Greater Boston has a population of 4,309,000 people with 23 distinct neighborhoods. While walking throughout the city you will be surrounded by towering skyscrapers and historical sites. However, what people may not expect, is that there are a number of beautiful outdoor spaces in Boston that you must experience.
This is a very walkable city. Yet, the easiest way to get from point A to point B beyond walking distance is to take the MBTA or a Lyft. This will save you from having to deal with the limited free parking situation all over the city and the potential road rage from the traffic.
If you are traveling from outside the city and don’t want to deal with driving into Boston, my personal suggestion is to park in one of the lots in Braintree. From there, simply take the red line into the city and get out at Park Street. This stop is right next to Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Downtown Crossing which is also known for its shopping.
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Beautiful Outdoor Spaces in Boston
1. Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
Address: 125 Arborway, Boston, MA 02130
This gorgeous arboretum is the oldest of its kind in North America. Established in 1872, this 281-acre preserve is a botanical haven for plants from North America and Eastern Asia. It is also the home base for Harvard’s researchers studying botanical life. While they do not allow picnicking at the preserve, you can enjoy the trails to enjoy the scenery. One of the most popular times to visit is during their Lilac Sunday event in May.
Hours: Sunrise to Dusk, Every Day
Transportation: The MBTA is the easiest way to get to the arboretum. Limited free parking is also available along Arborway, Walter Street, and Bussey Street.
- MBTA – Take the orange line from Downtown Crossing to Forest Hills Station. “Turn left as you pass through the turnstiles. Exit through the door marked “Arnold Arboretum.” Proceed about 60 feet, then turn left and continue parallel to the Arborway. Continue walking along the Arborway, up the hill and to the Arboretum’s Forest Hills gate on your left. To reach the Arboretum’s main entrance and the Hunnewell Building, continue along the sidewalk on the Arborway to the main gate (about 10 minutes), or go through the gate, bear right at the pond, and continue to the Hunnewell Building.” – Arboretum Website
2. Boston Common
Address: 139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111
Just outside of Park Station and across from the Public Garden, you will find the oldest park in the United States. Built in 1634, this park spans 50 acres in the heart of Boston. Fun fact, originally this area was used as a cow pasture for families during the 1600s. Yet these days, people visit to enjoy a picnic, take a walk, or enjoy some of the many local activities in downtown Boston.
Park Information: Free Entry, Map
Hours: Open 6:30 am to 11:00 pm, Every Day
3. Boston Harbor Islands
Address: 1 Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
During the summer months into the early fall, you can visit the popular Boston Harbor Islands which includes Spectacle Island, Peddocks Island, Georges Island, and Lovells Island. All you have to do is book one of the Boston Harbor Cruises to visit these destinations. Each island has their perks depending on what you are looking for. Lovells seems to be the most popular due to the stunning view of Boston and the great facilities for picnicking and camping.
Information: Boston Harbor Cruises (Rates, Season info, Dates, Directions – Scroll to the Bottom of the Page)
Hours: Open 7:00 am to 8:00 pm, Every Day (Seasonal)
4. Boston Public Garden
Address: 4 Charles St, Boston, MA 02108
Directly across from Boston Common is this gorgeous oasis in the middle of the city. This is by far one of my favorite spots in Boston which keeps me coming back time and time again. Founded in 1839, it is the first botanical garden in the United States. The lagoon in the middle of the garden reflects the stunning weeping willows and is home to the swan boats for visitors. You can find the bronze statues of Nancy Schön’s famous tribute to Make Way for Ducklings near the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street.
Information: Free Entry, Map
Hours: Open 6:30 am to 11:00 pm every day.
- Take the green line to Arlington Station and exit towards the Public Garden.
5. Charles River Esplanade
Address: Charles River Esplanade, Boston, MA 02116
Just beyond the shop lined streets of Newbury Street is this 64 acre park in Back Bay. It is a great area for many recreational activities such as exercising, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, picnicking, or even enjoying one of the many events held at the Hatch Shell. I love this area during the spring blossoms and the foliage in the fall. It’s also a great place to relax and watch the sail boats go by.
Hours: Sunrise to Dusk, Every Day
Transportation: The MBTA is the easiest way to get to the Esplanade.
- If taking the red line, exit the station at the Charles MGH stop. Cross over the highway by taking the Arthur Fielder pedestrian bridge to the esplanade.
- If taking the green line, exit the station at Arlington, proceed up to Arlington Street and cross over the highway on the Arthur Fiedler pedestrian bridge.
6. Castle Island
Address: 2080 William J Day Blvd, South Boston, MA 02127
Castle Island is perfect spot for a nice picnic, plane-watching, biking, walking, sightseeing, or even a dipping your toes in the water. This 22-acre recreational area is located in South Boston and is home to Fort Independence. Before 1928, the island wasn’t even connected to the mainland which is where it gets it’s name. You will find plenty of benches or spots to lay down a blanket in this area.
Information: Free Entry, Every Day, Map
Hours: Sunrise to Dusk
Transportation: The MBTA or taking a Lyft is the easiest way to get to Castle Island. If driving, there is a free parking in the lot near Fort Independence and metered street parking along the beach. I would recommend getting there early if you want a spot. Especially during the summer months.
- MBTA – Walk from 6 mins from Park Street to Otis St @ Summer St. Take bus 7 (City Point) to Farragut Rd opp E 2nd St. You will arrive right in front of Pleasure Bay Beach. Walk left for 17 mins to Castle Island to reach Fort Independence.
7. Piers Park
Address: 95 Marginal St, Boston, MA 02128
This park is a bit less green than the other parks on this list, but I absolutely had to include it because of skyline views of Boston. You can walk along this immaculately landscaped harbor to enjoy the scenery of downtown Boston. Need a break from the sun? There are several pavilions along the 600 ft promenade. The park also has an amphitheater, outdoor fitness system, and a playground.
Feeling adventurous? Check out the one hour introduction to sailing program held at the Piers Park Sailing Center.
Information: Free Entry, Every Day
Hours: Sunrise to Dusk
Transportation: The MBTA is a good way to get to Piers Park. There is also limited free parking on Marginal Street and in the Piers Park parking lot. Be sure to arrive early if visiting in the summer months.
- MBTA – Take the blue line to Maverick Station. Walk 6 minutes to 95 Marginal Street.
- Boston Harbor Cruises – Water Taxi