Boston is the capital and the largest city of Massachusetts, known for The Boston Marathon, its thriving arts and cultural scene, historical landmarks, and some of the best and most famous parks and gardens in the United States.
Walking around downtown Boston, you're sure to get tired of the city noise and need a place to retreat. Luckily, Boston has over 1,000 acres of green spaces connected with pathways and waterways in what is known as The Emerald Necklace, a chain of parks that stretches from Boston Common to Franklin Park.
And when you spot the perfect place to spread your blanket and unpack your picnic basket, don't let your other heavy bags stop you. Drop bags of any size and shape at a bounce luggage locker in Boston, conveniently located near the best Boston parks.
The Public Garden
A Victorian-era park, the Boston Public Garden, is one of the best parks in the heart of Boston, covering 24 acres of land between Beacon and Boylston Street. Across Charles Street is another popular park, Boston Common, making it easy to explore both on the same day. Built in 1837, The Public Garden is also the oldest public park in the United States, today home to a number of memorable statues, manicured paths, flower beds, and a picturesque lagoon. One of the park's highlights is the famous “Make Way for Ducklings” bronze sculptures installed in 1987. The Public Garden is part of the Emerald Necklace, a series of parks that take up 1,100 acres of green space surrounding the city, designed by NYC Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Numerous activities await visitors at The Public Botanical Garden, from taking a ride on the Boston swan boats and birdwatching to exploring the statues and admiring the colorful floral beds, especially in spring, when the flowers are in full bloom. Come fall, the garden's specimen trees change color and are a must see for nature lovers. The Public Garden is also the host of many events, concerts, and street performers.
One of the highlights of the Boston Public Garden is the 22-foot tall George Washington statue, cast in bronze. When you get hungry, unpack your picnic basket and enjoy a lovely meal under the shade of mature trees or take a short walk to some of the nearby restaurants and cafes.
At 527 acres, Franklin Park is Boston's largest park and also the largest park in the Emerald Necklace. Home to the famous Franklin Park Zoo, a number of sports fields, such as the White Stadium, miles of hiking trails, historical landmarks, including the Franklin Park Was Memorial, The Elma Lewis Playstead, and a variety of children's playgrounds, this stunning park will keep you entertained for hours. While at Franklin Park, also make sure to check out the William Devine Golf Course, the abandoned Bear Cages, and Scarboro Pond, home to migrating birds and the best spot in the park to sit back and enjoy nature.
This vast green space is a pure oasis of Boston City, an ideal place for a day out with the family, outdoor activities, close encounters with animals at the Franklin Park Zoo, or just relaxing and clearing your mind. If you didn't pack your picnic basket, don't worry, as there are plenty of places to grab something to eat scattered across the park.
Boston Common is located right next to The Public Garden, stretching over 49 acres of land across Charles Street. Dating back to 1634, Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States. Once a place for livestock grazing, today, Boston Common is one of the best parks in the city for family outings, dog walking, social gatherings, rallies, and festivals.
Be sure to take a day off, as there's a lot to see and do in Boston Common. A popular tourist attraction and the starting point to a 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, Boston Common Park is also dotted with monuments of historical significance, including the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial and the Garden of Flags honoring soldiers who lost their lives defending their country.
Visitors can also enjoy nature by the Frog Pond, which turns into an ice skating rink during winter. There's also fun for the youngest, with a seasonal carousel, the Tadpole playground, and a splash pool during the summer months. The park is also known for Shakespeare on the Common, a free open-air theatre that takes place in July and August. When hunger strikes you have many options in the park, from food carts and steak restaurants to cafes and bakeries.
Adams Historical National Park
Located in the center of Roslindale, ten miles south of Boston, is a small communal park with benches, grassy areas, walking paths, statues, and monuments. Adams Park is best known for the Saturday seasonal farmers market and is a popular place for live music and outdoor movies. Home to the Stone Library Museum, an 18th-century home of former presidents, and the BEale-Rice House Museum, you can learn a lot about American history at the park that tells the story of five generations of the Adams family.
Although there's no cafe in the park, there are plenty of restaurants nearby, making it easy to grab something to eat.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
If you're looking for a place to spread a blanket out and have a picnic or just relax and watch the world go by, this unusual 1.5-mile stretch of parks will surely fit the bill. Starting at the North End (Little Italy) all the way to Boston Public Market and Union Oyster House, the park is fun to visit any time of the day. Different sections make the park more interesting to explore, so you can start with the Greenway carousel ride for your kids, then make a stop at the lighted and musical water fountain to refresh and maybe grab a beer at the seasonal beer garden. Traversing the fun open space, you'll also come across some fascinating rotating contemporary art displays, trees, flowers, stone steps, and mini gardens.
When you get the munchies, it's easy to get something to eat as there's an on-site restaurant and a few food trucks, but you have plenty of options with a variety of restaurants surrounding the Greenway.
Boston Harbor Islands
A 15-minute ride on a ferry will take you to Boston Harbor Islands, including Castle Island, Spectacle Island and the fortified George's Island, for a memorable adventure. Whether you're visiting with the kids, your partner, or your friends, this is one of the best ways to enjoy what Boston has to offer. Boston Harbor Islands are made up of 32 islands and 2 peninsulas, all worth making the trip.
There's a lot to see and do at these islands, from checking out the historic lighthouses, exploring the hiking trails, or dipping your toes on one of the many sandy beaches. If you're planning a picnic, the options are many, as the Boston Harbor islands are dotted with grassy areas perfect to spread a blanket out. The islands are also home to many migrating birds, making them ideal for bird-watching. For a small fee, you can also enjoy a guided tour conducted by Park Rangers or hop on a boat for a whale-watching tour or a ferry cruise to see all the highlights.
During the weekends, you may get the chance to take part in one of the free activities conducted by the Park Rangers, such as plays, music, and historic shows. If you forget to bring your snacks, don't worry, as you'll come across many places on any of the Boston Harbor Islands that serve food and drinks.
Located near Harvard Square and Harvard University is Cambridge Common, a public park and National Historic Landmark in Boston, a haven for visitors and locals looking for a place to stretch their legs and relax. The 16-acre park comprises vast open lawns, cycling lanes, and several monuments, such as the three cannons in honor of Revolutionary War figures and the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Dating back to 1630, Cambridge Common is also one of the oldest parks in Boston and is home to the Cambridge Public Library.
Children can take advantage of the creative and interactive Alexander W. Kemp Playground, which is known to be one of the best in the city. When you're done exploring Cambridge Common, make your way to the nearby restaurants for a delicious lunch and a beer.
Charles River Esplanade
Running three miles along the Charles River, parallel to Charles Street, is the best park in Boston for spectacular views of the city skyline and the sailboats and rowers on the Charles River. If you're up for some adventure, you can rent a kayak for as little as $30 for two hours. And if you're desperate to sail a boat, you can sign up for sailing lessons.
The park features winding paths and cycling lanes, adventure playgrounds, and a few attractions, including the Hatch Memorial Shell outdoor concert venue, home to the Boston Landmarks Orchestra (also known as the Boston Pops). If you happen to be visiting the park during summer, you may get to chance to hear them perform at one of their many free concerts.
The Charles River Esplanade is the best way to escape the busy city streets and get to places in more relaxing ways. Plus, with a convenient location, you'll find a great selection of food places nearby.
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park
Located in Boston's North End is Christopher Columbus Park, a 4.5-acre urban waterfront park overlooking Boston Harbor. The park was opened in 1974 and features a life-size statue of the Spanish explorer Columbus. One of the highlights of the lovely park is the Rose Kennedy Rose Garden, in honor of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of President Kennedy, who was born nearby. The garden features a granite fountain which is a popular gathering spot for visitors, especially during summer.
Christopher Columbus Park is also home to the Massachusetts Beirut War Memorial. Right next to the memorial, there's a playground for the youngest so they don't feel left out. This is one of the best parks in Boston for free concerts and events, summer movies under the stars, art exhibits, and weddings at the illuminated Columbus Park trellis.
Nearby points of interest are the Greenway Carousel, the Armenian Heritage Park, the Boston Harbor Islands Pavillon visitor center, and the Waterboat Duck House. Hungry visitors have a variety of options for food, starting with Joe's Waterfront Grill at the north end of the park to the Mercantile Shopping Mall on the south end.
Located near Kenmore Square, Fenway Park in Boston is a baseball stadium. However, that doesn't mean it can't be fun for the entire family, though it'll help to be a baseball fan. Home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912, Fenway Park is one of the most famous parks in the city for sports enthusiasts, featuring The Triangle, Pesky's Pole, and the Green Monster.
People come to this Boston park even when there's no game. You can book a 60-minute guided tour to make the most out of the "America's Most Beloved Ballpark" or check the dates to see if there are other events, such as hockey, soccer, concerts, or other cultural events.
If you happen to be here during a match, you have a lot of food options inside the park, but you'll find plenty of food stands and eateries just outside the stadium.
The best parks and gardens in Boston for nature lovers
Boston is one of the best cities in the United States for nature lovers, and Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace, called "a green ribbon of parks," is a Boston treasure. Above is just a small number of the most popular parks in Boston worth checking out any time of the year. If you're looking to explore more parks in Boston, you can visit Ramler Park, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Arnold Arboretum, Back Bay Fens, and many more.
Those looking to add more adventurous things to their itinerary can check our guide about the 8 best hikes in Boston, and if you're traveling with children and looking for ways to keep them happy, make sure to read our 5 beaches near Boston guide.