In the last few years this suburban town in the MetroWest region has been rated as one of most livable and family friendly communities in Massachusetts.
One of many good things going for Wayland is the amount of natural space all around the town, from the shores of Lake Cochituate, home to an awesome town beach, to the freshwater wetlands along the banks of the Sudbury River.
The Mass Central Rail Trail runs west to east through Wayland and into Weston, for a traffic-free walk or bike ride that connects a shopping center at its western terminus.
Wayland also has the distinction of being home to the oldest free public library in Massachusetts, and the second-oldest in America.
1. Mass Central Rail Trail
Starting in the west at the intersection of Andrew Avenue and the Boston Post Road, you can walk or ride for several miles across most of Wayland and all of Weston on a paved rail trail.
This is all on the 19th-century railbed of the Central Massachusetts, which later became the Boston and Maine Railroad. Services ended in the early 1970s and the right-of-way has been turned into a safe and convenient route for pedestrians and bicyclists.
In Wayland’s center you’ll find the old Wayland Depot (1881), turned into a gift shop in the early 1980s.
The trail is part of the Mass Central Rail Trail, which, when finished, will run for more than 100 miles between Northampton and Boston.
2. Wayland Museum
Next to the Mass Central Rail Trail in Wayland’s center stands the Grout-Heard House, the oldest portions of which date back to 1740.
Over time, the building was reworked to fit the needs of the Grout family, who made enlargements in the 1780s and added an ell in the 1720s.
Remarkably the house has also been relocated, not once but twice, moving to Sudbury Road in 1878 and onto its present plot at 12 Cochituate Road soon after.
Today the house is presented as a museum by the Wayland Historical Society, and has a series of absorbing period rooms.
The Campbell Room, in the original 1740 section, is furnished in the style of the late 18th century and displays domestic tools from the time.
The Draper Room has 19th-century decor and period heirlooms from the local Draper family, while the Heard Room in the ell is finished in mid-Victorian style.
3. Wayland Town Beach
Hidden by deep woods on the east shore of Lake Cochituate (North Pond), Wayland has a public beach that would put any town to shame.
Open Memorial Day weekend through late August, this is an exceptional facility, with a swimming area traced by a long dock, where you can sunbathe on complimentary lounge chairs and dip your toes in the water.
Water quality is monitored by the Health Department, and amenities include a lovely picnic grove, a snack bar, and facilities for sand volleyball, basketball and cornhole toss.
Also in summer you can rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, pedal boats and sailboats at Wayland Town Beach.
4. Hamlen Woods
A great thing about Wayland is the rare quantity of town-owned conservation areas, open to the public for passive recreation.
The largest and most popular individual property is the rocky Hamlen Woods, which encompasses the Old Wayland Reservoirs for a stroll next to water.
There are ample opportunities for birding in spring and summer—great blue herons and wildfowl on the water, and pileated woodpeckers in the woods.
The woods are streaked with old stone walls, recalling centuries of agriculture, and trails lead into Mainstone Farm, a refined country estate in the early 20th century.
5. Cochituate State Park
Overlapping with Wayland and Natick, Cochituate State Park contains Lake Cochituate’s North, Middle and South ponds, as well as large swaths of the shoreline.
In Wayland, one great way to discover the park is on the scenic Snake Brook Trail, taking you through lush hardwood forest and wetlands between the North and Middle ponds.
The kayak rental company, Boating in Boston can be found by the beach area on the Middle Lake in summer, offering kayak and paddleboard rentals and classes, as well as summer day camps for teens and younger children.
The South Lake meanwhile is open to motorized vessels, and is a summer hotspot for water skiing and tubing.
6. Wayland Free Public Library
Wayland is named for the prominent Baptist minister, economist and president of Brown University, Francis Wayland (1796-1865).
He was a big advocate for public libraries, and, together with the local judge Edward Mellen (1802-1875), donated money for a library in the town.
Questions came up about the legality of taxing citizens for libraries, leading to a Massachusetts state law in 1851 enabling the creation of free public libraries.
So it can be said that Wayland has the first public library in Massachusetts, and the second in America after Peterborough, New Hampshire (1833).
The current Georgian Revival building is from 1900, and is a vibrant community resource, brimming with services, programs and events for all ages.
7. Spellman Museum
For something out of the ordinary, Regis College in Weston has a museum dedicated to philately (postage stamps).
The basis for the Spellman Museum was the personal collection of Francis Spellman (1889-1967), Archbishop of New York for some 30 years.
Since it was founded in 1960, the Spellman Museum’s collection has grown to more than two million philatelic items, including collections assembled by figures like President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), and prominent violinist Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987).
With rotating displays drawing on that enormous inventory, the museum is open to the public Thursday to Sunday in the afternoons.
8. Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm
This bucolic property, just past the Wayland-Lincoln line, combines a working farm with a wildlife sanctuary. For children the highlight will be the farmyard, keeping sheep, chickens, goats, pigs and cows, all in a rural idyll.
There are also four miles of trails, winding past crop fields and woods, and up to the top of the glacial drumlin that gives the reserve its name.
This is one of the highest points in Greater Boston, and if you come on a clear day you can see Mount Wachusett some 30 miles to the northwest.
9. Weston Aqueduct Trail
There’s an underground aqueduct snaking through an undeveloped corridor of Wayland, built at the turn of the 20th century to take water from the Sudbury Reservoir in Framingham to the Weston Reservoir, just east of the Regis College campus.
The Weston Aqueduct is 13.5 miles long, and in 1990 its entire route, as well as its infrastructure and buildings, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Long sections of the aqueduct’s course are open to the public, letting you traverse much of Wayland on foot or by bike.
Weaving through residential areas along an embankment, the path is unpaved, and has many more elevation changes than the Mass Central Rail Trail, but will help you see Wayland and neighboring communities in a new light.
10. Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
The banks of the Sudbury River are lined with crucial freshwater wetlands, and these are protected by a 3,600-acre conservation area belonging to the National Wildlife Refuge system.
In Wayland you’re right next door to the headquarters of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
This unit has a couple of trails, including the wonderful Red Maple Trail, which has panoramic views of the low-lying wetlands from its boardwalk, and loops around a pond.
If you come in the summer you stand a good chance of seeing a whole spectrum of waterfowl, as well as great blue herons, river otters and a variety of turtles.
11. Mel’s Commonwealth Cafe
The oldest restaurant in Wayland to be run by the same family is Mel’s Commonwealth Cafe, which can trace its history back to 1958 when it opened as the Elmwood Donut Shop.
In the early days, the co-owner Mel Bloomstein adapted the menu as customers requested new items like eggs and lunch options. This is now a family-oriented brunch spot, run by his sons and employing a third generation.
If you’re a fan of classic diners you’ll be thrilled with Mel’s Commonwealth Cafe, and the big-hitters are the omelets, the breakfast sandwiches, but most of all the “#1 Famous Eggs Benedict”, all served with Mel’s signature home fries.
12. Verrill Farm
Just past Wayland’s northern tip, these 200 acres have been in the Verrill family for more than a century.
The Verrills switched from dairy to fresh produce in the 1990s, and opened a permanent farm stand in 1995, becoming the first farm in the area to feature a commercial kitchen and bakery. Safe to say that Verrill Farm has been farm to table since before the term existed.
Head here for seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as homemade sandwiches, prepared meals, fresh baked pies, pastries, flowers, handmade gifts, and a wealth of high-quality specialty items from around New England.
Keep an eye out for events like harvest festivals and Santa visiting the farm in December.
13. Alpine Field
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This local park in the north of Wayland is embedded in rural landscape, with a patchwork of conservation properties all around.
A worthwhile stop for families, Alpine Field has a fenced playground in a stand of pines, next to a multi-use athletic field.
But this can also be the first step on a longer walk, as the park adjoins the Castle Hill conservation area, which is another beautiful parcel of eastern white pine forest.
Within half a mile there are other town-owned natural spaces at Trout Brook, Oxbow Meadows (a former Nike missile site), and Upper Mill Brook, as well as the Hazel Brook Conservation Area, owned by the Sudbury Valley Trustees.
14. Natick Mall
Near the western shore of Lake Cochituate is one of the largest retail districts in New England.
At the heart of all this is the high-end Natick Mall, which is in the top two largest malls in the region by tenant count (214 at the time of writing).
At a time when brick-and-mortar retail locations are in decline, the Natick Mall is going stronger than ever.
In a cross-section of the national and international stores here you’ve got Michael Kors, H&M, Apple, Nike, Nordstrom, Uniqlo, Ann Taylor, Torrid, Lush, LEGO, L’Occitane, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
There are close to 30 dining options, running the gamut from food court mainstays like Sarku, Taco Bell and Sbarro to locations for Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s.
15. Sandy Burr Country Club
Laid out on two hilly farms in Wayland in the early 1920s, Sandy Burr Country Club is an 18-hole public course, designed by famed architect Donald Ross.
In the early days, Sandy Burr was the stage for some monumental tournaments and matches, including a face-off in 1928 between England’s Archie Compston and Walter Hagen.
The course went into steep decline later in the 20th century, but is now widely praised for its conditions and super-quick greens.
A round starts with two par 5s, giving you a chance to blow the cobwebs away, and you’ll need to be precise to avoid the unforgiving rough.
Don’t forget to check out the view from the deck of the clubhouse—this is a traditional facility, with a Tudor Revival design.