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THE BEST PARKS AND GREEN SPACES IN BOSTON

15 PLACES

UPDATED APR 2, 2020

City living is great. But sometimes it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle. Whether it's a walk in the park or a quick day trip, there are several Boston parks that are perfect for a mid-day pause. Happy relaxing!

author

ELYSE ANDREWS

FITT BOSTON CONTRIBUTOR

This 50-acre green space was created in 1634, making it the oldest city park in the U.S. The Boston Common has deep roots in the history of the city and country, many of which are now commemorated on memorials around the park. These days, it’s home to the Frog Pond, which hosts winter ice skating, and Boston’s Christmas tree each holiday season.

Located right next door to the Boston Common, the 24-acre Public Garden was created in 1837. It’s a charming park, with a pond in the middle offering swan boat rides, and a monument to the classic Make Way for Ducklings book by Robert McCloskey.

While this beautiful park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted is associated with Harvard University, you’ll find it in Jamaica Plain. The 281-acre Arboretum houses nearly 15,000 individual plants, which you are free to visit from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year. A major highlight is the Lilac Festival in May — don’t let the crowds scare you away.

One positive outcome of Boston's notorious Big Dig is the green space that resulted. The Rose Kennedy Greenway sits on a 15-acre stretch of land that runs through Chinatown, the Financial District, the Harbor area and the North End. You’ll often find food trucks, a farmers market, and public art projects dotting the park.

One unique way to escape the city is hopping on a ferry to one of the Boston Harbor Islands. Visit in the summer and lounge on the beach while taking in spectacular views of the Boston skyline. You can also see a Civil War-era fort, catch a glimpse of the oldest lighthouse in the U.S., and camp overnight on select islands.

Castle Island is neither an island nor does it contain a castle. But all naming conventions aside, this 22-acre recreation area makes an excellent walking and running spot. It's also the site of Fort Independence, which dates back to the late 1700s.

This 4.5-acre park sits between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Boston Harbor, providing a gathering space for the neighborhood. It hosts festivals, summer movie nights and art shows, and features a beautiful rose garden. The park even has WiFi so you can work outdoors on sunny summer days.

This is probably the most iconic spot to go for a run in Boston, so strap on your shoes and get to it. The Esplanade runs along the Charles River and houses ball fields, playgrounds, and a sailing center. Plus, it’s the site of the annual Boston Pops' Fourth of July performance.

This 527-acre park is Boston’s largest; it's also home to a golf course and a zoo. Part of the Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park straddles the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Dorchester. It's a well-known cross-country course and host to Sunday cricket games.

As the oldest and most famous part of the Harvard University campus, Harvard Yard boasts 22.4 grassy acres. It’s the perfect spot to sit under a tree and read a book or swing through on a run around the city. Don’t miss the John Harvard statue—rub his left shoe for a shot at good luck!

A major connector in the Emerald Necklace, the Riverway is a peaceful spot to run or stroll. It runs from the Back Bay Fens following the path of the Muddy River to Olmsted Park near Brookline Village. Follow it further to end up at Jamaica Pond, another great outdoor destination that offers boat rentals.

This 10-mile paved trail runs from the Alewife MBTA Station in Cambridge through Arlington and Lexington before terminating in Bedford. This is a great spot to run, walk, or bike without having to worry about urban traffic, especially if you plan to go for many miles. Pit stop at one of the parks along the way for a picnic.

We can’t believe how secluded Fresh Pond feels, especially if you consider the grocery store within steps of one Fresh Pond entrance. Hop on the 2.25-mile trail that travels the perimeter of a reservoir that was once used to harvest ice. There’s also a 9-hole golf course and an area for Cambridge-registered dogs to run around off-leash.

Maybe the most famous outdoor destination on this list, Walden Pond has been the go-to spot for those looking to get away from it all for nearly 200 years. Spend the day at this 335-acre state park exploring the trails, visiting the site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, and swimming in the clear waters of the pond itself.

After a short drive south of Boston to Plymouth, you’ll find Myles Standish State Forest, the perfect spot for a day or weekend trip out of the city. Myles Standish has tons of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There’s also swimming, fishing, and canoeing in the many lakes and ponds that dot the forest. Camp overnight to maximize your fun.

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