Boston Public Garden
Other Ideas: Arnold Arboretum; Walden Pond State Park; Appalachian Mountain Club Outdoor Activities; Francis William Bird Park; Purgatory Chasm State Reservation
The Common has been public land since Boston was founded in 1630. The Public Garden was fully defined in 1856 by the building of Arlington Street, and in 1860 when the architect George Meacham was commissioned to plan the park.
The Public Garden is a lush, meticulously maintained botanical garden space of nearly 4 acres, with enormous trees that are hundreds of years old shading wonderful walking paths. Historic statues and fountains adorn the greenery and the illustrious swan boats float peacefully by on the middle pond.
The pond has been famous since 1877 for its foot pedal-powered (but wheelchair-accessible) Swan Boats, which make leisurely cruises during warm months. They were invented by one Robert Paget, who was inspired by the swan-drawn boat that carries Lohengrin in the Wagner opera of the same name. (Paget descendants still run the boats.)
The pond is favored by ducks and pairs of swans, and for the modest price of a few boat rides you can amuse children here for an hour or more. Near the Swan Boat dock is what has been described as the world's smallest suspension bridge, designed in 1867 to cross the pond at its narrowest point.
The Public Garden has the finest formal plantings in central Boston. The beds along the main walkways are replanted for spring and summer. The tulips during the first two weeks of May are especially colorful, and there's a sampling of native and European tree species.
The dominant work among the park's statuary is Thomas Ball's equestrian George Washington (1869), which faces the head of Commonwealth Avenue at the Arlington Street gate. This is Washington in a triumphant pose as liberator, surveying a scene that, from where he stood with his cannons at Dorchester Heights, would have included an immense stretch of blue water. Several dozen yards to the north of Washington (to the right if you're facing Commonwealth Avenue) is the granite and red-marble Ether Monument, donated in 1866 by Thomas Lee to commemorate the advent of anesthesia 20 years earlier at nearby Massachusetts General Hospital.
Other Public Garden monuments include statues of the Unitarian preacher and transcendentalist William Ellery Channing, at the corner opposite his Arlington Street church; Edward Everett Hale, the author (The Man Without a Country) and philanthropist, at the Charles Street Gate; and the abolitionist senator Charles Sumner and the Civil War hero Colonel Thomas Cass, along Boylston Street.
The park also contains a special delight for the young at heart; follow the children quack-quacking along the pathway between the pond and the park entrance at Charles and Beacon streets to the Make Way for Ducklings bronzes sculpted by Nancy Schön, a tribute to the 1941 classic children's story by Robert McCloskey.
Arlington Street; Beacon Street, Boston, MA map
Green Line Arlington puts you right across the street
Red Line Charles/MGH is about a 1/3 mile walk down Charles Street
- Be sure to seek out the cute sculpture Momma Duck and her little ducklings at the Beacon street entrance to the Public Garden - a great photo op for toddlers and kids!
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