Boston Common, a sprawling expanse of 44 acres filled with verdant greenery, holds a central position within the city. It serves as the inaugural destination on the esteemed Freedom Trail, while also offering an array of popular activities and events for visitors to indulge in.
Affectionately known as “The People’s Park,” Boston Common boasts a diverse range of attractions. In the winter, visitors can partake in the joyous activity of ice skating, while warm summer nights are graced with captivating outdoor theater performances. Sports enthusiasts can engage in friendly matches on the tennis courts and baseball fields, while those seeking a reflective moment can explore the various memorials and monuments scattered throughout the area. The presence of a charming carousel, well-maintained running paths, a tourist information center, and even its own graveyard further enriches the experience of Boston Common.
Throughout history, Boston Common has served as a significant site for protests, rallies, and celebrations, embodying the spirit of civic engagement. Notably, it has become a favored location to ring in the New Year, with the night sky illuminated by dazzling fireworks launched from the ball field.
To make the most of your visit to Boston Common, we present our top recommendations for 15 delightful activities and sights to enjoy.
15. Enthralling Experiences and Sights on Boston Common:
1. Embark on an Exploration of the Freedom Trail
Commencing at Boston Common, the Freedom Trail encompasses a captivating 2.5-mile path that winds through the city’s most historically significant locations. The trail commences at the spot where William Braxton, the area’s initial English settler, constructed his log cabin in 1625, drawing water from a nearby spring. Subsequently, the land was purchased by the Puritans in 1630 and served as communal grazing grounds for their cows for nearly two centuries. However, it also witnessed numerous public executions of heretics, witches, Quakers, criminals, pirates, and other undesirable individuals throughout the 18th century.
When British troops occupied Boston in 1768 to suppress the rebellious colonists, they established encampments across the Common. This set the stage for the momentous events of April 18, 1775, the eve of the American Revolution, when approximately 700 Redcoats embarked on their fateful journey to Concord, aiming to confiscate concealed weapons belonging to the Patriots. This expedition would go down in history as Paul Revere’s iconic midnight ride, galvanizing the nation.
Joining one of the captivating Freedom Trail tours allows you to traverse the trail’s crimson pathway while an informed guide regales you with tales of these historic events.
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2. Glide or Make a Splash at Frog Pond
Frog Pond once held its natural form as a shallow body of water, but it has since been transformed with a concrete lining, reducing its depth to just a few inches. It serves a triple purpose throughout the year, acting as an enchanting ice-skating rink during winter, a refreshing splash pool in the summer, and a serene oasis adorned with delightful fountains in both spring and fall.
3. Delight in Autumn’s Tapestry on the Common
Embark on a leisurely stroll through the Common from late September until early December, and you’ll be treated to a magnificent display of fall foliage without ever leaving the city. The Common boasts a diverse array of tree species that undergo a gradual transformation, showcasing a vibrant palette of colors over an extended period.
For an even more diverse experience, venture across Charles Street on the western edge of the Common and immerse yourself in the autumnal hues of the Public Garden, where you’ll also discover roses in full bloom.
4. Pay Tribute at the Garden of Flags on Memorial Day
Each Memorial Day, the Massachusetts Military Heroes organization orchestrates a poignant tribute known as the Garden of Flags. This moving display takes shape in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common, symbolizing the sacrifice made by every Massachusetts service member who has laid down their life in defense of the United States and our freedom since the time of the Revolutionary War.
More than 37,000 flags are meticulously planted, typically a few days before Memorial Day and remain in place for a day or two thereafter. For precise dates, consult our May events calendar.
5. Discover Engaging Activities for Children
Planning a visit to Boston Common with your little ones? Here’s a curated selection of activities that cater to children:
- Take a ride on the seasonal carousel (tickets available at a nominal cost)
- Unleash their energy at the Tadpole Playground, an enclosed play area equipped with a variety of engaging equipment
- Beat the summer heat by cooling off in the splash pool or embrace the winter wonderland by going ice skating on Frog Pond
- Participate in the delightful Duckling Day Parade (more details on that in a moment) held annually on Mother’s Day
- Engage in fun games with frisbees or balls
- On snowy days, experience the thrill of sliding down the hills on sleds
- Observe the Park Rangers’ horses enjoying their lunch in the temporary corral situated behind the Visitor Center (availability subject to the season)
6. Explore Boston Common – Exciting Activities to Enjoy
Discover the vibrant allure of Boston Common, a historically rich landmark that offers an array of delightful experiences right at the heart of the city. Here are some captivating things you can indulge in:
- Unwind with companions, be it friends, family, or a captivating book – numerous benches, chairs, and tables are scattered throughout, ensuring a comfortable setting. Enhance your outing with a delightful picnic!
- Bask in the warm embrace of the sun as you recline on the lush green grass – there’s nothing quite like it on pleasant, sunny days.
- Engage in a spirited game of soccer or join one of the casual matches taking place on the expansive grassy fields near the intersection of Charles Street and Beacon Street.
- Test your tennis skills on the courts located near the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets.
- Embrace the spirit of baseball, provided the ball fields are not occupied by scheduled games.
7. Discover the Rich Monuments and Memorials
Numerous monuments and memorials, scattered across Boston Common, offer a captivating glimpse into the significant and often overlooked aspects of the city’s history.
Take a moment to explore and locate these three remarkable late 19th-century landmarks:
- The awe-inspiring Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, a magnificent bronze relief created by the renowned sculptor August Saint-Gaudens. This artwork depicts the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (as featured in the 1989 movie “Glory”) as they proudly marched down Beacon Street in 1863, en route to fight for the Union in the Civil War. Find this masterpiece near the intersection of Beacon Street and Park Street, across from the Massachusetts State House.
- Behold the majestic Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a soaring white granite structure reaching a height of 38 feet. Erected in the late 1870s, it serves as a tribute to the Massachusetts soldiers and sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Civil War. Ascend the hill for a closer look at the intricately carved bas-reliefs and inscriptions. Its imposing presence ensures that you cannot miss it.
- Marvel at the ornate Brewer Fountain, a captivating bronze structure generously donated to the city in 1868 and recently restored to its former glory. Locate this splendid fountain in close proximity to the Visitors Center.
If you find yourself at Boston Common in May and June, keep an eye out for a temporary memorial commemorating the Native Americans who resided in this area as early as 5,200 years ago. This special tribute takes the form of a fishweir, meticulously crafted from branches and twigs by members of the local Massachusett and Wampanoag tribes, in collaboration with students from the surrounding area. This fishweir mirrors the ancient fishweirs discovered in the vicinity. Notably, among Boston’s numerous monuments and memorials, this particular installation stands as the sole tribute to the region’s earliest known Native American inhabitants. For specific dates and additional information regarding the fishweir, refer to our May Events Calendar.
Two Common Errors to Avoid Regarding Boston Common
The Proper Naming of Boston Common
It is essential to refer to Boston Common by its correct names, either “Boston Common” or “the Common.” The addition of an “s” to the word Common should be strictly avoided unless you wish to sound like an outsider or non-local.
8. The Distinction of the Public Garden
One must understand that the Public Garden, a stunning park from the Victorian era located across Charles Street from Boston Common, is not a part of the Common itself. The Public Garden offers attractions such as the Make Way for Duckling Statues, captivating seasonal plantings, a variety of monuments and memorials, tranquil Swan Boat rides on a serene Lagoon, making it well worth a visit. However, it is important not to mistakenly refer to it as “Boston Common” or, even worse, “The Boston Commons.”
9. Indulge in Sledding Excitement on Boston Common
When winter blankets Boston in fresh snow, accompanied by sunshine, there is nothing more enjoyable than embarking on a sledding adventure. Although the Common does not feature steep hills, its gentle slopes provide the perfect terrain for a few hours of sledding pleasure.
10. Experience Shakespeare on the Common
Witness the transformation of a sloping area near Parkman Bandstand into an enchanting open-air theater under the starlit sky during the special productions presented by Shakespeare on the Common every summer. Don’t forget to bring a cozy blanket or a low folding chair, and prepare yourself for a truly magical evening.
Greet the Majestic Horses on the Common
The presence of six horses, along with the park Rangers who ride them, never fails to attract delighted crowds whenever they pause during their patrols of Boston Common. The Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit is undeniably one of the Common’s most captivating sights. Moreover, they play a vital role in ensuring the safety of the park, as their elevated vantage point offers a sweeping view above the bustling crowds. Whether it’s a mishap on the ice at Frog Pond or someone affected by the sweltering summer heat, a horse and Ranger will swiftly come to the rescue.
Curious to observe the horses during their lunchtime? On pleasant days, you can often catch a glimpse of them munching on hay around noon in their designated fenced-in area behind the Visitors Information Center.
11. Explore the Final Resting Place… Central Burying Ground
Nestled discreetly on a gentle incline near the Boylston Street border of the Common lies the Central Burying Ground. It was established in 1756 when Boston’s other graveyards began to reach their capacity.
Gilbert Stuart, renowned for his iconic portraits of George and Martha Washington, rests among the notable individuals buried here.
This cemetery also serves as the resting place for Tea Party and Revolutionary War Patriots, as well as British soldiers who succumbed to disease during the British occupation of Boston and from injuries sustained in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
12.Witness a Spectacular Parade Enlivening the Common
The Common’s central location makes it a prime vantage point for various captivating parades and processions. Here are some of the grandest:
The Duckling Day Parade recreates the journey of the Mallard Family from “Make Way for Ducklings” and features adorable toddlers donning yellow duck costumes.
Veterans Day Parade – actually, two parades: the official one, promptly followed by a second organized by Veterans for Peace.
Every November, a procession from Nova Scotia to Boston presents a gift in the form of a Christmas tree to the Common. A special ceremony commemorates its arrival, after which it is adorned with sparkling lights in a tree lighting ceremony, officially inaugurating Boston’s holiday season.
Duck boat parades are held whenever Boston’s sports teams secure national championships, such as the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and World Series. With four victorious sports teams, these parades occur quite frequently. Learn more about Boston’s esteemed sports teams.
13. Pop the Question on the Common
Preparing to ask the life-changing question and seeking an unforgettable location?
Make your way to the Parkman Band Stand just before twilight, as the setting sun casts a golden glow upon it. If you receive the answer you’ve been longing for, celebrate by indulging in a delightful dinner in Chinatown (approximately two blocks away). (Discover some of our preferred Chinatown restaurants here.)
If the answer you hoped for eludes you, a brief 10-minute stroll will lead you to sports bars near TD Garden, where large screens and refreshing brews may help distract you from your sorrows.
14. Welcome the New Year with Fireworks & Magnificent Ice Sculptures on the Common
Boston Common serves as the captivating venue for numerous special New Year’s Eve festivities, including sparkling ice sculptures, a captivating ice skating show on Frog Pond, and an enchanting evening fireworks display.
15. Acquire Boston Information at the Visitors’ Center on the Common
Looking for complimentary resources like a Boston map or other tourist information? Pay a visit to the Visitor Information Center situated on the Common, near Park Station (opposite West Street).
To obtain one of the complimentary maps, kindly approach the counter. While you’ll notice numerous maps on the racks near the entrance, they are not free of charge. The free map provides comprehensive details, including the locations of the sites along the Freedom Trail.
Where to Stay in the Vicinity of Boston Common
Immerse yourself in the best of Boston by selecting a hotel in close proximity to Boston Common. One excellent option is the elegant Nine Zero Hotel. Additionally, there are other outstanding waterfront hotels near Boston Common, including:
- W Hotel
- Revere Hotel
Where to Dine at (& Near) the Common
Within the Common itself, you can find three delightful dining options (excluding vendors selling hot pretzels and lemonade):
Earl of Sandwich (seasonal), located not far from Frog Pond and the tennis courts.
Food trucks, operating from late morning to early afternoon on most weekdays near Park Station.
Frog Pond Café, usually open daily. Don’t miss out on their delectable Belgian waffles, if they happen to be available.
For additional choices, if you find yourself near the corner of Beacon Street and Park Street, take a stroll down Beacon Street towards the waterfront. In the initial couple of blocks beyond the intersection, you’ll come across several pubs and a Japanese restaurant, all of which offer excellent casual dining options. Alternatively, if you have a preference for contemporary Italian cuisine and enjoy discovering hidden gem establishments, venture down Bowdoin Street to Grotto (37 Bowdoin). They serve dinner every evening and lunch on Monday-Friday.
Starting from the corner of Tremont Street and Boylston Street, walk up Boylston Street (away from the Common) to discover Fin’s Sushi & Grill (62 Boylston). Alternatively, continue walking a block or two further to reach Chinatown, which offers an abundance of dining choices. Here are a few recommendations. Another option is to proceed down Tremont Street into the Theatre District and visit Abby Lane (253 Tremont). It has the appearance of a trendy American comfort-food establishment but is helmed by Chef Jason Santos, who infuses extraordinary flavors into classic favorites.
From the corner of Charles Street and Beacon Street, take a leisurely stroll down Charles Street into Beacon Hill, where you’ll discover even more dining options.