Four hundred years on the Shawmut Peninsula and ‘America’s walking city’ is as foot friendly as ever: cow paths have been trodden into winding streets, the seething swamps of Back Bay have been rendered solid with concrete sidewalks, and the T’s cumbersome habits are often forgone in favor of the foot. For as traversable as Boston is, the walking city needs a rest now and again: here are five of the best benches to take a break on in the city.
Good Will Hunting Bench
Should you know a genius in need of a rude awakening, this swan-side bench in the Public Garden is the perfect place to shatter their naïve self-delusions. Located on the northwest side of the Public Garden Lagoon, this shaded bench was made famous by Matt Damon and Robin Williams’ pivotal conversation in the Boston-based film, "Good Will Hunting." Headstrong genius for company or not, this bench (or any in the Public Garden for that matter) is one of the city’s best for watching people, dogs and squirrels, reading a book, or grimacing as the erhu man scratches out "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his Chinese two-string fiddle.
Dry Dock Bench
Beyond The Seaport’s glass high rises, a bygone way of Boston life has one last holdout. The sights are few down here, warehouses tend to follow more warehouses, but if you take the road to the end of the pier you’ll arrive at the dry docks, where container ships as long as those high rises are tall come in for repairs and maintenance. Immediately behind Dry Dock 3 is Dry Dock Plaza Park, a raised platform with a single bench that gives visitors front row seats to watch the last keepers of Boston’s industrial maritime flame work away. It’s no Make Way For Ducklings bench, but a few minutes at the Dry Dock Plaza Park Bench is an experience unlike any other in the city.
Jim Beam Dugout, Fenway Park
As any little league coach or minor league pitcher will tell you, the most coveted bench in Boston is in the Red Sox home dugout. While most will never have the privilege of sitting on that bench, newly opened at Fenway Park this season is the next best thing: the Jim Beam dugout. Located not 10 feet up the first base line from the Sox dugout, the Jim Beam dugout sits below the grass and gives fans the opportunity to view the action from practically the same field level perspective as the players.
If the dry docks offer a rust-stained glimpse into Boston’s past, The Seaport’s Institute of Contemporary Art welcomes you back into the 21st century—maybe even the 22nd. Venturing past the bizarre and beautiful art that fills the ICA brings you to the waterside, where a wide wooden promenade stretches out into the harbor. Rising seamlessly from the wooden planks and reaching up the ICA wall, a gently tiered set of risers creates a theater out of the harbor: relax in the shade of the cantilevered ICA above, and enjoy whatever show plays out on the water ahead.
Public Library Courtyard
Copley Square, the beating heart of the Back Bay bustle, holds a Romanesque secret. Presiding over the square with the certainty of a papal palace, the Public Library is home to a courtyard built to emulate that of Rome’s Palazzo della Cancelleria. Open-aired and ringed with columns, marble arches and numerous benches, this courtyard makes a Boston rush hour disappear into Roman renaissance afternoon.