Malden is an accessible city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, via private and public transport.
The reward in getting here is a modern-looking downtown complemented by historic places and nature parks that offer a perfect balance between living the city life and staying close to the woodlands and lakes.
There’s Waitt’s Mount, for starters, which is an elevated landscape that provides stunning views of the city proper and the not-so-distant Boston skyline.
There are also corners downtown that surprisingly hold some historic value to the city of Malden and pieces of architecture or modern art that connect the present to the past.
Here are some free things to do in Malden, Massachusetts:
Climb the Waitt’s Mountain Summit
Waitt’s Mountain, or Waitt’s Mount, is the highest point in Malden.
It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, especially for those who wish to see the Boston area from a bird’s eye view.
At the summit, the elevation is about 210 feet.
Historically, the land was used as a fresh air camp during WWI and was designated to hold gun batteries in WW2.
Notably, during the Battle of Bunker Hill in the first stage of the American Revolutionary War, locals who retreated were also able to observe the intense battle from the summit.
There is a paved path that leads to the peak, so the hike is relatively easy and recommended even for beginners.
It will only take about 15 to 20 minutes to reach the top from downtown Malden.
Waitt’s Mountain is on Leonard Street.
Take a Break at Waitt’s Mount Park
You’ll find Waitt’s Mount Park on your way to the summit of Waitt’s Mountain.
This public park is one of the most beautiful ones in Malden, with the main access point on Leonard Street.
Waitt’s Mount Park has a parking area and a bus stop if you are taking public transport.
It is also close to Oak Grove station on the MBTA Orange line.
The park was previously renovated between 2012 and 2014 to integrate the history of Malden into some of the new installations, but most of the park’s natural features were retained.
Notably, Waitt’s Mount Park has a nature trail, stonework, shades and benches, and direct access to Waitt’s Mount summit.
Stop by the Historic Bell Rock Memorial Park
Bell Rock Memorial Park is a public park along Main Street with historic significance not just to Malden, but to the state itself.
The west side of the park features two of the first Congregational meeting houses built in Malden: The First Meeting House, which was operational from 1649 to 1658, and the Second Meeting House, which saw activity from 1660 to 1730.
The park is home to Malden’s Civil War and World War II memorials, including the well-known memorial statue called The Flag Defenders from the American Civil War.
Bell Rock Memorial Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Take Photos of Waitt Brick Block
Waitt Brick Block’s architecture is a visual gem, which is why tourists visit and photograph the place.
This historic building on Main Street, near Bell Rock Memorial Park, was built in 1848 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places Collection for its significance in architecture.
Waitt Brick Block is a Greek Revival building with three stories and a distinct roof, from which three tapered chimneys are installed.
Its windows are punctuated by rustic granite lintels, and the cornice has a line of intricate brick dentil work.
Enjoy Relaxing Views at Pine Banks
Pine Banks is a 107.5-acre recreational park in the cities of Malden and Melrose.
In addition to natural forests, the park is home to different sports fields, picnic grounds, and multipurpose tracks.
The land structure of Pine Banks was said to have formed a million years ago, through volcanic eruption and earthquakes.
This likely explains the uneven terrain on the edge of the park and the rocky cliffs in some surrounding areas.
There are ponds and wetlands scattered around the park, which is an ideal ecosystem for frogs, ducks, and turtles.
Wild birds also frequent the woods, while squirrels and rabbits can be seen roaming the trees and trails.
Explore Fellsmere Park and Pond
Fellsmere Park and Pond is considered one of the true gems in Malden.
The park gives off a small-town park vibe that has plenty of shade, scenic walkways, open grass, and wooded areas.
The centerpiece of it all, however, is Fellsmere Pond, with a beautiful fountain decoration that makes for a relaxing view and backdrop.
Fellsmere Park and Pond holds significant historical value to Malden, as it was designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, while most of the land was donated by the city’s first mayor, Elisha S. Converse.
The park is bordered by Malden and Middlesex and is accessible via Fellsmere Road.
Additionally, Fellsmere Park is a great place to relax and take photos of the Boston skyline, especially during sunset.
Follow the Northern Strand Community Trail
The Northern Strand Community Trail runs between Everett and Nahant and passes through downtown Malden.
The trail is popularly the anchor point of the Bike to the Sea project, which plans to connect Boston and the Mystic River to the seashore in Lynn, north of Boston.
Coming into Malden, the trail is adjacent to some urban parks and landmarks and parallel to local neighborhoods with interesting architectural details.
In Malden, there are two main access points leading to the Northern Strand Community Trail.
You can go from the eastbound side of Route 60 behind the Dockside Restaurant, or from the westbound side of Route 60, across the street from Malden High near the hockey rink parking lot.
The trail was finally completed in 2021, which means it is now paved and easier to navigate for a long walk, light run, or bike ride.
Visit Forestdale Community Church
Visitors are welcome at the Forestdale Community Church.
The small city congregation hosts about a hundred attendees in its sessions, which the public and visiting parties are encouraged to attend.
The church also has a picturesque exterior, which might be a point of interest for those who love to observe local architecture during their travels.
Forestdale Community Church is located along Forest Round, which makes an ideal stop if you are visiting the nearby Pine Banks.
Spend Time around Downtown Malden
Downtown Malden offers a mix of historic sites and urban hangout spots for tourists.
If you follow Main Street, you’ll find Waitt Brick Block and Converse Memorial Library, historic sites revered for their architecture.
Just outside of downtown, and still along Main Street, there’s also Bell Rock Park, a beautiful park built to honor Malden’s place in American history, particularly in the Civil War.
There are also plenty of dining options around, as well as paid attractions such as the Malden Historical Society Museum and Boda Borg, an amusement park.
Visit Converse Memorial Library
Converse Memorial Library is another registered historical site in Malden for its significance in architecture.
Henry Hobson Richardson, best known for his work in a distinct style known as “Richardsonian Romanesque,” designed the building.
The establishment was notably the last of Richardson's library designs and is widely regarded as one of the famed architect’s finest structures.
Converse Memorial Library, also has a bit of Hollywood notoriety, as its interior was featured in a two-minute sequence in the film "Ted 2," which, according to one of the board of trustees, required weeks of preparation.
Converse Memorial Library is located along Main Street.
See the “Spirit in the Sky” Mural at Exchange Street
The “Spirit in the Sky” mural was unveiled in 2019 to celebrate the work of Malden-born composer and performer Norman Greenbaum.
The mural echoes his guitar track of the same name, which has long been featured in movies, advertisements, and TV.
Malden Arts ARTLine commissioned the art with Austin-based visual artist Jesse Malenson, whose proposal beat hundreds of others to earn the honor of creating the first publicly funded art installation of its size in the city.
The vibrant “Spirit in the Sky” mural is painted on the back of a government-owned building and shows a hand releasing a rainbow in the sky, which represents the “spirit” from the lyrics in Greenbaum’s song.
Other Free Things to Do Nearby
Just outside the border of Malden are additional public attractions that offer some respite from the urban jungle.
Here are some nearby nature parks and areas of interest that have significant historical and cultural value to the region.
Explore the Middlesex Fells Reservation
The Middlesex Fells Reservation is a 2,200-acre public recreation area covering parts of Malden, Medford, Winchester, Melrose, and Stoneham.
You’ll see a bit of Fells, as it’s known in the region, from the Waitt’s Mountain Summit, although you don’t have to settle for just that as it’s just a few minutes away from the location.
There is even free parking available in select areas, including a “pull-off” parking along Fellsway East in Malden.
Some notable activities you can do within Middlesex Fells Reservation are mountain biking, hiking and walking, and boating.
There’s also an area called Sheepfold Meadow, where dogs are allowed off-leash.
Take a Stroll at Mystic River Reservation
Mystic River Reservation is just outside Malden, located on the borders of the nearby city of Medford and Sommerville, from the other side of the river.
Activities here include picnicking, cycling, and field sports.
There is also a rental facility for those who want to try sailing.
There are beautiful wooden platforms near the river, which are perfect for birdwatching or simply viewing the distant skyline with the river as an inspiring foreground.
Walking around Mystic River Reservation is quite an experience, too, particularly on the paved paths that will lead guests to a small bridge that crosses a portion of the river.
See the Lawrence Light Guard Armory
Lawrence Light Guard Armory is a historic armory in High Street, Medford, built in 1891.
Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, a highly successful architecture firm based in Boston, designed the three-story granite and brick armory.
Their design borrows elements from the Romanesque Revival, highlighted by a couple of massive granite quoins on the corners and granite lintel finishes on the windows.
Lawrence Light Guard Armory was also used for various social and civic activities in Medford from 1916 to 1973.
Take a Relaxing Detour to Ell Pond
Ell Pond is just past downtown Melrose and is along the same Main Street you’ll see in Malden.
This pond is a popular birdwatching location all year round and a decent spot to hang out and take pictures.
There are plenty of geese and ducks at Ell Pond, but half of it is open for fishing when the season allows it.
Walking around the park is relatively light work, as there is a paved pathway around the pond itself.
Malden is a wonderful place to stay for a day or two, which should provide you with ample room to explore the main attractions in the city.
But a longer visit should be enticing as well since Malden is bordered by plenty of landmarks and attractions that it gets to share with some of its friendly neighbors.
There is balance in there somewhere, which you’ll likely find while building an itinerary that focuses on the history of the city and its surrounding nature.
To help you out, be sure to bookmark this list of free things to do in Malden, Massachusetts, so you can visit as many places as you want in the most cost-efficient and hassle-free way possible.