Fall is my favorite time to visit The Wayside Inn Grist Mill at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass. If you had to put a picturesque New England scene in a snow globe, The Grist Mill in late September or early October would be exactly right.
This spot is one of my happy places, for a few good reasons. It feels a little basic, as they say, to be blogging about a trip to the grounds of The Wayside Inn where this building resides. It’s kind of a cliche spot to locals, but some cliches are worthwhile!
It’s true, The Grist Mill is certainly no hidden gem. On weekends when the weather is nice, you’ll find crowds for sure. People taking selfies, professional photographers snapping family portraits, and of course, wedding parties getting their shots done. The adjacent Longfellow’s Wayside Inn is a popular wedding and function venue. (In fact, my bridal shower took place in an upstairs banquet room in 2011!)
But even though it’s a bit of a tourist trap, my native Massachusetts gal self is not above a stroll on the walking paths, and along the pond and bucolic stream. I used to visit the Wayside grounds with my husband before we were married, and I have fond memories of canoodling in the grass by the river that feeds the mill, staring up at foliage and dreamily watching the wedding parties cross the street following ceremonies at the non-denominational Martha-Mary Chapel, another Wayside property.
Fast forward 11-plus years, and I decided to visit with our two younger children plus our new golden retriever puppy. What could go wrong?!
Visiting The Grist Mill with your 4-year-old: 4/10 stars.
Apparently, the mill grinds cornmeal and wheat flour used in the Wayside Inn’s baked goods. I didn’t see anything much happening when we were there around noontime on a weekday but maybe it was lunchtime. There were only a few other people visiting, which I know is not the norm on weekends. After my kids whined for a few minutes and had a snack, we climbed up the stone stairs to the back of the mill and enjoyed looking down the waterfall together for a couple of minutes until I was too nervous about the lack of a barricade and we carried on down a path toward Grist Mill Pond. We took a short stroll and then it was time to go find lunch.
Honestly, if I was about to get there without my kids and puppy, who was pulling on his leash the entire time, I would have stayed a lot longer and walked the entire Wayside grounds. It really is just so idyllic and for me, nostalgic. Definitely worth at least a couple of hours.
A trip to the candy store
I had planned to take my kids to the Wayside Country Store, which is just around the corner, as a way to sweeten the deal after a long car ride and visit to a historic site. Backing up a bit, I also visited The Grist Mill and the store as a child more than once, and I wanted my kids to see a real penny candy shop, which the Wayside Country Store is known for. This was certainly the highlight of their day, and I enjoyed some peanut brittle later on myself. The Colonial architecture pays homage to the store’s 18th century roots. It opened in its current location in 1928 after Henry Ford, patron of the Grist Mill, purchased it.
Finally, we ordered food to go from Stephen Anthony’s Restaurant next door. If I had been child-free, it would have been a lovely spot to dine, with outdoor seating by the water. Then again, had I been child free, I probably would have planned to spend more time at The Wayside Inn and eaten there. They serve delicious traditional New England cuisine and it’s a true story that I cried there during my 24th birthday dinner with my fiance, but that’s a story for another post!