Thinking back to my first fall in Boston as a college student, one of my favorite memories is of a day spent outdoors exploring Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Esplanade for the very first time. It was a perfect day, culminating in a They Might Be Giants concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. That day, I fell madly in love. Not with my first college boyfriend (that was a couple of days later), but with the city of Boston in autumn.
Now I have kids in tow, and ironically, we would be just as likely to go to the Hatch Shell to see They Might Be Giants (since it's a band for kids now). And like that day a few (ahem) years ago, my idea of a perfect fall day in Boston means basking in the beauty of the city's great parks. Boston boasts other gorgeous green spaces like the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Arnold Arboretum, but to me, there's nothing like strolling through the Public Garden and playing Frisbee on the Esplanade in the fall. Here are 20 of my favorite things to do on Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Esplanade for a perfect fall day with kids in Beantown.
1. Go for an early stroll to see all types of watercraft gliding along the Charles River. You might catch world-class rowers, scientists in small rowboats, and sailors from the surrounding colleges setting sail. As you meander, you may want to consult this interactive map of the Esplanade.
2. Run, climb the structures, and slide down a blue chute in the Esplanade Playspace (for ages 5-12).
3. Come face to face with a giant head made of aluminum sheets, a tribute to Arthur Fielder, longtime conductor of the Boston Pops.
4. Stop by the gelato cart near Arthur Fielder’s Head for a sweet treat.
5. Visit the Hatch Shell – even if there isn’t a concert, there are bathrooms!
6. Borrow games like Frisbee, Badminton, Whiffle Ball, football, Soccer, and Chess from Café Esplanade (they also give out free doggie treats).
7. Grab a sub or hot dog from a Model T car by the Longfellow Bridge. Watch the Red Line trains on the bridge while you nosh.
8. Cheer for the kids in a local soccer game at Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields (Charlesbank Park, just past the Longfellow Bridge).
9. Take a walk along the Charles in the opposite direction (past the Hatch Shell, toward Mass Ave). Sit on the dock and catch a glimpse of the iconic MIT Dome, imagining your little one gracing the halls of Building 10 in about 15 years.
10. Relax in the shade while your toddler explores the Stoneman Playground (located between Fairfield and Massachusetts Avenue).
The Public Garden
11. Stroll through the Public Garden, the first public botanical garden in America, and try to identify the plants and their origins.
12. Stop to visit Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings from the classic story, Make Way for Ducklings. (You can buy the book at the Emerson College Bookstore on Boylston.) Then sit on a bench facing the Lagoon and marvel at just how little has changed from the story's illustrations.
13. Play hide and seek under the cover of the willow trees.
14. Listen to the music of modern-day troubadours and lone jazz artists floating through the air.
15. Make a wish at each one of the park’s fountains.
16. Meet friendly frogs (ridiculously cute photo opps!) and monkey around on the Tadpole Playground.
17. Refresh with a snack from the Frog Pond Café.
18. Relax alongside the Reflecting Pool.
19. Take a ride on the carousel.
20. From the first stop on Boston Common, follow the Freedom Trail for a walk through history.
Looking for more fall fun in and around Boston? Check out Audrey's post, 20 Things to Do In Boston With Kids This Fall and our Fall Fun Guide.