Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Arlington, MA

  • Published 2022/11/30

Arlington may be a small town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, but it’s worth visiting for its rich history, flourishing arts and culture, and outdoor wonders.

Sitting six miles northwest of the state capital Boston, Arlington was settled in 1635 as a village called Menotomy.

Arlington witnessed the intense battle of April 19, 1775, the first day of the American Revolution.

Samuel Wilson, who was later recognized as the American icon “Uncle Sam,” was also born here, and he was almost nine years old when the Battle of Menotomy happened.

The town got its Arlington name in 1867 in honor of the heroes resting at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington was once an agriculture and mill town; nowadays, it’s a thriving modern suburb with a lot to offer everyone.

Explore various museums, historic sites, and cultural institutions, and have a retreat in its excellent parks and scenic outdoor sites!

Plan your vacation, and don’t miss the best things to do in Arlington, Massachusetts!

Marvel at the Works of a Renowned Sculptor at Cyrus Dallin Art Museum

Front view of Cyrus Dallin Art Museum

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Cyrus Dallin Art Museum showcases the art and life of Cyrus Dallin, a Utah-born sculptor, and indigenous rights advocate who lived in Arlington for over four decades.

Cyrus Dallin is popular for his public sculptures across the nation that recognize indigenous peoples, Euro-American figures, and historical events.

His most famous masterpiece in Arlington is the Menotomy Indian Hunter, a bronze statue of a Native American installed in a garden between Robbins Memorial Town Hall and Robbins Library.

Front view of Cyrus Dallin Art Museum

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Explore more about his works in an intimate setting at Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, where you’ll find over 90 artworks during his 60-year career.

Rare master plasters and prototypes of public original bronze casts, monuments, and memorials are on display.

The museum’s collection also includes medals, coins, and paintings, while its archives keep other memorabilia and documents about his life and work.

Through a tour of Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, you’ll learn several stories behind the artworks and Dallin’s work as an indigenous rights advocate and educator.

The museum is housed in the historic Jefferson Cutter House on Massachusetts Avenue.

Front view of Cyrus Dallin Art Museum

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Travel Back in Time inside Jason Russell House

Front view of Jason Russell House

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Jason Russell House gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like during the Revolutionary War.

Established in the 1740s, Jason Russell House was a historic battle site on the first day of the American Revolution; you can see visible bullet holes in this simple house.

Arlington Historical Society oversees the house and restored it in 1923.

Front view of Jason Russell House

Daderot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1974, it was included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Take an educational tour of Jason Russell House, which shows furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries, mostly belonging to the family of Jason Russell.

There’s also an herb garden beside the kitchen containing colonial-period herbs.

Moreover, you can drop by the nearby Smith Museum, which houses other artifacts, manuscripts, memorabilia, and exhibits of the Arlington Historical Society.

Check the organization’s website for visitor information on Jason Russell House and Smith Museum on Jason Street.

Interior view of Jason Russell House

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See Old Machines and Tools at Old Schwamb Mill

View of Old Schwamb Mill

Tim Pierce, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Old Schwamb Mill is said to be situated on the most senior continuously running mill site in the United States.

In 1971, the site was included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Look closely at several tools and machines in the 19th-century woodworking factory and marvel at the beautiful crafted frames in the showroom.

Catch a show or demonstration and browse the art and historical exhibits displayed in the galleries.

View of Old Schwamb Mill

Tim Pierce, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reflect on the German immigrant experience through the story of the Schwambs, who left their family farm in Germany to seek new opportunities and later acquired mills in the town now called Arlington.

Look for the dated notes on the walls of Old Schwamb Mill about various things, safety reminders, and a political cartoon from the 1930s.

Don’t miss the tour of the buildings of Old Schwamb Mill on Mill Lane!

Catch a Live Performance at Regent Theatre

Front view of Regent Theatre

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Known as “Arlington’s Show Place of Entertainment,” the historic Regent Theatre was constructed in 1916 as a vaudeville house.

It’s dedicated to showing live music concerts, theatre, comedy, and other amusing events to audiences from Arlington and surrounding areas.

Popular performers also grace the 500-seat performing arts center to deliver world-class performances to its patrons!

Regent Theatre gives comfortable seats and a superb sound system to ensure that everyone enjoys their visit here.

Feel alive with the variety of emotions you’ll encounter while watching the shows on the theater lineup.

Or feed your soul with good music from talented singers and bands of the night.

See what Regent Theatre has to offer on Medford Street!

Set a Movie Night at Capitol Theatre

Front view of Capitol Theatre

Tim Pierce, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Capitol Theatre has served as Arlington’s home theater since 1925 and was established by the Locatelli family, whose also behind other theaters in the area.

The theater originally could accommodate nearly 1,600 patrons between the orchestra section and balcony, and its original auditorium showcased a pipe organ and a mural above the proscenium arch.

Nowadays, Capitol Theatre consists of six excellent auditoriums with remarkable sound systems, quality screens, and comfortable seats.

It screens a great mix of movies ranging from classic films to the latest flicks and box office hits.

Grab the popcorn and watch a family-friendly film or an independent production at Capitol Theatre.

Inside auditorium #1, you’ll see the original big screen and proscenium arch.

While waiting for your movie schedule, enjoy ice cream and take in the glory of the historic lobby.

Make a visit to Capitol Theatre on Mass Avenue.

Immerse in Creativity at Arlington Center for the Arts

Inspire the inner artist in you by coming to Arlington Center for the Arts, located inside Arlington Community Center on Academy Street.

Established in 1988, this community arts center provides a space where people can express and share their creativity with others through different programs and events.

Get the chance to meet local and regional artists and other art enthusiasts during your visit to Arlington Center for the Arts.

Find a personal connection with the artworks displayed in its featured exhibit and discover the meaning behind the colors and sketches of artists.

Arlington Center for the Arts also hosts classes, workshops, performances, and special events to promote arts in the community.

Support Community Theater with Arlington Friends of the Drama

Front view of Arlington Friends of the Drama

Tim Pierce, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arlington Friends of the Drama is among the oldest community theater groups that continue to provide quality theatrical productions in the United States.

Also known as AFD Theatre, it was established in 1923 and currently produces a season of four shows that runs from fall to spring.

The former St. John’s Episcopal Church building currently houses its theater, where you may enjoy classics, musicals, dramas, comedies, and other events.

Watch a story come alive at Arlington Friends of the Drama theater and admire the raw performances delivered by actors on stage.

Be fascinated by the remarkable props, costumes, and stage designs that level up the theater production.

Have an immersive theatre experience with Arlington Friends of the Drama on Academy Street.

Buy Local Produce at Arlington Farmers’ Market

If you’re around the city from June to October, you may want to check out the bustling Arlington Farmers’ Market in the Russell Commons Municipal Lot on Mystic Street!

Bring your shopping bags filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and other specialty ingredients that make up savory dishes.

Grab a bite of baked goods and other cooked food you may spot at the bustling Arlington Farmers’ Market.

You may also catch some live music sessions performed by local artists.

Create Memories at Ed Burns Arena & Ice Skating Rink

View of Ed Burns Arena & Ice Skating Rink

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For family fun, you can visit Ed Burns Arena & Ice Skating Rink, open from September through April on Summer Street.

This renovated indoor ice facility features a regulation-size rink and can accommodate 1,000 people on its spectator seating.

Ed Burns Arena & Ice Skating Rink is available for public skating sessions and also for party and field trip reservations.

Bond with the family on ice and create special memories together.

If you get hungry, there are snack bar services and vending machines in the main lobby, where skate rental and sharpening services can also be accessed.

Release Stress through Cycling along Minuteman Commuter Bikeway

As you explore Arlington, you’ll most likely encounter Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, which passes through the town and can be accessed from many popular destinations.

It’s known as “America’s Revolutionary Rail Trail” since it crosses the site where the American Revolution began.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts constructed the 10-mile bikeway on an inactive railroad corridor around 1992.

Nowadays, Minuteman Commuter Bikeway serves various purposes for recreation and transportation, and it has become a part of the national Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

The bikeway doesn’t end in Arlington and connects to Bedford, Lexington, and Cambridge.

Break a sweat by cycling along the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway and enjoy a tour of the vibrant neighborhoods at the same time.

Or you can enjoy a peaceful stroll to take in scenic sights and learn more about the relevant structures you may come across in the town.

Check out the map and other resources about Minuteman Commuter Bikeway on its website.

Enjoy a Feast Outdoors at Robbins Farm Park

View of Robbins Farm Park

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

For a laid-back afternoon, you can go to Robbins Farm Park along Eastern Avenue, with many facilities for recreational activities.

It has picnic tables and grassy areas so you can share a basket of food with your family or friends.

There’s a playground to amuse the young parkgoers.

View of Robbins Farm Park

John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the sight of the Boston skyline while you take a break from daily life and recharge at Robbins Farm Park.

Discover a cooperative community garden project called Robbins Farm Garden, which started in 2010.

At the rolling hills and expansive green space, fly a kite in the spring or enjoy sledding during winter.

The park also hosts local 4th of July celebrations, summertime movies, and other special activities to look forward to!

View of Robbins Farm Park

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get Active at Magnolia Park

If you want outdoor play, visit Magnolia Park on Herbert Street.

Magnolia Park features a multi-purpose field for various sports and a half-court basketball.

You’ll also see a community garden where residents grow different vegetables.

Kids can tag along with the playground on site, and feel free to pack your favorite snacks to share on the picnic tables at the renovated park.

For more outdoor activity, Magnolia Park provides easy access to Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, and there’s a nearby dog park for your furry friends.

Have Some Fun on the Water at Spy Pond Park

Spy Pond Park near Pond Lane is worth visiting for recreational activities on the water.

Launch a kayak, canoe, or other watercraft from the public boat ramp on site to enjoy Spy Pond, formed from glacial ice and spans over 102 acres.

Make the kids’ day extra special by playing with them at the playground; don’t forget to bring food for taking breaks at the picnic area.

Capture majestic views of Spy Pond while resting or strolling on the green spaces.

There are also tennis courts nearby across from Arlington Boys & Girls Club.

Go for a Hike at Menotomy Rocks Park

View of Menotomy Rocks Park

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Menotomy Rocks Park is a perfect place to embrace nature; it encompasses open green spaces and wooded walking trails with a lovely pond.

Relieve stress by going for a hike at Menotomy Rocks Park, gaze at the towering trees, and take calming views of the three-acre pond.

View of Menotomy Rocks Park

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Prepare your favorite food and snacks for a lovely picnic date; don’t forget to bring a folding table or picnic mat since picnic tables are unavailable.

Between the pond and the woods near the picnic area, you’ll see a playground where kids can climb, slide, and run around.

Menotomy Rocks Park is located on Jason Street.

View of Menotomy Rocks Park

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Cool Down at Arlington Reservoir

View of Arlington Reservoir

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Built in the 1870s for water supply, Arlington Reservoir has evolved into a recreational oasis.

The town owns the reservoir, with water and a land area spanning 65 acres, half of which is in Lexington.

Have fun on the water at the Reservoir Beach, accessible from June to August and features a filtered/chlorinated swimming area with a bathhouse and concession stand.

View of Arlington Reservoir

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Soak up picturesque views while enjoying a basket of food and let kids have fun in the playground.

If you’re visiting in other months, embrace nature and catch some sunshine by exploring the trail around Arlington Reservoir.

Bring your binoculars, spotting scope, and cameras, as you may find different species of birds in every season, as well as other wild animals that live in the reservoir.

Arlington Reservoir is located near Lowell Street.

View of Arlington Reservoir

Wangkun Jia /

Final Thoughts

You’ll spend your days in Arlington, Massachusetts, discovering its various tourists attractions, brimming with stories of the past, artistic vibes, and great outdoor activities.

Plan a visit to its popular museums and historical sites, such as Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, Jason Russell House, and Old Schwamb Mill.

Take a breather in its beautiful outdoor spots like Spy Pond Park, and have an adventure on the historic 10-mile Minuteman Bikeway.

Soak up some arts and culture inside the town’s art galleries, performance theaters, and other cultural hubs.

Bookmark this page and fill in your following travel itinerary with the best things to do in Arlington, Massachusetts!

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