Boston Fall Foliage

Best Places to See It

Boston Fall Foliage

7 Best Locations to See Autumn Color in Boston

Boston's fall foliage blazes across the city from late September through October - and often well into November.

Although you can see lots of gorgeous leaves on New England fall foliage tours, you can also enjoy spectacular leaf color by touring around Boston on your own. 

Lots of tourists fly into Boston Logan Airport during the fall months - and then immediately depart for fall foliage tours or cruises to other parts of New England.

But why spend money on gas just to drive along crowded highways?  You can enjoy autumn's brilliant colors without leaving Boston . . . if you know where to go.

Here are Boston Discovery Guide's recommendations for the 7 best places for DIY (do it yourself!) Boston fall foliage tours where you'll see breathtaking crimsons, oranges, and golds - right in the city. 

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Want to see even more foliage?  Let someone else do the driving when you go on one of the popular New England fall foliage tours through southern New Hampshire and Maine. 

For an even more special experience, choose one of the popular fall foliage cruises up the coast of Maine and Eastern Canada.

1.  Boston Common & the Public Garden

Located adjacent to each other in the heart of the city, Boston Common and the Public Garden put on a spectacular display of color throughout the fall months. 

Boston Common encompasses spacious fields and stately specimum trees, while the Public Garden contains dense groupings of trees and shrubs. Each species changes color at a slightly different time, making a constantly shifting tapestry of autumnal tones.

If you're curious about what types of trees you're admiring, look for brass labels under the trees.

Head of the Charles Regatta in the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge
This small Japanese maple tree near Arlington Street in the Boston's Public Garden almost always turns this beautiful crimson hue early in the fall foliage season

For even more stunning views, walk onto the foot bridge across the Lagoon in the Public Garden. 

In the distance, you can see Mallard Island, of Make Way for Ducklings fame - that's it on the left in the photo below.  On warm days, you'll usually spot a few ducks sunning themselves on the ramp leading down to the water.

Insider tip:  Some of the ornamental trees such as Japanese maples in the Public Garden change color early - so splashes of autumn color can usually be seen first here.

Colorful foliage surrounding the Lagoon in Boston's Public Garden
Colorful foliage surrounding the Lagoon in Boston's Public Garden

Getting there:

Location:   The Public Garden is located in central Boston across from the Common, with Charles Street running between them.  They are bordered by Beacon Street, Boylston Street, Park Street, and Arlington Street. 
Nearest T station to Public Garden:   Green Line/Arlington
Cost:
  Free

Where to Stay near the Public Garden

Boston's beautiful fall foliage colors will be on your doorstep when you stay at a hotel overlooking or near the Public Garden:

Boston Public Garden - fall foliage
Cherry trees by the Lagoon at Boston Public Garden in the fall

Wonderful hotels overlooking or near Boston's Public Garden:

2.  The Esplanade

Autumn colors on the Esplanade
Autumn colors on the Esplanade - still brilliant in late November!

The tree-filled Boston Esplanade, the long linear park along the Charles River across from Beacon Hill and Back Bay, turns into a sea of gold and orange in October when Boston's fall foliage begins to reach its peak.

You can walk, jog, or bicycle along the river paths and enjoy the dancing water reflections of the many-hued leaves.  Bring your camera and capture the perfect photos of the colorful fall leaves along the river.

Relax on one of the floating docks along the Esplanade - you'll feel like you're in another world!
Relax on one of the floating docks along the Esplanade - you'll feel like you're in another world!

Getting There

Nearest T station:   Green Line/Arlington or Red Line/Charles-MGH

Getting to the Esplanade:  You'll need to cross over busy Storrow Drive on a pedestrian foot bridge to reach the Esplanade from Beacon Hill or Back Bay.

From Beacon Hill, use the bridge near the Charles/MGH station.  Once you cross Storrow Drive, the Esplanade is to your left. 

From Back Bay, use the Arthur Fiedler footbridge near the intersection of Beacon and Arlington Streets.

Cost:  Free

3.  Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Bay Village, & the South End

Leafy neighborhoods in central Boston provide great vistas for viewing colorful Boston fall foliage. 

Particularly brilliant trees can be found throughout Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Bay Village, and the South End

Golden leaves in Boston's historic Bay Village neighborhood
Golden leaves in Boston's historic Bay Village neighborhood

Spend 10 minutes walking randomly through any of these elegant neighborhoods and treat your eyes to a panorama of colorful leaves and varied textures.

In Beacon Hill, the narrow lanes and alleys blaze with color from the street trees.  Look closely, and you'll see glimpses of color from almost-hidden gardens.  A particularly lovely walk is up Mount Vernon street to tree-filled Louisburg Square.

In Back Bay, Commonwealth Avenue - a magnificent statue-filled boulevard with a long park down the middle - is spectacular.

Golden fall foliage forms a canopy along Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston's Back Bay
Golden fall foliage forms a canopy along Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston's Back Bay

Start at the Public Garden, walk down Comm Ave all the way to Hereford Street, turn right and walk another block, and then turn right again and walk back on Marlborough Street.  Magnolias, so magnificent when blooming in the spring, now make a swath of gold.

More brilliant foliage in Back Bay
More brilliant foliage in Back Bay

The Southwest Corridor Park provides a perfect starting point for leaf viewing in the South End. From Back Bay Station, cross Dartmouth Street to the park's entrance.

Walk as far as you want, enjoying the colorful gardens and trees. Then either come back the same way or detour through the neighborhood's small streets, enjoying how the crimsons and maroons of the Boston fall foliage harmonize with the red brick Victorians.

Getting there

Location:   Orient yourself using Boston Common and the Public Garden.  Beacon Hill is to the north, across Beacon Street.  Back Bay is to the west of the Public Garden, across Arlington Street.  And the South End is to the south of Back Bay . . . generally Huntington Ave is considered the boundary.
Nearest T station to Beacon Hill:   Red and Green Lines/Park or Red Line/Charles-MGH
Nearest T station to Back Bay:   Green Line/Arlington
Nearest T station to South End:   Orange Line/Back Bay


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Revere Beach - flying kites

4.  Rose Kennedy Greenway

Crimson leaves and golden ornamental grass along the Chinatown section of the Greenway
Crimson leaves and golden ornamental grass along the Chinatown section of the Greenway

Trees, shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses along the Rose Kennedy Greenway extend Boston's fall foliage display in areas formerly devoid of any color other than gray, and their brilliant fall hues draw crowds of admirers.

An especially brilliant area is the Chinatown section, where the colorful leaves of peonies, rhododendrons, small trees, and grasses along the stream and waterfall provide an especially lovely spot for a stroll. 

Crimson leaves and golden ornamental grass along the Chinatown section of the Greenway
Crimson leaves and golden ornamental grass along the Chinatown section of the Greenway

For an added plus, pop into one of Chinatown's mouth-watering bakeries or restaurants, bring back a carry-out snack, sit on one of the Greenway's benches, and enjoy your impromptu picnic.  On Sundays, check out all the dim sum possibilities.

To enjoy more colorful trees along the Greenway, continue walking north to the North End and stop for a carousel ride to enjoy the autumn sunshine.

Golden foliage near the carousel on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near Faneuil Marketplace and the North End
Fall colors around the carousel on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near Boston's North End

Getting there

Nearest T station:   Red line/South Station; walk up Essex Street to the Greenway, and turn left to walk along the Chinatown section.
Cost:
  Free

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5.  Fenway Neighborhood

Crimson leaves in the Victory Gardens in Boston's Back Bay FensA quiet mid-October afternoon in Ramler Park

Home to Boston's Fenway Park, the city's Fenway neighborhood is also where you'll find tree-lined streets turning golden during October, the jewel-like Ramler Park overflowing with colorful leaves and late-blooming roses, and the tree-filled Back Bay Fens, a lush slice of nature along Muddy River and practically in the shadow of the famed baseball field.

Crimson leaves in the Victory Gardens in Boston's Back Bay FensCrimson leaves in the Victory Gardens in Boston's Back Bay Fens

To see some of the most brilliant foliage in the Fens, find the sections containing Boston's famed Victory Gardens and nearby Kelleher Rose Gardens where you may see late-blooming roses even during the early days of December.

Getting to Ramler Park

Nearest T station:   Green Line/D to Fenway Station.  Walk down Park Drive to Peterborough Street, and turn left.  The park is on your right.

Cost:  Free

Getting to the Fens

Nearest T station:  Green Line to Hynes Convention Center.  The Victory Gardens are near the northwest tip of the Fens.  You'll see the entrance to the Victory Gardens near the Park/Boylston Streets intersection.  Keep walking down Park Street away from Boylston Street to reach the Rose Garden.

6.  Arnold Arboretum

Where better to see a magnificent display of Boston fall foliage than the Arnold Arboretum, another jewel in Boston's Emerald Necklace.

Brilliant orange leaves in the Arnold Arboretum
Brilliant orange leaves in the Arnold Arboretum

The Arboretum's collection of almost 5,000 different species put on a fiery display throughout most of the month of October.

Located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, the 265 acre Arboretum is open from sunrise to sundown every day of the year, and admission is free of charge.

The Arboretum's free Boston Fall Foliage Festival takes place during the afternoon on the last Sunday of October. Meet on the Hunnewell Visitor Center lawn to learn about the best trees and shrubs for fall color, take a guided tour of the Arboretum's most brilliant foliage areas, and enjoy apples, cider, story telling, music, and leaf crafts.

Getting there

Nearest T station:   Orange line/Forest Hills
Getting there:   Exit through the door marked "Arnold Arboretum." Walk about 60 feet, turn left, and continue walking parallel to the Arborway (elevated above the bus stop). Walk along the Arborway, go up the hill, and enter through the Arboretum's Forest Hills gate.  To get to the Arboretum's main entrance and the Hunnewell Building, continue along the Arborway for about 8-10 minutes. The Arboretum is located at 125 Arborway. For more information:  617-524-1718 .
Cost:
  Free

7.  Mount Auburn Cemetery

With more than 5,000 trees representing 630 species, Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of my favorite spots to view Boston fall foliage - as well as to wander around with my camera.

Founded in 1831 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society on 175 acres of wooded rolling hills just to the west of Boston, Mount Auburn quickly became known as America's first garden cemetery.

Beautiful fall colors in Mount Auburn Cemetery
Beautiful fall colors in Mount Auburn Cemetery

You'll love its hills, dells, ponds, and woodlands - and from late September into mid-November, colorful leaves make a magnificent display.  Because of all the small hills, you'll find many perfect vistas of vivid colors.

While Mount Auburn Cemetery is actually in Cambridge, just to the north of Boston, you can get there easily by T.

Getting There:

Location:   Mt. Auburn is located about 2 miles west of Boston, at 580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA.
Getting there by T and bus:   Take the Red Line to Harvard Square. Staying inside Harvard Square Station, walk over to the bus departure area and take either the Watertown Square (#71) or Waverley Square trolley (#73).  Get off on Mount Auburn Street at the Aberdeen Avenue intersection (ask the driver to let you know when this is coming up, if you're not familiar with this part of Cambridge). Cross Mount Auburn at the traffic light and go through the Cemetery's entrance gate.
Cost:  Free
Hours:  8am-5pm from October through April, and until 7pm from May through September
For more information: 617-547-7105


More Places to See Fall Foliage in Boston and New England

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Best Time to See Boston's Fall Foliage

Wondering when to plan your Boston fall foliage tour? 

Fall leaf color begins in Boston at a different time each year . . . but generally speaking, you'll start to see splashes of color around mid-September. 

Occasionally, leaves start to change color even earlier in the month, especially if not much rain has fallen during the summer.

By early October, fall leaf color becomes more pronounced. 

"Peak" usually comes in about the 3rd week of October - although it can be a week or two earlier or even later. 

By early to mid-November, the best fall leaf color may be gone, but you'll still see plenty of subdued color before real winter sets it.  Occasionally, traces remain even into early December.

Bright fall colors along Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay in mid-October
Bright fall colors along Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay in mid-October

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