With nearly 300 parks and open spaces around Boston, it's no wonder we're considered one of America's most walkable cities. From the nation's first public park and Victorian-era gardens to modern green spaces born out of the Big Dig, a Civil War-era fort, and a park encompassing 34 coastal islands, here's the top parks in Greater Boston to visit.
Top Greater Boston Parks
Established in 1634, Boston Common is the nation's first public park and a cherished landmark of Boston. Once common land used for everything from cattle grazing to militia musters, anti-slavery meetings, wartime victory gardens, and civil rights rallies, the Common has evolved into a green oasis for visitors and residents in the heart of downtown. Boston Common features ballparks, a playground, several monuments, including the Embrace, Soldiers and Sailors, and Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment monuments, and plenty of green space for your next picnic, study session, workcation meeting, or family outing. Don't forget to visit the Frog Pond, the Common's most well-known attraction, for four-season fun, including the summer spray pool, the Frog Pond Carousel, winter outdoor skating rink, and Downtown Movie Nights. If you're looking to book tours, buy souvenirs, or get general information on Boston, the Boston Common Visitor Center is open daily on the Tremont Street side of the park. And if you're interested in walking The Freedom Trail, the starting point is just outside the visitor center.
Learn more about the Boston Common here.
Boston Public Garden
Founded in 1837, adjacent to Boston Common, is the country's first public botanical garden, the Boston Public Garden. In true Victorian-era fashion, the Garden features ornate fencing, meticulously groomed flower beds highlighting 80 species of plants, an 1860s bridge over the lagoon that's perfect for your next instagrammable moment, tree-lined pathways with benches, and public art, including the Duckling Sculpture, a statue of George Washington, the Ether fountain, and more. Of course, the Public Garden's most popular attraction is the Swan Boats, an experience vitally unchanged since opening in 1877. These pedal-powered boats offer leisurely rides across the lagoon, perfect for the entire family. Like the Common, the Garden's location makes it the perfect stop whether you're exploring the streets of Beacon Hill, shopping on Newbury Street in the Back Bay, or dining in the North End. Just steps from the Public Garden, you can stroll through the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, a 32-acre French boulevard-style mall that links the Public Garden to the Back Bay Fens.
Learn more about the Boston Public Garden here.
The Arnold Arboretum, a jewel in the Emerald Necklace, was the first public arboretum in the United States. Talk about a lot of firsts! Through a partnership with Harvard University and the City of Boston, the Arnold Arboretum's 281 acres in Jamaica Plain and Roslindale act as a living museum dedicated to woody plants. In fact, The Arboretum's 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines are one of the most comprehensive and well documented collections of temperate woody plants in the world. While the living collections at the Arnold Arboretum support critical research, they're also the perfect place to escape from the hustle of urban life and connect with nature. As you explore, make sure to stop by the Arboretum's unmowed areas to find insects, observe animals, and watch unique birds. The best part is that you don't have to be an arborist to enjoy the Arboretum - download their free mobile app to use as you explore!
Learn more about the Arnold Arboretum here.
Nestled within the diverse Jamaica Plain neighborhood, you might forget you're in a city after visiting Jamaica Pond. A kettle lake formed by an ancient glacier, Jamaica Pond was once a summer resort area for the wealthiest Bostonians in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the 68-acre pond is accessible to all Bostonians and offers a boathouse with facilities for sailing and rowing, a 1.5-mile path perfect for joggers and walkers, and fields ideal for a picnic with family or friends. The state even stocks the pond with trout for visitors to catch in addition to indigenous fish like pickerel, bass, hornpout, and perch. If you're looking for events the whole family will enjoy, Jamaica Pond hosts popular events like Summer Sundays in the Park and the annual Lantern Festival.
Learn more about Jamaica Pond here.
At 485 acres, Franklin Park, often considered Boston's "country park" due to its acres of woods, is the city's largest open space. Connecting the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, and Roslindale, Franklin Park is the perfect stop as you explore Boston's 23 diverse neighborhoods. Featuring miles of hiking trails, recreation facilities, and attractions like Scarboro Pond, the 99 Steps and Ellicott Arch, old Franklin Park Zoo Bear Dens, The Wilderness, and the William J. Devine golf course, the park is a must-visit whether you're a local or a visitor. The park's most beloved attraction is the Franklin Park Zoo, home to hundreds of exotic animal species like the African Lion, Western Lowland Gorilla, and Spotted Hyena. With the Elma Lewis Playhouse stage featuring concerts each summer, Franklin Park is also the perfect spot to experience open-air performances in Boston.
Learn more about Franklin Park here.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
Born out of the Big Dig, the Rose Kennedy Greenway is one of Boston's newest public parks. Stretching along the path of the old elevated Central Artery, the Greenway is a testament to urban revitalization, transforming a six-lane highway into a lush green space running from Chinatown to the North End. The 1.5-mile-long string of parks has become a hub of cultural and social activities, including rotating public art, the Greenway Carousel, fountains, multiple Farmers' Markets, the Greenway Food Truck program, and events throughout the year. Don't miss out on Trillium's popup beer garden on The Greenway during the warmer months.
Learn more about the Greenway here.
Located at the southern edge of South Boston's beaches, anchoring Pleasure Bay, Castle Island offers unmatched panoramic views of Boston Harbor. The 22-acre park combines natural beauty with historic charm, with its primary attraction being Fort Independence, a star-shaped granite fort that has stood since before the Civil War. Castle Island's location makes it the perfect place to stop before visiting nearby beaches - Carson Beach, L Street Beach, M Street Beach, and Pleasure Bay Beach - or for a picnic, as you watch boats sail by in the Harbor. If you're looking for a bite to eat while exploring Castle Island, check out Sullivan's, a Southie staple each summer.
Learn more about Castle Island here.
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
Encompassing 34 islands and peninsulas, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area provides experiences for everyone. Just a quick ferry ride from downtown Boston, the Boston Harbor Islands offers everything from fishing, picnicking, and swimming to historic tours, camping, and hiking. Discover islands like Georges Island, home to Fort Warren, Spectacle Island, offering breathtaking views of the Boston skyline, Little Brewster Island, where you'll find the historic Boston Light, and more.
Learn more about the Boston Harbor Islands here.
Christopher Columbus Park
Just a short walk from the North End along Boston's waterfront is Christopher Columbus Park. The park features grassy lawns perfect for picnicking, a playground that the kids will love, and a beautiful trellis-covered walkway that is illuminated with blue lights during the holidays. Throughout the year, the park hosts a range of community events, including summer movie nights, Fall Festival, and the annual trellis lighting, making it a lively and engaging spot for locals and tourists alike.
Learn more about Christopher Columbus Park here.
The Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade is arguably one of Boston's most Instagrammable spots. Stretching three miles on the Boston side of the Charles River, the Esplanade provides picturesque views of the Boston skyline, Charles River, and Cambridge. The park features three unique playgrounds, multiple murals, recreation facilities, and plenty of green space and paths perfect for your next walk, bike, run, or outdoor fitness class. The Charles River Esplanade's most well-known attraction is the Hatch Shell, a half-dome outdoor performance venue that features a full lineup of concerts, movies, and other events each summer. If you're looking for a unique location for a picnic in Boston, the Hatch Shell and the Esplanade's five docks are the perfect spots!
Learn more about the Charles River Esplanade here.
Back Bay Fens
Did you know the Back Bay was once a naturally occurring tidal marsh before being landfilled during the mid-1800s?
Originally created as part of the Emerald Necklace as a way to replicate the natural ecology of this tidal marsh, the Back Bay Fens is now a green escape close to some of Boston's leading cultural institutions - Fenway Park, Museum of Fine Arts, and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Fens is home to several attractions including the Kelleher Rose Garden, a hidden gem with over 200 varieties of rose bushes, The Fenway Victory Gardens, a community garden that is the only remaining continuously-operating World War II Victory Garden in the nation, the Korean and Vietnam War memorials, ball fields, a playground, and numerous paths for you to explore. The Fens are also home to an unusual range of bird species, making it the perfect place for bird watching.
Learn more about the Back Bay Fens here.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Founded in 1831, the 175-acre Mount Auburn Cemetery is America's first garden cemetery. Located in Cambridge, Mount Auburn was designed to not only be a resting place for the deceased but also as an attraction and pleasure ground for Victorian-era tourism. Today, the cemetery acts as a public park, arboretum, and wildlife sanctuary that features over 5,500 trees, shrubs, and plants from around the world, peaceful ponds, numerous statues, breathtaking mausoleums, and awe-inspiring views of Boston and Cambridge. As you explore, be on the lookout for famous graves of notable figures like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Julia Ward Howe, and Charles Sumner.
Learn more about Mount Auburn Cemetery here.
What was once the site of George Washington's first troop camp during the Revolutionary War is now a public park next to Cambridge's bustling Harvard Square. This beloved local park welcomes over 10,000 pedestrians and cyclists to its paths each day and is an urban sanctuary for locals and tourists looking for a spot to grab lunch outside, relax under a tree, or take the kids to the playground. The Common features notable monuements, including a plaque representing where the "Washington Elm" once stood, three abandoned cannons dedicated to Revolutionary War figures, and the Irish Famine Memorial.
Learn more about Cambridge Common here.