By David Wilkening, Contributing Writer
Waltham – “Watch City” is a common nickname for Waltham. It can be traced to the industry that started here in 1854, when The Waltham Watch Company opened a factory. Later, it became the first to make watches on an assembly line.
Today, the watch industry has wound down. Thirty-five million watch-related products were produced here in the century before the factory closed in 1957.
But visitors come now for other reasons.
“We’ve got 13 hotels. We’re also near Boston, with historical areas nearby, such as Walden Pond and many others. We’ve got a lot of history here and nearby. And with Moody Street, we’ve also got Restaurant Row with 100 restaurants of all types,” said Molyna S. Richards, executive director of the Waltham Chamber of Commerce.
Like Boston, it is a city old enough to have its own rich history. Waltham was first settled in 1634 as part of Watertown. It was officially incorporated as a separate town in 1738.
Several popular museums
Museums are a popular draw in Waltham. The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, near the intersection of Moody Street and the Charles River has exhibits focusing on the American Industrial Revolution.
Gore Place was the home of Rebecca and Christopher Gore, prominent members of Boston society in the early 1800s. It’s a grand country estate on 50 acres in the city. Stylistically, it’s a federal mansion built in 1806 with the help of Rebecca, who participated in the design―an unusual opportunity for a woman at that time.
The Rose Museum at Brandeis University is recognized as one of the largest art collections in New England. It displays and houses 9,000 objects, including work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
The museum, named after benefactors Edward and Bertha Rose, is located at 415 South St. It is only open to the public on Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Visitors should also know that a policy started in January requires proof of vaccination for all visitors aged 12 and over.
The Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra, which began in 1985, is a non-auditioning ensemble with nearly 50 professional and amateur musicians. The award-winning music director is Michael Korn. The orchestra offers a variety of concerts throughout the year.
The city has long been known for the great diversity of bars and restaurants at “Restaurant Row” on Moody Street. Numerous types of ethnic foods and American cuisine are represented and helped motivate the Phantom Gourmet Food Fest to leave its traditional event at Boston’s Fenway Park to move to Moody Street in September of 2021.
The street’s restaurant collection was also recognized as one of the “10 Small Cities With World-Class Food Scenes” list from website Thrillist. Those were all cities of less than 100,000 people.
Restaurants run the gamut not only for taste but also atmosphere and price―from elegantly expensive to less formal. They include frequent Best of Boston award-winner La Campania, which is said to offer a “truly Neapolitan experience.” It features Southern Italian fare that includes hand cut potato gnocchi and can boast of an artisanal cook brought over from Italy to bake the pizzas. Solea is a casually elegant Spanish tapas restaurant where you can enjoy a plethora of small plates ranging from squid to lamb chops to roast duck, and a variety of paellas as well.
Then, there’s the homey atmosphere of In A Pickle. It always serves breakfast and was featured in the popular television show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!” Expect to pay only $10 to $15 for a meal.
One final note of optimism as pandemic restrictions are being lifted. The city’s “Tick Tock Trolley” downtown parking shuttle has resumed. It provides free rides to the city’s parking lots for downtown visitors on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m.