This guide was published in June 2021.
This insider’s guide to Auburndale comes from Sue Faccenda Peghiny. Welcoming Newton's parent organization - Newton Neighbors - has worked closely with Sue and the Rotary Club of Newton throughout the pandemic, so we are grateful for her leadership in our community and that she took some time to share her tips with all of us!
Tell us about your ties to Newton:
I grew up in the house I currently live in, although I moved away at 18 and returned 44 years later. When I was all of 14 years old, my first job was at the stamp and coin store on Auburn Street, that used to be next to the Knotty Pine. Then at 16 I worked at Keyes Drug (when it was on Auburn Street in what is now Breadsong Bakery). I still don’t know how much either of them paid me hourly (I was afraid to ask!).
My father, Jim, and I own the Clock & Watch Shop on Commonwealth Avenue in Auburndale. We closed during the pandemic and decided not to re-open to the public (although we still do some trade work). Dad turned 95 in February 2021 and finally decided to retire.
My most important connection is the Rotary Club of Newton. I joined because after 44 years away I didn’t know anyone anymore. But, after 8 years in Rotary I know WAY more people in town than I did after 27 years in our previous town. I’ve held almost every position in Rotary and done pretty much anything a person can do for an organization (president, public image, memberships, etc). Rotary welcomes everyone (not just business people), and our motto is “Service Above Self”. We do lots of hands-on volunteer projects, meet a couple of times a month to socialize and hear an interesting speaker, network for our businesses, and generally try to have fun and be doers of good deeds. If you want to learn more you can email RotaryNewtonMA@gmail.com.
Favorite thing about your village:
My favorite thing about Auburndale is the park which starts on Commonwealth Avenue at Lyons Field and goes along the river all the way into Waltham (the bike path actually continues all the way to Boston). You can access the back end of the park from West Pine Street too. It’s an oasis in the middle of where Rt. 95, Rt. 30, and the Mass Pike meet. So many people use the park for walking, biking, family picnics, boating or skating on the cove, playing baseball and cricket, or just having fun on the playground. It’s great to take a few minutes from our daily dog walk to watch the little league games at Lyons Field.
I also like that in Auburndale I can easily get anywhere I want in any way I want. I can walk to pretty much ANYTHING I need (groceries, a pharmacy, the post office, banks, restaurants, dentist, gym, and more.) Or, I can take the bus, MBTA, or train into town, and if I want to head further away all the major routes are easily accessible.
One other thing that’s very special about Auburndale is that it’s very eclectic and has a wide socio-economic mix of people. We have plenty of long-time resident elders, families, singles, couples, immigrants, apartments, double-deckers, older small single homes, low-income housing, and a few big new houses. Our shops aren’t fancy but they’re friendly. Auburndale has a very “regular guy”, unpretentious feel to it.
Favorite place to get a coffee or snack:
I’d say Breadsong Bakery or Wally’s Wicked Good Ice Cream (depending on the kind of snack you want). Breadsong has yummy coffee and a nice selection of baked goods. Wally’s ice cream, sorbet, and other frozen treats are a delight.
Boca Bella without a doubt. Anthony & Carla Vega run a friendly and cozy restaurant that really feels like “the local place”. Their menu changes and you can get anything from a BLT to a delicious entree. A cocktail at the bar with the front window open (or at any of the outdoor tables) is a delight. Be sure to try their pastries - and keep an eye out for the live music nights they occasionally present!
Fun playground or park:
The Cove on West Pine Street. Designed for families and friends, there are two playgrounds (one for younger children and another for older) that were renovated a couple of years ago. There’s a tennis court where pickleball seems to have become popular, a basketball court, a workout area, and a baseball diamond where you might see a little league or pickup baseball game or a bunch of friends playing cricket. There are two large, shaded picnic areas with stationary grills, tables and trash cans, and “the hothouse” that has bathrooms (in the winter you can change your skates there if skating is open). All of this sits on the shore of a cove of the Charles River where there are swan families, geese, and plenty of ducks. In anything resembling nice weather it’s the place to be (there’s actually lots of activity there in the winter, too).
Annual village events to watch for:
PorchFest! Introduced a couple of years ago, PorchFest matches performers with homeowners so friends and neighbors can walk (or drive) around and hear all KINDS of free, outdoor music. It’s usually on a Saturday in early June so keep an eye out for it!
While not an official event, at the holidays be sure to drive down Islington Road to see the beautiful lighted balls that the entire peninsula makes and hangs. It’s really magical. (Hint: when you reach a small park, Islington Road turns right and goes down a hill – be sure you follow the road all the way down to the end).
Insider village tips:
If you have kids or like books in a small, friendly environment, definitely check out the Auburndale Community Library. This is an independent, non-profit library run by volunteers that has story times, hosts talks, and at least once during the summer hosts a free evening of outdoor music.
Also, be sure to get your flowers, wreaths and trees from Ken’s Flower Café located right next to Starbucks on Commonwealth Ave. Ken and his wife have been selling flowers in Auburndale for….longer than I know. They live right next door and are really nice. Their offerings vary throughout the year, and sometimes include local produce. They’re easy to miss but don’t!
The local Star Market was renovated a couple of years ago and has a very good organic section, a good fish & meat counter, a nice specialty cheese section (located next to the deli), and quite a few gluten free selections that are mixed in with everything but clearly labeled as gluten free.
Finally, if you’re new to the area do some research on Norumbega Park – it’s pretty much why Auburndale is here. It was an amusement and animal park located where the Marriott Hotel currently sits. The Totem Pole Ballroom was world famous and hosted all the big 1940 swing bands. If you go through the fence and into the park right behind the Marriott parking lot (actually called Norumbega Park on Google Maps) you can still see remnants of some of the attractions. You can also access this area at the end of Woodbine Street, just beyond Commonwealth Veterinary Hospital. This is a favorite off-leash dog park too.