Boston Walk: The Common & Public Garden
The Boston Common and Public Garden are adjoining parks in the center of Boston. The parks are crisscrossed with paths, benches, ponds, and historical landmarks. The combined 74 acres of open space offers an escape from the bustle of the city. Our self-guided walk includes things to do at Boston Common, the Public Garden, and in nearby neighborhoods. The walk is 2-miles long, and can be completed in either direction. Plan for a 2-hour outing.
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About The Common and Public Garden
In 1634, Puritan families in Boston pitched in 6 shilling each to acquire a common ground for grazing, militia training, and executions. Their cooperative purchase resulted in the origin of the oldest public park in America. Since that time, Boston Common (“The Common”) has functioned as a public gathering spot for speeches, protests, festivals, and fireworks.
Two centuries later in 1839, a band of horticulturalists worked together to create Boston’s second public park. Whereas the Common’s primary purpose was for cross-town travel, the Boston Public Garden was planned as a Victorian-style garden to be used for strolling and relaxation. Then, and today, the garden is full of colorful annuals, shrubs, and exotic imported trees (almost all grown by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department).
The parks are active all year long. There are play structures, ball fields, swan boats, and picnic grounds to enjoy as well as many statues and memorials. The areas are bordered by the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and Downtown neighborhoods. The location makes the parks a great launchpad and meeting place for day-trippers venturing into the city.
Park at the Boston Common Parking Garage (it is underneath The Common) at 0 Charles Street, Boston MA. Note: Charles Street runs between Boston Common and the Public Garden. By “T” (subway) take the Tremont St Opp Temple Place, Park Street (Boston), Temple Place at Washington Street, Boylston, or Downtown Crossing stop.
Tips for the Day
There is a Visitor Center at 139 Tremont Street on The Common. There are maps and brochures of the city, and public restrooms at this location. This is also the beginning of the Boston Freedom Trail.
Dress in layers. The weather is changeable in Boston, and often windy. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
As an alternate to walking, rent a bike from the Bluebike Station. It is located on Arlington Street by the entrance to the Public Garden (about $3.00 per half hour).
Map of Route
Things to Do and Sights To See
Begin your stroll at the Boston Common Visitor’s Center. From here walk on to the Frog Pond. The man-made pool is a spray pool in the summer, and skating rink in the winter. A snack bar is usually open. Close to the Frog Pond is the Tadpole Playground and the Common’s Carousel. The Carousel features horse and animal characters, oak floors, and lighted glass mirrors.
Next, walk along the center of the park to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument. The monument dates back to 1877. It honors soldiers and sailors who died in the American Civil War.
From here, make a detour to the Boylston side of the park to see the Central Burying Ground. The cemetery was established in 1756 to alleviate crowding at the King’s Chapel, Granary, and Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds. It contains the remains of many British soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War.
When you are done, head to the middle of the park and pass the Parkman Bandstand. It was erected in 1912 and serves as a stage for many public ceremonies. From here, cross Charles Street into the Public Garden.
Make your way to the Garden’s lagoon. The lagoon is home to the much-loved Swan Boats. In the warm weather a fleet of pedal operated boats glide across the lagoon. The attraction has been operated by the Paget family since 1877.
Wander the paths of the Public Garden to find the Alexander Hamilton and George Washington statues. Then, find the Ether Monument (the oldest monument in the Garden). The monument commemorates the use of ether in anesthesia, and is sometimes call The Good Samaritan. Stroll across the lagoon’s bridge and feed the ducks and Canadian geese.
From the Public Garden, explore Newbury Street. On Newbury, you will find Boston’s version of Rodeo Drive. In the first block of stores, there are store fronts for Cartier, Burberry, and many other luxury retailers.
At the end of the block is the lovely Church of the Covenant. Turn onto Berkley Street and walk a block over to Commonwealth Avenue. There is a shaded walkway down the middle of Commonwealth. Use it to stroll back toward the Public Garden. As you move along, notice the traditional Boston Brownstones that line both sides of the avenue.
Walk around the lagoon and find the Make-Way-for-Duckling’s Statue. From here, head into the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Roam the narrow lanes toward the cobblestoned Acorn Street. Beacon Hill was once home to servants, shop girls, and tradesmen. Today, it is the location of some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
Next, walk back to Beacon Street. Trek up the hill to the Massachusetts State House. The State House (1789) is the oldest continually inhabited state capitol in America. The original wooden dome was replaced by a copper Paul Revere dome (to keep out the rain). On the state’s centennial, Revere’s copper dome was updated to gilded gold.
Across the street from the Statehouse, there is a relief by Augustus Saint-Gaudens honoring the first African-American regiments of the Civil War. The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial was made famous by the 1989 movie “Glory.” The monument is a stop on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail.
From this location, the route loops around to the Granary Burying Ground. Originally a part of Boston Common, the cemetery is the resting place of some of the city’s most famous citizens. Three gentlemen who signed the Declaration on Independence (Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine) are buried here, as is Paul Revere and Mary Goose (recognized as Mother Goose). Benjamin Franklin’s mother and father are interned onsite. Also, the victims of the Boston Massacre were laid to rest here.
To finish the walk, continue down Tremont Street to the Park Street Church. The church was the site of the first Sunday School in America. Since the Evangelical church was founded in 1804, it has provided a gathering place for organizers of the anti-slavery movement, women’s suffrage, and prison reform. The church continues to hold services. Click here for Park Street Church information.
On your way back to the Visitor’s Center, notice the Brewers Fountain (1868). The bronze sculpture stands near the corner of Park and Tremont Streets. In the warmer months the plaza is often surrounded by food trucks and diners seated at picnic tables by the fountain.
This concludes our walking tour of The Common, Public Garden, and nearby neighborhoods. Grab a beer on Tremont Street at the Beantown Pub. Cheers! Laura and Randy
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