The first village on our list is Newton Centre, and what better place to start than at one of its prime attractions. Crystal Lake is a 33-acre water feature set against the backdrop of a quiet wooded suburb. Sorry, horror movie fans – no hockey mask-wearing slashers have ever stalked the shores of this Crystal Lake. Instead, you’ll find neighborhood kids and their families enjoying the swimming area in the summertime. The designated swim spot has a bathhouse for changing and a lifeguard on duty during its open season.
Crystal Lake was originally named Wiswall’s Pond after Thomas Wiswall made this area his homestead in 1654. A successful ice-cutting business on the pond began in 1804, and the name was changed for marketing reasons when an icehouse was built in the mid-19th century.
Today, Crystal Lake has two public parks and is a popular spot for fishing and local recreation. Summer memberships are available only to Newton residents, and grant access to the Crystal Lake swimming area and Gath Pool, which we’ll see later on. Day passes are also available at a discount to local residents.
Moving on, We’ll head through the intersection that gives Newton Centre its name.
Please turn left on Beacon Street.
Newton Centre Green is the village’s commercial hub, a triangular park and parking area formed by Beacon, Centre, and Langley Streets. This is where you’ll find the neighborhood’s best shops and restaurants, and a T station for convenient access to Boston and the rest of the metropolitan area.
If you’re hungry, there are tons of great spots here to sample the local flavor. Johnny’s Luncheonette is a local favorite, serving unpretentious American diner food in a retro setting. With breakfast all day and classic sandwiches, soups, and salad, there’s something on the menu for everyone. Fans of Tex-Mex can find great margaritas and enchiladas in a charming courtyard at Cafe Sol Azteca, or grab a quick burrito or quesadilla at Tango Mango.
Commuters looking for a cold draft beer on the way home from the T station can find it at the Union Street Restaurant and Bar, along with classic pub food and appetizers. Alternatively, Baramor offers craft beers, cocktails, and a full poutine menu, including the classic Canadian style and several original variations.
As you head up Centre Street, you’ll notice a large, open green space on your left. That’s the Newton Center Playground, located adjacent to Mason-Rice Elementary School on the far side. The playground features five tennis courts, two baseball diamonds, a basketball court, and a central jungle gym.
As you head out of Newton Centre, you’ll pass by Boston College’s Law School. This 40-acre campus was the home of Newton College of the Sacred Heart before its acquisition by BC in the ‘70s. Now home to 750 aspiring attorneys, The BC Law School encourages its students to use their education to better their communities through studies in environmental law, immigration reform, and juvenile justice.
Continuing on Centre Street will take you along the border of Newtonville and Newton Corner. Be sure to note the neighborhood’s eclectic architecture, with stately victorian and federal homes abutting classic New England farmhouses and Cape Cods.
Look to your right up ahead and you’ll see the baseball diamonds of Cabot Park. Situated beside and behind Cabot Elementary, the park is Newtonville’s recreational center. Three baseball diamonds, two tennis courts, a soccer field, and a basketball court take up most of the park. There are a couple small jungle gyms for younger kids, and the far end is an enclosed dog park for your canine companions.
If you prefer to spend your outdoor time in a more secluded spot, Newtonville offers another form of green space in Edmands Park, located just down Blake Street on your left. Edmands is a 33-acre wooded area with walking trails that backs up to the Law School campus. A stroll through these woods is particularly lovely under a canopy of colorful autumn leaves.
Continuing down Cabot, you’ll see rows of family homes. Located in the neighborhood to your right is the New Art Center, a non-profit space for community art. Here, Newton residents of all ages and skill levels can take classes in drawing, painting, and ceramics. They also run a gallery with exhibitions by local artists.
Coming up, you’ll make a right turn on Walnut Street, but I invite you to take a quick glance left to see Newton North High School just across the street. The School was rebuilt in 2010 for almost 2 million dollars, making it the most expensive public school in Massachusetts. As such, the facilities are state-of-the-art, including new athletic fields and two theater spaces.
Walnut Street is the commercial heart of Newtonville, with restaurants and shops lining its northern end. Local favorites include Newtonville Pizza, serving up pies and calzones with homemade sauce as well as subs and classic greek recipes. There’s also Aji, an unpretentious sushi bar with classic Japanese fare and creative sushi rolls.
Continuing down Walnut, you’ll pass over the turnpike and come to an intersection with Washington Street. We’re going to head straight today, but I'd like to point out the row of restaurants and shops that run west alongside the highway. Your local Dunkin’ is here – a Massachusetts necessity; the Paint Bar offers evening art classes and paint-alongs served with a refreshing glass of wine.
Two blocks down Washington you’ll find Cabot’s Ice Cream and Restaurant, a Newtonville staple since 1969. Offering sweet treats like Belgian waffles, milkshakes, and classic hot fudge sundaes, Cabots is a great place for kids and the young-at-heart. They also serve up classic diner fare like sandwiches, burgers, and fries.
Continuing up Walnut, we’ll make a left on Watertown and come to the next village on our list.
Welcome to Nonantum! This northernmost village of Newton takes its name from a Massachusett phrase meaning “I bless it”. This side of town is also known as Silver Lake, or just “The Lake” for short. Because of its relatively high Italian population, Nonantum is known for its Italian restaurant scene.
We’re going to start off with a loop around Albemarle Field, the local recreational park located between F.A. Day Middle School and the Fessenden School. The Park is home to the Harry Gath Memorial Pool, Newton’s public swimming facility.
The park also features 5 baseball diamonds, a grass running track, and a dedicated field for lacrosse and field hockey.
The athletic facilities on the left side of the road belong to the Fessenden School, a private academy that offers day school for boys from pre-k to 9th grade and boarding school from grades 5-9.
Turn right on Crafts Street to pass F.A. Day Middle School, separated from the main road by Avery Woods. As you continue along this route, you'll also see the administrative offices for Newton’s public school system. Horace Mann Elementary is located just two blocks into the neighborhood on your left.
Once you get back to Watertown Street, make a left to head down Nonantum’s main drag.
Watertown Street forms the heart of the village of Nonantum and runs alongside the Silver Lake that gives the town its nickname. What, you don’t see a lake on your left side? No need to get your eyes checked, the lake itself has been filled in for decades. The Lake remains a topic of conversation for its relevance to Lake Talk, a slang dialect spoken by some of the locals. If you’ve ever heard strange Boston-area phrases like “quister mush” or “wicked pissa”, then you’ve heard the language of Nonantum!
The commercial hub of Watertown Street begins near Coletti-Magni Park, a small circle of green on your left where locals can have a quiet sit or wait for the T bus. Across the street you’ll find Olivia’s Bistro, serving up wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas in a chic, casual setting. Remember when I said Nonantum was famous for its Italian food? Olivia’s is just the first of a long list of spots for gourmet pizza and pasta.
If you’re not in the mood for Italian, Patzcuaro Taqueria serves up fantastic birria tacos and mean margaritas. Folks looking for a cuisine that’s a little farther off the beaten path can find it at Moldova, serving up a taste of Eastern Europe in an upscale, contemporary setting.
Although the storefront now bears the Ace Hardware brand name, Swartz hardware, located on the left, has been a Nonantuum staple for over a century. Jacob and Julia Swartz opened their general store on this site in 1890, and the Swartz family continued to serve the community until Micahel Swartz sold the business in 2013.
Down the road a little ways you’ll find Steamers Seafood Market, where Newton and Watertown residents come to pick up the day’s fresh catches. While you’re picking up a beautiful set of tuna steaks for dinner, you can also grab lunch! Steamers serves up fried shrimp and clams, lobster rolls, and chowder.
We’re on our way to the next village, but before we leave Nonantum we’ll head past Lincoln-Eliot Elementary School. The school, on your left, backs up to Boyd Park, a small recreational area featuring a basketball court, multi-purpose athletic field, and two baseball diamonds.
As you head down Pearl Street, you’ll cross over into Newton Corner, the next village on our list. Following the GPS directions will take you past Buff’s Pub, the local sports bar, Max and Leo’s, a corner pizza joint, and Underwood Elementary School.
Welcome to Newton Corner! This little detour down Vernon Street takes you past Bigelow Middle School. One of the smaller middle schools in Newton, Bigelow backs up to Burr Playground, a green space featuring four tennis courts and a multi-use field with volleyball nets.
Also off to your right, you’ll see Sweet Rosella Bakery. This little cake shop is beloved by locals, offering gourmet pastries and baked goods with same-day delivery available.
Take a left on Waverly and make your way back to Washington Street. Turning right on Washington will lead you toward Oak Square. As you head that way, I’ll tell you a little bit about the neighborhood.
As you probably noticed when you crossed over the highway, Newton Corner is the site of both on- and off-ramps of the Massachusetts Turnpike. With the exception of Auburndale, which we’ll see later, it’s the most convenient village in Newton for highway access.
Newton Corner is, unsurprisingly, the northeast corner of Newton, bordering Boston’s western neighborhoods and the city of Watertown to the north. Newton Corner has been around since the late 1600s when a tavern and farm stands were constructed at the meeting of roads that would become Washington and Centre streets. The construction of a local railway in 1834 encouraged its development as a suburb.
Even though Oak Square is technically in Boston proper, its proximity to Newton Corner makes it the go-to commercial area for many of the village’s residents. This small park at the corner of Washington and Faneuil streets offers locals a great spot to have a seat and take a break while enjoying lunch from one of the area’s many take-out spots.
The Oak Square YMCA is the place to go for fitness, swimming, and recreation for folks of all ages. The facilities include two fitness centers, a lap pool, and a zero-entry therapy pool. They offer all sorts of group exercise classes, as well as one-on-one personal training. Of course, they also have plenty of programs for kids, like youth swimming lessons, summer camps, and after-school programs for teens.
Continue down Washington Street until you reach Foster Street, where you’ll make a right turn. Along the way, You’ll pass Oak Square’s many restaurants and bars, including Last Drop, Teresa Market, and Miyuki Sushi. Foster Street will take you along the western edge of Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, passing Rogers park and Foster Street Hill. Our next stop will be the campus of Boston College, located in the Newton village of Chestnut Hill.
Now, our route takes us on a scenic path alongside the campus of Boston College. Founded in 1863, this private Jesuit school has almost 10,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 graduates across many areas of study. The campus is one of the earliest examples of the architectural style that would come to be known as “collegiate gothic”, adopted in the late 19th and early 20th century by universities across the world.
Boston College is home to the McMullen Museum of Art, which houses a permanent collection of art from around the world. It also hosts significant exhibitions throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see.
Boston College’s campus is built alongside the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, located on your left side. The south end of campus is bordered by Beacon Street, where you’ll make a right turn. This route will take you past the college’s Alumni Stadium and bookstore. When you come to Hammond Street, take a left and cruise through the beautiful tree-lined residential section of Chestnut Hill.
The bridge you’re passing over crosses the T track, and Chestnut Hill station is located just underneath you. The post office is located here on your right as well. Continuing on Hammond, you’ll pass the Longwood Cricket Club, which, despite its name, is one of the Boston area’s oldest tennis clubs. The club features both lawn courts, clay courts, and indoor hard courts, as well as a small lap pool and diving well.
When you come to Boylston Street, make a right turn. After the Turnpike, Boylston is the largest road that spans the breadth of Newton and will take you quickly from village to village. Shortly after turning right, you’ll pass The Street.
The Street is an outdoor mall that provides the people of Chestnut Hill with upscale shopping, coffee shops, restaurants, and a movie theater. Legal Sea Foods, one of Boston’s most successful restaurant chains, has a large outpost here with open-air seating. Barry’s gym provides Chestnut Hill residents with a spot for intense physical training, and Polkadog Bakery is a great place to take your canine friends for homemade treats.
Just past The Street, you’ll find The Shops at Chestnut Hill, an indoor shopping mall featuring Bloomingdales, Uniqlo, and a whole host of spots for clothing and accessories.
Continue along Boylston and take a right on Woodward Street to enter Newton Highlands.
One of Newton’s smaller villages, the Highlands are known for their distinct 1870s architecture. Around that time, The Charles River Railroad, originally built for commercial purposes, opened itself to commuter service, and new subdivisions were made near its western stations to prepare for an influx of new suburbanites. New homes were designed in the Mansard, Colonial Revival, and Italianate architectural styles.
You’ll also pass the Hyde School ahead on your right as you head down Lincoln Street. Now the site of the Hyde Community Center, this brick building is another great example of Victorian-era architecture.
Because this village grew up around the railway station, it’s now one of the most walkable neighborhoods for commuters in Newton. Two T stations service the Highlands, located at either end of Lincoln. For commuters who drive to work, the easy access to Highway 9 makes this neighborhood a particularly desirable place to live.
Lincoln Street is now the home of plenty of shops and restaurants, many of which feature cozy historic storefronts. The original Brigham’s Ice Cream shop was located right here before the company became one of the region’s largest ice cream manufacturers.
Today, the shops on Lincoln Street include the Indulge! candy store, which specializes in homemade chocolate treats, and Lakon Paris Patisserie, a specialty French bakery.
Up next, follow your navigation over Boylston Street to Needham Street which will take you through the commercial area of Newton Highlands and into the next village, Newton Upper Falls. This section of town is known as the “Gateway to Needham”, with the Charles River forming the boundary between the two towns.
Now, this mile stretch of road is home to vital shops and businesses. Along this road, you’ll find banks, dry cleaners, grocery stores, gyms, and several local and chain restaurants.
Highlights of Needham street include B.GOOD, serving quinoa bowls, soups, and health-conscious takes on classic fast food, and District 118 Kitchen and Bar, an upscale gastropub featuring craft cocktails and classic comfort foods like shepherd’s pie and short rib mac n cheese.
As you continue along the road, a small wooded patch located just past the emergency veterinarian indicates that the street passes over South Meadow Brook and into our next village. Newton Upper Falls sits nestled in a bend of the Charles River and was the site of Newton’s first water mill. Taking a right on Oak street, you’ll pass by the Upper Falls Greenway, a walking and biking trail that runs through the heart of the neighborhood. Shortly after, take a left on Chestnut.
On your left is the Upper Falls Playground, a small community park featuring a baseball diamond, two multi-purpose athletic fields, two tennis courts, and a basketball court. This neighborhood park is also home to a designated off-leash dog park and a jungle gym for the younger and furrier members of your family.
Although Upper Falls is one of Newton’s smaller villages, its location at a swift-flowing bend in the river made it a popular spot for water mills in the early 19th century – in 1850 Upper Falls residents accounted for 25 percent of the total Newton population. Despite its small area, it’s home to over 150 homes on the historic register. Unlike the previous neighborhood, these homes are largely pre-Victorian and provide an excellent example of New England federal period architecture.
Coming up on the left past Elliot Street you’ll see the Mall at Echo Bridge. These long white buildings were once part of the mill complex that sits adjacent to the waterfall that gives this village its name. The mill ceased operations in the 1950s and now the mall is a destination spot for antique collectors. Multiple antique and consignment stores have their homes here, as well as a day spa and a music store.
Across the street from the mall is Sullivan Avenue, an unpaved road that formed the main highway from Boston to points west in the 1600s. Sullivan Avenue is also home to a famous pothole – not the kind that pops a tire, but a unique geologic feature. When glacial melt submerged this area thousands of years ago, moving water spinning a boulder bored a perfectly circular shaft in the bedrock. Today, the shaft has cracked open and the hole appears as a cylindrical groove in a rock wall. After passing the mall, hang a left on Ellis street to pass through Hemlock Gorge Reservation.
The Reservation is a 23-acre preserved natural area that includes the banks on both sides of the river and offers nature trails for residents on foot. The standout landmark of the park is Echo Bridge, which you’ll shortly pass under. The bridge is part of the Sudbury Aqueduct, which serves as a backup water source for the greater Boston area. The bridge and the aqueduct as a whole are popular walking trails and form a pedestrian walkway across the Charles here at the falls.
“Echo Bridge” is more than just a name - the main arch that spans the river creates a unique acoustic environment where one can hear their own voice reflected from the other side. A pedestrian platform sits underneath the bridge so visitors can experience the sound themselves.
Heading through the reservation, Ellis Street passes under highway 9 and becomes Quinobequin Road. The road meanders along the banks of the river and will take you onward to the Lower Falls, the next stop on our tour.
Please turn left up ahead on Washington Street and then right on Concord Street. Newton Lower Falls is located just across the river from Wellesley, with plenty of dining and shopping opportunities just down Washington Street from here.
If you were to continue straight on Washington, you'd pass through a small commercial area with five pizza joints, a couple of Chinese restaurants, gyms, banks, and convenience stores. Instead, we’ll take Concord Street through the neighborhood, and I’ll tell you a little bit about the village.
Lower Falls takes its name from – you guessed it – a series of waterfalls along this bend in the Charles River. Over a quarter-mile, the river drops 18 feet in elevation. With its commercial area located across the river in Wellesley, Lower Falls is entirely residential, with quiet streets surrounding a central community center.
Once the site of Hamilton Elementary School, the Lower falls community center on your left is now a reservable meeting place for local groups. The building features an indoor gym, arts and crafts, and a full kitchen. The surrounding park features tennis and basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and lots of multi-purpose field space.
Please turn right on Concord Street.
Continuing up Concord will take you across the river and through the Leo J. Martin recreation area. While technically located in Weston, this multifunctional space spans both sides of the river and serves as a publicly accessible golf course during the summer months and a cross-country skiing track during the snowy season.
Enjoy the scenic drive and then please turn right on South Avenue.
Crossing the Charles one last time will take us to the final village on our route, Auburndale.
The first thing you’ll notice as you cross the river is the stone and wooden structure of the historic boathouse. Because of a dam downstream, this spot at the bottom of Newton’s Lower Falls widens out into a calm, lake-like body of water, perfect for paddling and boating.
The boathouse itself is the last remnant of Norumbega Park, which was once the Boston
area’s most popular recreational site. From 1897 to 1963 the park was home to a carousel, a ballroom, a zoo, a penny arcade, and room for hundreds of boaters, swimmers, and picnickers. However, the construction of the interstate and the thousands of cars driving by every day polluted the Charles to the point where swimming was no longer an option, and city-dwellers stopped coming.
Today, the boathouse is operated by Paddle Boston, a company that operates seven canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rental locations along the length of the Charles.
Auburndale is home to Lasell University. Founded in 1851 as a junior college for women, Lasell pioneered education in domestic work, art, and music for a hundred years before accepting a charter as an associate’s school in the mid-40s. Since the 1980s Lasell has been a four-year institution, adding men to their student body in 1997 and gaining university accreditation in 2019.
Continuing down Commonwealth avenue, you'll see Lyons field on the left side. This baseball diamond marks the south end of Auburndale park, which runs the length of Auburndale Cove, a half-mile inlet off the river. The cove is most active in the winter – it offers Newton’s only spot for public outdoor ice skating.
When you reach Lexington Street, take a right. Our next stop will be the commercial area of Auburndale.
Well, folks, you’ve made it to the last stop on the tour! Please turn right on Lexington Street. Now, Auburndale’s commercial street isn’t huge but it has everything you need in a neighborhood shopping center. This centrally-located intersection provides Auburndale residents with necessary amenities, including a dry cleaner, gym, and nail and hair salons.
No neighborhood is complete without a pizza joint and an ice cream parlor, and Lexington street has both. Wally’s “Wicked Good” Ice cream is the spot for frozen treats, and Tom’s pizza has been serving up classic pies and subs since 1981.
The last spot I'd like to point out is the Knotty Pine, a classic family-operated diner situated at the corner of Lexington and Auburn. Auburndale residents have been grabbing breakfast and lunch at the Knotty Pine since 1987, and it’s known in the area for serving up great food fast to accommodate workday time constraints. They’re open from 6am-2pm on the weekdays and serve their breakfast menu until 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
That just about does it for our tour of Newton’s villages. What did you think? Would you like to learn more! Good! Then give Lauren Brooks a call at 617-416-2609. Thanks again for spending your time with me and letting me show you around. Have a great day!