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A Perfect Day at Boston’s Public Garden According to a Local

By Eileen Cotter Wright
Boston's Public Garden
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Boston’s weather might be a little iffy, especially when the winter slams the skyline with buckets of snow. But the gloom makes the beautiful days of spring, summer, and fall all the more spectacular. And one of the best places to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the city outdoors is Boston’s Public Garden.

You might be a bit confused on the layout, as the gardens are right next to the larger Boston Common. But the flowers and beautiful foliage stand out next to the more sprawling lawns of the common.

Also, if you can’t get enough of Boston’s greenery, you can stroll through the connecting Commonwealth Avenue Mall that follows all the way to the Back Bay Fens.

Ready for a perfect day at Boston’s Public Garden? As a local, I’ve spent many sunny afternoons here and have a full lineup of everything you should do in this memorable place plus when to visit, must-see features, and more.

Introducing Boston’s Public Garden

Boston's Public Garden

The botanical garden opened in 1837, making it the first public botanical garden in America. It quickly became the pride and joy of the city, though it fell into some neglect in the 20th century, especially during World War II.

Luckily, an organization called Friends of the Public Garden took over responsibilities and has maintained the space since 1970. They and others have planted more than 600 trees, restored historic fountains and statues, and brought back the bridge to its former glory. Today, it’s a beautifully manicured space for everyone to enjoy year-round.

Top things to do and see at Boston’s Public Garden

Boston's Public Garden

You can certainly while away the hours doing a whole lot of nothing at Boston’s Public Gardens, but it’s worth noting the various points of interest and attractions too that make this space special. 

Here’s what I recommend for a full day at Boston’s Public Garden.

Ride a swan boat

If you make a trip to Boston anytime between April and September, you have to enjoy a leisurely swan boat experience. They’ve been a city icon since the late 1800s. Take 15 minutes of serenity and soak up a little piece of the city’s history.

You can often spot a pair of real swans here in the lagoon as well. Affectionately called Romeo and Juliet, the swans might actually be two females!

Watch the ducklings

Boston's Public Garden

Birds really do put on a show at the gardens. 

Besides the swan boats, the second famous fowls are eight tiny bronze ducklings and their mother running alongside the corner of Beacon and Charles streets. 

Local tip: Prepare for your visit, especially if you’re traveling with kids, by reading the charming book “Make Way for Ducklings,” by Robert McCloskey, all about the cute ducks and Boston as their home.

Enjoy park flora

Boston's Public Garden - Flora

You’ll find most of Boston’s Public Garden’s prettiest trees and flowers planted among 57 various garden beds.

There are more than 80 species cultivated and propagated by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department onsite and in nearby greenhouses. Trees include Ginko, Maple, Beech and Oak varieties, to name a few. Some of the showiest flowers you’ll find are Japanese quince, Royal Azaleas, and the Japanese kerria.

Visit the notable statues and monuments

Boston's Public Garden - Statues

The most stately sight in the gardens is the Ether Fountain, commissioned by Thomas Lee in 1868. 

From there, you can see the statue of George Washington atop his noble steed. The project was all completed by local Massachusetts artisans and craftsmen in the 1800s.

But there are many more artistic features here to enjoy. These are some of my favorites you’ll want to keep an eye out for:

  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Make Way for Ducklings statue
  • Bagheera Fountain
  • George Robert White Memorial
  • Japanese lantern
  • Thomas Cass statue
  • Boston Public Garden Foot Bridge
  • Tadeusz Kościuszko statue

Things to do near Boston’s Public Garden

Just next door to Boston Public Gardens is Boston Common, with a few more things worth experiencing if you are in the area.

These include a small carousel near the center of the park, perfect if you have little ones in tow. It’s only a few dollars to ride, and it’s surrounded by grassy areas and trees.

There’s also the beloved Frog Pond. During the summer it’s a welcome oasis from the heat, complete with a splash pad and spray pool. In the winter, the water transforms to ice for a fun ice skating experience with great city views.

When to visit Boston’s Public Garden

Boston's Public Garden

While I think Boston’s Public Garden is beautiful year-round, there are a few times of year that it’s really special. If your trip to Boston aligns with one of these, make sure you save time for a visit to the garden.

Duckling Day parade

Every year in May, children and adults alike gather near the Make Way for Ducklings statue to celebrate. A procession of hundreds of costumed kiddos walk through the gardens and listen to the Harvard University Marching Band. 

Before the official event, there is Playtime on the Common, where families can enjoy free entertainment and more fun.

Spring tulips

Boston's Public Garden - Tulips

Spring is one of the best times of year to visit Boston’s Public Garden.

At the end of April, colors explode across the gardens as hundreds of tulips bloom. You’ll see lots of locals and visitors strolling along the paths to take pictures and admire the rainbow of flowers.

Fall foliage

Visiting Boston in fall? You’re in for a treat at the garden.

Sure, you can head north in New England to peep leaves and jostle through the crowds. But Boston’s Public Garden has some gorgeous examples of changing autumn leaves too. The Japanese maple trees often have the most dramatic transformation. Plan to take lots of photos!

Plan your day at Boston’s Public Garden

Boston's Public Garden

Here are some FAQs to help you plan your visit to the garden.

How do you get to the Boston Public Garden?

There are a few subway stops within walking distance to the main entrance and other points of interest that border the neighboring Boston Common. 

The closest red line stop is Park Street on the northeast side or the Arlington green line stop on the garden’s southwest corner. You can take the orange line to the Chinatown stop only a block away. There is a parking garage underneath the gardens for a fee as well as plenty of taxi access to the major attractions.

Are there places to eat in the Boston Public Garden?

Boston Public Garden

There are often a few food vendors in the gardens and nearby Boston Common for snacks and treats. You can also bundle up a nice picnic and find a spot under a tree or on a park bench to nosh. 

However, there are dozens of restaurants within walking distance as well for sit-down service, such as the kitschy Cheers Boston and the elegant Bistro du Midi.

Is Boston’s Public Garden worth visiting?

Yes! In case you can’t tell, I’m a fan of this garden. As a local, I’ve visited many times, and it’s a little different each time depending on the season or even the time of day. 

I highly recommend bringing a picnic and blanket to spread on the grass if the weather is fair, and if you’re traveling as a family, this place is a must. Plus, it’s one of the top free attractions in Boston, perfect for any budget.

Visiting Boston Public Garden and beyond

Boston Public Garden

Boston’s Public Garden is just one of the many places in Boston worth adding to your bucket list. Check out more of our Boston blogs for inspiration on more to see and do.

Want to contrast all that sunshine with something a little shadier? Take a walk on the spooky side of Boston with our Haunted Boston Walking Tour. We’ll visit Boston Common and many more sites known for paranormal activity.

Ghosts, gardens — Boston has it all. We can’t wait to welcome you to this historic city.