This south-coast city sits on a narrow strip of land along the Taunton River at the head of Mount Hope Bay.
In 2022, Joe Biden traveled to Somerset to deliver a speech on climate change. The location is no coincidence, as the southern tip of Somerset was until recently home to a large coal-fired Brayton Point power station, which closed in 2017.
The city of Somerset was incorporated in 1790 and you can get a sense of its early days by going north of the city.
Lined with tall mature trees, the Somerset Village Historic District is home to many historic public and residential buildings, including the Somerset Historical Society Museum. Across the river is the town of Fall River, where a luxurious World War II fleet is anchored along the Braga Bridge at Battleship Cove.
1. Battleship Cove
No mention of this section of the Taunton River is complete without mentioning the incredible concentration of World War II naval vessels moored across the river.
Less than 10 minutes from Somerset, Battleship Cove is home to the world’s largest WWII museum collection of ships.
Her eight ships await you here. The largest of these ships is the flagship USS Massachusetts. She was launched in 1941 and served very well throughout the war without any of her crew of US Marines dying.
Also ready for boarding are the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (1945), the submarine USS Lionfish (1943), and the German corvette Hiddensee, which she built in 1984 at the Petrovsky Shipyard in Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
2. Fall River Heritage State Park
The city’s waterfront parks surrounding Battleship Cove are bustling with activity, and there are plenty of good reasons to cross in five minutes in the summer.
Much of the program focuses on the Hudner Memorial and features everything from art and history rotations in community galleries to hands-on workshops and dance.
There are benches along the promenade where you can admire the battleships surrounded by the Braga Bridge in awe. At the southern end is the Fall River Carousel, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1920, with an ice cream stand nearby.
3. Auclair’s Market
Across County Street in Somerset Creamery is a thriving independent grocery store since 1918. Eau Clairs His Market was founded by Canadian immigrants who worked as slaves in a Fall River factory to save money to open their own businesses.
Originally located in Fall River, Eau Claire’s Market moved across the Taunton River in the second generation, and the current store was opened in 2000 by the founder’s grandson Dennis and his wife Dorothy Eau Claire.
This store has been known for its butcher counter for over a century. Think tenderloin, ribeye, various boneless hams, chicken and the famous gray corned beef. The deli counter is also a big draw, with delicious hams and cheeses, as well as all kinds of prepared meals, from salads to cured dishes like roast chicken, dinner cakes, and pulled pork.
4. Simcock Farm
Five minutes from Swansea, this fourth-generation farm has a popular ice cream stand serving award-winning Gifford ice cream.
Choose from over 40 delicious hard ice cream flavors, plus frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sugar-free options.
There are picnic tables in the back, and watching livestock such as donkeys, goats, sheep, miniature horses, and miniature cows is one of the pleasures of Simcok Farm.
The farm also hosts seasonal events, attractions, and activities such as hay wagon rides, corn mazes, sunflower mazes, PYO pumpkins, and summer cruise nights.
5. Factory of Terror
This haunted mansion, touted as the best in New England, is another excellent reason to cross the Taunton River during the spooky season.
The Factory of Terror, which is appropriately housed in a dismal industrial structure, attracts a devoted following with each new season by adding fresh thrills to its maze-like trail.
There were other cleverly crafted encounters the year we authored this piece, including a zombie that materializes from a portal to another dimension.
The character performances, make-up, and props all contribute to the immersion, and there is a gift shop for a gloomy souvenir at the conclusion.
6. Taunton River Trail
By the time you read this, you may be able to stroll or cycle north along the picturesque Taunton River from Somerset to Taunton on a 22-mile rail path.
At the time of publication, a two-mile segment of the intended route was taking shape nearby along the abandoned railroad right-of-way through Sweets Knoll State Park.
Until recently, this 56-acre property near Dighton had gotten little attention, but it has a lot to offer. The Taunton River has been designated a National Wild and Scenic River, and it is New England’s only major coastal river that flows freely and without dams.
You can trek down to the river and onto the wooded knoll that rises from the banks. As evidenced by the kiosk, this was an important pre-contact Native American site, and the remnants of old stone walls serve as a relic of a bygone maritime business.
7. Swansea Town Beach
This public sandy beach in Swansea is less than ten minute drive from the south end of Somerset. Swansea Town Beach faces south and offers a panoramic view of Mount Hope Bay.
As with Somerset’s beach, lifeguards are on duty from mid-June to Labor Day, and there is a parking fee ($5 for residents and $8 for non-residents at the time of writing).
The beach is a joy, with a large sandy bay accompanied by a grassy picnic area, restrooms, and a playground. Because the beach has a shallow gradient, the water is warm in the summer, and you may walk out for over a mile at low tide.
8. Braga Bridge
The I-195 bridge that spans the Taunton River between Somerset and Fall River opened in 1966 and has since become a landmark, towering over the world’s largest naval museum.
The massive steel structure is a stunning landmark for those driving to Cape Cod, and it was repainted dark blue in 2010 instead of the original lime green.
The Charles M. Braga Jr. Memorial Bridge is one of the state’s longest at more than a mile, and it was built to support the river’s bustling shipping lane, with a clearance of 135 feet above the water.
9. Lizzie Borden House
Fall River was also the home of “that” Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), who was involved in one of America’s most notorious unsolved murders. She was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1892 after a highly publicized trial.
The crime took place at 230 2nd St, an opulent residence suited for members of the late-nineteenth-century Fall River high society. Since the mid-1990s, this property has been a bed and breakfast as well as a macabre tourist attraction.
You can also stay in the bedrooms of Lizzie and her sister Emma, or in the room where Abby Borden’s body was discovered (John V Morse Suite).
The best time to visit for a tour is in the morning or early afternoon when you can see the entire home and get a thorough perspective of the events of August 4, 1892.
10. AMF Somerset Lanes
AMF Somerset Lanes are the town’s local bowling alley and are ideal for birthday parties, league play, family trips, or a low-stakes game with friends.
This huge facility has 40 lanes and a number of nighttime offers, including unlimited bowling on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday for a cheap set price.
There’s also an arcade, a pro shop, a lounge area, and a sports bar selling flatbreads, sliders, wings, and burgers, as well as a variety of local beers.
11. Southcoast Open Air Market (SOAM)
Somerset’s seasonal farmers’ market, which has up to 100 sellers, is held every Saturday from May to October.
SOAM’s attitude is fresh, local, and handcrafted, and hundreds of people from the surrounding areas attend this event in Chick Marchand Memorial Park (first Saturdays) and Slades Ferry Park (other Saturdays).
There’s a huge and always-changing selection of handmade handicrafts, fresh produce, local meats, and temping prepared delicacies.
With two artists on the bill each week, live music is a vital component of the market, and you can even bring your dog to the doggy play area.
12. Somerset Historical Society
The Somerset Historical Society operates a museum in the Somerset Village Historic District near the town’s north end for visitors to learn about Somerset’s history. This is housed in the historic Colonial Revival Village School.
Inside, visitors can explore a variety of display rooms, including the Indian Room, which houses the most extensive collection of Native American artifacts in southern Massachusetts.
The Hathaway Room, with a furnished dining room, parlor, and kitchen, provides an insight into 1930s home life, while the Tool Room, with a 200-year-old lathe, and the Pottery Room, showing Somerset’s pottery trade with many priceless items, provide insights into Somerset’s industrial history.
13. Somerset Creamery
This family-owned creamery operates three seasonal ice cream kiosks in Somerset, two of which are located at 1931 Route 6 (G.A.R Hwy) and 146 County Street. Somerset Creamery was founded in 1937 and still makes handcrafted ice cream the old-fashioned way.
Daily batches are created with the freshest ingredients and many of the recipes were introduced by founders Vic and Mary Spanick nearly 90 years ago.
The creamery is well-known for its delicious waffle cones, which are prepared fresh every day. Get a scoop of Cranberry Bog, which is cranberry flavor ice cream with raisins, walnuts, and dark chocolate, for a taste of southeastern Massachusetts.
14. Pierce Beach & Playground
This riverfront park at Somerset’s north end had only recently been improved when we compiled this list. Pierce Beach has long been a summer destination, with a sheltered sandy swimming area and lifeguards on duty from mid-June through Labor Day.
There is a cost for both residents and non-residents, although Somerset seniors and veterans are free to visit. New playgrounds and picnic spots, as well as a new Big Red Slide, have been added in recent years.
This thirty-foot-high and sixty-foot-long slide has been a favorite of local children since 1988, and after the original fiberglass construction began to deteriorate in the 2010s, it was replaced with a stainless-steel counterpart, which was unveiled in 2021.
15. Somerset Village Historic District
This lush historic area on 110 acres in Somerset’s north end maintains the town’s center at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The oldest Georgian-style houses in town date back more than 300 years, while notable public structures include the 1804 Somerset Baptist Church (363 High St), built in the Federal style, and St. Patrick’s Church (306 South St), built in the Romanesque Revival style in 1873.
Somerset Village was a shipbuilding center well into the twentieth century, and interesting remnants of this activity can still be found on the shore.