Verdant Boston Common has hosted auctions, cattle grazing, and public hangings over its 380-year history, in addition to festivals and the requisite frisbee tosses. The adjacent Public Garden, opened in 1839, was the US’s first botanical garden. Its swan boats and weeping willows are emblematic of Boston at its most enchanting. The French-style flowerbeds may only bloom in warmer months, but the garden exudes old-world charm year round.
Bounded by: Beacon, Park, Tremont, Arlington, & Boylston streets • “T” station: Park Street (red/green line), Boylston & Arlington (both green line)
Boston Common Visitor Center: 139 Tremont St; 617 426 3115; open 8:30am–5pm Mon–Fri, 9am–5pm Sat & Sun (shorter weekend hours in winter)
Boston Parks & Recreation: 617 635 4505; www.cityofboston.gov/parks
Swan Boat Rides: 617 522 1966; open mid-Apr–mid-Sep: 10am–5pm daily; adm $4; www.swanboats.com
During summer, children splash under the iridescent spray of the pond’s fountains. Come winter, kids of all ages lace up their skates and take to the ice. Skate rentals and delicious hot chocolate are nearby.
This elegant 1869 faux suspension bridge crossing the lagoon has served as the romantic setting for many wedding photos.
Eight little ducklings seem to have sprung from the pages of Robert McCloskey’s much-loved kids’ book and fallen in line behind their mother at the lagoon’s edge.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ lifelike bronze pays homage to the “Fighting 54th” – one of the only entirely African-American regiments in the Civil War. Led by Boston native Robert Shaw, the 54th amassed an impressive battle record.
The nation’s first president cuts a stately figure at the western end of the Public Garden. Local sculptor Thomas Ball’s 1869 bronze was an early horseback depiction of Washington.
Over 25,000 Union Army veterans remembered their fallen Civil War comrades at the 1877 dedication of Martin Milmore’s impressive memorial. Bas-reliefs depict the soldiers’ and sailors’ departure to and return from war.
William Blaxton, Boston’s first white settler, is depicted greeting John Winthrop in John F. Paramino’s 1930 bronze. Note the use of the word “Shawmut” – the Native American name for the land that would become Boston.
Summer hasn’t officially arrived in Boston until the swan boats emerge from hibernation and glide onto the Public Garden lagoon. With their gracefully arching necks and brilliantly painted bills, each distinctive swan can accommodate up to 20 people.
This 1868 statue commemorates the first etherized operation, which took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846 (see Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation). Controversial from the outset, this is the West’s only monument to the powers of a drug.
Built in 1912 to honor George Parkman, a benefactor of the park, this elegant bandstand is modeled on Versailles’ Temple d’Amour (temple of love). It hosts everything from concerts to political rallies.
Boston Common and Public Garden may seem like solitary urban oases, but they are two links in a greater chain of green space that stretches all the way through Boston to the suburb of Roxbury. The Emerald Necklace, as this chain is called, was completed in 1896 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York’s Central Park.