One of the oldest towns in the United States, Taunton was founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony.
The excellent Old Colony History Museum shines a light on that history, and charts different aspects of the region’s development, from Taunton’s time as a hub for the silver industry in the early 19th century.
Some 200 years later, Taunton is still known as the Silver City, and has a busy downtown area beside a town green that was first plotted in the 1740s.
This is an especially heartwarming scene in December, with light displays that have earned Taunton another nickname, The Christmas City.
1. Old Colony History Museum
Documenting southeastern Massachusetts, which was part of Plymouth Colony in the 17th century, the Old Colony Historical Society was founded in 1853, making it one of the oldest historical societies in New England.
The society’s museum in Taunton is set in the former Bristol Academy school, an Italianate building from 1852.
The museum has recently renovated its exhibits, dealing with topics like 17th-century settlement, immigration, transportation, industry in Taunton, fashion, society and the military.
There’s also a fabulous collection of 29 historic portraits on view, as well as constantly changing temporary exhibits.
There’s a guided tour of the museum at noon, while the museum organizes a range of workshops, lectures and field trips.
2. Taunton Green
Taunton has an animated downtown area, combining impressive architecture, history, commerce and dining.
The linchpin is Taunton Green, which has had roughly the same dimensions since it was laid out in the 1740s as a military training ground.
Decades before, an early meeting house had been built at this very place. Attesting to Taunton Green’s long-standing military connection is a cluster of monuments honoring soldiers.
One of the most recognizable is a copy of The Hiker, by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson, paying tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War.
East of Taunton Green, you can head along Main Street, which has stores for antiques, musical instruments, clothing, shoes and flowers, complemented by a handful of restaurants and local services.
Taunton Green is the canvas for endearing light displays during the holiday season, beginning with a lighting ceremony that has been celebrated for more than a century.
3. Massasoit State Park
There’s unspoiled nature all around Taunton, and the largest parcel is in the east of the city at Massasoit State Park. Here you can stretch your legs in 1,200 acres of woodlands, woven with freshwater at six lakes and ponds.
For visitors the park’s best asset may well be its well-maintained trail networks for hiking and mountain biking, while Lake Rico is a popular for paddlesports in summer, with a launch for canoes and kayaks.
If you want to stay a little longer, there’s tent and RV camping, complemented by picnic tables, showers, accessible toilets and unguarded swimming at the picturesque Middle Pond.
4. Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary
Just outside Taunton in Norton there’s a nonprofit animal sanctuary, rescuing and rehabilitating animals that have been abandoned or neglected.
Most of the 300+ animals at Winslow Farm are domestic breeds like chickens, goats, dogs, cats, peacocks, alpacas, horses, donkeys, sheep, dogs, pigs, mules and geese.
They’re kept in clean and large pens and habitats that blend with the surrounding wooded environment.
With a network of paths, the sanctuary is geared towards visitors, hosting educational walks, pony rides, birthday parties for children and seasonal events like spooky fun at Halloween.
5. Fore Kicks
Taunton has one of the largest indoor sports facilities in New England. Mainly oriented towards soccer, Fore Kicks is a 180,000-square-foot megaplex, with 11 indoor multi-use sports fields, as well as facilities for futsal, basketball and volleyball.
There’s much more going on here, especially for families, thanks to an entire inflatable indoor park, with bounce houses, slides and obstacles.
Added to all that you’ve got a year-round indoor driving range, open seven days a week, with a large bucket costing $12 at the time of writing.
6. Boyden Park
A five-minute drive southwest of Taunton Green and you’ll come to this densely wooded sanctuary on the east bank of Three Mile River.
This space is named for Gertrude Boyden (1905-2002), who had a remarkable life and career that included becoming the first chairperson of the City of Taunton’s Conservation Commission in the 1960s.
Coursed by color-coded trails, Boyden Park has a stretch of boardwalk, two canoe launches, a fragrance garden, picnic area and a fish ladder/dam at the south end. The colors in fall are magical, and there are glorious views across the river at sunset.
7. Taunton Public Library
One of the grandest landmarks around Taunton Green is also one of the rare Carnegie libraries to still fill its original purpose.
Taunton Public Library was completed in 1903 in a lavish Beaux-Arts style designed by Albert R. Ross (1868-1948), and with a facade composed of Indiana limestone.
For local residents, the library is a wonderful asset, with a vast catalogue, from audiobooks to blu-rays. This is also a hub for community activities, events and meetings, hosting everything from book clubs to yoga to movies.
8. Watson Pond State Park
In summer you can set a course for this public recreation area on the wooded shore of Watson Pond. The main attraction at the state park is the 300-foot swimming beach, with lifeguards on duty from late May until Labor Day.
This is edged by several acres of tree-shaded public space, with a playground, reservable pavilion, bath house, picnic tables and grills.
There’s also a launch if you have your own canoe, and if you’re here for fishing, then largemouth bass, black crappie, and chain pickerel are commonly caught at Watson Pond.
9. Bristol County Superior Courthouse
One building you can’t fail to notice around Taunton Green is the striking Romanesque Revival courthouse, completed in 1894.
This is the fourth courthouse on or near this site, going back to 1747. The Superior Courthouse is still in use, following an $86 million expansion and renovation project in the late 2000s.
What will grab you is the impressive central tower, rising 170 feet over the green, with ornate round-arched openwork and a copper-clad dome.
Below, the central portal is worth a closer look for its intricate carvings of faces, letters and vegetal motifs.
10. The Star Drive-In
Off Massachusetts 140 in the very southeast of Taunton there’s a drive-in restaurant that has been in business since 1964.
Capped with a vintage neon sign, the Star Drive-In is a logical venue for classic car shows, jeep nights and vintage bike shows, but there’s a host of other events like outdoor movie screenings throughout the summer.
Food-wise, you’ve got New England comfort food like clam cakes, fried clams, scallops and lobster rolls, as well as specialty pizzas, hand-pressed burgers, sandwiches and salads, while the soft serve is a popular summer treat here.
11. Forrest’s Family Fun Center
Taunton is home to one of the largest roller skating rinks in the United States. Forrest’s Family Fun Center has a huge expanse of shiny polished surface to glide around on, and even on busy nights you’ll have plenty of space.
This spot is a local go-to for children’s birthday parties, but is also big with grown-ups thanks to its adult night on Sundays, soundtracked by a professional DJ.
You can book private roller skate lessons for all ages, and there’s a snack bar and arcade with redemption machines.
12. Aleixo Arena
There’s a year-round ice skating facility run by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts next to Taunton High School.
Aleixo Arena is home ice for several development teams and organizations, like the South Eastern Grizzlies, Tri-County Saints and the Skating Club of Southern New England.
There’s a choice of learn to skate programs for all ages, as well as daily public skating sessions, with admission and skate rental costing just $6 each when we made this list.
13. Hopewell Park
A little way north of Taunton Green, this well-appointed public park is in an attractive location, framed by the wooded banks of the Mill River.
Hopewell Pak is the location for Taunton’s municipal outdoor pool, open throughout the summer and there’s also a 3,200-square-foot splash pad here for kids.
Added to that is a spacious picnic shelter, a playground, a football field with bleachers and facilities for baseball/softball and basketball. Hopewell Park is also the venue for several outdoor events in summer, including Taunton PRIDE in June.
14. John F. Parker Golf Course
At the time of writing, this local nine-hole track had just come through a big program of upgrades after a change of management.
John F. Parker Golf Course, established in 1931, has superbly maintained tee boxes, fairways, bunkers and greens.
A couple of noteworthy holes are a pair of par 3s that are up to 200 yards, so the course will provide a stern test for golfers of all levels.
There’s also a couple of par 4s and a single par 5 where you might be able to claw back a couple of shots.
15. Taunton Antiques Center
In a deceptively large old commercial building on Main Street there’s an antiques center providing booths for hundreds of dealers.
There are so many, in fact, that the stock at the Taunton Antiques Center changes by the day, so it’s always worth stopping by and seeing what you can find.
For a hint of what’s in store you can find antique furniture, vintage signs, fine art, tableware, figurines, vinyl, books, clothing, toys, sports equipment, clocks, lighting and a wealth of historic appliances, from sewing machines to radios.