Our picks for things every Wellesleyite should experience and that visitors to Wellesley should check out depending upon what time of year they’re in town.
1. Wellesley College. Don’t head over there if you’re looking to party, as the college is regularly listed near the top of anti-party school rankings. However, if you’re into scenery and just plain old campus beauty, this is the place for you. Frequently cited as one of the country’s most bucolic college campuses, this women’s college established in 1870 has much to offer to residents and visitors. First, there’s wandering around the campus itself, with its gothic and contemporary buildings, plus well-kept gardens and landscaping. A 2-plus mile walk around Lake Waban offers dramatic views of the school’s Galen Stone Tower (which is dressed up as a haunted tower for Halloween), Hunnewell topiary and the lake itself (no swimming allowed, though you can sail and kayak/canoe there). The school offers free public access to its Davis Museum & Cultural Center, which includes ancient to modern art (including our favorite painting, the Netherlandish Laughing Fool) as well as lectures and shows. The college’s greenhouses provide a toasty plant-filled oasis on cold and rainy days. Several theatre outfits at the college put on productions for audiences of all ages, including at the Alumnae Hall renovated in 2010.
2. Babson College. Not to be overlooked just because Wellesley College is so swell. This campus features Georgian and other architecture, plus some quirky twists, including the giant Babson Globe (a fine Christmas card background…yes, we’ve done it) and a tree spawned from the famous Isaac Newton tree. The Sorenson Center for the Arts is home to several theatre troupes, including the Wellesley Players, and also hosts movies and various live performances. A skating rink offers public skating and is home to the Babson Beavers hockey team.
3. Wellesley’s Wonderful Weekend. Scheduled for a weekend in May each year, the activities include a pancake breakfast, a military decampment re-enactment, musical performances and a parade featuring the local schools, antique cars, local politicians, army tanks and more. (It’s technically a veterans’ parade, but who wants to parade around here in November on Veterans Day? As it is, the parade often seems to get postponed once or twice due to inclement weather.) The whole weekend is topped off with a spectacular fireworks display at Hunnewell Field. Back in 2008, the Beach Boys even played at the event.
4. Boston Marathon. Each Patriot’s Day in April runners traverse the course from Hopkinton to Boston, hitting Wellesley smack dab in the middle. More than 3 miles of the course wind through Wellesley, including Wellesley Square, Wellesley Hills and the infamous scream tunnel fueled by Wellesley College students.
5. Dining. Blue Ginger, Ming and Polly Tsai’s east-meets-west restaurant, is Wellesley’s best known eatery. Blue Ginger expanded its footprint in 2009 and now includes a less formal cocktail/appetizer lounge, plus a noodle bar. Wellesley has plenty of other fine restaurants to choose from specializing in everything from Turkish to Thai food, plus a slew of pizza joints running from very basic to high end.
6. Summertime concerts. Local businesses and individuals foot the bill for a series of summertime concerts on the green at Town Hall. They take place on Wednesdays from 7-830pm, bringing together young and old neighbors. Bring a lawn chair, blanket, bug spray and something to eat. Hot dogs and other treats are available on site as well from the Rotary Club. Schedule available near summer at the town’s Recreation Department.
7. The dump. More formally known as the Recycling and Disposal Facility, since it is after all a model center for making the most of residents’ refuse. Many a home in Wellesley is furnished with items plucked from the give-and-take section (shown here) manned by volunteers and popular among residents, including antiques dealers. You do need to be a Wellesley resident to visit, or at least go with one.
8. History. Wellesley’s Historical Society is the formal center of history in town, providing a rotating selection of displays honoring Wellesley’s most noteworthy citizens and happenings. But there are also ample opportunities to spy historical spots on your own in town, from the estates in the Cliff Road area, to the homes of notable Wellesley residents of the past such as poet Sylvia Plath and America the Beautiful writer Katharine Lee Bates. Wellesley has had an interesting history linked to U.S. Presidents as well, including George Washington, whose 1789 visit to town is memorialized with a marker (seen here) at the east end of town. For more historical sight-seeing suggestions, check out this map from WellesleyWeston Magazine. And for the sports-minded, you can’t go wrong with the Wellesley High vs. Needham High Thanksgiving Day football game, which started up in 1882, making it the oldest such public school rivalry.
9. Shopping. Wellesley’s downtown has its share of chains, but also still includes lots of one-of-a-kind purveyors of everything from crafts to toys to clothing to art. A sampling includes E.A. Davis, which opened in 1904 and sells everything from preppy wear to home furnishings; The Gifted Hand, located on Church Street and which sells jewelry and other original art; and The Wellesley Toy Shop on Central Street. Nearby Linden Square leans more toward chains, but can extend your shopping experience in town. Its businesses include everything from a Roche Bros. grocery store to fitness clubs to high-end clothing shops for kids and adults. Another cluster of stores is further east in Wellesley Hills. More info at the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce.
10. Walking/hiking trails. Woven into the town’s neighborhoods and streets are 25-plus miles of wooded trails, including Centennial Reservation, which offers access to Maugus Hill, the highest point in town. Boulder Brook Reservation and Rocky Ledges (seen here) can make you forget you’re in the burbs with its rocky outcroppings and great views. Other trails, like the Brook Path and Crosstown Trail, offer nice alternatives to taking the usual path along roads like Rte. 16. More from Wellesley Trails Committee, which hosts guided walks on the trails during the spring and fall. Elm Bank Reservation, which has its address on Rte. 16 in Wellesley though technically its trails are in Dover, offers great hiking trails and beautiful gardens overseen by the Mass Horticultural Society.
OK, what did we leave out…? Comment below.