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BOSTON COMMON AND PUBLIC GARDEN

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.

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Map of Boston Common and Public Garden

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info Bounded by: Beacon, Park, Tremont, Arlington, & Boylston streets • “T” station: Park Street (red/green line), Boylston & Arlington (both green line)

prac_info 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)

prac_info Boston Parks & Recreation: 617 635 4505; www.cityofboston.gov/parks

prac_info Swan Boat Rides: 617 522 1966; open mid-Apr–mid-Sep: 10am–5pm daily; adm $4; www.swanboats.com

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  • Quick, food-court-style bites can be had inside the Corner shopping center at Washington and Summer streets.
  • The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company stages free performances during summer.

1. Frog Pond

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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.

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Children taking a dip in the shallow Frog Pond

2. Lagoon Bridge

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This elegant 1869 faux suspension bridge crossing the lagoon has served as the romantic setting for many wedding photos.

3. Make Way for Ducklings Statuettes

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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.

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The iconinc Make Way for Ducklings Statuettes

4. Shaw Memorial

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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.

5. Bronze of George Washington

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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.

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The bronze statue of Washington in the center of the Public Garden

6. Soldiers and Sailors Monument

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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.

7. Founders’ Memorial

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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.

8. Swan Boats

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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.

9. Ether Monument

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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.

10. Parkman Bandstand

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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.

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The Parkman Bandstand

EMERALD NECKLACE

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.

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