Spend Memorial Day Weekend in Boston's Parks & Gardens
After a bitter New England winter there’s nothing more welcome than the harbingers of spring: early blooms, unfurling leaves, and of course, the appearance of Robin Redbreast, plucking tasty worms from the warming soil. Fairer weather is upon us and this in-between period is decidedly the best time to enjoy the glory of Boston’s lush green spaces.
Springtime is when we fall in love with the freshness and splendor of the promise of new life. Boston is a big city, to be sure, but great pains have been taken over the years to ensure continued access to the natural world for residents and visitors alike.
The Emerald Necklace
The Emerald Necklace is a seven-mile iconic stretch of urban beauty that has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places under the name of the Olmsted Park System. There are nine properties in the park system including the Arnold Arboretum and Castle Island.
Frederick Law Olmstead
As a renowned 19th century landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead’s vision arose in 1878 and became a monumental example of urban planning and renewal. He was tasked with finding a way to replace the stinky, unsanitary mudflats and marshes with usable urban spaces. His brainchild became a linear system that incorporated existing parks and added new ones creating the Emerald Necklace.
Stretching from Boston Common to Franklin Park, the Emerald Necklace gets its name “from the way the planned chain appears to hang from the "neck" of the Boston peninsula.” Each of the parks is a precious gem on the string of the necklace. Plan your visit with a free downloadable map, or stop by the Shattuck Visitor Center, 125 the Fenway, Boston to pick one up. Suggested donation is $2.
Boston Public Garden
Boasting many of our country’s “firsts,” Boston enjoys pride of place for many accomplishments; one of these is being the site of the first botanical garden in the US. Botanical gardens feature a stunning variety of flowers, grasses and shrubs, but they are much more than the average garden.
A product of Victorian times, botanical gardens are scientific in nature: specimens are labeled with their taxonomic names and there is an emphasis on environmental stewardship, education, and conservancy. The Boston Public Garden celebrates past scientific achievements while furthering research in botany: propagation, hybridization, and collecting, naming, and preserving genetic germ lines. The Garden’s greenhouses are abundant with more than 80 species that are used to bed out not only the Public Garden but at least 50 other properties throughout Boston. The Public Garden, together with Boston Common, marks the northern terminus of the Emerald Necklace. The two properties are separated by Charles Street and couldn’t be more different.
The contrast between the Public Garden and the Common is striking. The Public Garden was planned primarily as an homage to beauty as well as a testament to the emergence of scientific inquiry in the Victorian period. The walkways are interspersed with lush plantings, an explosive array of colorful blooms. Visitors are compelled to take their time and soak up the artistic and charming aesthetics of each unique space.
In comparison, the Common is a throwback to colonial times when it was used as a means of traveling across the city. The no-nonsense linear paths crossing the Common are purely functional. Historically, the town common was a practical public space for community gatherings, grazing animals, burying the dead, and disposing of garbage. Public executions took place. Colonial militia mustered, the Redcoats overstayed their welcome, and the American ideals of freedom to protest were played out from the days of Abolition to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.
The 19th century ushered in change as the Common was: no longer used as a dumping ground or a cow pasture. In the early part of the 20th century the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead began the ongoing process of refining the landscape and adding paved walkways. In the 21st century the Common offers many recreational spaces in the heart of the city. It's the crown jewel of Boston's city parks.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway
The Rose Kennedy Greenway was established in 2004. The Big Dig, perhaps the most ambitious urban planning project in US history, saw the construction of an underground Central Artery to replace the elevated Route 93, making space for the Greenway.
Meandering along the Greenway, you’ll notice that the flavor of the parks aligns with the adjoining neighborhoods, from the North End all the way to Chinatown. There are tributes to each: historical, natural, and cultural. Throughout this chain of parklands there are exquisite gardens, event spaces, art installations, playground and picnic areas, food trucks and fountains.
The sole responsibility of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is the stewardship and management of all aspects of upkeep and maintenance for the parks’ horticulture, public art, educational programming, and capital improvements.
The Greenway Carousel
This carousel could only exist in New England! Instead of horses, riders mount local fauna, riding lobsters, clams, owls, turtles, and butterflies. According to the Greenway Conservancy’s website, “The Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove is New England’s most accessible carousel for those with physical or auditory disabilities. All paths throughout the park are ADA compliant and are regularly maintained by Conservancy Staff.”
The North Meadow
Guests of Battery Wharf Hotel have the good fortune of easy access to the North Meadow on the Greenway, the most recently completed park, located in Boston’s North End. As the matriarch of the Kennedy family, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in the North End of Boston, so it’s fitting that she’s the namesake of this verdant 17-acre stretch of Mother Nature smack-dab in the middle of Boston.
Your visit to Boston wouldn’t be complete without spending some time in the glory of Mother Nature. Get out for some cycling, swan boating, birdwatching, or strolling. Boston’s parks are a breath of fresh air!
Book a room with us for centralized access to Boston's Parks and Gardens.