If you haven't visited Boston over the last several years, you'll be surprised to see that the Financial District is looking a lot more lush. Although it was designed and then opened in 2008, locals and travelers have finally discovered the Rose Kennedy Greenway, an urban park that has replaced the city's former Central Artery highway. Way more than just a grassy knoll, this linear park stretches all the way from Chinatown to the North End and features a summer schedule packed with family activities and other things to do. Here's what's not to miss.
1. The Gardens
Let’s talk plants as we begin to explore the only organically maintained public park in the city. Across its 17 acres, hundreds of different kinds of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, bulbs and grasses thrive, ranging from clematis vine and Chinese peonies to willow and pin oak trees.
2. Greenway Horticulture Tours
Learn more about the Greenway’s growing methods and garden plans on these few-per-year tours. The three-hour walking adventure explores all-things-Greenway end to end, even demonstrating how to mix up a composting brew. Plus, it’s free (but do register in advance).
3. The Markets
A variety of markets move in weekly—the style just depends on the day. Tuesday and Thursday (11:30 am-6:30 pm), Boston Public Market runs seasonal farmers markets featuring locally grown and/or prepared food, from salsa and tomato sauce to cheese, gourmet doughnuts, jams and vegetables. On Saturdays (11 am-5 pm), Greenway Open Market shows off the handmade wares of New England crafters and artisans. Unique trinkets, including jewelry, pottery, soaps, apparel and accessories, make for more memorable souvenirs of your trip to Boston.
4. Greenway Mobile Eats
The Greenway is one of the city’s hottest places to find tasty eats to go—food trucks park at six different locations daily, and collectively are called Greenway Mobile Eats. The volume of vendors varies by day, but your belly might encounter Mei Mei Street Kitchen, Bon Me, Clover Food Lab, Wow BBQ or Zinneken’s.
5. Water Play
Fountains, fountains and more fountains: When Boston’s weather gets too hot to handle, put on your swimsuit and head over to the Greenway to cool off. You’ve got seven different options (9 am-11 pm), including the über-popular Rings Fountain in the Wharf District Parks and Chinatown Park’s Chinatown Stream.
6. Public Art
One of the things that makes the Greenway so pretty—besides its lush green and flowering plants—is its array of public art. Its newest piece, a fiber-net sculpture created by local artist Janet Echelman, hangs 365 feet over Fort Point Channel Park and is secured to three different skyscrapers. Changes along the city’s waterfront from Colonial days through the Big Dig project inspired this piece. Also look out for Shinique Smith’s vibrant, 70-by-76-foot mural “Seven Moon Junction” on the Greenway Wall at Dewey Square Park, as well as the custom-made Greenway Carousel with its character animals designed by North Shore artist Jeff Briggs. Which brings us to …
7. The Carousel
… The custom-made Greenway Carousel with its character animals designed by artist Jeff Briggs attracts families from nearby New England Aquarium and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, respectively on either side of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove park. Kiddos take turns on lobsters, falcons, skunks, codfish and other creatures native to the area for $3 per ride.
8. Boston Harbor Islands Visitor Pavilion
Nearby the Greenway Carousel, this ranger-staffed visitor information center is meant to grant interested parties information on and access to Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Consult maps, ask questions, buy tickets and then head over to Long Wharf where the islands ferries depart.