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The Charles River Esplanade, the Boston Public Garden, Boston Harbor Islands are popular with residents and visitors alike. These Boston parks offer many outdoor recreation options, from camping to boating to botanical gardens and artwork. They welcome tourists who want something beyond historic locations and museums.
Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade is a three-mile stretch that runs along the Charles River. It goes from the Boston Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge. It was created by several landfill projects and named in 1910, with the word “esplanade” meaning “promenade along a shore” in French. It's run by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and welcomes up to three million people every year, who enjoy walking, jogging, boating, bicycling, and relaxing on the benches scattered around the park land. The park boasts six miles of walking and biking trails, two playgrounds, a wading pool for summer days, and a number of sports fields for various activities like soccer, tennis, and T-ball.
If you enjoy artwork, you'll find ten different statutes and memorials scattered through the Charles River Esplanade. You might be able to catch a performance at Hatch Shell if you visit at the right time. The park hosts a huge fireworks delay every year for the 4th of July, with 10,000 pyrotechnic shells controlled by a nine-person team.
Tourists are welcome in the park, but you'll also find many locals taking advantage of formal fitness classes, runs, and other scheduled events or enjoying the property in their own way, at their leisure.
The Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden is adjacent to the Boston Common and has the distinction of being the very first public botanical garden in America. It was established in 1862 after several years of work, on 24 acres of former marshland. It is now a National Landmark.
The park is known for its resident swans, as well as a swan boat ride dating back to 1877 that is a must-do for visitors. You rent a boat that is navigated around the lagoon by a guide.
The rectangular plot of park land is full of both permanent and seasonal flowers and well-established trees, like its signature weeping willows on the shoreline, elm and maple trees, beeches, silk trees, lindens, ginkos, and even a California redwood.
While the flora is a big draw in the park, visitors also enjoy the statues scattered around the grounds. The first statue to be placed in the Boston Public Garden was the Triton Babies Fountain by Anna Coleman Ladd, in 1927. Today, you'll see that original piece, as well as other works like bronze statues based on the children's book “Make Way for Ducklings,” a state of Civil War-era Boston congressman Charles Sumner, "Boy and Bird" by Bashka Paeff, and “The Good Samaritan,” a work by John Quincy Adams Ward that depicts ether's first use for anesthesia.
Boston Harbor Islands
Boston Harbor Islands is a National Parks area that is perfect for recreational day trips. You can walking, swim, fish, or just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The Boston Harbor Islands are easily accessible by ferry boat from Boston, although you must transfer to a different boat to get to some of them. The ferry schedule varies by season. Altogether, there are over 30 islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, with 13 making up the Boston Harbor Islands State Park.
Many of the islands have points of interest. For example, you can visit Fort Warren, which dates back to the Civil War, on Georges Island, and Little Brewster Island has America's oldest lighthouse.
Georges and Spectacle are the two islands most easily accessible to visitors, and they have the best facilities, including concession stands, public restrooms, and potable drinking water. If you can stay longer than a day trip, some of the islands have overnight camping facilities.
Two islands in the harbor, Castle Island and Spinnaker Island, are not a part of the National Parks. Two other islands, Moon and Long, are not open to the public.