If Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, and the rest get the titles of "Founding Fathers" because of their historical significance, then the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden are the grandparents of our nation’s parks.
The Boston Common was established in 1634, making it the oldest city park in the United States, and the first recorded public park in the world. That means it’s been entertaining visitors and pulling in locals for longer than the title of "America" has existed. The Boston Common has been many things, including part of the Massachusetts Nation’s land, a farm for cattle, an encampment for British soldiers, and a gathering space for demonstrations and protesters.
You’re likely to pass through this green heart of Boston wherever you’re headed. Many journey down the southern side along Tremont Street towards Mike’s Pastry and North End’s bubbling hub of Italian restaurants. Park Street guides walkers from Chinatown and the theater district up to the Massachusetts State House and into Beacon Hill. Begin the Freedom Trail — the path linking local landmarks important to American independence — picnic, hop on a swan boat, or just walk through. The Boston Common is central, popular, and packed with activity and beauty year round. Here's a look at how it changes throughout the year.
Even born-and-raised New Englanders who watch the leaves change every year appreciate the magical display of color arriving as the weather grows colder. You want to watch mother nature do something spectacular? Take a turn around the Boston Common in fall. As far as natural firework displays go, this one’s incredible. Almost 700 trees (oak, maple, elm, beech, and chestnut) cover the Common lawn with a dusting of intricately decorated and unique leaves. The willows around the Public Garden pond drip yellow, the calm water reflecting the trees and the bright coats donned by Bostonians and visitors. As for the ever-stylish Make Way For Ducklings statues, they put on their fall colors with Halloween costumes and then with pilgrim’s hats.
While the city is known for the cold, that doesn’t mean the Boston Common loses its luster in the winter months. The Common trees are draped in strings of lights, illuminating the white-covered walkways beneath them and offering a mesmerizing show. When fresh snow falls, the common is piled high in rippling heaps and the inhabitants of the city take advantage. All ages turn out and roll enormous packed snow into snow-people and elaborate sculptures. The Frog Pond ice-skating rink freezes and draws in kids, parents, students, and really anyone who enjoys having a good time in subfreezing temperatures. The duckling statues sport coats, hats, scarves, and holiday colors — if they can be dug out of the snow, that is.
After a long winter, spring arrives in the Boston Common with small flurries of movement. The birds return, ducks and geese make their way back onto the gently sloping hills and restore their homes on the melting pond. The very tips of the trees redden with new buds. Instead of hurrying along to their destinations, visitors slow and watch the wildlife (squirrels and chipmunks, mostly) as they scramble up wet bark and overturned earth. The scent of mulch hangs heavy in the air, stalks of daffodils and crocuses newly planted in every bed. Green hats, ties, and tiny leprechaun beards adorn the duckling statues. But come Mother’s Day, they won’t be the only ducklings in the park. The Duckling Day Parade is one of the brightest, and certainly the cutest, of Boston’s annual celebrations.
Life returns in full force to the Common when the chill departs. Tourists hurry along Boylston Street and crowd around George Washington’s statue and the Sailors Monument. They pose on the suspension bridge over the pond, play in the transformed Frog Pond splash pad, and meander through the blooming roses. Swan boats take trips around the Public Garden pond, followed by the dozens of ducks occupying the water and the island, trailing lines of ducklings like soft, downy footsteps. Weddings, quinceaneras, and parties of all kinds use the Common and the Public Garden as a backdrop for pictures and picnics. Sunbathers bask in the sun, and lawn games appear. And the ducklings? They put on their shades and visors, pose with the influx of tourists, and settle in for another year.