The Best Somerville Spots to Unwind Outside

seven hills parkTaking an afternoon stroll through Seven Hills Park. Photos by Jess Benjamin.

Basketball, football, gardening, dog walking—our May/June issue was packed with fun activities to help get you out of the house this spring. But sometimes, it’s nice to be outside sans activity or destination, to pick a place and people watch or settle in with a good book or even just sit and think. We asked a few of our writers to share the Somerville spots they frequent when all they really need is a little time to themselves.

Liberty&Hall_4

Hall & Liberty Avenue

If my OKCupid matches are any indication, the typical thirty-something in Somerville has the life of a Prana model. Their days are a blur of hiking and rock climbing, yoga on the beach and early weekend mornings at the farmers market, interrupted only by the occasional trip to Machu Picchu.

I’ve always found the wholesome, outdoorsy spirit that permeates New England unsettling. Growing up in small-town Georgia, being outdoorsy meant visiting the woods to kill things. I was more likely to be found in a coffee shop or a record store than a deer stand, and not much has changed since. Nature is dirty and the wifi is terrible—what’s the appeal?

As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to appreciate a nice evening walk. There’s one spot in particular that catches me: the intersection of Hall Avenue and Liberty Avenue in West Somerville. It’s near the peak of a hill in a residential neighborhood. The low, slate retaining wall in front of one of the corner houses makes for an ideal perch, with a 180-degree view.

Looking straight ahead down Hall Avenue towards College Avenue, a row of blue, brown and beige gables is set against the fluorescent orange and purple of an early spring sunset. Down the hill to the left, hipsters bike back and forth down Appleton Street. Up the hill to the right, old Italian families head home for the night. Overhead, jets fly up through cloud and sky as they flee Logan for parts unknown.

Overlooking it all is a large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that stands in the third-floor window of a yellow walk-up on the corner. He’s painted bright red and stark white, his arms outstretched in a gesture of welcome and protection.

I come here to think, to relax, to watch. It’s not the Fells, but it has a different kind of a magic. For a few minutes, at least, I don’t even miss the wifi. — Joshua Eaton

powderhouse square

Powderhouse Square

Few things in the city of Somerville are more relaxing than watching the life-and-death ballet that’s performed daily in the Circle of Terror—er, Powderhouse Square. No, seriously. Pulling up a piece of lawn in Nathan Tufts Park to watch the ebb and flow of humanity as pedestrians try and figure out that horror show of an intersection is a more tranquil activity than it might seem. Here, the screeching of brakes and honking of horns becomes as natural and familiar—as soothing, even—as the chirping of crickets by a country pond.

The confusion as to why the hell there’s a traffic light in this rotary hangs in the air like the scent of roses. Pedestrians murmur to themselves, some blissfully unaware how close they’ve come to certain death. A car with New Hampshire plates is holding up a line of traffic, like a carny who’s too drunk to start the roller coaster. Someone drops their Dunkin’ Donuts iced gross-acino beneath the cylindrical sign that points all visitors towards their own personal oblivion—Somerville’s own power-drunk Cheshire Cat. And through it all, the walk signals and traffic lights confuse drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

As the yellow light flashes, the yelling and screeching resumes. Sometimes, you even get to see fist fights. Hands down, it’s the best entertainment in town. — Sean Maloney

seven hills park

Seven Hills Park

If you told a friend to meet you in Seven Hills Park before leaving the country for good, the best-case scenario is that they’d laugh and tell you to pick another spot. (The worst-case scenario, I guess, is that they’d say nothing, and you two would never see each other again.)

But even if you’ve never heard the name “Seven Hills Park,” you’re no doubt familiar with the place itself—it’s that cozy little half-acre tucked behind the Somerville Theatre and the Red Line T stop at Davis. Without announcing itself as such, this humble spot is a terrific decompression zone hidden between the quiet of residential life and the bustle of commercial activity in Davis Square, with a lighted walkway leading to the beginning of the Alewife Linear Park section of the Somerville Community Path. It boasts some of the best public art of the city, both official (the statues by James Tyler) and unofficial (photos of David Bowie stapled to trees, deluxe birdhouses overhead), and has even served as home to the city’s annual outdoor Summer Movie Series.

If you’re looking for a place to jog, bike, walk your dog, organize group exercise—or for somewhere to reorient yourself following an overly enthusiastic karaoke night at Orleans—Seven Hills Park should be on your list. Maybe it already is, and you just didn’t know what to call it. —Kristofer Jenson

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