a garage that had been converted from a horse stable and livery established in 1897.
Under new management since 2021, the Fine Arts Theatre is a charming alternative to modern multiplexes, and was given a major renovation in the 2010s.
Head here for first-run movies in comfortable auditoriums with digital projection and high-end sound. Concession prices are surprisingly reasonable for a movie theater, and a major plus point is that you can purchase alcoholic beverages.
4. Sanctuary Maynard
An arresting sight downtown is the Greek Revival Union Congregational Church, which has recently been turned into an entertainment venue.
The church was constructed in 1853, and eventually closed in 2017 before a new chapter began with Sanctuary.
Complete with a bar, the historic nave is now a hall for concerts, comedy shows and other live performances, as well as a host of private events like weddings, parties and fundraisers.
There were at least four shows a week when we wrote this article, while the bar area is open most nights.
Since 2001 the former Fowler Middle School Building has been repurposed as one of the largest and most vibrant art centers in New England.
ArtSpace has no fewer than 45 studios, supporting around 85 artists and encouraging collaboration.
Part of the complex is the Acme Theater, with a 70-seater auditorium staging professional-quality productions.
Outside, the Pollinator Meadow is a registered Monarch Waystation, while the first port of call for visitors will be the West Gallery, with exhibitions run by a committee of ArtSpace’s tenants.
There’s always something exciting happening at the center, from seasonal shops to exhibitions, receptions and theater shows.
6. Assabet River Rail Trail
The Marlborough Branch of the Fitchburg Railroad came through Maynard in the late 1840s, connecting Action station to Marlborough by 1855.
A century later the branch had been abandoned, and long-term plans to pave a trail along the railbed have been partially realized over the last few years.
Maynard is on a 3.5-mile unbroken stretch that runs from South Acton Station to the Maynard-Stown line. Here the trail bends through the very heart of downtown Maynard and leads you to the wide-open nature of the Assabet River Wildlife Refuge.
There are signs and places to take a break along the route, while the Trail of Flowers project has furnished the corridor with thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers.
7. Presidential Village
An easy stroll from downtown Maynard, there’s a model village constructed at the turn of the 20th century by the American Woolen Company for its workers.
Located across the Assabet River from downtown, Presidential Village is made up of around 250 single-family houses, designed in 13 different styles.
Each one came with running water, pine flooring, a toilet in the cellar, but with no central heat. The Town of Maynard Historical Commission has published a self-guided walking tour of the village.
One of many interesting details is that almost every street is named after a post-Civil War U.S. President, from Ulysses S. Grant to Theodore Roosevelt.
8. Art Signals Studio
At this studio in downtown Maynard you can paint your own unique piece of pottery. Open to walk-in customers, Art Signals Studio has a large selection of bowls, cups, plates, vases, figurines, as well as children’s pottery.
These can be a blank canvas for your work of art, and the studio will provide all of the tools and materials you need, such as stencils and stamps.
After that your piece will be glazed and fired, and ready to pick up in a couple of weeks. Art Signals Studio also runs a number of classes, for skills like wheel throwing, centering, pulling up walls, glazing and firing, and there are fun workshops for kids during the school summer break.
9. Amory’s Tomb Brewing
Established in 2015, there’s a small-batch craft brewery and taproom in downtown Maynard. Amory’s Tomb Brewing is run by a pair of brothers-in-law, contributing towards Maynard’s cultural development and close-knit sense of community.
The brewery, specializing in malty ales, is also regionally focussed, sourcing almost all of its grain from farms and malthouses in the Northeast.
There were eight beers on tap when we compiled this list, including a Honey and Lemon Saison (Farm Road), a Belgian Golden Ale (The Advancement of Interests), a Wheat Lager (Broken Latch), a Belgian Pale Ale (Kettle Hole), and an Imperial Brown Ale (Northern Rabbit).
10. Maynard Outdoor Store
A reassuring long-term presence downtown, the family owned and operated Maynard Outdoor Store has been around since 1950.
In the early days this was a war surplus store, but has evolved into an outfitter for active and casual clothing and footwear.
For an idea of what’s in store you’ve got hiking shoes, backpacks, sleeping bags, work boots, cleats, sneakers, along with a wealth of sportswear, including official Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics apparel.
The building dates back to the 1890s, and was constructed for W.B. Case & Sons, dry goods, which first opened in Maynard in the 1870s and survived until the Great Depression.
11. Jam Time Maynard
Part of a small, local chain of indoor play centers, Jam Time Maynard creates a fun, enriching environment for younger children.
Inside you’ll find a world of high-quality and safe equipment, from climbing structures to play tables, playhouses, bounce houses, and kiddie gyms, as well as soft play toys for infants and toddlers.
You can rent the facility for birthday parties, bring little ones to specialized classes and activities, or simply drop by during public play hours, published on Jam Time’s website.
12. Glenwood Cemetery
You can also download a self-guided walking tour for the town’s only municipal cemetery. On 23 picturesque acres, Glenwood Cemetery predates Maynard, with roots that go back to 1820.
This original 8-acre portion was purchased by the town in 1871, and expanded into a rural cemetery, with trees, a network of paths, and a pond on the south side.
The most conspicuous monument of all is the Maynard family crypt, set on the north side, with a granite portal fronting a large earth-covered mound. This is the burial place of the town’s namesake Amory Maynard, his wife Mary, and 20 descendants.
13. Maynard Public Library
The town has had a public library since 1881, and until the 2000s this was located next to the town hall.
A need for a larger building was met by the former Former Roosevelt Elementary (1918), and the multimillion-dollar renovation and relocation was completed in 2006.
Maynard Public Library is a pillar of life in the town, with collections augmented by the 41-strong Minuteman Library Network.
There are services and programs for all ages, including a slew of classes and workshops for residents to make the most of. The children’s department is a godsend for parents, and even features a dedicated storytime room.
14. Discovery Museum
Recently given an $8.8m expansion, this regional, hands-on children’s museum is just a few minutes away in Acton.
Now with twice the exhibit space, the Discovery Museum presents a range of open-ended, STEAM-focussed exhibits, designed by professional educators.
These involve topics like light and color, tinkering, air, water, sound, math, and design and engineering.
Outside, kids can play and explore in the Discovery Woods, with a 550-square foot accessible treehouse, surrounded by a nature playscape that is open every season of the year.
15. Maynard Fest
A wonderful time to find yourself in downtown Maynard is on the first Saturday in October, when the streets around Veterans Memorial Park spring to life for a colorful community event.
Maynard Fest brings more than 100 vendors, as well as a stage with a schedule of live music in the park, and performances at Sanctuary.
All day long there’s a mouthwater choice of food, from fried dough to tacos, samosas, spring rolls and papas bravas.
You’ll find free and inexpensive things to do throughout the day, while kids will be entertained with puppies and friendly alpacas in the park.