The Make Way for Ducklings sculpture is the Boston Public Garden's most famous attraction. The statues of Mrs. Mallard and her 8 ducklings attract visitors from all over the world to this beautiful Victorian-era park right in the middle of the city.
But there's a lot more to Boston Public Garden than just the duckling statues.
You can enjoy a Swan Boat ride around the tranquil Lagoon, admire the resident swans, enjoy tulips blooming in the Public Garden's formal beds in the spring, take part in the Duckling Day Parade on Mother's Day, and even get married here.
For a real treat, stay in one of Boston's luxury hotels overlooking the Public Garden.
The "Make Way for Ducklings" statue, near Charles and Beacon Streets, appeals to grownups and children alike, and is the most popular statue in the Public Garden. It's also one of the top 10 Boston attractions.
Inspired by Robert McCluskey's book about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their adventures while finding a safe place to hatch and raise their offspring in and around the Public Garden, the sculpture depicts Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings.
Boston-area sculptor Nancy Schön designed the bronze duck sculpture.
During warm months, go for a ride on the popular Swan Boats, which have been delighting passengers with 15 minute journeys around the Public Garden's Lagoon since 1877.
Going for a Lagoon ride is one of my favorite things to do whenever I'm near the Public Garden with a few minutes to spare. Although there is sometimes a line, especially on beautiful summer weekend mornings, it usually moves quickly.
The lagoon (actually an artificial lake) covers about 4 acres, and is only 3-4 feet deep. Due to Boston's cold winter climate, most of the water is drained every fall and refilled in the spring. Although the Lagoon used to be used for ice skating, that activity has now moved to Boston Common's Frog Pond.
The swan boat ride loops around Mallard Island - once a peninsula but severed from land in 1880 after city officials learned its popularity as a site for amorous meetings. Mrs. Mallard brought her 8 ducklings here after after hatching them along the bank of the nearby Charles River. The Ducklings story may be fiction, but real mallards nest here and can be seen sunning themselves on the duck ramp leading up to the island.
You'll also see a pair of swans in the lagoon throughout much of the year. The first pair arrived in 1868, and except for a period between the 1960s and 1991, a resident pair has delighted Public Garden visitors ever since.
But the Park Plaza has another special relationship with this beautiful garden. In 1991, after the Public Garden had been without swans for 20+ years, Mr. and Mrs. Irving Saunders, the Park Plaza's owners at that time (the Saunders family now partners with Starwood Hotels and Resorts), arranged for the return of the swans. Maybe some day the Public Garden will include a statue that commemorates this happy moment.
You can enjoy watching the graceful pair of swans during warm months, and even greet their arrival in May, when a parade welcomes them back to the Public Garden - check Boston Events for May for details.
If your children are a certain age - let's say 15 months to 5 years old - the perfect Mother's Day celebration is to dress your offspring in yellow and join the Duckling Day Parade.
You retrace the path of the Mallard Family in Make Way for Ducklings - well, at least the part of it from Boston Common to the Lagoon in Boston Public Garden where the Mallards settled on, where else, Mallard Island.
This beloved family activity draws huge crowds, a brass band, and even a Boston Police Officer in the role of Officer Michael. Bring your camera!
After the parade, if no one has had a meltdown, go for a Swan Boat ride or walk over to Chinatown for Dim Sum brunch.
Back to Top - Boston Public Garden
For gorgeous views from park-side rooms as well as top convenience, choose a hotel overlooking the Public Garden for your next visit. Here's a glimpse of the views you'll get from each hotel:
200 Boylston Street
Top luxury hotel Four Seasons Boston overlooks the Public Garden's Lagoon, with a direct view of its beautiful arched bridge and Swan Boats. You'll also love the beautiful public spaces and the luxurious rooms and suites, renowned service including complimentary transportation within 2 miles of the hotel, and top-notch facilities, including a gorgeous indoor swimming pool.
15 Arlington Street
Like the Four Seasons, the Taj Boston has a superb location right across the street from the Public Garden and on the corner of boutique-filled Newbury Street.
Upper floors of the Taj soar above the Public Garden, and you get great view all the way to Boston Common and beyond, as you can see in this photo.
With 273 rooms and suites including some with fireplaces, the Taj epitomizes understated elegance along with some of the best views in the city.
Like many other older Boston hotels, the Taj has rooms of varying sizes - which means you can sometimes find good deals here, even for the larger rooms with Public Garden views.
10 Avery Street at Tremont Street
Although luxury hotel Ritz Carlton is across the street from Boston Common, the 193-room/43-suite hotel also offers sweeping views of the Public Garden and Back Bay from the upper park-facing floors.
Colorful spring views will lure you outside for a walk across the Common and on to see the Public Garden up close.
Unlike many other Boston hotels, the Ritz offers the luxury of space - not only in generously sized guest rooms, but also in the on-site Sports Club/LA with its huge pool - and sleek, contemporary furnishings. Its location on the edge of the Theatre District is also convenient to the Financial District.
50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street
Even though the huge (941 rooms and suites) Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers is located a block away from the Public Garden, upper floors provide excellent views of the Public Garden. But the hotel also has a special connection with the Public Garden, which inspired its logo: a swan.In 1991, the Public Garden had been without swans for 20+ years. Mr. and Mrs. Irving Saunders, the Park Plaza's owners at that time (the Saunders family now partners with Starwood Hotels and Resorts), arranged for a pair of swans to return to the Public Garden.
Check rates and reviews: Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers
Don't think of the Public Garden as just a warm-weather destination!
Once leaves fall off the trees, you can see the beauty of the Garden's design. It continues to be a popular place for walking and enjoying the scenery throughout winter, and looks especially lovely after a fresh snowfall.
Years ago, the Lagoon used to be deliberately flooded for skaters, but now ice skating has moved across to Frog Pond on Boston Common, where a zamboni keeps the ice smooth for skaters.
The Public Garden is also one of several Boston gardens and parks where you can get married - so if you're looking for a beautiful spot for an outdoor wedding, the Public Garden is a super spot to consider.
You do need to have a back-up plan, or lots of umbrellas, in case of torrential rain.
But with the money that you save, you can walk over to a Chinatown or Back Bay restaurant and treat your guests to a nice dinner - and then save any left-over funds toward a down payment on a Boston condo.
Here are my family's tried-and-approved best kids activities for Boston Public Garden:
- Watch the ducks and swans on the Lagoon
- Go for a Swan Boat ride
- Bring a frisbee, and play on the grassy lawn
- Have a contest to find the most amazing statue
- Walk across Charles Street to Boston Common for even more family activities -ride the carousel starting in May, watch Shakespeare on the Common in July and August, and celebrate the New Year with fireworks on First Night.
You can easily spot this large George Washington statue showing the country's famous Revolutionary Warr general and First President on a horse silhouetted against the sky and overlooking Commonwealth Avenue Mall across Arlington Street.
Sculpted from bronze by Thomas Ball in 1869, the George Washington statue is considered one of the best equestrian statues in the United States. It's also one of the most photographed statues in the Public Garden.
Another compelling statue in the Public Garden is the Ether Monument, near Arlington Street and Beacon Street. It commemorates the first successful usage of ether as an anesthetic at nearby Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846 but instead of featuring the doctor who did this, the statue depicts a Good Samaritan comforting a child.
Up until this point, people subjected to surgery were as likely to die from excruciating pain as from surgical complications. The statue reminds of the horrors of surgery before ether, when something as minor as pulling a tooth or setting a broken arm created almost unbearable pain.
When the first European settlers arrived in the Shawmut Peninsula, now Boston, in the 1600s, what is now the Public Garden was underwater most of the time, part of a large area of tidal salt marshes. Ben Franklin used to fish here when he was a boy.
This is also where 700 British troops set off in boats and barges toward Lexington and Concord after dark on April 18, 1775, the day before the start of the American Revolution.
By the early 1800s, industrial development caused a dam to be built - which promptly turned the former salt marsh into smelly swamp. When west winds blew, angry Boston citizens called the stench wafting across the city "unbearable."
Spurred by public outrage about health hazards, Boston's City Council decided in 1824 to fill the swamp and maintain the 24 acres as public land.
Still, not much happened until a group of 17 horticultural enthusiasts led by a wealthy iron manufacturer named Horace Gray leased the land, finished filling it, and turned it into the nation's first public botanical garden, complete with a glass conservatory for plants and an aviary filled with 80 species of birds.
Hugely popular, the garden became Boston's center of horticultural activity. In 1840, Gray paid $1,500 to import tulips to the U.S. for the first time, and displayed them here. You can still see lavish plantings of tulips in the Public Garden every year in late April and early May.
The Public Garden is . . .
. . . America's oldest botanical park - and it's still one of the most important in America
. . . home to over 750 shrubs and trees (including 125 different tree varieties), and approximately 80 species of plants and flowers planted twice each year in 55 French-style flower beds and 4 rose beds
. . . the site of the world's smallest suspension bridge, built in 1867 and technically no longer a "real" suspension bridge due to the addition of reinforcements underneath that make the cables merely decorative
. . . considered the "jewel" of Boston's Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted's series of connecting parks that encircle the city
. . . first and foremost, a garden - and is almost exactly like it was when it opened to the public in 1861
. . . a recommended site for viewing beautiful fall foliage in Boston
The easiest way to see the location of the Public Garden and how it relates to the rest of Boston is on this sightseeing map that we created of central Boston neighborhoods. Look for the dark green blocks near the middle:
Location: Downtown Boston, just to the west of Boston Common, and bordered on its other sides by Beacon Street, Arlington Street, and Boylston Street. Charles Street runs between Boston Common and the Public Garden
Nearest T station: Green Line/Arlington
Nearest parking: Boston Common Garage (underground), entrance on Charles Street
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