Boston boasts 2,300 acres of public park land—that’s four percent of the total land area of the city! The parks themselves come in every shape, size, and location, from the huge Harbor Islands National Recreation Area to the long and skinny Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Whether you’re looking for a specific event to attend or just want to find a quiet area to stretch your legs, here are our five favorite parks in Boston.

1. Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park

Kayaks on Harbor Islands in Boston
Kayaks on Harbor Islands | Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

About the Park

One of Boston’s most interesting parks, the Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is made up of 34 islands and peninsulas totaling more than 1,500 acres. Public ferry service is available from May through October, but private boats can also access the islands.

Things to Do

Whether you’re looking for a long hike or just a good place to have a picnic, this park has something to offer. In addition to hiking trails, Harbor Islands provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, swimming beaches, and fishing areas. You can even kayak around the islands!

Don’t Miss

Several of the islands, including Spectacle Island and Deer Island, offer beautiful views of the city and harbor. Little Brewster Island is home to the oldest light station in America. Fort Warren, located on Georges Island, is a historic fort that served as a POW camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

2. Boston Common

pathway through Boston Common park
Boston Common pathway | Photo courtesy of Vignesh Ananth

About the Park

Boston Common can claim the title of the oldest park in America—in fact, this green space is older than America itself! Originally used for grazing cattle, Boston Common was the site of numerous public executions during Boston’s early days, as well as a campground for British soldiers during the American Revolution. These days, it’s a popular destination for both tourists and locals.

Things to Do

Paved pathways throughout the park provide a charming location to enjoy a run or walk. Boston’s legendary winter snows make sledding a popular pastime during cold weather. Frog Pond offers ice skating during the winter; during the summer, the shallow concrete pond functions as a splash pool.

Don’t Miss

Every July and August, Shakespeare on the Common puts on free evening performances of one of Shakespeare’s plays, from Romeo and Juliet to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Common also hosts a New Year’s Eve celebration featuring fireworks, ice sculptures, and an ice skating show. American history buffs will enjoy searching for the dozens of memorials and monuments scattered throughout Boston Common, highlighting both important and lesser-known moments from the city’s rich history.

3. Rose Kennedy Greenway

sunny day at Rose Kennedy Greenway
Rose Kennedy Greenway | Photo courtesy of Paul Geffen

About the Park

The Greenway,” which replaced an elevated highway in 2008, is actually a series of five parks connecting Boston’s Chinatown to the North End neighborhood. From end to end, the Greenway is one and a half miles long.

Things to Do

As you stroll along the length of the Greenway, keep an eye out for modern art installations; the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which helps maintain the park, is dedicated to bringing free works of art to the public space. A rotating selection of food trucks serves up tasty treats to hungry park-goers, making the long Greenway a perfect location to sample several different cuisines. After you eat, stop by the Greenway Carousel and take a ride on one of Boston’s native animals, such as a fox or harbor seal.

Don’t Miss

During the summer, the Greenway hosts a farmers market and an artisans market. The farmers market, featuring fresh produce, breads, meats, and more, takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays. The artisans market occurs every Saturday; there, you’ll find crafts and handmade goodies from local artists and designers. Visiting during the winter? Don’t worry—every year, the Greenway is outfitted with vibrant lights.

4. Charles River Esplanade

runners along the river at Charles River Esplanade
Charles River Esplanade | Photo courtesy of Isaac Wedin

About the Park

Located on the southern bank of the Charles River just a few blocks away from Boston Common, “The Esplanade” provides three miles of peaceful river views. It’s a popular route for runners and makes a nice change of pace from the harbor.

Things to Do

The park’s three-mile length provides a pleasant route to walk or bike. There are three playgrounds to choose from, geared toward children of all ages. Interested in getting on the water itself? Boats and kayaks are available to rent.

Don’t Miss

If you don’t feel like steering your own ship, you can tour Boston from the comfort of a Venetian gondola tour, or head to the Hatch Shell—an outdoor venue which presents free weekly concerts during the summer and family-friendly movies on Fridays at dusk—one of our very favorite free things to do in Boston.

5. Paul Revere Park

statue of paul revere at Paul Revere Park
Paul Revere Park | Photo courtesy of Tom Sackton

About the Park

Located north of the Charles River, Paul Revere Park is a relatively recent addition to Boston’s public green spaces. Completed in 2007, the park features a boardwalk along the riverbank and large grassy areas that make it great for casual recreation.

Things to Do

Paul Revere Park is known for being very dog-friendly, so if you’re traveling with pets, bring them here for some off-leash fun. The park also features a short pier and a fish-cleaning station, so bring a few fishing poles along and see if you can catch dinner!

Don’t Miss

The park offers lovely views of the city just across the river, plus gorgeous mosaic art throughout the grounds.

Beloved by locals and tourists alike, parks are an excellent way to get a feel for a city. Whether you’re looking for a outdoorsy excursion, a stimulating walk, or just a nice place to have a picnic and people-watch, you’re sure to find the perfect park in Boston.

Featured photo courtesy of  Patrick Franzis

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Author: Madison Schultz

Madison grew up in western Kansas with a family that loves to travel. She is a highly accomplished roadtripper, having driven from western Kansas to Portland twice—the second time, in a moving van. Her favorite places include Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Innsbruck, Florence, York, Edinburgh, Ely, the San Juan Islands, Taos, and Lawrence.