"The middle of nowhere, near Boston" Windham by tayloretc
Windham Travel Guide: 1 reviews and 14 photos
Windham is one of those thousands of small towns you never hear about. It was incorporated in 1741, and for a town that old it’s not easy to find much that looks like a town. Windham used to be farms; now it’s a commuting suburb of Boston. There are about 15,000 people on about 30 square miles, and nearly a third of them have moved into new housing enclaves since 2000, to some displeasure of the longer-term residents.
(Note: it’s pronounced Wind-ham, not Wind’uhm.)
Windham is a short and easy (although often crowded) commute into downtown Boston, making the increase in people inevitable, I suppose. There are other reasons, too: New Hampshire doesn’t have a state income tax or sales tax; the Windham elementary school is excellent; and the area is gorgeous. It’s desirable, especially for professional families with kids (those new enclaves are fairly packed with kids).
There are four things to do in Windham, and four things to do in the immediate area. In Windham:
1) Go swimming in Cobbetts Pond. The Windham Town Beach is at one end of this long pond – you can’t go too far out because most of the pond is used for boats (you have to bring your own), and is ringed by private property. There’s no lifeguard, but there is a small concession stand. It’s nice, though, and every time I’ve passed it it’s been happily busy. (Open mid-June–Labor Day.)
2) Play at Griffins Field, and stop in for ice cream at Johnson’s Farm Stand. Griffins Field is a large park and playground surrounded by playing fields, and appears to always be busy. It’s also used for festivals, and there’s talk of building a small amphitheater for outdoor performances.
Johnson’s sells plants and farm-grown vegetables in season, and they keep animals out back for the kids, including fancy chickens, fat goats, and a couple of aloof llamas, among others. (Tip: get ice cream in a cone, and save the cone for the animals – they’ll love you.)
3) Hop on the bike trail. Eventually it’s supposed to stretch from Concord, NH to Salem, NH, but right now it’s at least 5 or 6 well-paved miles through woods, wetlands, and pasture. It sounds like a lot of work has been done recently (2013).
4) Did I say four things to do? I guess we could also count eating at one of the two nice restaurants (the Windham Restaurant or the Common Man), or hanging out at the library… there’s also a “castle,” built by an interior decorator and antique collector in 1915 (used for events, and only open to the public on special occasions). There are some official things to do, and if you check the local paper (The Windham Independent, owned and edited by the Carpenter family since 1969) you can find out anything important for that week. Like which movie is playing at the library, or which day the Strawberry Festival will be.
There is also a lot of as-yet undeveloped land between the new housing enclaves (which perhaps the bad housing market will cause to remain undeveloped for a while longer), some with trails you can wander for an hour before reaching a paved road (the photo at the top was taken along one of them in fall, 2008).
In the immediate area:
1) Canobie Lake Park. I haven’t been, but it’s famous, and has been a locus for family outings from Boston since the late 1800s. I hear it’s great fun for the kids, and it’s just a few minutes away!
2) America’s Stonehenge. I have been here: I don’t know that I’d call it a Stonehenge, but it’s an interesting way to spend an hour or two, and it’s very pretty. (Pictures and description here.)
3) Robert Frost's Farm in Derry. Lots of information about Frost and his poetry, and it's very pretty.
4) Shopping at the Rockingham Mall or along Route 28. Because NH doesn’t have sales tax, and Windham is just off 93 North, there’s a lot of shopping between Windham and the Massachusetts border. Rte 28 has the big box stores: Wal-Mart (24 hour), Best Buy, Target, etc., and specialty places for things like cigars and tattoos. The Rockingham Mall has all your standard and upscale stores.
That’s about it. Aside from shopping, everything to do is outside. The area is beautiful, full of forest and songbirds, and from where I’m sitting as a write this you can hardly hear the traffic from 93. It’s a small town: my Mum and Dad recently got a hand-colored flyer from the local babysitter (for my niece, who stays here often)…and that sign to the left that names Scott as the driver of the tractor? That’s Scott Johnson, from Johnson’s Farm Stand. You know it’s a small town when the sign tells you exactly who to watch out for.
Update 2013: Scott's name has been taken off the sign, but the Johnsons (and the sign) are still there. There's still no real town center. And CNN named Windham #30 on their "Best Places to Live" this year; the median home price is misleading, though - most everything is either very low (trailer park) or very high (newer 4,000+ sq feet).
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