The 300-year-old community of Framingham, Massachusetts boasts that it is the biggest town in the country. Only about 68,000 people call it home, but that is enough to make Framingham the largest municipality in America with a town-meeting form of government, in which assembled voters actively run local government. It seems that everything about this little city 20 miles west of Boston is a blend of big-city vision and country-town charm.
Danforth Museum of Art shows that Framingham can rival the big cities when it comes to world-class attractions. Although not founded until 1975, this museum has already established itself as an important cultural resource in the region. The Danforth houses a permanent collection of 3,500 works, mostly American pieces created between the 18th century and the present. A primary focus is the passionate, yet realistic, Boston expressionism. Among the best tourist spots in Framingham, the museum also offers more than 500 workshops and classes annually.
Next door to Danforth Museum is Performing Arts Center of Metro West, Framingham’s music, dance and theater hub for three decades. The center hosts three performing groups, including Moving West Repertory Dance Theatre. For 25 years this ensemble has pursued the two-fold mission of bringing contemporary dance to Framingham while nurturing local talent. The other groups are PAC Family Players, a group of children and teens who learn stagecraft at the center, and Framingham Community Theater.
Small-town values and big-city foresight are evident in the town’s longtime commitment to conservation. Showcasing a stunning array of native wildflowers and plant species, the Garden in the Woods has become one of the top attractions in Framingham. With more than 1,000 species, the garden is the Northeast’s largest landscaped collection of native wildflowers. Within the Garden in the Woods is a special plot for 100 rare and endangered plants. New England Wildflower Society, the driving force behind the gardens, offers classes in horticulture and botany at the facility. Visitors may also purchase native plants and gardening supplies on site.
Growing popularity of the organic movement has made Eastleigh Farm another of the top attractions in Framingham. Visitors can tour this working dairy farm in the spring, summer or fall. A 1930s milking barn is the highlight of the tour, but guests can “meet the girls” on a hayride through the pastures. Tours generally conclude with a stop for ice cream or warm apple cider at the farm store. The store itself is open year-round to sell raw milk and cheese, as well as jams, honey and eggs to the public. Although not certified as organic, Eastleigh operates without using pesticides or artificial enhancements to enrich the land.
Any visit to this community should include a stop at the old Village Hall, one of the most significant tourist spots in Framingham. Built in 1834, the columned meeting hall served the community until 1891, and later restoration preserved this piece of the past. With an eye to the future, the city now makes the hall available for rental.