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Favorite Five Boston Parks/Green Spaces

Spending time outside has never felt as important as it has this past year, with all of us having spent much of our time confined indoors with strict but necessary limits on gathering sizes. This made for an especially difficult winter – no big holiday parties, hanging out in cozy coffee shops with friends, or various other ways to break up the cold days. Feeling a little stir crazy? I know I am!

For this month’s Favorite Five, I’m heading outside. Now that the weather is finally warming up and the sun is shining, it’s time to make the most of it. As a long term city-dweller, I’ve spent lots of time exploring Boston’s beautiful green spaces when I needed a break from all the steel and cement. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Rose Kennedy Greenway – When the Big Dig project brought the bulk of Boston’s downtown traffic underground, the community jumped at the opportunity to add some new green space to the city.  Through a joint effort between the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Boston, and civic and community organizations, the Rose Kennedy Greenway was born. A linear downtown park that runs through Haymarket, the Waterfront, North End, Financial District and Chinatown, the Greenway is about 1.5 miles long and covers 17 acres.  It’s the perfect place to take a casual walk, stopping along the way to admire the various small parks, gardens, art installations, and plazas. With its open fountains, New England animal themed carousel, and close proximity to multiple playgrounds and the New England Aquarium, it’s the perfect place to bring young children – or feel like a kid yourself!
  2. The Lawn on D – The Lawn on D is exactly what it sounds like – a lawn located on South Boston’s D Street – but it’s also so much more than that. Owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) and designed by Sasaki, the 2.7 acre space serves as both a public gathering place and a private event space. During Open Lawn Hours, when the Lawn is open to the general public, anyone can head over and take advantage of the Lawn Games (bocce, ping-pong, cornhole, or Jenga), concessions from Rebel Restaurants, and Swing Time. If you’re a Boston resident with an Instagram account, chances are you’ve scrolled by a photo of somebody lounging on the Lawn’s eye catching circular swings that change color when they move.  The Lawn on D is a great place to spend some time outdoors with those friends who you’ve been missing all winter. Just make sure you check the Open Lawn hours and wait until May 7th, when the Lawn opens for the season.
  3. Piers Park – Located on the East Boston waterfront, 6.5 acre Piers Park offers an unbeatable view of the Boston inner harbor and downtown skyline. The park, which was designed by Pressley Associates Landscape Architects, opened in 1995 following a heavy push from East Boston residents. The neighborhood had been lacking in public green space for over three decades, after losing 46-acre Wood Island Park to an airport expansion. Formerly the site of a condemned industrial pier, the long awaited Piers Park now boasts a 600-foot pedestrian promenade that juts out into the water, a community sailing center, large playground, amphitheater, outdoor fitness system, and lots of grassy areas to lay out a blanket and relax on a sunny day. The park is also a short walk away from the Boston Harbor Shipyard, where you can check out Downeast Cider House or enjoy the eclectic artwork that the shipyard contains, including ocean themed murals by local artists.
  4. The Emerald Necklace – You may not have known the name of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but you’ve almost certainly visited one of its parks. The Emerald Necklace, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, consists of a 1,100-acre chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways in Boston and Brookline, including some of the most well-known public parks in the Boston area. The parks in the Emerald Necklace include Boston Common, Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Jamaicaway, Arborway, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. Though some of these parks pre-date the design that intentionally unites them, they now form a seven mile link from downtown Boston to Jamaica Plain. Boston Common may be the most famous park in Boston, with its Duck Pond, Freedom Trail Tours, and multiple MBTA stops, but all of these parks have so much to offer. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could visit them all in one day by foot or by bike. For the animal lovers, the Emerald Necklace offers a satisfying endpoint – the Franklin Park Zoo!
  5. The Charles River Esplanade – You wouldn’t expect to find a scenic and serene park right next to Storrow Drive, but that’s exactly what you get at the Charles River Esplanade. Nestled between the notoriously busy motorway and the bustling Charles River, the Esplanade stretches from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge. Overseen by the Esplanade Association, the park contains greenery, historical monuments, playgrounds, and the famous Hatch Memorial Shell performance area. On sunny days, you’ll find people lounging on the large docks along the Charles River or renting a kayak or sailboat to spend some time on the water.  Though the Esplanade has gone through quite a few changes since it was first designed by landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff in the late 1800’s, it remains one of Boston’s most popular parks.

Now that the snow has cleared and the sun is out, dust off your sunglasses and head outside! There’s something for everyone, whether you’d rather break out your bike and explore or lounge in the grass with an iced coffee. While you’re at it, check out the fascinating backstories of these spaces and the dedicated people who made them a reality – this post has only scratched the surface!


Jenn Robertson is a Marketing Coordinator at Sasaki, member of the SMPS Boston Communications Committee, and the SMPS Boston Blog Manager.

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