All I knew about Framingham before Saturday was Route 9, and that my mom had gone to college there, but I decided to check it out after receiving a press release about the Garden in the Woods, a private property managed by the New England Wild Flower society.
The garden is located off Hemenway Road on the Sudbury line. Once you’re inside, the place is serene, with a neat garden shop featuring gift items and plants for sale across from an education center and function room. A tour of the garden costs $10 and lasts about an hour if you’re stopping to observe the plants, trees and wildlife there.
The trails (a little more than a mile if you take the offshoots) are clearly marked and clean, with stone dust keeping the surface nice and smooth — no roots to trip over, unless you venture off Curtis Path. Wear sneakers. I wore flip-flops and by the halfway point, my feet were gray from all the gravel.
I couldn’t have picked a nicer afternoon to traipse around the garden. It was sunny and dry, and not too crowded. There were a few stretches of time when I didn’t encounter another person. Not everything was in bloom just yet, but a lot of flowering trees, violets, blue bells and other early-season flowers were plenty colorful. The tangential trails lead you to three kinds of waterways: a lily pond that was chock full of turtles, the beautiful and secluded Hop Brook and a vernal pool. Sculptures have been installed throughout the garden, and everything is planted according to category — native New England plants, rare plant species, non-native plants and trees, etc.
It’s well worth a visit if you’d like to learn more about wild plants in New England. You don’t have to be a green thumb to check it out (I’m certainly not) and there are plenty of benches to sit and quietly enjoy the scenery if you want to stretch out your time there.
After my visit, I didn’t have a ton of time left in the day to explore, but I drove to Framingham’s downtown area, across Route 9 and the Mass Pike, and got out to poke around. Green and yellow flags were everywhere, celebrating the town’s big Brazilian population (close to 8,000 Framingham residents are Brazilian). I popped into the Padaria Brasil bakery, where I was completely clueless about menu items (almost everything is in Portuguese) but settled on some sweet orange bread, which was delicious, fresh and perfectly baked.
I try to never read Yelp reviews of places I am going to visit, but I saw when I Googled this bakery that a few reviewers complained that they got bad service because they didn’t speak Portuguese. I had basically the opposite experience – I was probably the only person in there with no Portuguese proficiency, and I was greeted warmly. The moral of this aside is that Yelp is terrible.
The food options in Framingham seemed abundant and good. I wanted to go to the iconic Ken’s Steakhouse on Route 9 for dinner but I didn’t have time for a sit-down meal. Some other day.
My one complaint about Framingham is that traffic was absolutely bananas the day I was there. Route 9 is always terrible, but even the back roads were congested and slow. Still, between Framingham and Natick, you have every retail option you could possibly want, and I can’t knock that.