Local Gems: Newton North Villages

Hooray, it's Local Gems time! Today's Newton recommendations come from my friend Sharon Reilly, mom of three, blogger at ViolaCay, and cofounder of the Newton Kitchen Tour. Thanks for sharing these 11 local gems, Sharon! And be sure to check out the Arlington Center, Back BayBeacon Hill, Coolidge Corner, Huron Village, Easton, Jamaica Plain, Lexington, Medford, Natick, Watertown, and Wellesley features!

From Sharon:

Newton was founded in 1630 and is comprised of 13 villages, all with their own personality. We have a population of close to 80,000 in approx 18 square miles. So yeah, it's big. For today we're going to concentrate on the north part of Newton. Yes, the one with the gazillion dollar high school! There's no shortage of fine dining, high end boutiques, and hair salons, but I'm going to focus on my favorites as a mom! My parents both grew up in Newton. I have loved it forever and knew I wanted to raise my kids here.

1. The Cove/Lyons Park/Charles River Canoe and Kayak (Auburndale). My first gem is a giant space encompassing Charles River Kayak & Canoe, Lyons Park, and The Cove. These outdoor spaces are loosely connected and awesome places to take the kids. You can paddle your way down the Charles River and end up at The Cove, a park run by the city of Newton. You can take a walk through the woods and end up at Lyons Field where they play little league baseball under the lights on warm spring nights. It's magical, all of it. I have had two of my kids' birthday parties at The Cove (you can rent sites that have BBQ grills and picnic tables), a massive park with tennis and basketball courts, a baseball field, a giant pile of sand, play structures, and bathrooms. In the winter there is ice skating on the river with a warming hut! Sometimes the mayor even stops by with hot chocolate!

2. Just Next Door (Auburndale). I buy almost all of my gifts at Just Next Door! I can stop in on the way to a 7-year-old's party find something awesome for the right price and they wrap it up. I've even found something for the ever difficult to buy for 14-year-old boy. They have a huge selection of Vera Bradley and fun jewelry. My Christmas presents from the kids always consist of a bangle or a necklace from JND. 

3. West Newton Cinema (West Newton). West Newton Cinema is a small six-screen theater that shows first run and film festival favorites. You can rent a theater for kids parties and special occasions. WNC was a part of our wedding celebration, showing our love story to our guests. It was built in 1937 and the seats have seen better days, but it's still a gem. I'm hoping Newton native John Krasinski (of The Office) will swoop in to restore it. Oh, and the popcorn has REAL BUTTER!

4. Sweet Tomatoes (West Newton). Sweet Tomatoes is a small chain of pizza places throughout Massachusetts. It's pretty close to true Neapolitan pizza. My personal favorite is mushroom, spinach, and ricotta. Ask for the smooth sauce if you have chunk-averse kids (like mine).

5. The Rox Diner (Newtonville). The Rox Diner is one of our go to family dinner spots; they serve delicious salads, burgers (Green Lantern please!), and breakfast. The Mickey Mouse pancakes are available all day long AND they have wine and beer. Major win.

6. George Howell Coffee (Newtonville). I am a coffee snob. I love a good cup of coffee. I like it roasted well. I like espresso better than drip. A good latte is a day-changing event for me. Yes, I have had baristas remake a coffee. I'm that customer. However, I always get great coffee at George Howell Coffee in Newtonville. Always. They consider themselves a coffee lab. They brew new coffees to gather customer feedback before offering them online and test new coffee equipment and brew methods.

7. Down Under Yoga (Newtonville). Ohhhhhhhhm. Take a break mom, take a well-deserved break! Down Under Yoga is a great spot to get your ohm on. 

8. Salvis Barber Shop (Nonantum). I take my boys to Salvis Barber Shop when they need haircuts. The price is right. The guys are awesome. My father and grandfather also got haircuts at Salvis back in the day, which makes me feel all kinds of nostalgic. 

9. Coletti-Magni Park (Nonantum). There's a little park in Nonantum called Coletti-Magni Park (across from Salvi's) that gets LIT UP at Christmastime. It is home of the Giant Santa. No matter your religion you'll have a fun time at the tree lighting festivities. The Newton Children's Association Christmas has been doing this since before I was a kid.

10. Prana Power Yoga (Newton Corner). Prana offers a lot of heated power yoga classes, but lots of variation as well. I most like the Hour of Power. A quick sweat and back to the pick up line. 

11. Amarin of Thailand (Newton Corner). I have been going to Amarin of Thailand for Thai food for over 20 years. I lived around the corner when I was in my twenties and that's where the love affair began. This is my mom splurge because I can't go here with my kids or bring home my pad thai because of my peanut allergic guy. I have tried a lot of Thai food in my day and apart from the street vendors on Kao San Road in Bangkok, Amarin is my favorite.

Thanks for sharing, Sharon! If you have other Newton North village favorites, feel free to share in the comments below. If you'd like to pen a Local Gems guest post, contact Christine at editor@bostonmamas.com to check on availability.

Image credits: all images via linked websites or associated Facebook pages, with the exception of West Newton Cinema, Coletti-Magni Park, Salvis Barber Shop + Amarin of Thailand images, courtesy of Sharon Reilly.