Parks in Boston
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Arnold Arboretum. The sumptuously landscaped Arnold Arboretum is open all year to joggers and in-line skaters. Volunteer docents give free walking tours in spring, summer, and fall. 125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA, 02130. 617/524-1718. www.arboretum.harvard.edu. Forest Hills.
Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. Comprising 34 islands and peninsulas, the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area is somewhat of a hidden gem for nature lovers and history buffs, with miles of lightly traveled trails and shoreline and several little-visited historic sites to explore. The focal point of the national park is 39-acre Georges Island, where you'll find the partially restored pre-Civil War Fort Warren that once held Confederate prisoners. Other islands worth visiting include Peddocks Island, which holds the remains of Fort Andrews, and Lovells Island, a popular destination for campers. Lovells, Peddocks, Grape, and Bumpkin islands allow camping with a permit from late June through Labor Day. There are swimming areas at the four camping-friendly islands as well, but only Lovells has lifeguards. Pets and alcohol are not allowed on the Harbor Islands. 617/223-8666. www.bostonislands.com.
National Park Service. The National Park Service is a good source for information about camping, transportation, and the like. 617/223-8666. www.bostonislands.com.
Charles River Reservation. Runners, bikers, and in-line skaters crowd the Charles River Reservation at the Esplanade along Storrow Drive, the Memorial Drive Embankment in Cambridge, or any of the smaller and less-busy parks farther upriver. Here you can cheer a crew race, rent a canoe or a kayak, or simply sit on the grass, sharing the shore with packs of hard-jogging university athletes, in-line skaters, moms with strollers, dreamily entwined couples, and intense academics, often talking to themselves as they sort out their intellectual—or perhaps personal—dilemmas. 617/626-1250. www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/CharlesRiver.
Hatch Memorial Shell. The Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade holds free concerts and outdoor events all summer. 617/626-4970. www.mass.gov/dcr/hatch_events.htm. Charles/MGH.
Emerald Necklace. The six large public parks known as Boston's Emerald Necklace stretch 5 mi from the Back Bay Fens through Franklin Park, in Dorchester; the natural treasure also includes Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Pond, Olmstead Park, and the Riverway. Frederick Law Olmsted's design heightened the beauty of the Emerald Necklace, which remains a well-groomed urban masterpiece. Locals take pride in and happily make use of its open spaces and its pathways and bridges connecting rivers and ponds.
Emerald Necklace Conservancy. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy maintains a regular calendar of nature walks and other events in the parks. 617/522-2700. www.emeraldnecklace.org.
Boston Parks & Recreation Department. Rangers with the Boston Parks & Recreation Department lead tours highlighting the area's historic sites and surprising ecological diversity. 1010 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA, 02118. 617/635-4505. www.cityofboston.gov/parks/parkrangers.
Harbor Express. To reach the Harbor Islands, take the Harbor Express from Long Wharf (Downtown) or the Hingham Shipyard to Georges Island or Spectacle Island. High-speed catamarans run daily from May through mid-October and cost $14. Other islands can be reached by the free interisland water shuttles that depart from Georges Island. 617/770-0400. www.harborexpress.com.
Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Cambridge's historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery is known as one of the best birding spots in the area, and also has walking paths, gardens, and unique architecture. You can also see the graves of such distinguished New Englanders as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Mary Baker Eddy. 580 Mt. Auburn St., Mt. Auburn, Cambridge, MA, 02138. 617/547-7105. www.mountauburn.org. Harvard, then Bus 71 or 73 to Mount Auburn St. at Aberdeen Ave. stop.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. After Boston's Central Artery (I-93) was moved underground as part of the Big Dig project, the city transformed the footprint of the former highway into the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a gorgeous mile-long oasis filled with plazas, parks, gardens, fountains, and even a merry-go-round. The tranquil greenway stretches from the North End (New Sudbury and Cross streets) to Chinatown (Kneeland and Hudson streets), curving through the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the harbor in most places. Though most of the Greenway has been completed, it's still a work in progress. Several installations are scheduled to open in the coming years: the new Boston Museum is slated to be completed in 2013, and the New Center for Arts and Culture expects to break ground on its Daniel Libeskind-designed home in the next few years. Downtown, Boston, MA. 617/292-0020. www.rosekennedygreenway.org.
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