Imagine a small, close-knit town that’s got an abundance of open space, a town where you could get happily lost on miles of hiking trails or enjoy a day paddling around a clear and sparkling pond. Would it also make sense that this town is just 10 miles away from a busy, buzzing metropolis, or that you could find a world’s worth of cuisine for dinner, or that you could take in an evening of musical theatre and visit a charming 110-year-old zoo over the weekend?
All of those experiences are packed into Stoneham, a town where the residents are aware of just how special their community is.
“If you are in the square, you are basically 15 minutes from any experience you’d like to have in your life,” boasts Rachel Meredith-Warren, chair of the Stoneham Square Action Plan Advisory Committee. “It’s that ability to pick up my kids at school and be in the wilderness in five minutes, or get Indian food or sushi in five minutes, or be at the Museum of Science in 15 minutes. I just think that’s tremendous.”
In fact, that combination of city amenities and accessible wilderness is why Meredith-Warren chose to move to Stoneham in the first place.
She’s not alone. Anthony Wilson, chair of the Stoneham Bikeway/Greenway Committee, says Stoneham’s location and walkability appealed to him, too. He says nearly all of his favorite places in town, from the Middlesex Fells to the gourmet pizza at Angelo’s, are walkable from his house.
Stoneham’s central location with regards to routes 93 and 128 is also key for commuters.
“The town’s location is great!” Wilson says. “Stoneham is 20 minutes from the ocean, 15 from the airport, and 10 minutes from the Burlington mall.”
That walkability and easy commuter location will be getting even more of a boost thanks to two initiatives that Meredith-Warren and Wilson are respectively spearheading.
The Stoneham Square Action Plan Advisory Committee is working to make Stoneham’s downtown area even more vibrant for residents and visitors. Among the five-year plan’s initiatives are things like improving public transportation, making the downtown more walkable, adding more community events, and beautifying the streetscapes. Meredith-Warren says the downtown improvement plan will make the area function better for businesses and residents.
“It’s a really important location, and it just needs to be improved in certain ways,” she says.
One such improvement is the development of the Tri-Community Bike/Greenway, a MassDOT-funded project that will link Stoneham, Woburn, and Winchester via a 60-foot-wide, ADA-compliant multiuse bike and walking path. According to Wilson, the Greenway will benefit wide swaths of people: Not only will it allow people space to get outside and exercise, but it will also help commuters who want to ride to the Winchester commuter rail station, and will link Stoneham’s disparate neighborhoods to each other and the downtown.
“Connecting the different neighborhoods will bring people downtown, and that helps our businesses,” he says.
Stoneham’s town administrator, David Ragucci, agrees, saying, “We are feeling that some of the folks that will be using the Greenway will spend some time and dollars in Stoneham.” Wilson says that primary construction on the Greenway will start in spring 2016 and take one year, with details such as striping and landscaping being done during a second year of construction.
Although there are many new projects and developments happening in the town of Stoneham, there are other things that have been tried and true about the town for generations. Ragucci points to the schools, which are highly rated within the state for their superb quality. The town also just opened a newly constructed state-of-the-art middle school in 2014.
And perhaps the most tried and true of all of Stoneham’s institutions is the Stone Zoo, which has gone through many ups, downs, and iterations since it first opened in 1905, but which has had a great relationship with the town for decades.
“I am appreciative of the support it gets from the folks in Stoneham who have been partners with the zoo,” says John Linehan, Zoo New England president and CEO. “It’s been an integral part of that community for a long time.”
Linehan says the small suburban zoo has given the community of Stoneham a chance to be intimately familiar with its animals and staff, often watching different animals and exhibits grow and change over the years. And the town is equally supportive of the zoo’s special events, like A Wild Affair, an annual tasting event that brings the area’s best restaurants and caterers, live entertainment, and a silent auction to Stone Zoo, with proceeds going toward the zoo’s education and conservation efforts.
Clearly the folks in Stoneham have a lot to look forward to, with the revitalization of its square and construction of the Green- way, not to mention this October 17 when the North Shore Food Truck Festival swings into town. With so much involvement and passion from its citizens, it’s no wonder exciting things are happening in Stoneham.
A Stoneham icon, Stone Zoo has been delighting and educating families for generations. 149 Pond St., 617-541-5466, zoonewengland.org
Middlesex Fells Reservation
Encompassing land in Stoneham, as well as Malden, Medford, Melrose, and Winchester, the Middlesex Fells provides 2,575 acres of open space a stone’s throw away from the city.
Access it in Stoneham at the Botume House Visitor Center. 4 Woodland Rd., 617-727-1199 ext. 406, friendsofthefells.org
Spot Pond Reservoir
Experience the water by kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rowing, and more on Spot Pond, located within the Middlesex Fells Reservation. 4 Woodland Rd.,617-299-3392, boatingingboston.com
Rang Indian Bistro
Northern and southern Indian specialties are on the menu at this Stoneham favorite. 6 Central St., 781-438-8200, rangindianbistro.com
Chinese, Japanese, and Polynesian cuisine light up this popular restaurant’s extensive menu. 19 Franklin St., 781-435-2112, stonehamfusiontaste.com
Angelo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria
Like two restaurants in one, Angelo’s offers a classic Italian restaurant and wine bar on one side and a casual, family-friendly pizzeria on the other. 239 Main St., 781-438-8598, angeloristorante.com
J & B Butcher
Offering everything from quality cuts of meat to cheese, prepared foods, and groceries, J & B has a neighborhood vibe. 3 Central St., 781-435-0643, jbbutcher.com
Stoneham Theatre The award-winning theatre stages musicals, hosts internationally renowned acts, and has a vibrant youth program. 395 Main St., 781-279-2200, stonehamtheatre.org
Unicorn Golf Course
The town of Stoneham owns this golf course, as well as Stoneham Oaks Golf Course, located at 101 R Montvale Avenue. 460 William St., 781-438-9732, stoneham-ma.gov
Whip Hill Park
This 30-acre park is another one of Stoneham’s lovely open spaces. 1 Whip Hill Rd., 781-665-2696, stonehamma.gov
The Book Oasis
Thirty thousand new, used, and out-of-print titles truly make this little shop an oasis for book lovers. 311 Main St., 781-438-0077, thebookoasis.com
Anthony’s Italian Specialties
Pizzas and subs make Anthony’s a favorite. 408 Main St., 781-438-9840, anthonysitalianspecialties.com
Fresh, affordable Mexican dishes and a B.Y.O.B. policy keep Stoneham diners coming back for more at Three Amigos. 125 Main St., 781-438-2773
Redstone Shopping Center
Bath & Body Works, The Paper Store, Famous Footwear, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries are just a few of the stores and eateries at Redstone Shopping Center. 65 Main St., 617-646-3263, redstoneshoppingcenter.com
Bike sales, service, and repairs, plus a knowledgeable staff, make City Cycle a go-to resource for Stoneham’s biking community. 286 Main St., 781-438-0358, citycycleinc.com
This bakery boasts Italian pastries, breads, cookies, and cakes to rival those in the North End. 201 Main St., 781-438-9793, colarussosbakery.com
Gianna’s Bridal & Boutique
Visit for the latest looks for brides, moms, ’maids, and more. 4 Franklin St., 781-438-0551, giannabridal.com