Acton's Discovery Museum in MetroWest Boston
Acton’s Discovery Museum

After living in Natick for four years, I’ve scoured the MetroWest area and surrounding towns for places that make me feel like I’m still living in Boston. The transition to suburbia was hard, and while I still miss city living, Natick and its surrounding areas have grown on me immensely. Here are a few of my favorite MetroWest spots I’ve discovered recently:

Favorite Coffee Shop: Charles River Coffee House (Natick)

Mama needs her coffee, and the Charles River Coffee House in South Natick is the place to be. It’s family friendly, and the homemade cupcakes are toddler approved. Steve, the owner, is friendly and engaging, and he carries a wide range of global coffee blends. He also has a few games available that can keep little ones occupied while parents recover with some hot or iced coffee or tea. They also sell a wide range of pastries, breakfast, and lunch options. Its cozy setting with a “city” coffee house feel has made it one of our favorite family hangouts on the weekends.

Favorite small grocery store: Tilly’s & Salvy’s (Natick)

Tilly’s, you have won my heart forever. This family-run grocery store in MetroWest has enough produce and meat options to cover our family’s needs for the week, and it carries an abundance of local food choices. Rick, the owner, always takes the time to talk to my daughter and personally gives her a free pretzel (there is always a bag of pretzels available for customers at check-out). Plus, they now carry craft beer and wine, so I can grab a quick bottle for a nice dinner. They also sell a large selection of Christmas trees and wreaths for the holiday season. Hands down, Tilly’s is one of our favorite places to go, and my daughter asks to go visit Tilly’s on a daily basis.

Favorite restaurant for a date night: La Morra (Brookline)

OK, this is a bit out of my usual stomping grounds, but La Morra is our favorite restaurant to dine sans child. Josh and Jen Ziskin, the owners, create amazing northern Italian dishes for a dining experience that will leave you satisfied but begging for more. Tom Brady once quoted their beef bolognese as his favorite dish in the area.

Favorite place for a kid-friendly brunch: J&M Diner (Framingham)

A family-run diner in MetroWest, the food is incredible, the menu provides a plethora of options, and they love having children as diners. Be forewarned that the wait is long on the weekends, but if your little ones can handle it, you won’t be disappointed in the food or experience.

Favorite place for gymnastics classes: Planet Gymnastics (Natick)

I cannot praise Planet Gymnastics enough. The instructors are friendly, the facilities are clean, and my daughter has blossomed since she started taking classes there last summer! In the summer, you can take unlimited classes (as long as there is availability) for one flat price. It’s been the best way to introduce my daughter to athleticism while letting her have free play and fun in a safe environment.

Favorite museum for little ones: Discovery Museum (Acton)

With easy access from our house, my daughter has loved every minute of her time at the Discovery Museum, and I love not having the hassle of driving into the city for my daughter to have a fun day at a museum. With plenty of activities and imaginative play, the museum has a variety of rooms with special themes — plus an outdoor area with a giant treehouse! Our daughter especially loves the giant play kitchen and diner room and the train.