Want to enjoy gorgeous spring flowers or colorful fall foliage, throw a frisbee or kick a soccer ball around a grassy field, or experience nature while strolling along winding paths and countless statues and monuments? Or maybe just soak up some sun while sitting on a bench overlooking the water?
Boston's parks give you plenty of space to do that - and lots more. Our parks cover about 20% of the city - and that's just the ones on land.
As you no doubt know, Boston is a waterfront city.
So along with all the lush green spaces within the city itself, there are even larger "blue spaces" for you to explore.
For example, you might picnic on one of the islands in the marine recreational area in Boston Harbor. All you have to do is hop on a ferry from a downtown wharf, and you'll be setting foot on the closest island in only about 14 minutes.
Or for a truly memorable experience that many Boston visitors say is the highpoint of their trip, cruise out to a truly special marine sanctuary just beyond the Harbor and watch whales, dolphins, sea birds - it's a whole different world. Best of all, you can hop on a boat
This article highlights 10 of Boston's most spectacular parks on land and water for you to explore, whether you live in the area or are just visiting. In addition to giving you beautiful spots to enjoy nature, they also include some popular attractions: carousels, Make Way for Ducklings and other statues, seasonal beer gardens, occasional concerts and movies, festivals, tours, and cruises.
And once you get your fill of Boston's most famous parks (which will probably take quite awhile), there's lots more to discover outdoors: Boston also has lots of "secret" gardens and parks and city beaches - undiscovered by most visitors and little-known even to many locals, but well worth exploring.
Top Photo: Golden tulips blooming in Boston's Public Garden in early May
Boston's Most Famous Parks on Land & Water
1. Boston Common
Not only is Boston Common the country's oldest park, but it's the heart and pulse of the city - a true "people's park," as it's sometimes called.
The Common is packed with attractions, entertainment, and events - plus plenty of benches where you can sit and relax, grassy areas for picnics or naps, and even a dog park. Here are highlights of what to do and see on the Common:
- Shakespeare on the Common- Free outdoor theater under the stars every July and August - More about Shakespeare on the Common
- Kids attractions - A seasonal carousel, ball fields, the "Tadpole" playground, and Frog Pond - a splash pool during summer months - More about these and other kids' attractions in Boston
- Frog Pond Ice Rink - Open from November through (usually) early March - the best outdoor skating in the city! More about skating on Frog Pond and other Boston rinks
- Freedom Trail - Boston's famous walk through history starts on Boston Common, a Freedom Trail site
- Garden of Flags - 37,000 American flags cover the slope by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument each Memorial Day to honor those who died in wars defending our country - More
- And there's a lot more - kick-off for the Duckling Day Parade on Mother's Day, Family Fireworks on New Year's Eve, two Veterans Day Parades around the Common each fall, plus concerts, speeches, and festivals almost every weekend during warm months. Find out more about Boston Common
2. The Public Garden
Just across Charles Street from Boston Common is the Victorian-era Public Garden, known for its formal plantings that change with the seasons, a picturesque lagoon, and perhaps the city's top children's attraction.
Top attractions include:
- Make Way for Ducklings statues - Perfect for photo ops!
- Swan Boats on the Lagoon - The most relaxing ride in Boston
- Duckling Day Parade - Boston's famous Mother's Day parade ends here
- Stunning Fall Foliage - With specimen trees from around the world, the Public Garden is a top location for viewing beautiful leaf color each fall
3. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Unlike most other Boston parks, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is blue, not green.
Most of it will be invisible to you but whale watching cruises provide the best way to explore this special park and glimpse the fascinating marine life.
Many Boston visitors consider these whale watching cruises out to Stellwagen Bank to be the highlight of their trip.
4. Rose Kennedy Greenway
The Rose Kennedy Greenway stretches like a ribbon from the North End down to Chinatown, punctuated by beautiful gardens and splash fountains, entertainment areas, revolving art displays, a carousel and grassy lawns for picnics and frisbee, food trucks and farmers markets, and even a seasonal beer garden.
Find out more:
- 10 Fun Things to See & Do on the Greenway
- Greenway Walking Tour: Must-See Attractions from the North End to Chinatown
More Ways to Explore Boston
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5. Fenway Park
OK, Fenway Park is not a typical "park" - but ever since it opened in 1912 as home field for the Red Sox, it's been the city's most popular sports park and is well worth visiting!
Three fun ways to experience Fenway Park:
6. The Esplanade
Boston's Esplanade stretches along the Charles River, offering spectacular views and plenty of recreation.
This is where you can watch the popular Free Friday Flicks film series throughout the summer, the world-famous Boston Pops July 4th concerts and fireworks, and concerts throughout the summer at the Hatch Shell.
But the Esplanade is also a favorite place to walk, run, ride your bike, picnic, and even go sailing and kayaking.
7. Boston Harbor Islands
You can reach the closest of the Boston Harbor Islands in just 15 minutes - hop on a ferry departing from downtown, and you'll be whisked to Boston's largest park.
Wade in tidal pools, go for a swim or a hike, explore historic Fort Warren, enjoy skyline views of Boston, go fishing. Or just read a book and listen to the birds sing.
More about the Harbor Islands
8. Christopher Columbus Park
A huge vine-covered arbor anchors this gateway to Boston's North End but that's just the beginning of what's special about this park.
Located next to the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel overlooking Boston Harbor, the park features a beautiful fountain, the Rose Kennedy Rose Garden, the Massachusetts Beirut War Memorial, and some of Boston's best free concerts on the waterfront. Kids love the small playground next to the Beirut Memorial.
Harborwalk winds along the waterfront from Charlestown to South Boston, opening up a panorama of harbor views.
Along the way, you'll find pocket gardens, benches for sitting, massive sculptures, the site of the Boston Tea Party, top attractions such as the New England Aquarium, and wharfs where you can take a Harbor cruise.
10. Copley Square
Copley Square, located at the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood, is anchored on one side by Trinity Church and the Hancock Tower, and on the other by the art-filled Boston Public Library. The luxurious Copley Plaza Hotel overlooks the square from the south, and the Boston Marathon Finish Line crosses Boylston Street on the north.
The small plaza offers you a little of everything - a reflecting pool for cooling your feet on steamy summer days, a seasonal farmer's market, plenty of places to sit, and occasional concerts and festivals.
More Parks to Explore: Boston's "Insider Secret" Parks
From the famous Fenway Victory Gardens to small pocket gardens known only to locals, Boston is filled with "secret" parks and gardens just waiting for you to discover.
You won't find most, if any of them mentioned in travel guides - but we'll tell you where to find them and why you'll enjoy a visit.
More Articles about Boston's Parks & Outdoor Spaces
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