Best Garden Tours in Boston

How to see Boston's hidden gardens

Vine-covered trellis and flowers in the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston
Kelleher Rose Garden, near the Victory Gardens - best place in Boston to see roses in bloom

Garden tours of Boston's best private and public gardens give you the chance to see hidden spaces in Beacon Hill, the South End, and Back Bay, the city's most exclusive neighborhoods. 

Whether you're an avid gardener or just enjoy lovely flowers,  don't miss the chance to tour Boston's best gardens.

Many of Boston's best gardens are hidden behind high brick walls.  Other top gardens are hidden secrets because they're private, and you'll easily miss them if you don't know where to look.  Although some of the loveliest spots are public, the best garden treasures are easy to miss.  That's why these garden tours are a must if you love gardening.

If you're visiting Boston and planning a garden tour as a highlight of your trip, you may want to stay conveniently close to the tour - so I'm including a few hotel recommendations along with the information about these Boston (and Cambridge) garden tours.

Each of these garden tours is a once-a-year event, rain-or-shine event - so put them on your calendar now! 

 

Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill

Each year in May, Beacon Hill Garden Club members open a dozen of their hidden gardens to the public.  (Check the Boston Event Calendar for May for exact dates.)  The self-guided Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill allows you to explore behind wrought-iron fences and high brick walls to spaces normally hidden from public view.

Photo of Southwest Corridor in Boston's South End
Hidden Beacon Hill garden showing hydrangeas in bloom
Photo courtesy of Directory of Boston

These exquisite shade gardens, many of them quite tiny, range simple to elaborate. You'll see fascinating examples about what can be done with limited space and sunlight. 

Beacon Hill is one of Boston's loveliest neighborhoods, filled with lovingly restored early 19th century homes ranging from townhouses to converted stables to mansions.  What's particularly interesting about the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill tour is seeing how the gardens enhance the architecture - and of course, the tour also provides a wonderful excuse to wander around Beacon Hill.

Although tickets are priced on the high side, this is the Beacon Hill Garden Club's major fundraiser, and they use the funds for a good cause: beautifying Boston.  The Garden Club has been offering this tour since 1929, and it grows more popular each year.

If you're coming from out of town for this event and you're not familiar with Beacon Hill, here's my best tip: wear your most comfortable shoes. Beacon Hill is, well, hilly, and you may be walking on cobblestones, bricks, and other uneven surfaces. Also beware: lines to get into gardens can be long, as many are quite small. Fortunately, you can find many excellent cafes and restaurants along Charles Street when you need a break. 

More about Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill tour on Boston Event Calendar for May

Charles Street Inn in Boston's Beacon HillHotel recommendations - Beacon Hill neighborhood: 

Two more nearby hotels to consider:

  • Liberty Hotel - Directly across Cambridge Street in the West End - this former jail rocks!
  • Taj Boston - Elegant hotel overlooking the Public Garden, barely a 5-minute walk from Beacon Hill 


 

More Interesting Boston Tours

Boston Trolley Tours Boston Harbor Tours of All Types Boston Duck Tours Complete Guide to Boston Tours

 

Fenway Victory Gardens Tours

Stretched across a corner of the Fens, one of Boston's 6 famous parks designed during the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted as part of the "Emerald Necklace" surrounding the city, the 7-acre Fenway Victory Gardens include more than 500 room-sized plots, each a miniature paradise. 

Path for touring Boston's Victory Gardens
Red maple, azaleas, and a beckoning path in Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston

The 7-acre Fenway Victory Gardens, established in 1942, have outlasted all other original Victory Gardens in the U.S.  Although originally serving as vegetable gardens to counter food shortages during World War II, the Victory Gardens have long since given way to more decorative plantings.

Through the years, the Boston residents who tend each plot have personalized their spaces within this community garden.  Many double as outdoor living rooms, surrounded by flowers, foliage, vines, and trees as individual as their creators.

A series of Boston Victory Garden Tours from June through September give you a chance to explore these private worlds located almost in the shadows of Fenway Park and the Prudential Tower.

Where are the Victory Gardens located?  They are in the part of the Back Bay Fens between the Park Street and Boylston Street intersection and Muddy River, north of Agassiz Road in Boston's Fenway neighborhood (Fenway Park is one block to the west, across Boylston).

Find exact tour dates from June - September on the Boston Event Calendar for June.

Stay nearby:  Best Fenway hotels
More about Boston's Fenway Neighborhood

 

South End Garden Tour

The Victorian architecture, English-style parks, exquisitely restored brownstones, and former factories transformed into high-end lofts form the perfect setting for the South End Garden Tour, held each year in June.  (Find exact dates on the Boston Event Calendar for June.)

Rutland-Washington Community Garden in Boston's South End
Rutland/Washington Community Garden in full bloom in Boston's South End

The Boston's South End neighborhood is huge (you can get a sense of size from the Boston sightseeing map), and what makes the South End Garden Tour especially interesting is that it focuses on a different part of the neighborhood each year.  Each area gets revisited every 4-5 years, but by that point, the gardens have changed - so you see new vistas each year.

The South End Garden Tour is self-guided.  When you arrive at the designated meeting spot (see the Boston Event Calendar for June for details), you'll be given a map and descriptions of each garden. 

There's usually a mix of private gardens, public spaces, and community gardens, so you get to see a wide range of styles and sizes.  Expect everything from rooftop gardens to wide open spaces, flower and foliage gardens to vegetable plots - and lots of brick walls, stone features, and other hardscaping, since after all, this is an urban environment.

Although lots of visitors come from outside of the South End to see the gardens, the tour is also a big community event, so there are usually "extras" - perhaps a farmer's market, local artists in the gardens painting pictures, food vendors. 

Spend the whole day exploring the gardens, and then have dinner in one of the South End's many restaurants.  And be prepared for a certain amount of garden envy and fantasies about someday having your own rooftop terrace here.

More about South End Garden Tour on the Boston Event Calendar for June

The Inn at St BotolphHotel recommendations: 

  • The Inn @ St Botolph - Charming boutique hotel (in photo at right) on a quiet street near the South End/Back Bay border
  • Chandler Inn - Pleasant small hotel close to Back Bay Station

Two more nearby hotels to consider:

  • Colonnade Hotel - Sleek high-rise hotel on Huntington Ave, few minutes' walk to the South End
  • Midtown Hotel - Affordable Back Bay hotel on Huntington Ave, very close to South End

 

Secret Gardens of Cambridge Tour

Just across the Charles River from Boston is the city of Cambridge, home to world-renowned universities, literary landmarks, stunning buildings by famous architects, and charming neighborhoods filled with 19th century homes. 

The Secret Gardens of Cambridge Tour self-guided tour takes you to all of these areas as you discover interesting gardens.

Photo of magnolia tree in bloom in Cambridge MA
A secret garden in June

The June tour takes place only on alternate years - those ending with an even number, such as 2016, 2018, 2020.

Typically, the Secret Garden tour includes close to 20 private gardens, special green spaces, and historic sites all over Cambridge.  Recent tours have emphasized innovation, including sustainable gardens, urban habitat, native plant gardens, teaching gardens, community gardens, gardens that support multiple ecosystems, and adventurous landscape architecture.

With so many gardens on the tour, you can pick specific gardens or neighborhoods, or visit all the sites, which will give you a comprehensive tour of Cambridge at the same time.

The tour is sponsored by the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library, with all proceeds going to support the library.

More about Secret Gardens of Cambridge tour on Boston Event Calendar for June

Hotels in Harvard Square: 

  • Kendall Hotel, near MIT in Cambridge MassThe Inn at Harvard - Across from Harvard Yard, and right in the middle of Harvard Square; elegant and comfortable
  • Harvard Square Hotel - Harvard Square's most affordable hotel
  • Sheraton Commander - Comfortable, elegant, and slightly old-fashioned, in a great location near Harvard Law School and one of Cambridge's loveliest residential areas

Hotels in Kendall Square (MIT):

  • Kendall Hotel - Cool boutique hotel in a former firehouse, near MIT (that's it in the photo above
  • Le Meridian - Great amenities, also near MIT

A B&B near Porter Square:

  • A Cambridge House Inn - Located on busy Mass Ave, but close to residential areas where tour gardens are likely to be located

 

More to consider

Boston's secret gardens and where to find the! Lilac Sunday in Boston Boston's Public Garden in autumn


 

Like this Page? Please Share!