In early spring, many public gardens and greenspaces closed to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Summer is getting into full swing in Boston and outdoor spaces are reopening just in time.
Best of Boston - Outdoor Edition
Here are a few ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Boston. Be sure to bring your mask!
Open once again from dawn until dusk, the Arnold Arboretum is 281 acres of gorgeous greenery. The arboretum is free for all visitors and home to 4,000 different species of trees. There are self-guided tours available on the website to help visitors explore the plant life around them. The “Seasonal Plants Highlights” tour is the best way to see what’s blooming right now. The “Bonsai and Penjing Collection,” a gift from Larz and Isabel Anderson upon their deaths, features more than 30 manicured, miniature trees ranging from 150-275 years old. All told, there are more than 10 featured collections to explore throughout the year. Face masks are required when physical distancing cannot be observed. The Arnold Arboretum is also suggesting that visitors try to visit during off-peak hours to prevent crowds. The Hunnewell Building and the visitor’s center are still closed at this time.
Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden was the first public garden in the United States, established in 1837. Although adjacent to the Boston Common, the Boston Public Garden is strikingly different. The decorative, flowery landscape with gently meandering paths became the ideal for future botanical gardens and drastically differed from the pastoral, utilitarian design of the Commons. The famous swan boats that have been around since 1877 are closed until further notice however, the 4-acre pond is still an excellent place to take a leisurely stroll. There are nearly 20 sculptures and statues scatter throughout the garden, both commissioned pieces of art and gifts from foreign countries. The Parks Department is asking visitors to remain 6 feet away from other park goers and to wear face coverings when this is not possible.
Whale Watching Tours
See some of the gentle giants of the deep on a Boston Whale Watch Tour, jointly made possible by Boston Harbor Cruises and the New England Aquarium. The 3-hour cruise takes guests to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary where whales, dolphins, seabirds, and other marine life comes to feed. Whale watchers might see humpback, finback, minke, and the critically endangered right whale on their nautical excursions. Visitors that don’t see whales on their trip will receive a free future ticket, though its rare to not see a leviathan. Sightings are so frequent, the guides know several whales by name; be sure to watch out for Shuffleboard, Sprinkles, or Etch-A-Sketch. The catamarans usually carry up to 400 passengers, but to adhere to CDC guidelines for safe physical distancing, tours will be smaller. Face masks are required and reservations strongly encouraged.
Boston Harbor Islands
The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is made up of 34 different islands and peninsulas. Recently, public ferry service has resumed for Spectacle Island (Georges, Peddocks, Lovells, Grape, and Bumpkin Islands are only accessible by recreational vehicles at this time). Spectacle Island is 114 acres of natural wonders; a great place to go hiking, swimming, or fly a kite. The island started as an exclusive location for Boston’s elite with two hotels in 1847 but was closed only 10 years later when gambling and other illicit activities were discovered. Now, it’s a wholesome place to enjoy nature with family or friends and take in the Boston skyline. Amenities are not available due to COVID-19 restrictions; face coverings and social distancing are encouraged.
Castle Island Park
Castle Island has been a fortification site since 1634. Today, the island (actually a peninsula; it was connected to the mainland in 1928) is an outdoor recreation area in South Boston. It’s a wonderful place to get out and enjoy nature paths, biking, swimming, fishing, and picnicking (grilling is allowed). The main attraction on Castle Island is Fort Independence. It is the oldest continuously fortified site in the U.S. and the existing granite bastions have been around since 1851. Guided tours of the fort are currently suspended due to COVID-19, but visitors can take a self-guided tour of the building and grounds. The Parks Department has asked all visitors to stay at least 6 feet away from other guests or to don a face covering.