No more than 25 miles from downtown Boston, Walpole is an endearing slice of small-town New England.
On a charming town common, the historic center is at once quaint and fresh, with outdoor dining, and a thriving farmers’ market in summer.
The town has purchased large parcels of land for low-impact recreation. A vast trail system, incorporating sections of the Bay Circuit Trail, carries you from high wooded slopes with distant views to boardwalks over wetlands teeming with life.
Foxborough sits just south of Walpole, putting Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, little more than five minutes from the town center.
1. Walpole Center
If you had to come up with the archetypal New England small town, it might look a lot like Walpole’s downtown.
This is still set next to a town common, which is the site of the town’s first meetinghouse in 1739 and a rallying point for the local militia in the years before the revolution.
The Common Street side is extremely pretty, with its grand houses and landmarks like the United Church (1839). The Town Common is at the south end of Main Street, which has a dining scene that punches above its weight for a town of this size.
In the space of just a few blocks you’ll find sandwich shops, a pizza joint, and restaurants for Chinese, Mexican and diner food.
To the east are civic buildings like the Town Hall and the Walpole Public Library, next to Spring Brook Park, which hosts Walpole’s bustling farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, mid-June to late October.
2. Francis William Bird Park
It’s almost impossible to choose a favorite public space around Walpole, but a leading contender is this park founded in 1925 by the industrialist Charles Sumner Bird, Sr. and his wife Anna to honor their eldest son, who had died in 1918.
Managed by the Trustees of Reservations, Francis William Bird Park is on 90 undulating acres, where open fields are framed by tree groves and laced with water features, with streams and three ponds.
You’ve got three miles of trails for light recreation, as well as facilities for more strenuous activities. There’s a basketball court, four tennis courts, and a playground with a sandpit and a paved area with tricycles and pedal cars.
3. Walpole Trails
If you value quiet time in nature, Walpole is the place for you, thanks to its large tracts of town-owned land, all linked by a sprawling trail network that merges with the 230-mile Bay Circuit Trail, curling around Greater Boston.
Broken down into three sections (north, middle and south), the Bay Circuit Trail allows you to cross much of Walpole on foot, getting from Adams Farm in the north to the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the south.
In total, there are 32 publicly accessible trails in Walpole, a large portion of which are managed and maintained by the Walpole Trails Committee, which was established in 1998. Later in this list we’ll talk about some of the town-owned properties on the network.
4. Adams Farm
In the north of Walpole, a big sweep of countryside is open to the public for passive recreation. Comprising about half of this area is the town-owned Adams Farm, which was purchased by the residents of Walpole in 1997.
Here you can stretch your legs on more than ten miles of trails, which have plenty of shade in the summer, and are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
The abundance of deciduous woodland at Adams Farm makes fall unforgettable. This land is adjacent to properties owned by the New England Forestry Foundation and the Norfolk County Agricultural High School, both allowing public access, for a total of 700 acres of unspoiled scenery.
5. Walpole Historical Society
Facing the Town Common on West St in Walpole Center is the Deacon Willard Lewis House.
This 2 ½-story wood frame house goes back to 1826, and in 1863 it was purchased by Willard Lewis, then owner of the Kendall Company, which would become one of the nation’s largest textile manufacturers.
The house now belongs to the Walpole Historical Society, founded in 1898, and is often to the public on Saturday afternoons.
The interior is decorated in the Victorian style and looks much as did when the Deacon Willard Lewis Family resided here in the second half of the 19th century.
6. Walpole Town Forest
Within a mile of downtown Walpole you can access a 365-acre tract of forest, owned by the town and maintained for passive recreation and forestry.
Threaded by the Neponset River, Walpole Town Forest sits on either side of Washington St, and was established in 1916, with future president Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) planting the first tree.
This was just the third town forest in the entire Commonwealth, and the first to be founded by a town of Walpole’s modest size.
There are almost ten miles of trails here, and you can download maps for the western (behind Walpole High School), and eastern sections.
7. Gillette Stadium
Downtown Walpole is about five minutes from home field for the New England Patriots. The franchise relocated to Foxborough in 1971, and moved into this 65,878-seater stadium in 2002.
Under owner Robert Kraft, the switch to Gillette Stadium has coincided with an incredible period in the Patriots’ history, with Tom Brady a leading contributor to that dynasty.
Tickets to home games are perhaps a little easier to obtain these days, and you can do this online via Ticketmaster.
Gillette Stadium is also home to the New England Revolution of the MLS, and is a concert arena that has welcomed the likes of Elton John, Beyoncé/Jay-Z, The Rolling Stones, The Weekend, Metallica and Taylor Swift in the last few years.
8. The Patriots Hall of Fame
Open seven days a week, this high-tech interactive museum is part of the Patriot Place open-air shopping center, set around Gillette Stadium.
This is the place to go to get in touch with the golden recent history of the New England Patriots, reliving the most crucial victories and defeats and browsing a trove of memorabilia relating to the team’s greatest players.
There are uniforms once worn by Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Grokowksi, Julian Edelman, Randy Moss and Ty Law, among many others.
A host of Lamar Hunt trophies are on show, along with the Patriots’ remarkable haul of six Super Bowl trophies (at the time of counting).
9. Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary
On the other side of I-95 from Walpole is an expansive wildlife sanctuary, which became the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s first property in 1916.
Composed of fields, forests, wetlands and kettle hole ponds, the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across almost 2,000 acres.
There are 25 miles of trails through this landscape, including sections of the Bay Circuit and Warner Trails. A walk to remember is the Bluff Trail, climbing to an overlook with sublime views of the woods, all the prettier in fall.
There’s a farm on the property, not to be confused with nearby Moose Hill Farm, providing Community Supported Agriculture and a farm stand open on weekends.
Cookie’s Garden meanwhile is a nature play area for kids, with a variety of natural musical instruments to try out.
10. Moose Hill Farm
Next to the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, the Trustees of Reservations maintains a 347-acre patch of historic farmland.
The location is sensational, near the summit of Moose Hill (466 feet), the second highest peak between Boston and Providence. From the hillside you can make out the Boston skyline and Great Blue Hill, the area’s highest peak.
Among stands of mature American chestnut trees, Moose Hill Farm features more than 20 preserved farm buildings, as well as woodlots and archeological vestiges going back to the 18th century.
The Trustees also keep barnyard animals here, including chickens, pigs and a small herd of cattle (raised for grass-fed beef).
11. Noon Hill Reservation
Another local link in the Bay Circuit Trail, the Noon Hill Reservation is barely five minutes away in Medfield.
These 200+ acres encompass the summit of the prominent Noon Hill for another stirring vista. Where there was once pasture, the slopes and ridges now have a thick mantle of forest, made up of hemlock, pine, birch and beech, and in springtime the forest floor is dotted with beautiful wildflowers.
Holt Pond here dates back to 1764 when Sawmill Brook was dammed to power mills. Your adventure doesn’t have to end here, as one trail leads you to the Trustees’ Shattuck Reservation on the Charles River.
12. Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
Close by in Norfolk, this 104-acre Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary is part of an extensive area of protected land, sitting side-by-side with the Bristol Blake State Reservation.
Stony Brook is the site of a colonial-era mill returned to nature, with forest, fields and extensive wetlands.
What makes this sanctuary so appealing to visitors is the stunning boardwalk (Sensory Trail) over the wetlands, where you can gaze over and into the water to see a thriving ecosystem abounding with turtles, waterfowl and wading birds like great blue herons.
13. Rodman Arena
There’s a highly-rated ice facility in Walpole, with two ice sheets, one Olympic sized and one NHL sized.
As a sports center of excellence, the Rodman Arena is home ice for several local high school teams, and is the stage for a slew of hockey tournaments throughout the year, including the Battle of Boston, Premier Hockey League playoffs and Eastern Hockey League Showcase.
This is also a community-oriented facility, with tons of programs for hockey development, local leagues, figure skating, speed skating and basic skills. For a more casual experience there are several public ice sessions a week, for public skating and public hockey.
14. Concert on the Common Series
In the summer the Walpole Recreation Department organizes a season of outdoor concerts in July and August.
The Concert on the Common Series goes back decades, and performances normally take place on Tuesday evenings, and are occasionally relocated to nearby Stone Field.
You can bring a lawn chair and picnic blanket, and take advantage of Walpole Center’s collection of eateries before or after the show.
In mid-September, the summer is brought to a close with the Main Street Live event, taking over downtown with a big lineup of music talent, food trucks and beer and wine tents.
15. Showcase Cinema De Lux Patriot Place
Showcase Cinemas’s upmarket Cinema De Lux brand was launched at Patriot Place in 2008.
This first location has 14 screens with all stadium seating, and on Lux Level you’ll get oversized, powered recliners, with swing-around trays for food and drinks.
Lux Level also gives you in-seat food ordering, and there’s a full restaurant and bar menu available.
Elsewhere, Studio 3 is a casual restaurant and cocktail lounge with a lunch and dinner menu, or you can just pick up some classic theater concessions for your movie.