New England - Small Towns Perfect for Hallmark Movies
Main Street in Hanover, New Hampshire.
by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 3/26/23
England travel article with your friends...
I am a sucker for those Hallmark movies that portray small-town life. How about you?
You know, those idyllic places where local shops, restaurants and
so inviting and people are friendly, welcoming, and always
willing to go the extra mile to help out others. Often in Hallmark
movies, the whole town enthusiastically
shows up at tree lighting
ceremonies, community dances, pie contests and other special events.
The small towns are usually picture-perfect, but sometimes Hallmark Movies
center on a small town with just "good bones" -- that is, a community
cute look that has seen its better days. In these films, the people
never lose faith and that actually makes those locations quite
attractive and the movie even more rewarding to watch.
Hallmark movies are usually spot-on when portraying small-town life --
often in the form of a Christmas movie -- but these premier
presentations debut year-round with other seasonal themes. No matter
what the conflict, strangers quickly become friends and the dialogues
often touching -- thus, reflecting a simpler time and place that many
of us long for in our faster-paced world.
Do these types of towns actually exist in our New England? Well, to some
yes. While a nation divided on issues has often sadly, impeded our
ability to get along, the chance to visit or even live in a small New
gives us enough reminders of the wholesome, old-fashioned ways of
yesteryear when life seemed a little more kinder and innocent -- and we
were more accepting of each other.
While no community is perfect, here are a few New England small towns that would be perfect in Hallmark movies that seem unified, friendly,
wonderfully historic, and with a good dose of small-town
Downtown Belmont brings together pretty much everything we love about town centers. For starters, the downtown comprises predominantly locally-owned and operated stores and places to eat (the latter of which I counted 12 of them on Leonard St., the main drag). While in theory all of this is a good thing, sometimes the right mix is missing thus rendering some downtowns boring, unappealing and incomplete. Belmont, on the other hand, does a great job attaining that right mix along with a nice walkability factor to make lesisurely strolls that much more enjoyable. Places for books, toys, chocolates, ice cream, gifts, juices and teas, women's clothing and consignment shops help yield a downtown scene that approaches role model status of what a successful small town downtown should look like. What's more, the town center is clean and pedestrian-friendly with enough pleasant landscaping and historical preservation to keep the overall scene from looking sterile. Also, for the old school types, long-time favorites like Gregory's House of Pizza and Bruegger's Bagels (a chain) have remained and still thrive, to this very day.
Located just a few miles from the Boston line, downtown Belmont retains the small town charm we have come to love and ultimately long for in a big box, superstore world. This town center would certainly have photogenic, highly appealing looks in a Hallmark movie!
WABAN, MASSACHUSETTS (NEWTON)
Driving Route 128 reveals congested rush hour commutes, a growing number of corporate businesses right off the highway and the sense that a big city is within close proximity -- in this case, that would be Boston.
Taking the Route 16 exit shows no real change from the fast pace with cars often nearly backed up to the highway (stressful!). Within minutes, however, all that suburban madness changes in a hurry. Suddenly, a tree-lined main street and equally pleasant side streets with beautiful well-kept homes take the forefront. Then, driving over a slight hill segues into, surprise, a charming little village!
Waban, one of 13 neighborhoods in the city of Newton, looks like something out of the past with its head-on-parking, old homes and attractive historic buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s (especially the Waban Library Center!).
Several highly likable and familiar retro stores and places to eat collectively dot the quaint, small town-style village center. Waban Hardware (1641 Beacon St.) keeps the spirit of a downtown hardware store alive and thriving. Barry's Village Deli (6 Windsor Rd.) is one of those increasingly hard-to-find old-time Jewish delis that serves up mammoth deli sandwiches (including a great pastrami!), and specialties like knishes, cheese blintzes, chopped liver and matzoh ball soup.. The Waban Market (10 Windsor Rd.) evokes the old-time, family-owned neighborhood grocery store of yesteryear with its great customer service and full spectrum of food, wine and beer offerings. Stone L'Oven Pizza (1649 Beacon St.), a relative newcomer, specializes in delicious thin-crust, hand-tossed pizza. For you Starbuck's lovers, the iconic Seattle-based chain has a location at 474 Woodward St.
Barry's Village Deli and the Waban Market
Fortunately, the busy MBTA subway stop in Waban does not take away from the relatively quiet nature of Waban and the village neighborhoods provide for some nice places to stroll away from the central district. It's almost like Waban is an anomaly in this region of the Boston suburbs as the aforementioned Route 128 sits to the west, busier Newton neighborhoods surround and the Boston city line is just a few miles away going east..
Nice to see the endearing and enduring presence of Waban stay intact within an ever-changing suburban Boston landscape!
Just 22 miles southwest of Boston, downtown Holliston possesses the uncanny ability to bring us back into another place and time without sacrificing 21st century relevance.
Its two "anchor" stores -- Fiske's General Store and the Holliston Superette -- reveal something that were once familiar town center types of businesses in the United States but rarely seen as a surviving duo today. Fiske's General Store (776 Washington St.) dates back to 1863 and bills itself as selling "most everything." That's certainly not a stretch in this old-fashioned treasure of a retail store, selling games, toys, candy, helium balloons, party goods, craft kits, artist supplies, candies and even offering a ladies boutique.
Fiske's General Store.
Holliston Superette (777 Washington St.) first opened in 1960. The interior is a retro lover's revelation with narrow isles showcasing perfectly-stacked items on the shelves, an authentic butcher shop, old school deli and a commitment to locally-sourced products like seafood, produce and chesses.
More old-time-style small businesses dot the downtown. Holliston Antiques (798 Washington St.) features two floors of antiques. This is one of the most impressive antique shops we have been to in the Boston suburbs with a surpringly wide variety of merchandise. The Holliston Grill (802 Washington St.) offers breakfast and lunch in a non-pretentious, diner style setting. Hills Antique Clocks (783 Washington St.) showcases antique clocks for sale, as well as a prominent clock repair business. Casey's Pub (81 Railroad St.) serves up great comfort foods and drinks in a former 1840s train depot.
The Holliston Public Library (752 Washington St.) is graced with a beautiful classical revival look, dating back to 1904 -- and built with a grant from the esteemed Carnegie Foundation.
Lending a true taste of traditional New England, the First Congregational Church of Holliston (725 Washington St.), was built in the early 1800s on the site of Holliston's original meeting house. It is the holding institution of the King James Bible donated by Thomas Hollis in 1724.
The retro feel of Holliston would be enough to keep everyone happy but the newer wave of businesses also add a wonderful vitality. Bar Athena (770 Washington St.) offers Mediterranean cuisine for dinner in a contemporary, intimate yet casual setting. The Bird and Bear (763 Washington St.) features a multi-faceted community-oriented setting for "unique conversations, events, experiences, merchandise and apparel."
Perhaps the best thing about downtown Holliston is the way store owners take interest in their customers. Recently, we visited four of the businesses mentioned in this story and they all welcomed us like we were family. They all started up conversations to learn more about us. The experience felt like we were on vacation in the friendliest of small towns. Lucky for us, this experience occurred just 25 minutes from our hometown!
This collective welcoming nature makes us want to come back to downtown Holliston much more often in the near future. Let's face it, some downtown districts might have outstanding shopping and dining out options and pleasing aesthetics but what good is it if the tone is off-putting and snooty? Downtown Holliston is the exact opposite: a community with small town charm and the neighborly outreach to make residents and visitors feel right at home.
More to come soon on this wonderful downtown!
Strolling downtown Guilford.
Any downtown with mom and pop stores selling handmade chocolates and ice cream, freshly roasted coffee, books and gifts is our kind of place. Add perhaps the most spectacular town green in all of New England makes the experience that much better.
Guilford is that town and its charming, laid back retro small town appeal makes civilization seems a 1,000 miles away rather than 20 minutes out of New Haven -- one of the most densely-populated, congested, fastest-paced cities in New England.
That beautiful town green acts as the centerpiece of the downtown -- 7.7 acres with benches, monuments and special events to add local flavor and community spirit to the wide open green space spanning most of the center. Like many New England town greens, this one possessed churches that were eventually moved off the parcel when separation of church and state took places in the 1830s (you can currently see one church towering above north off the town green). Cows grazed here, too, but the transformation into a park-like destination started in the late 19th century. Here resides the centerpiece of Guilford -- dating back four centuries-- and a true barometer of the town's history, serenity and peacefulness juxtaposed with thriving 21 century small businesses (including lots of places to eat!) and close-knit community vibrancy.
The Guilford town green.
Just a few steps into this lovely town green feels like the weight of the world coming off your shoulders as the surroundings almost force you to relax. The interesting thing is that the town green and downtown Guilford are not true vacation destinations -- where we as a society tend to flock like sheep for rest and relaxation. This is a real, authentic New England community for residents to enjoy and visitors to discover away from the hamster wheel of the same old tourist getaways. It's almost like the Guilford town green is a rite of passage into the heart and soul of traditional New England.
And the places for handmade chocolates and ice cream, freshly roasted coffee, books and gifts make it all that much better in this walkable, lovable small New England town. Additionally, a short drive will bring you to Guilford's coast line, thus making the town an all-inclusive greatest hits collection of everything good about New England!
A sunny scene in downtown Winchester.
I remember downtown Winchester from many years ago so there is this natural tendency to say that the old days were better. The memories of places like Baskin Robbins ice cream, Woolworth's, Nelson's Bakery and the old Century Publications building that housed the Winchester Star newspaper bring back warm, nostalgic old school feelings.
The rational and realistic mind (at least this one), however, says that downtown Winchester in 2022 is better than ever. The scenic and relaxing Town Common and Aberjona River have been significantly spruced up through the years as places to enjoy within a bustling downtown setting that includes shops for books, coffee, high quality gelato and ice cream, clothing, jewelry, and home décor. The food and restaurant scene appears to be thriving -- even during tough times like these -- with excellent stops like the First House Pub, Lucia Ristorante, D'Agostino's Delicatessen, A Tavola, Eleni's Mediterranean Grille, China Sky and the Black Horse Tavern.
Perhaps the greatest thing about downtown Winchester comes down to its sense of community and pride in apperance. Several community events take place year-round. The planting of flowers around the central district adds a sense of calm and color to the town's overall quaint, charming look. The fabulous store and restaurant signage and well-kept storefronts lend tremendous downtown style and substance. This all makes for a wonderful "walking town" destination whether on the main or side streets. And, of course, the old churches, homes and Public Library add great traditional New England foundations to a downtown always on the rise.
Additionally, although there has been this longstanding ridiciculous, unfair societal myth that all wealthy towns are offstandish and snooty, Winchester certainly disproves that painting-with-a broad-brush designation. I have always felt at home visiting, as well as when living here around the late 80s, early 90s. People are friendly and mostly salt-of-the-earth authentic.
So, we give downtown Winchester six stars out of five for small towns in New England with outstanding downtowns! We appreciate you taking care of your downtown and making it an even better place than before (it was fine to begin with). Take note small New England downtowns looking to improve: Winchester should be your gold standard on how to create a fantastic central district.
Summertime on Main Street in Walpole..
Walpole is known as "The Friendly Town," so that's a good
being included in this article. Incorporated in 1724, Walpole still
features many quaint downtown elements including a town common that
dates back to 1739 (including a beautiful stone bandstand and
a train station from 1883 and a former town hall building (currently unoccupied and that really needs to be filled with something meaningful and of interest to locals and visitors asap) dating back to 1881.
A holiday season scene on Main Street in Walpole.
The great thing about
Walpole -- only 18 miles southwest of Boston -- is that within its quaint but bustling two blocks, you'll find
12 places to eat (seven of which are full service restaurants) and mom and pop stores
that sell gifts, collectibles, clothing, yarn, quilts and refurbished furniture. The
number of community events is off the charts year-round and often
announced on a
large board at the town green.
An autumn scene on Main Street in Walpole..
Right off Main Street in Common Street
with a lovely concentration of big, beautiful old historic homes with
large front lawns.
Common Street in Walpole.
Clearly not a vacation community, this residential suburb
of Boston has held onto its quintessential New England feel, especially
in the downtown district (although recent, significant apartment development has created a 21 century contrast of that). Outside of the center, though, you will find
some wonderful small-town elements like the 350-acre Adams Farm
(perfect for a light hike), the
scenic Walpole Town Forest that hugs the Neponset River, 89-acre Bird
Park with its rolling hills, stone bridges, ponds and paved walkways,
and Turner Pond that features supervised winter ice skating and a cozy
fireplaced lodge overlooking the pond. There, everyone gathers for hot
chocolate, coffee, snacks and sometimes dinners brought in to share by
A Currier and Ives type of scene at Turner Pond.
Walpole is kind of like an "It's a Wonderful Life" type of town without even knowing it!
Arriving at Dock Square in Kennebunkport Maine is like entering the gateway to the heart of coastal New England.
This charming downtown district possesses all the seaside New England elements that we have come to love including quaint historic fish shack-style buildings, sea captain's homes, water views, restaurants with local seafood, waterfront lodging and cafes, boutiques, gift shops and galleries. What could have come across as touristy and tacky instead feels more genuine and authentic than most other busy coastal towns. Kennebunkport is not just a vacation town but a real community with real people who seem to be very friendly. History is well preserved, as well, with the community's 1653 founding and shipbuilding industry embedded into the look, vibe and culture of the town.
The overall feeling is laid back, the salt sea air refreshing and the local beaches scenic and restorative to the soul. The chance to do everything or simply nothing in Dock Square or other parts of Kennebunkport gives the visitor options depending on vacation or day trip preferences.
Entering Kennebunkport over the bridge.
What's more, a bridge connecting to Lower Kennebunk Village in Kennebunk provides additional quaint small town personality with more shops and places to eat that nicely segue from Kennebunkport. Both central districts feel like they could be one as the transition is so seamless.
As a metaphorical topping on the sundae. a walk from Dock Square to Ocean Avenue provides a scenic stroll filled with spectacular ocean views, huge homes, sailboats dotting the seascape and views of the Bush Compound and St. Ann’s church.
The Bush Compound on Ocean Ave.>
And as a metaphorical topping upon a topping on a sundae, Kennebunkport puts on a Christmas holiday celebration that no Hallmark Christmas movie could ever match in community spirit, tradition, creativity and sheer beauty. It's called Christmas Prelude and is like a greatest hits collection of holiday celebrations all wrapped into one -- and then some. Activites include tree lightings including one at Dock Square and a lobster traps ceremony at Cape Porpoise. There's Christmas caroling, a Prelude block party, a Christmas lights labyrinth, trolley rides, craft fairs, hot chocolate and coffee bars, parades with Santa, gingerbread and cookie cottage building, boat rides, a Bavarian Christmas market and best-dressed pooches contest. Kennebunkport's Christmas Prelude was once voted the #2 Christmas Town in America by HGTV!
This is one charming small town -- not to be missed!
OLD LYME, CONNECTICUT
Downtown Old Lyme, Conn.
Many times, those Hallmark movies depicting small town life possess idyllic names. You know, like Angel Falls, Evergreen, Santaville, Silver Falls, Grandon Falls, etc. Old Lyme has that kind of appealing name, too, as images of a quaint, old New England coastal town come to mind. And that's exactly Old Lyme's personality. Founded in 1855 and beautifully situated on Long Island Sound in eastern Connecticut, Old Lyme is a place of grand historic homes once owned by sea captains. Like in those Hallmark movies, the town is full of annual events like the Memorial Day and 4th of July Parades, summer concerts, a June GardenFest at the Florence Griswold Museum (more on the museum shortly) and a tree lighting ceremony and craft and holiday cookie sales during the Christmas season.
Unlike some Hallmark movies, however, where the stingy, hapless and wishy washy town manager takes away all funding for cultural activities, Old Lyme thrives with such attractions. The Florence Griswold Museum (96 Lyme St.) features a modern art gallery with changing exhibitions (American Impressionist paintings are a main draw), and gardens within a historic home museum setting. The Old Lyme Art Association (90 Lyme St.), established in 1914, offers classes, workshops, lectures, and paint outs. The Lyme Academy of Fine Arts (84 Lyme St.) comprises a group of professional artists that encourage "individuality and innovation" through training within the scope of foundational skills of drawing, painting, and sculpture in the figurative tradition.
Nigthingale's Acoustic Café (68 Lyme St.) serves as a charming café, lesson space, and music venue in the heart of the central district. We stopped by there recently on a Sunday afternoon. The cafe was closed at that time but we experienced something even better: A clearly dedicated local music teacher providing guitar lessons to a middle schooler. The teacher was as personable and authentic as could be, giving us suggestions of where to get some coffee and tea "down the road." This folksy scene looked like something right out of a Hallmark movie -- that is, the friendly local with the most genuine personlity helping his community and visitors at the same time!
Oh, and for you sweets lovers check out Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe and Café ( 34 Lyme St.), a woman-owned business that turns out homemade ice cream with the requisite 16 percent butterfat content to give that cone the most flavorful taste. There's another ice cream place in Old Lyme called, believe it or not... The Hallmark Drive-In (113 Shore Rd.)! This long-established seasonal roadside food stop not only serves ice cream but burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and seafood (including lobster rolls).
The Chocolate Shell (16B Lyme St.) makes the Old Lyme experience even that much sweeter with its wonderful array of handmade chocolates. It's like a trip back in time here to an old-fashioned candy shop.
Last but not least: While in the area, be sure to visit Rocky Neck State Park (244 Main St.) in East Lyme/Niantic. This expansive, magnificent public recreation area on Long Island Sound includes a tidal river, a broad salt marsh, white sand beaches, rocky shores, and a large stone pavilion dating back to the 1930s.
As mentioned in some of the following descriptions in the ensuing story below, this is one town that the Hallmark Channel should seriously consider making a movie! It checks off a lot of "small town charm" boxes but more importantly, it's an authentic, lovely New England town that we highly recommend you see as part of your Connecticut travels.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, MASSACHUSETTS
Downtown North Attleboro
Downtown North Attleboro continuously gets down to the core of what makes a great downtown.
Fifty vibrant hanging flower baskets line North Washington St. in the warmer weather as well as colorful community-oriented flags to further enhance an already attractive looking downtown. Competing store signs look visually pleasing, drawing walkers and driver to locally-owned shops and restaurants. Community events are off-the-charts impressive with the Chocolate Lovers’ Stroll, Strawberry Festival, Back to School Shuffle & Fair, Santa Parade and Veterans and Memorial Day observances. Downtown Associates of North Attleboro shows tremendous community pride as a non-profit hosting the aforementioned events and constantly getting the word out on social media about what's happening in the central district. The Downtown North Attleborough Collaborative takes strong initiative to share information relevant to downtown North Attleboro while its local business and community members help foster economic development in a jewel of a town once famous for its jewelry industry. Things are evolving quite well!
All this adds up to a walkable, thriving downtown where one gets the feeling things will get event better in a post-Covid world. What's more, the downtown feels cozy and quaint with it historic buildings (be sure to check out the beautiful Richards Memorial Library) and quarter mile of big old homes (south of the business district on Washington St.), as well as a feeling of safety. While downtown North Attleboro sometimes looks like a city, it's ultimately a small town at heart and doesn't have the high crime of nearby higher populated communities.
With spirited year-round community involvement and a friendly nature, North Attleboro would definitely look great in a Hallmark movie although I have never met any pastry chefs, dog trainers, divorce attorneys, royalty, incompetent babysitters or supernatural elements there!
The ultimate reflection of North Attleboro's wonderful small town vibe can best been see amongst the conversations and camaraderie in many local restaurants -- which, by the way, span a diverse range of cuisines. One of my favorites in Mackie's at 49 North Washington St. As you will see further down in this article, I usually don't focus at length on one specific business but this one is an exception.
Mackie's is, to me, the ultimate hometown dining spot including a diner-type area, cozy dining room with country décor, the separate "Teacher's Lounge" with music entertainment and a small country store, a dessert case with cakes and pies, and various photos from the community lining the wall. Everyone seems to know each other here -- a real reflection of the small-town, close-knit ways of North Attleboro.
We both ordered braised short rib dinners accompanied with squash, mashed potatoes and carrots. The meal also came with sticky rolls and soup -- the latter, we opted for New England clam chowder. Everything was so delicious. All this and a glass of wine came to $44. What a bargain!
Sticky rolls from Mackie's Restaurant.
We used to come here quite often when our girls were in elementary, middle and high schools but hadn't been in a while because of the pandemic and that we didn't get to the North Attleboro area much. It was nice to be back at this friendly, welcoming spot!
Mackie's is more of a breakfast and lunch spot but they are open for dinner on Friday nights. We highly recommend this friendly, welcoming family-run business!
In downtown North Attleboro, its easy to find your own Mackie's -- whether it is Mackie's or the myriad other locally-owned restaurants or shops. Whether it's a nice home-cooked meal, homemade lemonade (Del's Lemonade), clothing, art, boutique merchandise, a butcher shop, etc., North Attleboro definitely impresses with a classic hometown downtown. If you lived here, I think you would love it. For visitors, the same!
Downtown Litchfield, Conn.
I could gaze at the look of Litchfield, Conn. all day. It is the ultimate quintessential small New England town.
The perfect New England small town symmetry of classic town green, church with tall white steeple, grand old homes, mom and pop shops and places to eat lining the central district could perhaps be the greatest setting off of all the towns mentioned in this article for a future Hallmark movie. Add big old trees and scenic hills surrounding the town center and you have as near to perfect of a small town that could ever be located in New England.
While taking in the small town vibe at the Village Restaurant (25 West St.), it occurred to me that towns like Litchfield are, unfortunately, becoming more few and far between. Rampant commercial and residential development, tacky tourist growth and hometown pride turning into visual blight have that effect, I suppose. Litchfield, on the other hand, feels like a magical town we used to know from another era -- you know, the type of place that warmed our hearts, welcomed us and had that perfect small town look that we craved as a relief and escape from the congested, faster-paced suburbs.
Litchfield does have an air of refinement but, at the same time, does not feel stuffy. We got that feeling inside the Village Restaurant where locals and staff carried on in the super-friendly way that you see in the Hallmark movies (but never overbearingly and annoyingly so, as sometimes seen in those Hallmark movies). After enjoying some excellent homemade food that truly hit the spot, we got the same feeling of a close-knit community walking the quiet, pleasant streets that also seemed to possess nature's own air purifier in the form of fresh air. It was a wonderful feeling -- something that you could only experience visiting here.
A walk through downtown Litchfield.
The town's main streets do not go on forever as seen in many of those Hallmark movies but do offer a very nice mix of restaurants, cafes, and local shops, galleries and boutiques. In a way, downtown Litchfield has the perfect size -- not too big, not too small but, ultimately, just right.
What an absolutely beautiful New England downtown!
Main Street in downtown Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Main Street in downtown Gloucester caught me by surprise, in the best sense,
I hadn't really focused on the main drag in Gloucester for many years as it had previously looked run down, incomplete and not reaching its full potential. Plus, the beautiful coastal water scenes in this North Shore of Massachusetts small city had understandably and innately always took precedent when visiting here.
Fortunately, times have changed for Main Street in Gloucester as the look, vibe and overall appeal reveal a refreshed, more complete and fully potentiated downtown. It's all so good that this central district compares favorably with media downtown darlings like Newburyport, Salem and Plymouth, Mass., as well as Portsmouth, N.H. and Mystic, Conn.
A walk down Main Street in downtown Gloucester.
Colorful signs compete with each other amidst the locally-owned shops, boutiques, galleries restaurants and cafes within the narrow main drag wonderfully framed by historic brick buildings. This combination of old-meets-new yields a vibrant, thriving walkable Main Street with all the requisite things we love about a downtown including books, clothing, gifts, ice cream and freshly roasted coffee. What's more, the picturesque waterfront resides right down the hill including seafood restaurants with harbor views (we love the Gloucester House, in particular).
This overall scene would certainly look fabulous in a Hallmark movie! The great thing about this revitalized downtown, however, is that its low-key and, thankfully, not fully aware of itself yet unlike some other small cities and towns that have increasingly high opinions of themselves. Maybe the working-class, fisherman's town template of Gloucester has kept its humble origins in place. This is, after all, a real town with real people. Nice to see the downtown once again become a major part of the overall greatness of Gloucester as a prime New England travel destination. Way to go, Gloucester, great job, on making your downtown so special!
MILFORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE
The Oval in downtown Milford.
Most Hallmark movies portraying small town life correlate an idyllic-looking downtown with having ultra friendly locals strolling the streets. They talk with each other like family, say hello to strangers and seemingly create community events 365 days a year (ok, that's a stretch).
In real life, it doesn't always work out that way. We have been to some of the most beautiful towns imaginable that ultimately left us cold and feeling unwelcomed. Snootiness, store owners more dedicated to selling tacky items rather than getting to know you, and restaurants serving up cheeseburgers for more than $20 have played roles in that unctuous, disappointing mix.
Milford, on the other hand, possesses the friendly hometown feel that we love to see on the Hallmark Channel -- and then some. The difference is, however, that Milford (founded in 1794) is located in the real world and we get to experience that wonderful small town feel by simply being there in person instead of through the lens of a movie camera.
A look at the downtown from the bandstand.
While walking the town common -- known as The Oval for its shape (although it looks more like a triangle!) -- there's a wonderful vibe in the air and its classic "Main Street USA" streets. First, The Oval stands as one of the nicest town commons in New England with its centerpiece as the visually striking Pillsbury Bandstand (as pictured above). Massachusetts and Connecticut typically have the highest concentration of historically significant, beautiful town greens in New England but Milford has much in "common" with the town commons in those two states. It's one of those town commons that perfectly integrates within the look of the town while possessing its own personality in the form of a pleasing open space surrounded by many wonderful local shops, restaurants and service oriented businesses. It looks like the quintessential side of New England meeting Mayberry RFD.
A walk through downtown Milford.
There are many spots to eat, including a healthy serving of places that specialize in breakfast. No matter what time of the day, you're sure to see locals conversing in those places to eat and virtually everywhere else in the downtown. That type of hometown feel is absolutely heartwarming to see in a world where many people prefer to socialize with technical devices.
Columbus Day Weekend brings the beloved annual Pumpkin Festival featuring food, music, crafts, pumpkins and much more. It's essentially one of the great fall gatherings in New Hampshire. The community events go year-round in Milford with a Veterans Day Parade, tree lighting ceremony, Memorial Day Observance, Labor Day Parade, Memorial Day Observance and summer concert series, These aren't just events that bring people downtown, however. They bring people together. That is the essence of what makes a hometown a true hometown.
Vibrant flower beds, beautiful historic municipal building, church and home architecture, memorials recognizing those who have served, and the scenic sight of the Souhegan River further help create a real town that also happens to be really nice to live in or visit.
Approaching downtown Milford.
What a beautiful town -- not in the tourist sense, but as a place to experience an authentic New England community full of spirit and pride. All you need to do is walk the downtown and take in Milford's delightful way of life to feel the full effect.
Last but not least, check out this fabulous segment on Milford from the fine folks at "Chronicle" on WCVB-TV, Channel 5 Boston...
Nason St. in downtown Maynard.
Occasionally, Hallmark movies feature small towns settings that don't fit the idyllic picture-perfect mode. Maynard falls into that category and we love its downtown for that very reason. It's authentic as opposed to pretentious while being walkable, laid back, safe and with enough small businesses to keep things interesting
Once home to Digital Equipment Corporation -- one of the world's most prominent computer companies housed in a former wool mill from the 1960s to 90s -- Maynard somehow held its own when the computer company logged off. Unlike so many dying mill towns, Maynard continued to focus on local downtown businesses with good success. Never one to be affected and annoyingly precious the way some high profile towns can be, downtown Maynard, to this very day, seems happy just being itself.
Small businesses that come across like good old friends have lasted generations. There's the family-owned and operated Maynard Outdoor Store (24 Nason St.) that dates back to 1950. It looks old school starting with its massive awning and window displays but also possesses significant 21st century relevance selling the latest casual clothing and footwear as well as camping gear. They also pride themselves on something you see less of in today's society -- that is, superb customer service.
The Maynard Outdoor Store.
Then there's China Ruby that has been at 42 Nason St. for as long as I can remember. It remains a thriving restaurant serving great old school Chinese food. The Fine Arts Maynard Theater at 19 Summer St. -- while temporarily closed -- plans to reopen soon (including its adjoining ice cream parlor), thus heartwarmingly continuing a downtown Maynard tradition since 1949. Babico's Cafe and Grill (35 Nason St.) plays the crucial role of the classic, friendly hometown diner serving up huge portions of breakfast and lunch items. The Pleasant Cafe (36 Main St.), established in 1945, stands as the oldest dining establishment in Maynard and continues to serve up "cold drinks, hand-crafted food, and good conversation."
Many other long-established businesses seamlessly combine with newer retail and dining ventures that include coffeehouses (be sure to try the Serendipity Cafe at 1 Nason St.!), consignment shops, and boutiques. It's an interesting scene with the downtown sporting a slightly dusty, imperfect look that simultaneously provides a serviceable, likable, much frequented town center. What's more, the former Digital/mill site is being revitalized under the name Mill & Main where corporate and small tenant ventures can set up shop.
Maynard will always be "up and coming" and "a work in progress" but that works to the town's advantage, as well as for those who visit. There is always something to look forward to as the downtown evolves through the foundation of strong community spirit and vision.
WATCH HILL, RHODE ISLAND
Approaching Watch Hill.
Those cute Hallmark towns are often wonderful to look at through the television but few, in my opinion, match the charm and appeal of Watch Hill. It's that nice of a place!
Shops line the main drag in Watch Hill.
This nearly picture-perfect summertime coastal village in Westerly offers a special feeling virtually every step of the way from every angle. The oversized Victorian cottages, expanse of ocean beaches, beautiful bay views, cozy restaurants and cafes, and nearly a quarter of a mile of highly likable and interesting locally-owned shops make this New England's version of heaven on earth. It's like a Norman Rockwell scene situated by the coast. What's more, the affluence of Watch Hill rarely results in stuffiness but, happily, a place for people of all ages and classes to enjoy. Shining examples: The Flying Horses Merry-Go-Round -- the oldest continuously operating carousel in the country -- is great for the kids while Carousel Beach offers plenty of room to enjoy the sand and surf.
The St. Clair Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop has been around since 1887 and remains an iconic, fun place to grab a sandwich or cone. The Olympia Tea Room dates back to 1939 and features a menu with New England favorites (New England clam chowder, local oysters, lobster roll, baked haddock, etc.), a bar and sidewalk dining with bay views. Speaking of those bay views, that's all many need to satisfy their visits to Watch Hill...
Enjoying the bay views in Watch Hill.
For an upscale experience, the Ocean House features stunning Victorian-era seaside resort architecture, sweeping oceans views, upscale dining and a private beach. The resort first opened in 1868, and, in 2004, had a new structure created replicating the original exterior design. The Ocean House, at this writing, is one of only 13 Forbes triple Five-Star resorts in the world!
Ocean House Resort
Taylor Swift, Conan O'Brien and the late Clark Gable have all resided in Watch Hill. That's nice to know but even better to keep in mind is that, again, you can have fun in Watch Hill no matter what social status. The beach, bay views, shopping, dining out and the summer joys of ice cream, chowder and seafood, and a carousel all within a wonderfully cute little village makes for a beautiful place to be by the coast in New England.
A panoramic view of Watch Hill.
Many Cape Cod lovers prefer Falmouth as their travel destination and with good reason. For starters, It's a convenient, short drive from the Bourne Bridge that connects mainland Massachusetts with the Cape. Clean, expansive ocean beaches abound including western views that can yield truly spectacular sunsets, Seafood restaurants, ice cream places, miniature golf, Nobska Lighthouse, quintessentially New England harbor views and the coastal Shining Sea Bikeway lend more than enough classic Cape Cod joys to create instant memories.
A walk down Main Street.
But wait, that's not all. Falmouth happens to possess one of the most likeable, interesting and appealing downtown districts in Massachusetts as well as New England, for that matter. The downtown goes on and on but never gets tiresome as the treelined Main Street, open green spaces at the town park and common, and myriad locally-owned businesses please both the vacationer and locals.
Another look at downtown Falmouth.
Store signs colorfully compete with one another, sidewalk sales abound and an outdoor dining scene further contributes to a vibrant overall scene. There's no shortage of all the essentials that we seek in a downtown: the aforementioned seafood restaurants and ice cream places, as well as shops that sell books, chocolates, specialty foods, baked goods, gifts, clothing, furniture, art work and cosmetics. What a great place to stroll!
But wait, that's definitely not all. While downtown Falmouth offers an outstanding Cape Cod experience, the town also features another impressive central district. Several miles down the road bring you to Woods Hole which is part of Falmouth. Once primarily a stop to take a ferry to Martha's Vineyard and home of several esteemed marine science institutions, Woods Hole today offers a low-key, slower-paced Cape Cod travel experience featuring waterfront restaurants, places to stay and shops that feature clothing, gifts, art work, crafts and jewelry. And yes, there are places to enjoy a lobster and lobster rolls, a cone or some freshly roasted coffee!
Approaching quaint Woods Hole.
Unlike downtown Falmouth, quaint Woods Hole can be walked within minutes but the concentration of shops and restaurants, beautiful harbor views and the campus-like appearances of the science institutions makes for a most unique and memorable time.
Woods Hole looks like many of the inviting small coastal towns featured in Hallmark movies where everyone seems to know each other and every step of the away reveals something magical that cannot fully be explained -- just experienced. Summer traffic aside, Woods Hole is the type of place where a traffic jam consists of bicyclists and car drivers getting delayed by a rising drawbridge.
Traffic delay in Woods Hole due to drawbridge.
Most of the type of Hallmark movies that feature communities similar to Woods Hole are actually filmed in British Columbia, Canada. Thank goodness we have such a picture-perfect coastal town like Woods Hole much closer in distance than British Columbia!
WICKFORD VILLAGE, RHODE ISLAND
As part of North Kingstown, this picture-perfect little village might just be the most impressive coastal community you never heard of in New England. The beautiful harbor views with boats, kayakers and a sense of serenity, the tree-lined streets with old homes from the 1700 and 1800s, stately historic churches, outdoor waterfront eateries (try Wickford on the Water for breakfast, lunch and dinner including delicious clam cakes, chowder, fish and chips, salmon and lobster rolls!) and an unassuming
but wonderful mix of shops (remarkably, more than 50 owner-operated) make Wickford Village a perfect place to spend a day. Although Wickford Village's downtown is relatively small, the shopping scene includes clothing, books, jewelry, crafts, galleries, gifts, gourmet foods, kayaks and canoes. What's more, the seasonal events are off-the-charts fun and community-oriented: the Christmas season when lights and designs give Wickford Village the look of a cute, little toy village; the Wickford Art Festival in July; and Daffodil Days in the spring.
Wickford Village Harbor.
It all adds up to a fabulous walking town with the scenic coast, remarkable historic preservation, thriving small businesses, a sense of community and a whole bunch of friendly welcoming locals creating the prototype for an authentic, humble and laid-back small town coastal New England village.
KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Main Street, Keene, New Hampshire.
Downtown Keene possesses nearly every earmark that makes a small town or city center great. Those earmarks all add up to downtown Keene coming across like the ultimate Hallmark Movie Channel small town. Only, this is real life and not the movies!
Bandstand at Central Square.
For ambiance, the downtown features an instantly lovable wide, tree-lined main street with a grassy median strip and head-on parking. Central Square abounds with traditional New England character as its park-like circular town green features a beautiful bandstand juxtaposed with locally-owned shops, services and places to eat -- often housed in historic buildings. The Keene State College area adds a leafy and academic tone with its grand buildings and surrounding stately old homes with big front lawns.
United Church of Christ.
For further New England downtown character, the United Church of Christ rises majestically above Central Square and can even be seen approaching Main Street about a quarter mile down the road. The 1924 Colonial Theater (currently under renovation) adds a classic touch to the downtown with its nostalgic marquee and nice mix of films and performances.
Classic Main Street USA downtown scene.
While that all sounds good on paper (or in this case, the Internet), how does it translate to actually being in Keene? In just a few words, "Absolutely wonderful!" Walking front and back on Main Street -- as well as side streets in this Monadnock Region community -- feels so right, especially with the near-perfect mix of all the things we'd expect in a downtown.
Lindy's Diner in downtown Keene.
That idyllic mix would include a retro diner, bookstores, coffee houses, restaurants featuring a wide diversity of cuisines (and some attractive, welcoming outdoor seating), chocolate, candy and ice cream shops, clothing stores, florists, boutiques and places for antiques, artwork, music, furniture, toys, sporting goods, crafts and gifts.
A walk down Main Street in Keene.
What's more, the pandemic doesn't seem to have drastically affected downtown Keene the way it has significantly impacted many other communities in New England. There are fewer empty storefronts on Main Street which is a good sign that local small business and building owners, elected and appointed officials and residents have come together as a community to find ways to keep the beauty and vibrancy of the downtown intact.
A yummy section of the downtown.
Note to the Hallmark Channel: Definitely check out this downtown. It is beautiful.
Locally-owned shops highlight the downtown.
We are keen on Keene!
Main St. in Stowe.
A walk down Main St. in downtown Stowe will get you in a Vermont state of mind in no time at all. This beautiful Green Mountains town is the stuff that Vermont travel dreams are made of with its majestic mountains and hills framing the 200-year old village with a rising historic church steeple, old-time general store (Shaw's), and friendly, locally-owned shops that sell local cheeses, jams and maple syrup as well as chocolates, ice cream, books, gifts, clothing, furniture, jewelry, art and home and kitchen accessories to name a few, The feeling on Main St. is more more laid-back and natural than forced and contrived like so many tourist towns have become in New England. The pace seems no different than 50 years ago in the downtown yet there's a 21st century relevance that pleasantly permeates but does not overwhelm the mountain-fresh air. That's because there is something for everyone in the central district whether it be shopping, dining out at a café or restaurant or just sitting on a bench and happily doing nothing except take in the idyllic setting.
Adding long-standing ambiance to Main St. is the quaint Stowe Community Church -- one of the most photographed churches in the world, according to USA Today. Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont at 4,395 ft. above sea level, gives the village a legitimate mountain town vibe, The Stowe Recreation Path starts right off Main St. and spans 5.3 miles through some scenic forests and meadows and alongside the beautiful West Branch River. Mountain Rd. leads off Main St. and features a seemingly endless variety of shops, restaurants, inns, resorts and hotels. It's all great but start with Main St. -- it's a Hallmark movie-type town if there ever was one. Or correction, maybe we should say that art imitates life and Hallmark would be well-served to feature Stowe in one of its future movies!
Many suburban Boston towns and cities have seen their downtown districts struggle due to the increasing number of area big-box store and chain-dominated shopping centers lining highways and "Anytown USA" commercial-laden roads. Not Norwood.
This lively but charming downtown possesses a jam-packed mix of locally-owned shops and restaurants, juxtaposed with beautiful, historic municipal buildings and churches, a classic old-fashioned New England town common and renovated retro theater. For starters, the food scene is impressive for a small-to-mid-size town including traditional and contemporary American, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican and Italian cuisines, and accompanied by specialty places for bagels, desserts, fresh juices, ice cream and coffee, An old-time clothing store, bowling alley, furniture store, bicycle shop and retro diner help give downtown Norwood a nostalgic look but you'll also find several modern, locally-owned retail stores here, too. What's more, downtown Norwood closes off a part of Chapel St. in the warmer weather seasons to create a pedestrian-friendly place to gather and dine out on picnic tables. To no surprise, many locals prefer to utilize their ultra-cute, useful, close-knit downtown instead of traveling 12 miles into the heart of Boston!
This section of Chapel St. becomes a community gathering place during the warmer weather seasons in downtown Norwood.
The film industry has also noticed downtown Norwood. A "Hallmark-esque" Christmas movie is being filmed in the Boston area, including festive holiday scenes by the Norwood Town Common. The movie, "About Fate" stars Emma Roberts and Tim Mann, and should be out in late 2022.
Christmas in June at the Norwood Town Common.
If southwest of Boston, definitely check out downtown Norwood. It has become one of the nicer central districts in the Boston suburbs.
WOLFEBORO, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Main Street in Wolfeboro, N.H..
In many regards, Wolfeboro is the perfect small town.
Located on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro delights with its lively yet relaxing Main Street featuring locally-owned shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and cafes. The downtown has all the fun essentials that residents and visitors seek in a town center including a general store/gift shop (Black's), bookstore (The Country Bookseller), ice cream shop (Bailey's Bubble), bakery (Yum Yum Shop) and place to get groceries (Hunter's Shop 'n Save). The tree-lined streets with historic homes, buildings, and churches wonderfully combine with the presence of a lakefront that affords some of the most pleasing water views in New England. The town park is an ideal place to enjoy the essence of this beautiful lake town with its docks, places to sit, and hill and mountain views.
Additionally, Wolfeboro offers some restaurants that afford water views like the Downtown Grille Cafe, Garwoods Restaurant & Pub and Wolfeboro Dockside Grille and Dairy Bar.
The town gets quite busy in the summer and fall but not in a hectic way. No matter how many cars are parked on the street, however, there's always a feeling of rest and relaxation. The Main St. is appealingly walkable without the feeling of getting pushed and shoved around by an overabundance of visitors. The tourist crowds and local residents seemed friendly, unrushed and respectful. As you know, many vacation towns do not have that feeling as, ironically, crowds, traffic and lack of personal space can potentially extend the stress that many vacationers are trying to get away from. If, by chance, Wolfbeoro's main drag becomes too busy, just walk onto a side street and it gets quiet in a hurry and often with scenic water views well intact. Better yet, walk as much of the Cotton Valley Rail Trail as you'd like to find peace and solitude. Located near Wolfeboro Station (home of the Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce) on Depot St. the trail extends 12 miles to Wakefield, N.H. and features some fantastic views of Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake.
Wolfeboro is known as "The Oldest Summer Resort in America," with that moniker dating back to 1770; The great thing is, though, that this old vacation town never gets old. There's plenty to do or, if you desire, just reveling in nothing to do except take in the beauty of this Lakes Region town.
What an absolutely beautiful town!
Wolfeborough Station, home of the Wolfbeoro Chamber of Commerce..
One of New England's greatest examples of a revitalized mill town, Littleton today, upon first sight, looks instantly lovable and welcoming with its wonderful mix of locally-owned shops, a growing arts scene and places to eat that colorfully line Main Street. The charming, restored 19th and early 20th century buildings add depth and character to the downtown while its beautiful mountain location on the Ammonoosuc River lends a scenic wonderland that serves as an inviting gateway to the spectacular White Mountains of New Hampshire. Listing some "highlights" here wouldn't do the town justice as every step of the way exudes a hometown feel that many thought was lost forever. Often, it can be just a walk down Main Street that is enough to fill the senses with instant memories and, after leaving, yearning to return as soon as possible. It's the ultimate place to feel at home but also with a setting to make you feel like you're on vacation. That hometown-meets-vacation presence feels so right.
If we had to write down the top things to see and do in Littleton, this would be our brief but mighty list...
Be sure to check out the Riverwalk Covered Bridge accessible from Main Street. The walk across the bridge allows nice views of the Ammonoosuc River and more walking and sightseeing opportunities in and around The River District. Chutters (43 Main St., closed 9/8-9/17) features the world's longest candy counter at nearly 112 ft.! The Jax Jr. Cinemas (32 Main St., #1) dates back to 1920 but after two fires in its storied history now features a more modern theater experience but still resonating with downtown charm. The Littleton Diner (145 Main St.) epitomizes the classic downtown diner with its booths, tables, counter, salt-of-the-earth service and some huge plates of yummy comfort foods. The Greek Revival architecture of Thayers Inn (145 Main St.) adds a striking, memorable look to the downtown. It is the oldest continuously running inn (opening in the mid-1800s) in the White Mountains and features plenty of historic charm that deftly combines with modern amenities..
While Littleton has received many media accolades for having one of the best Main Streets and as a great place to live, this humble little town is still vastly underrated as a New England destination. What's not to love about a thriving, vibrant downtown dedicated to small businesses, and river and mountain scenery that fits so well into the authentic side of New Hampshire travel? Littleton is one of those places that you just want to walk Main Street back to front and vice versa several times a day. Combining the vibe of a nostalgic trip back in time with a 21st-century relevance is surely an experience to behold!
To find out all the great things to see and do in Littleton, log onto GoLittleton.
Maine Street in downtown Brunswick, Maine.
Brunswick does not get its proper due as having one of the nicest downtown districts in Maine. Maybe that's because it is not a vacation town but one look down Maine Street (yes, that's Maine Street, not Maine!) brings about a thriving, vibrant downtown scene. The presence of Bowdoin College -- the oldest college in Maine and surely one of the most highly-regarded learning institutions in the country -- adds such great character to the town with its stately buildings, houses and many cultural opportunities. Check out the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on campus with its impressive collection of 15,000 objects from ancient times to the present.
Once a prominent center of shipbuilders and industrial manufacturers, the broad, beautifully restored Maine Street today features wonderful specialty shops, restaurants of every cuisine imaginable (including fresh Maine seafood!), galleries, boutiques and the presence of a lovely town common. Cabot Mill Antiques showcases collectibles and antiques in a restored 16,000 sq.ft former textile Mill. It is one of the largest multi-dealer malls in Maine. The historic Fort Andross Mill Complex has been wonderfully transformed into a mixed-use complex that includes a theater, restaurants, antiques and home decor and furnishing services. The Main Street Music Theater has brought professional theater and music to the town (and state, for that matter) since 1959.
Ultimately Brunswick is an extremely walkable, picturesque village-meets-small-city type of town where one can browse for books, leisurely linger at a coffee shop or restaurant with outdoor seating, shop for antiques, go grocery shopping and watch a show. Pretty much everything we picture in a quaint, traditional downtown resides in this fabulous Midcoast Maine coastal community scenically located on the Androscoggin River. What matters most, however, is that the downtown exudes an authentic friendliness. Be prepared for a stranger to say "Hello!" when walking Maine Street!
The 1800s whaling culture resonates at the Nantucket Downtown Historic District with its charming cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, scenic seaport, and spectacular sea captain's home. It's all truly a sight to behold, given the remarkable preservation going on here. The District, however, isn't one of those staid, sparse, stuck-in-time destinations that gets old pretty quickly -- literally and figuratively. The streets are filled with restaurants and cafes, shops and boutiques (from trendy to traditional) and wonderfully restored historic inns. Additionally, the District is within walking distance to ocean beaches. A must-see: Nantucket Whaling Museum at 13 Broad St. , which offers a comprehensive presentation of the whaling industry.
Of course, all of Nantucket is worth visiting as the natural coastal beauty surely ranks with the best of New England travel. Definitely start, though, with the Historic District -- it's a great, fun introduction to the Island and just a few minute's walk from the ferry that gets you here!
BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND
Downtown Bristol, Rhode Island.
Bristol has to be one of the most underrated towns in all of New England. Many bypass this small Rhode Island town to arrive at Newport or Providence, but Bristol easily could serve as a standalone destination. The quaint, tree-lined downtown is filled with great shops, galleries and restaurants and leads to stunning water views of the Narragansett Bay. Walkable (or bikeable) from the downtown is the East Bay Bike Path that spans 14-plus miles to Providence. The huge historic homes that line the main and side streets in the downtown district are something to behold. Interesting note: Bristol is home to the oldest Fourth of July Parade in the country, dating back to 1785. That American spirit can be seen year-round as the town center sports a red, white and blue median strip line! Also while in town, be sure to check out the 464-acre waterfront Colt State Park as well as Blithewold Mansion, Garden and Arboretum with its spectacular gardens.
Downtown Dedham, Massachusetts.
Do you know how in some of those Hallmark movies, all real estate developers are considered evil and insensitive as they strive to wipe out a slice of small-town America, for say, a state-of-the-art resort? Well. it's simply not true and Dedham is the perfect example. When Legacy Place came into town as a major Boston area shopping destination, locals worried that it would decimate nearby Dedham Square, the downtown district in this south-of-Boston suburb. But in the true New England spirit, a grassroots community organization named Dedham Square Circle brought together residents, business owners, building landlords and elected and appointed officials and Legacy Place, amongst others, to help evolve downtown Dedham. Prior to 2006, It was a decent town center but nothing special and certainly on the eve of a downfall with Legacy Place in town. Involved townsfolk, however, followed the National Trust for Historic Revitalization "Main Street" program as a foundation to turn things around and came through in a way that is, today, quite remarkable. Within 15-plus years, Dedham Square turned from a frog into a prince with a fabulous mix of shops and restaurants, improved traffic and sidewalk patterns, a refreshing of the district's historic template and some of the best store signage you'll ever see in the Boston suburbs. Additionally Dedham Square possesses a modern-day downtown rarity in the form of an old-fashioned movie theater, the Dedham Community Theater that dates back to 1927. Also, famous children's' book author and illustrator, Peter H. Reynolds, owns a tremendous kid's bookstore, the Blue Bunny. Although Dedham Square doesn't have the history of Lexington or Concord, Mass., I regard the town center right up there with those two famous towns, and with a better dining scene. What a great success story! Hallmark should make a movie here, portraying the way people can work together -- even big business -- to create the nearly ideal downtown. I can see it now: Andrew Walker and Danica McKellar bumping into each other with coffee spilled onto a shirt and a budding romance between each other and a resolve to save a downtown! Nice that it happened in real-life, though, as in the case of Dedham Square.
A few generations ago, downtown Newburyport looked like it could use an overall power wash and paint job to go along with more businesses replacing empty storefronts. Like somebody waved a magic wand over the small-city seaport, Newburyport transformed its downtown into a near picture-perfect central district. The food scene is diverse and continually evolving and the storefronts nearly fully occupied with virtually every type of shop you would expect in a small town (small city, in this case).
State Street in Newburyport..
The 18th-century brick buildings and sidewalks have a refreshed look and the water views where the Merrimack River leads to the Atlantic Ocean look like the prototype for a classic New England coastal getaway. Additionally, the big old homes lend a wonderfully familiar sense of neighborhood community. There's definitely a "WOW factor" in this special destination about an hour's drive north of Boston.
Downtown Concord, Massachusetts.
Concord, a beautiful semi-rural town west of Boston, features a quaint,
walkable downtown with lots of interesting local shops and restaurants,
and a book load of history. It is, after all, a major contributor to
birthplace of our nation as the Revolutionary War started here. Famous
writers like Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne also called Concord their
home -- the perfect, thoughtful, reflective community to write whatever
came to their brilliant
minds. Today, Concord does look like something out of a Hallmark movie
with all those downtown businesses showcasing colorful storefronts and
competing signage that brightens up the area. It is a wealthy
but you won't see many of those "rich antagonists" seen in the Hallmark
movies that have no use for the down-to-earth, working-class man or
woman that could never be good enough for their spoiled offspring.
"hello," they mean it, and seem, for the most part, very welcoming.
Tucked away by the coast in Stonington, this quaint little neighborhood
has a classic New England seaside community vibe with a 17th and 18th
century feel every step of the way through the narrow, tree-lined
streets. Stonington Borough is actually the oldest borough in
Connecticut, chartered in 1801.
The quiet, untouched village-like
setting features wonderful Greek Revival, Federal and Colonial
architecture, a beautiful, picturesque harbor, interesting little
shops, majestic old churches, great "neighborhood" restaurants and a
solitude that makes you feel like your miles away from everything. Late
in the day, the streets are virtually empty which allows residents and
visitors to feel totally at peace. It's just you, the fresh ocean air
and a few birds chirping. If you have visited more commercial New
England communities and were disappointed by the commercialism and
crowds, then Stonington Borough is the perfect New England getaway for
Northeast Harbor, Maine
Northeast Harbor, Maine.
Located close to the spectacular Acadia National Park, Northeast Harbor
seems like a hidden community when compared to lively Bar Harbor.
That's a good thing for those looking to visit a more quiet place that
might have small-town, Hallmark movie written all over it that more any
other towns we have visited in New England. The downtown -- located a
few minutes walk from the impossibly beautiful harbor -- features lots
of delights including the Docksider seafood shack for great Maine
lobster; the Colonel's Bakery for small-town conversation and enough
burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, sweets and coffee to make
everyone happy; and the neighborhood Pine Street Market where everyone
seems to know each other in a setting that reminds one of the old-time
grocery store. I could walk the 200 yards or so of the downtown, back
and forth, all day! Everyone seems so humble, friendly and laid-back
here. And those water views remind me of a more modest version of
the appealing Cedar Cove (a
former Hallmark series) waterfront location. Northeast Harbor
offers the best of both worlds: a downtown with enough to do and an
isolated, still, scenic feel that forces one to relax.
Downtown Montpelier, Vermont. Photo By
GearedBull - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Funny, Montpelier doesn't feel like a state capitol. Sure,
the statehouse dome and official-looking people walking around town.
On the other hand, Montpelier has small town appeal as the smallest
state capitol in the country with a population of just under 8,000. It's a
great walking town situated in the mountains and with virtually every
small town delight you could ever want: book stores, ice cream places,
two independent movie theaters, a coffee shop, a toy store, a farmers
market, a lively arts and culture scene, beautiful historic homes,
green spaces and
lots of community events. People love to stroll the downtown, and it's
easy to see why.
Hanover, New Hampshire
Hanover, New Hampshire.
Bill Bryson, in his book, The Lost
Continent wrote about Hanover as one of the best places to be
in the United States. Highly critical of many other United States
towns, Bryson felt differently about Hanover and became connected to
the unpretentious, genuine feel of the town. He, in fact, enjoyed
Hanover so much that he eventually moved there! It is easy to see why:
the downtown is quaint with an old-fashioned Main Street, a big town
common, and many mom and pop shops and restaurants with attractive
signage. Contiguous with leafy Dartmouth College (an Ivy League
college), the Hanover downtown district makes for a great walking town.
Within close proximity to the Green Mountains of Vermont and the
Sunapee and White Mountains regions of New Hampshire, Hanover might
just be the nicest town in the area! Hanover is a fabulous walking
town. It would be hard to find a better small-town downtown to stroll.
Also, the downtown features some nice, low-cost, welcoming small town
restaurants like Lou’s and Everything But Anchovies, as well as
interesting retail stores like the great Dartmouth Book Store.
Located far away in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom (pretty close to
Canada), Lyndonville is a pleasant little village in Lyndon that
doesn't have the sparkle and shine of other towns mentioned in this
post, but often comes across as friendlier and more close-knit.
While the downtown does have a decent amount of stores and a few
restaurants (try first, though, the great Lyndonville Diner, just
outside the central district), it's really the refreshing mountain air,
the honest, hard-working folk and the feeling of a simpler time and
place that helps make Lyndonville a town that would look great in a
Hallmark movie. Near skiing and hiking destinations and places to go
maple sugaring -- along with some of the most beautiful rural
countryside in all of New England -- Lyndonville is a little village
surrounded by the big mountains, which all adds up to a most inviting
place to visit, or even lay down some roots. The people aren't rich
here, but have a wealth of dignity and love for their neighbors and
hometown. You can see that walking the downtown.
Revitalized Montgomery Ward building now houses several thriving
Once nearly a ghost town 25 years ago, Putnam -- situated on the
Quinnebaug River -- has reinvented itself as an antiques and foodie
destination but not in an obnoxious and touristy way. No matter how
many visitors come here, Putnam will always seem like a small town at
heart. It's easily walkable and appealing: the Antiques Marketplace
features 20,000 sq. ft of antiques shopping with more than 100
independent dealers offering up to 300 spaces of virtually every
category of antiques. Jeremiah's Antiques & Shoppes (26 Front St.,
860) 963-2671) serves as another major antique shopping destination
with an impressive collection of antiques for all budgets. The
restaurant scene is quite remarkable for a town of this size, and
includes traditional and American fusion cuisines, as well as sushi,
Asian, Italian and deli-style, a brewpub and a few coffee houses. Many
buildings have been revitalized, including the former Montgomery Ward
store that now houses several mom and pop businesses.
"We are not your cookie-cutter town," said Chris Coderre, business
coordinator for the Putnam Business Association. "We have kept the
quaint New England downtown vibe, but it isn't just vintage. We have
galleries, theater and many restaurants. Our motto is 'Vintage feel,
Shelburne Falls and Buckland, Massachusetts
Downtown Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
All walks of life seem to peacefully co-exist in sleepy
and Buckland, located in Shelburne at the foothills of the Berkshire of
Western Massachusetts. While the small downtown in Shelburne Falls is
quite appealing with the Foxtown Diner and Baker Pharmacy (featuring an
ice cream and soda fountain), two attractions that add a wonderful bonus to the appeal of this
historic area: The Bridge of Flowers and Glacial Potholes. The
one-of-a-kind Bridge of Flowers is a must-see New England travel
attraction as this former trolley bridge features 400 ft. of more than
500 varieties of flowers, shrubs and vines! The best times to see the
Bridge of Flowers: the spring when flowers bloom, summer when
everything seems to be in bloom, and in the fall when the surrounding
foliage lends an added depth to an already beautiful location.
Bridge of Flowers.
The Bridge of Flowers continues to grow from donations and the work of
local volunteers, with colorful displays from approximately April to
October. Additionally, you’ll find many things to do on the other side
of the bridge in Buckland, including McCusker’s natural food coop, the
West End Pub with lunch, dinner and great water views, and Mo’s Fudge
Factors with great fudge and Bart’s homemade ice cream.
The Ancient Glacial Potholes Geological Wonder at the end of Deerfield
St., in Shelburne Falls, where, according to a local sign, potholes
were “ground out of granite during high water of the glacial age.
By whirlpool action of water and gyrating stones of varied sizes. Some
of the grinding millstones may still be seen in the smaller potholes.
Over 50 such exist in this confined area known in Indian Days as
“Salmon Falls.” These potholes vary in size from 6 inches to 39 feet in
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