Boston Public Garden

In this horticultural wonder, ride an iconic swan boat, pay respects to North America’s very first tulip bed or simply lie back and watch as the world floats past. 

The Boston Public Garden is the jewel in the “Emerald Necklace” of parks running through the city. Ride on a swan boat, stroll around expertly manicured flowerbeds and relax under a tree with a book.

The land west of Boston Common was once a tidal salt marsh, where according to legend, Benjamin Franklin fished. The Boston Public Garden, established in 1837 through generosity of the great Boston Brahmin philanthropist Horace Gray, was the country’s first public botanical garden, and it was stunning.

Two centuries earlier, Boston Common had been designed as a practical, open park for public usage. The garden, by contrast, was Victorian to the core, designed to show off the art and science of gardening. Now, the Boston Public Garden looks almost exactly as it did when first completed in 1861. Stroll through one of the finest formal plantings in the Boston area.

About 80 different species of plants and flowers are planted in numerous French-style flowerbeds and rose beds. Don’t miss the tulips in early May: These magnificent flowers were first imported by Horace Gray in the 1830s, with their original American home in the Boston Public Garden. Take a seat under one of the garden’s many lovely trees and enjoy splendid views.

Look for the garden’s remarkable statues: a bronze George Washington in victorious pose, a commemoration of the use of ether in anesthesia and a delightful sculpture based on the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings.

Head to the garden’s tranquil lagoon for a summertime ride on one of Boston’s famous swan boats. These graceful pedal-powered boats have been leisurely cruising on the pond for more than 130 years. Swan boat tours loop around Mallard Island, once a peninsula of the lagoon converted to an island after city leaders learned it was a favorite spot for lovers’ trysts.

The Boston Public Garden is located in downtown Boston, next to Boston Common, walking distance from the Park Street and Arlington subway stops. Visit on Mother’s Day, when local children appear in their yellowest and fuzziest for the annual Duckling Day Parade.

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