12 of the Best Picnic Spots for Families in Boston
As the days get longer, sunnier and warmer, you’ll probably long to take some of your meals outside. Picnicking is a classic summer activity that’s perfect for the whole family. Instead of just heading to your neighborhood park, pack your basket and bring it to one of Boston’s best picnic areas. Some have deep roots in Boston’s history or water views, and all are beautiful and provide a breath of fresh air in the middle of a busy city.
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation
The city’s last remaining salt marsh is Belle Isle in East Boston, a 152-acre preserve with a flourishing plant and wildlife population. It’s a great place to explore a unique wetlands ecosystem, which you can do via the reservation’s pathways and observation tower. Boston city center is only five miles down the road, but it feels worlds away.
Long a center of the city, today Boston Common anchors the Emerald Necklace of connected green spaces in Boston and is the start of the Freedom Trail. It’s the oldest public park in the U.S., making it a wonderfully historic place to have a picnic. Plan to get some energy out with a splash in the Frog Pond and a romp around the Tadpole Playground, which are located on the Common.
Boston Public Garden is a classic city picnicking spot.
Boston Public Garden
As the first public botanical garden in the country, the Boston Public Garden is still a beautiful place to enjoy a seasonally changing array of flowers. No trip to the Public Garden is complete without a stop to say hello to the Make Way for Ducklings statue or a ride on one of the regal swan boats.
Despite its name, Castle Island is no longer an island. It’s now connected to the mainland by a strip of land that can be traversed in a car or on foot. This 22-acre urban park is dominated by Fort Independence, which was built in the mid-1800s and is now open for tours. If you don’t feel like packing a meal for your Castle Island picnic, stop by Sullivan’s for New England summer classics, like lobster rolls and ice cream.
Christopher Columbus Park is a great waterfront picnicking spot.
Christopher Columbus Park
Nestled next to the North End with a view of Boston Harbor, Christopher Columbus Park is a beautiful spot for a picnic. This 4.5-acre piece of land has a lovely rose garden, jungle gym and sprinklers to cool off under on hot days. The New England Aquarium is nearby, so it’s easy to stop in to say hello to the Atlantic Harbor Seals that play in the outside exhibit.
Charles River Esplanade
With views of Cambridge and the Charles River, the Esplanade is a quintessential Boston picnic spot. Stroll the paths next the river before stopping to eat, then romp on one of the Esplanade’s playgrounds or cool down in the splash pool.
Considered the crown jewel of the Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is a sprawling green space that’s home to a golf course, a zoo and a woodland preserve. It’s also a perfect place to bring a picnic then spend the day exploring the 527-acre park, which hosts many special events, including a children’s festival, throughout the year.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
When the Big Dig brought down the elevated highway and moved it underground, the Rose Kennedy Greenway sprang up in its place. A 1.5-mile stretch of parks that runs from the North End to Chinatown in the heart of Boston, it’s one of the only organically maintained parks in the U.S. It’s often the site of special events and has regular food truck vendors, so a delicious meal for your picnic is easy to come by.
Part of the Emerald Necklace, Jamaica Pond is the perfect spot for a picnic and a little recreation. Stroll the 1.5-mile loop around the pond after lunch or rent a rowboat or kayak from Courageous Sailing to take to the water. Or plan your picnic around Summer Sundays, family-friendly concerts that take place at Jamaica Pond in the warmer months.
Located on the edge of the North End, Langone Park has views of Charlestown and the USS Constitution. This park features a ball field, playground and bocce courts, so you can play along with your picnic. There’s even a plaque memorializing the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, which took place at the site of the park.
Take the ferry across Boston Harbor to Spectacle Island for a beach picnic and breathtaking views of the city.
Located across the harbor in East Boston, you’ll catch stunning views of the city from your picnic at Piers Park. Not only does the park have playgrounds and other green spaces for getting a breather from the city, but it’s also home to the Piers Park Sailing Center, which is dedicated to providing an opportunity to learn to sail to everyone in Boston. You’ll also find concerts at the park during the summer months.
You’ll have to take a ferry to visit the last picnic spot on this list, but the short trip across Boston Harbor is well worth it for the views from Spectacle Island. Take in sweeping sights of the city from the sandy beach, which is perfect for a swim on a hot summer day, or trek around the island on the hiking trails after lunch. This is the place to go for a mini-getaway without roaming too far from home.
Top image: Heading to the perfect picnic spot on the Greenway. All photos by Tara D. Jackson.