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Ride a Swan Boat in Boston's Public Garden

Ride a Swan Boat in Boston's Public Garden (©Tim Grafft/MOTT)

8 of Boston’s Best Parks

By Leigh Harrington on 05/14/15, updated 06/17/16
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After a brutal New England winter, the snow has melted and Bostonians are jonesing for fresh air and warm sunshine. It's that time of year when spring is in full swing. Boston boasts ample parkland on which the public can partake in many green things to do. Grab a blanket and a Frisbee—here are the favorites, the most popular, all-around best:

Boston Common

Central Burying Ground

The 50-acre Boston Common earns the title of America's Oldest Park. It has been used as both a pasture and as a place for public hangings, usual for the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, Boston Common connects four different Boston neighborhoods and the grassy grounds still serve as a popular point for friends meeting for dinner and other pursuits. Aside from its natural beauty, the Common offers a roster of activities that include a large splash pool and expansive Tadpole Playground for kids, a carousel and a bandstand that frequently hosts live music and theatrical performances, and it is a stop on many of the city's walking tours. Tremont Street at Park Street, Boston, MA

Public Garden

Public Garden (©MOTT)

If you want to take a lovely, leisurely stroll, do it here. This place is as gorgeous as it is quaint, with all types of flowers and flowering trees setting the scene for Boston's iconic Swan Boats, always in motion around the lagoon. Visitors often confuse the Public Garden for its sister park Boston Common, located right across Charles Street. However, there are a few important distinctions: the Public Garden is a curated botanical garden while the Common serves civic purpose and contains no actual flora aside from its naturally occurring trees. Both are fun. Boylston Street at Arlington Street, Boston, MA, 617.723.8144

Charles River Esplanade

The Esplanade features nice jogging paths (©Paul Gelsobello)

Not only does Boston boast oceanfront shoreline, it features miles of grassy green banks along the Charles River. This beautiful oasis, also known as the Esplanade, hosts one of the city's most popular running paths with stunning water views. Quiet folks like to sit on the Esplanade dock, dangle their feet and read a book, while families may rent sailboats or kayaks for a spin out on the water. Also enjoy occasional live music on stage at the Hatch Shell, performed by classical ensembles and even national headliners. From Back Bay, access the park via the Fiedler Footbridge; there are seven other crossing points. Beacon Street at Arlington Street, Boston, MA, 617.227.0365

Emerald Necklace

Emerald Necklace park the Back Bay Fens and its Kelleher Rose Garden (©Emerald Necklace Conservancy)

Old Stony Brook Gatehouse is your stop for information about the Emerald Necklace park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Athletic types can spend a whole day exploring this seven-mile stretch. Guided tours may be more your style if you're mixing in other activities on the weekend, and then on Tuesday nights at 6, rose connoisseurs enjoy the special Evening Garden Strolls through the Back Bay Fens. 125 The Fenway, Boston, MA, 617.522.2700

Arnold Arboretum

(©Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University)

Part of both Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace park system and the properties of Harvard University, the Arnold Arboretum is a true gem for nature lovers and Zen seekers in Boston. Located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, it is easy to escape the bustle of the city on these 281 shady acres, whether you head out for a jog, make a scientific exploration of the grounds' 15,000-plus trees and shrubs, catch some rays, take a guided tour, or happen upon a Tree Mob125 Arborway, Boston, MA, 617.524.1718

Rose Kennedy Greenway

Gardens along the Greenway (©MOTT)

There are always things to do on at the Rose Kennedy Greenway. If you haven't been to Boston in the last several years, you'll be surprised to see that the Financial District is looking a lot more lush thanks to this urban park that replaced a highway back in 2008. Now, the Greenway is a refuge for residents and city professionals in every season. Along the linear stretch of park that runs from Chinatown to the North End, events ramp up in spring with the opening of the custom-built Greenway Carousel, a huge variety of food trucks, splash fountains and live music on Thursday nights in Dewey Square. Financial District, Boston, MA, 617.292.0020

Piers Park

Across Boston Harbor in East Boston, 10-year-old Piers Park flies under the radar. We point you here because this large swath of landscape is situated, as its name suggests, across a series of piers where a clipper-ship industry thrived 150 years ago. To get here, jump on the Blue Line and get off at Maverick Station—it’s only a short walk. There are walking paths, pavilions, an amphitheater and a large playground, but the star attraction is its head-on view of the downtown skyline. 95 Marginal St., Boston, MA, 617.561.6677

Castle Island

Castle Island with Fort Independence meets the sea (©Eric Kilby/Flickr CC license)

As the name indicates, this South Boston retreat is an island—well, it once was. Today, Castle Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and is the historic site of former sea defense Fort Independence (circa 1634, although the existing structure dates to 1851). It is a hot spot for city dwellers, especially on the weekends, when they come to walk dogs here, run the two-mile Pleasure Bay loop, or spread a blanket out on a grassy patch with sea views of passing ships and a few of the harbor islands. Day Boulevard, Boston, 617.727.5290