Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway is made for walking - as you'll quickly discover on this self-guided Greenway walking tour.
The Greenway's ribbon-like park curves for slightly more than a mile from the historic North End neighborhood to Chinatown, hugging the waterfront to the east and downtown Boston on the west.
Close to the Greenway beckon many top attractions and fascinating detours.
You can explore iconic Freedom Trail sites, the lively Faneuil Marketplace, the most historic sections of the old city, and of course the busy wharfs where you can hop on board a Boston Harbor cruise if you want a change of scenery.
If you walk the length of the Greenway, you'll happen upon five distinct park areas. Each celebrates the Boston neighborhoods that flank it and resonates with details about the city's history.
This walking tour of the Greenway starts at the northern tip in the North End Parks, and concludes at the south end in the Chinatown Parks.
Don't worry if you can't tell where each series of parks ends and the next begins, as one flows into another. Only the Chinatown Parks mark their start and finish with distinctive gates.
Want to walk from south to north? No problem - just do the Greenway walking tour in reverse order.
Here's a Greenway map to give you the big picture:
The Greenway's North End Parks fill the area between New Sudbury Street past Hanover Street and almost all the way down to Christopher Columbus Park, reuniting the North End with Downtown Boston.
Flat railings line the walkways near Hanover Street. Take a closer look at their flat top surfaces - you can barely see them in this photo - and you'll see a fascinating Boston history timeline with quotes from North End residents.
A massive 200 foot long, 50 ton steel pergola lines the grassy expanses of the North End Parks, framing the mellow brick buildings of the North End neighborhood on one side and expansive flower-filled plantings along the city side.
Numerous benches, tables, and places to sit echo the many cafes and restaurants of the North End.
When the weather is good, you'll see kids running and playing in the wide open spaces, parents with babies in strollers, and groups of friends enjoying the sun.
Design elements feature lots of granite, echoing the favorite North End paving stone. Some of the granite paving has a kind of wavy pattern - not so great if you're trying to walk on it, but it's supposed to evoke the nearby North End waterfront.
If you want to make a small detour for food, cross over to the North End along Hanover Street and pop into one of the nearby shops for a loaf of freshly baked bread, cheese, and olives for an impromptu picnic.
Return to Top - Greenway Walking Tour
Continue walking south along the Rose Kennedy Greenway past Christopher Columbus Park, and you will be in the Wharf District Park along Boston's Downtown Waterfront.
The most striking feature is Rings Fountain, a splashing pool for kids by day and the centerpiece of a light show at night.
A unique carousel designed for the Greenway features local sea creatures and animals that go up and down, along with a few stationary seats and benches. Quite honestly, it's really fantastic - be sure to go for a ride! Open seasonally, the carousel delights young and old alike.
Throughout the Wharf Park section of the Greenway, you'll see plenty of design motifs representing Boston's maritime history, rocky coastline, and even ships bringing immigrants.
Best of all, you'll also find plenty of pleasant places to sit and for your kids to play in the Greenway's open spaces.
The Fort Point Channel Parks include some of the Greenway's most lushly planted flower beds, making a gorgeous floral display from spring through late fall. These gardens are among the most popular Greenway Walking Tour destinations.
Fort Point Channel is the body of water running along this section of the Greenway - it's literally a channel. On the other side is the Fort Point neighborhood, known for the large number of artists who live and work there.
Fort Point is also home to the Boston Children's Museum, which you can easily reach with just a small detour from the Greenway.
In keeping with the Fort Point neighborhood's many artist galleries and studios, these parks contain a variety of permanent and temporary sculpture displays, along with plenty of seating for viewing. If seeing the sculptures in the park make you want to see more, pop over to the Fort Point Open Studios event held during October each year.
Continuing south along the Greenway, you'll reach the Dewey Square area where the Greenway intersects with Summer Street, near South Station.
Hardy perennials and other plantings provide a pleasant oasis in an urban landscape.
A seasonal farmers' market takes place twice a week on the plaza in the Dewey Square area across from South Station.
To the east, across the channel, is the trendy South Boston Waterfront neighborhood - if you're hungry, head over and try one of the many great restaurants.
Continue past Dewey Square and South Station, and you'll reach the southern anchor of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the Chinatown Parks, united thematically by Chinese and other Asian motifs and plant choices.
As you walk through the huge red gate to the first garden, the straight path develops curves. Continue strolling along the now-winding path, and you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of Boston.
Turn another corner as the path bends, and you’ll first hear the sound of water—and then you'll see the waterfall running into a pool and then a stream along your path.
In contrast to all of this undulating green, large red steel frames evoke bamboo scaffolding seen everywhere in China while echoing both the linear designs of adjacent buildings as well as the still-distant Chinatown Gate at Essex Street.
Tall ornamental grasses wave gently in the breeze, while bamboo rustles. If you visit in late May or early June, you can enjoy the blooms of peonies and rhododendrons, plants ubiquitous in both China’s and Boston’s landscapes.
Other elements such as a structure echoing the shape of the sail on a Chinese boat symbolize the passage of the Chinese to Boston.
Ahead, the path widens into a plaza facing the Chinatown Gate.
You'll pass plenty of benches where you can sit quietly and read a book.
Walk through the gate and you're in Chinatown, where you'll find plenty of wonderful restaurants where you can go for a delicious meal or dim sum.
. . . the Greenway, named in honor of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, beloved matriarch of the Boston family that produced the late President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Senator Edward Kennedy, opened in late 2007.
It covers the swath of land where the Central Artery, an ugly elevated highway that slashed through the central core of Boston, once dominated the landscape. Boston's "Big Dig" project sank the highway below ground and now, trees, parks, paths, and lushly flowering plants transform the space.
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