Incorporated in 1726, Stoughton is about 17 miles south of downtown Boston, and was famed for its shoemaking industry in the 19th century.
Stoughton’s downtown area has diverse restaurants and some stately buildings, like the Lucius Clapp Memorial, home to the local historical society, and a grand Romanesque Revival train station.
The town is mere minutes from a lot of interesting spots, such as large tracts of conservation land, the only craft museum in New England and the splendid early 20th-century estate at Borderland State Park.
1. Stoughton Center
One of many things to like about Stoughton is its unpretentious town center, with a batch of local businesses and a few fine local landmarks.
The most recognizable of these is the clock tower of Stoughton Station, built in the Romanesque Revival style using local stone in 1888.
For food there’s a wide range of cuisines, all within walking distance. You’ve got Mexican, Chinese, several pizza joints, breakfast food, Brazilian steaks and Portuguese, and we’ll talk about the veteran Town Spa Pizza a little later.
Friends of Stoughton Center has initiated a number of improvement programs downtown, and coordinates events like the Parade of Lights, ringing in the holidays in December.
2. Bird Street Conservation Area
A big chunk of southern Stoughton is protected as picture-perfect conservation land, brimming with wildlife and ideal for activities like hiking, birding and mountain biking.
Containing hidden ponds, former farmland, and the old Gilbert’s Quarry where the stone was extracted for Stoughton Railroad Station in the 1880s, Bird Street Conservation Area is on almost 600 acres, all laced with trails.
There are six trails in total, all color coded, and if you have time to spare you could tackle the composite trail, looping around the entire property for a total distance of 4.8 miles.
3. Stoughton Historical Society
One of the grandest buildings in Stoughton Center is the Lucius Clapp Memorial, a Renaissance Revival former library from 1903.
Designed by Stoughton architect Walter Atherton (1863-1945), this was the town’s first purpose-built library, and is on the site of its first schoolhouse from the 18th century. Now this structure is the home of the Stoughton Historical Society, which was established in 1895.
You can pay a visit on Sunday afternoons to dip into Stoughton’s past, including the industrial era when the economy was dominated by the woolen textile and shoemaking businesses.
When we wrote this list you could peruse historic maps, learn the history of local landmarks like the Immaculate Conception Church (1859), see how underwear fashion has changed over the years, and browse a huge photography library, including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes.
4. Town Spa Pizza
This local go-to has been in business since 1955, and still uses the same basic pizza recipe as the day it opened.
Town Spa Pizza had humble beginnings, setting up in the upstairs of a former furniture factory on Porter St (by the railroad crossing), and taking over the entire building by 1962.
Then in 1986 the restaurant moved to its current location at 1119 Washington St, and hasn’t looked back. First-timers should go for the linguica pie, while the ideal sides are the greek salad, and chicken tenders, with a signature honey mustard sauce.
5. Ames Long Pond
Large bodies of water are almost ever-present in Stoughton, and this is especially true of the west side of town.
Next to the Bird Street Conservation Area sits the 86-acre Ames Long Pond, which is divided into two basins by West Street.
The south basin, with its serene wooded shoreline, is the setting for the town’s supervised swimming program in summer, at a neat little beach area on the west shore at 1000 Highland St.
Lifeguards are on duty from late June to late August, and there’s a dock for kids to jump off, and an ice cream truck that normally stops by. There’s a car-top boat launch here, and another for the north basin at 1784 West St.
6. Fuller Craft Museum
Just across the town line in Brockton is a high-profile museum dedicated to applied arts, and the only institution of its kind in the region.
The Fuller Craft Museum was founded in 1946, and has a magnificent lakeside setting, couched in woodland where there’s an arresting display of sculpture.
The museum’s permanent collection includes exceptional examples of woodwork, jewelry, ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture and mosaics.
There are up to five exhibitions at any one time, showcasing national and international craft talent, and in the spring of every year you can catch the Craft Biennial, sampling the best of the museum’s immediate community, from newcomers to veteran artists.
7. D.W. Field Park
The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton is next to a chain of linked water bodies that form the backbone of a 700+ acre park. Cross Pond, the southernmost, dates as far back as the 1790s.
Following a bequest by the businessman Daniel Waldo Field, the land was turned into a public park in the 1920s, and is a picturesque recreation hotspot, just a few minutes from Stoughton.
There are miles of waterside trails, with secluded places to sit in the shade and admire the waterfowl in summer.
The main landmark is the newly renovated 65-foot Memorial Tower, with a panorama of the park’s landscape, and views of the Boston skyline once the trees have shed their leaves by late fall.
8. Borderland State Park
In the neighboring towns of Easton and Sharon there’s a marvelous former estate, now in the care of the DCR.
On more than 1,800 acres, Borderland was purchased in 1906 by Harvard botanist Oakes Ames and his wife, the prominent suffragist and artist Blanche Ames Ames. Blanche oversaw the construction of their splendid Gothic Revival mansion (1910), which still presides over the estate.
At Borderland State Park you can take part in the same activities that the Ames family did—exploring more than 20 miles of trails on foot or horseback, and fishing or canoeing in the ponds.
There are facilities for disc golf and tennis, and the house opens to the public for tours, every other Sunday, August through November.
9. TreeTop Adventures
For another adventure in the woods there’s a high ropes course less than ten minutes away in Canton. This award-winning attraction is billed as the top climbing and zip-lining experience in Greater Boston.
TreeTop Adventures features ten different trails, varying in difficulty from beginner to expert, with a challenging assortment of transitions to get past, from ladders to rope bridges to rolling logs.
Zip-lines are part of the fun, and there are as many as 27 to ride. A handy tip before you leave home is to wear clothing that is comfortable with a full harness, and to bring climbing gloves, although these can also be purchased on site.
10. Crescent Ridge Dairy
Just over the line in Sharon there’s another veteran local business, this one dating back more than 90 years.
Crescent Ridge Dairy started out delivering milk and quality provisions across Massachusetts in 1932, and started making ice cream from the herd’s surplus milk, opening its dairy bar in 1968.
Often with a long line in summer, this award-winning stand has been listed by the likes of National Geographic among the very best in the United States.
There are more than 40 flavors of ice cream, sorbet, sherbet and frozen yogurt to choose from, including no-sugar-added options.
If you try only one variety, make it the famous Black Bear, raspberry ice cream with chocolate chips and chocolate-covered raspberry truffles, with a recipe that goes back to when the stand first opened.
11. Showcase Cinema de Lux Randolph
One place with a lot of untapped potential in Stoughton Center is the State Theatre movie palace. This historic balcony cinema opened in 1927, and survived in various guises until 2007.
The Friends of the State Theatre non-profit was set up after the venue closed, with the long-term plan of restoring the building and reopening it as a performing arts center.
For now the closest place to go for a movie is the highly-rated Showcase multiplex less than ten minutes away in Randolph. Officially the most frequented cinema in the Showcase chain, this has 16 screens, stadium seating, recliners, and IMAX, 3D and 4D options.
12. Cedar Hill Golf Course
If you’re up for a round of golf there’s a highly-regarded municipal course in the southeast of Stoughton, not far from the Fuller Craft Museum.
Cedar Hill is a nine-hole track dating back to 1920, and with a total length of 2,161 yards from the tips.
The course is nicely balanced, with players of all levels finding something to enjoy. Challenging aspects include the frequent elevation changes, the dense stands of woodland along the fairways and the small greens.
Stop by the hospitable J & G Hillside Grill, which has a Portuguese-American menu, with burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers like shrimp mozambique.
Also check the schedule for Summer Movies on the Green, organized by the Stoughton Recreation Department.
13. Mary Baker Eddy Historic House
Among the most influential women of the 19th century, the founder of The Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), had a connection to Stoughton.
Between 1868 and 1870 she was a guest of the Wentworth family at their house at 133 Central St, and during this time she finished her first teaching text on Christian Science, the culmination of several years of work.
The house was built around 1840 and was given a Greek Revival extension a few years later. It was donated to the Longyear Museum in 1961, and soon restored to its mid-19th century appearance. Visits and tours are available by appointment.
14. 4th of July Parade & Fireworks
If you’re in town in early July, Stoughton doesn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the nation’s independence with an exhilarating fireworks show and a parade through the town center.
The fireworks normally happen on the fields of Stoughton High School (232 Pearl St), and are normally preceded by a carnival and live music.
As for the parade, this normally takes place at 10 am on the nearest Saturday to the 4th, beginning at Park/Prospect Street, and passing through the center as far as Washington St.
This usually features patriotic floats, marching bands, local services, sports teams and organizations, and a lineup of classic cars.
15. Summer Concert Series
There’s free culture throughout the summer in Stoughton thanks to the local Lions Club. This organization puts on a weekly concert series on the soccer fields at Gibbons Elementary School, in partnership with the Stoughton Recreation Department.
Open to residents and non-residents, the concerts tend to take place on Sunday evenings, and you’re encouraged to bring chairs and picnic blankets to make yourself comfortable.
There are concerts all through July and August, and the performers are usually crowd-pleasing cover bands, with a handful of original artists as well.