Lots of people know Boston's Esplanade as the site of the nationally-broadcast Boston Pops July 4th concert and fireworks - but that's just the beginning of what you can enjoy here!
The Esplanade, a leafy park edging the Boston side of the Charles River, stretches between the Museum of Science and the Boston University Bridge.
It's an idyllic place to go for a run, or just settle into a chair and relax in the sun awhile you watch sailboats drift by.
Bring your kids to one of the playgrounds, or stroll around and check out the many statues.
Although the Esplanade attracts lots of visitors for the Independence Day concerts, at other times of the year you'll find more locals and temporary locals (a.k.a. college students) than tourists here - maybe because it's not easy to find.
Big attractions in addition to the Independence Day celebrations include the family-friendly Free Friday Flicks, EarthFest, boat races, and lots of other free concerts at the Hatch Shell throughout the summer.
By far the biggest Esplanade events are the Independence Day concerts on July 3rd and 4th with Keith Lockhart, the Boston Pops, and special guests. Don't miss the spectacular fireworks show over the Charles River after the July 4th concert! More information
During July and August, the popular Free Friday Flicks series provides family-friendly entertainment under the stars every Friday night. Find dates & details on the July Events Calendar
EarthFest in May provides the perfect excuse to soak up sun, find out about ways to preserve the planet, and enjoy a free concert. Date and deails on the May Events Calendar
Boston Insider Tip: If you want to avoid the huge July 4th crowds at the Pops concert, go to the July 3rd concert instead - much less crowded!
- On foot: Walk along the paths and small bridges, enjoy a close-up view of the large cannon used in the July 4th Pops concert, and take a look at the eclectic statues scattered along the Esplanade.
- On wheels: Rent a Hubway bike in front of the Fiedler Footbridge and ride along the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path, which extends the length of the Esplanade and beyond, forming an 18-mile loop along the north and south sides of the river.
- Or, take a guided bike tour led by a Boston expert who will show you all the best attractions and statues on the Esplanade - plus plenty of other interesting sites around the city. Boston Bike Tours - Find Out More
- On the water. Along with showing you Boston's top attractions on land, a Duck Tour takes you on a cruise up the Charles River past part of the Esplanade, giving you a close-up view of the shoreline, real ducks, and their habitat from a perspective you won't get on land.
You can get a duck tour as a free bonus with a 3, 5, & 7 day GoBoston card
Walk to the Esplanade from these excellent nearby hotels in Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the West End.
Even though you may be familiar with the Esplanade's Hatch Shell from the July 4th Pops Concert, it merits a close-up look in daylight, non-crowded conditions.
The beautifully ornate art deco-style Hatch Shell provides the perfect setting for numerous free summer concerts in addition to the Independence Day celebration. Of these, the most famous are the Boston Landmarks Orchestra concerts, which start up in July.
Heavy traffic on Storrow Drive separates the Esplanade from Boston Proper - so you must use a footbridge to cross over the 6-lane highway.
Fortunately, you can choose from 8 different footbridges. The 2 most centrally-located bridges are:
- Arthur Fiedler Footbridge (between Back Bay and Beacon Hill) - At the corner of Beacon and Arlington Streets next to the Public Garden, cross Beacon Street and slightly to your left, pick up Arlington Street (now named Mugar Way) and walk toward the river. You'll almost immediately see the curving Fiedler Footbridge arching over Storrow Drive. Savor the expansive views as you walk up the ramp. Closest T station: Green Line/Arlington
- Charles Street Footbridge (between Beacon Hill and the West End) - You'll easily see the bridge from the corner of Charles Street and Cambridge Street. Closest T station: Red Line/Charles-MGH
Pre-Storrow Drive photo courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Photo captions, from left to right:
1) Boston Esplanade in late April - Jogger running along path by Charles River
2) Volunteer picking up trash along Esplanade in honor of Earth Day
3) The best tree in Boston for climbing is on the Esplanade
4) Boston Esplanade trees, with Beacon Hill in the background
5) Mass Ave bike ramp down to Esplanade - Prudential Tower at the right
6) Community Boating ramp, with Esplanade in background
7) Crossing small bridge across the Lagoon in the Esplanade - Beacon Hill and autumn foliage in background
8) Not sure why these walkers are wearing US Marine Corps shirts and kilts; you can see Cafe Esplanade in the background
9) Chairs beckon from the Esplanade "beach" - actually, a dock over the Charles River
10) Bike riders crossing a small bridge over the Boston Esplanade's lagoon
The 2-day Head of the Charles Regatta takes place every October is Boston's biggest rowing event. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the banks of the Charles River and sides of bridges to watch more than 8,000 elite rowers compete in 55 events.
The race takes place along a 3-mile stretch of the river extending past the BU Bridge. Check the October event calendar exact dates.
More boat races on the Esplanade:
Like every other park and open space in Boston, the Esplanade has its share of statues and monuments dedicated to war heroes, politicians, and contributors to the city's culture.
You'll recognize the names of some, and be clueless about others.
Most striking is the enormous sphinx-like head of the late Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, shown in the photo at the top of this page, famous because he conducted the first concert at the Hatch Shell back in 1929.
Newton-based sculptor Ralph Helmick carved Fiedler's head from layers of aluminum in different thicknesses.
My vote for most startling goes to the bronze statue of General George S. Patton, Jr. of World War II fame, shown gazing across the river toward our sister city to the north. He's holding a pair of binoculars, and a gun is strapped to his side.
So you have to ask...what is the General doing? Shooting ducks on the Charles? Searching for enemies across the river in Cambridge?
Well, no. The original statue is at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. Patton's father-in-law, wealthy textile tycoon Frederick Ayer who lived a few blocks away on Commonwealth Avenue in what is now called the Frederick Ayer Mansion, simply wanted to honor his famous son-in-law by installing this copy on the Esplanade.
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