I had high hopes for my visit to the town of Lexington, mostly because I’d been talked up about the downtown area and I wanted to pick up some unique Christmas gifts. In this regard, Lexington was kind of underwhelming. But first, let’s start with the good:

Lexington’s town green

The town is undeniably beautiful. The ride in from Route 2 through Concord and Lincoln skims the Minuteman National Historical Park, a well-preserved stretch of land commemorating the first battle of the American Revolution. Though it was a little cloudy, last Sunday was particularly warm for mid-November, and the trail was clearly being enjoyed by plenty of families, runners and cyclists. Later, on a drive through some of Lexington’s residential neighborhoods didn’t disappoint: Ranked in 2011 (according to census income data) as the 11th wealthiest town in Massachusetts, Lexingtonians spend their money on some lovely, beautifully kept homes.

We had a late lunch at Nourish, a great comfort-food restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue committed to fresh, healthy, interesting meals (with a great mix of vegan options alongside meals for carnivores). The decor and service were great, and my salmon-peanut-noodle stir fry was delicious.

The view from our booth at Nourish, a cool, reasonably priced restaurant in Lexington

Other than the restaurant, however, the retail stretch of downtown Lexington was an overall disappointment on our Sunday visit. While there were certainly some highlights (an independent children’s bookstore, a tiny cinema), I was surprised to find so many banks, real estate offices and chains. Not exactly inviting to outsiders, considering Lexington’s historic/tourism appeal — unless, of course, you need to settle the terms of your mortgage for a new, $2 million home… and celebrate with a bite to eat at the new Panera Bread, or Bertucci’s, or Starbucks, or Dunkin’ Donuts.

I’ll take a small, independent movie theater over a multiplex any day.

Historic reenactment in Lexington: Some kids tossing a hacky-sack like it’s 1994.

There were some cute shops, like the Crafty Yankee and Valentine’s, where I picked up some Christmas cards, but didn’t see anything incredibly special. Nor, for that matter, did I see much that shouted “small business” to me. Here is my plea to independent retailers the commonwealth over: If all you sell are national lines like Vera Bradley, Baggalini, Thymes, Pandora, Chamilia, Troll Beads, Village or Yankee Candles, and so on, please remember: WE CAN GET THAT STUFF ANYWHERE.

Shops in downtown Lexington

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