The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Boston Common & Public Gardens with Kids
About the Parks
We travel every 4-6 weeks from Baltimore to Boston for our daughter to receive medical care at Boston Children’s Hospital so we spend quite a bit of time in this city. Whenever we have free time between appointments, we make the most of our time and like to live it up in one of the most charming city we know (and we live in “Charm City”)! One thing we love to do is visit Boston Commons and the Public Gardens. The Public Garden, is a large park in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston Common. The parks are right next door, separated by a street. The Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America and we love to go to this park year round because it’s beautiful, it’s a sanctuary in the city, there is so much to do, room to run around, and super affordable (essentially free!). I am going to be sharing all the tips of all the things you can do in the park with your toddler or little one.
The Tadpole Playground & Frog Pond
The playground is a great place to start when you enter the park. Let your little one run around, climb, slide, and then they’ll be much more relaxed for the rest of the visit. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you this playground is great because it’s padded, and fenced in, two things I love in a playground. I will also say it’s crowded. There are several slides, monkey bars, bridges, things to climb, forts, fireman poles and other things to play with. There are also bronze-looking statues of frogs (hence the name Tadpole Playground and Frog Pond). During the summer, these frogs spew water, and make a nice splash pad area. Right outside the playground there are vendors selling freshly squeezed lemonade, water, hot dogs, sodas, etc.
Right across from the playground is the Frog Pond and this provides year round fun. Also, this was created in 1634!! With a winter ice skating rink and learn to skate school, a reflecting pool in the spring and fall, and a summer spray pool , there is something to do all year. Frog Pond voted the BEST outdoor ice skating rink in the US and the second overall in North America!
Boston Common Carousel
I love the charm of the carousels in Boston and although my favorite one is in the North End, this one comes in second place. It’s adjacent the Frog Pond, in the Boston Commons park and is an American masterpiece built by the Chance Morgan Ride Company of Wichita, Kansas.It was hand carved, has an oak floor, beveled glass mirrors, and a standard pie top with a lighted crown all give the Carousel a classic style. It’s open from mid-April to the end of October, is $3 per ride, and is handicapped accessible.
Make Way for Ducklings
Chances are, you’ve heard of Robert McClosekey’s masterpiece, “Make Way for Ducklings” , the sweet tale of Mrs. Mallard leading her ducklings to their new home on Boston Common. In fact, “Make Way for Ducklings” was and is so important that, on this day in 1987, the City of Boston erected an iconic bronze statue of the quackers’ quest at the entrance of the Boston Public Garden. Sculptor Nancy Schön molded the flock, which spans 35 feet from the last duckling up to Mrs. Mallard, who stands 38 inches tall – the perfect height for a kid to pop a squat.#funfact: Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack never need polishing because so many kids sit on them throughout the year.
The Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. Established in 1837, it was designed to showcase 24 acres of formal plantings, statues, fountains and 47 different tree species, all centered around a picturesque lagoon. This lagoon or artificial lake and is the Public Garden’s centerpiece and was also home to some of the park’s ducks. It totals about four acres and was pretty shallow at only 3-4 feet deep. Adeline was super excited to spot this resident swans swimming along. They weren’t shy and swam pretty close to people. I loved how shaded this area was and the lagoon exuded tranquility with the weeping willows trees along its shores. It’s as romantic and peaceful as it looks.
There are vendors scattered throughout the park and during lunch a bunch of food trucks showed up. You can check to see what food trucks are going to show up by checking out the food truck schedule. We got lunch at Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. ( I got the Hot Honey Bacon (vermont cheddar, muenster, fontina, north country bacon, mike's hot honey) , John got the Green Muenster (muenster, bacon, house made guacamole), and we shared the Truffle Tater Tots that were sprinkled with sage. YUUUUUUM! Lunch was also $20.00.
The Swan Boats were started by Robert Paget who was a shipbuilder. These boats were inspired by Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin opera finale of the boat pulled by a swan. It was wonderful to read that the Paget family still operates these boats. The Swan Boat ride lasts about 12-15 minutes while the driver pedals you around the Public Garden lagoon. The wait for a ride is typically no more than 5-10 minutes. Adults $4.00 Children $2.50 (age 2 to 15 years) Under 2 yrs. free and the boats run April to September.
There are statues scattered throughout the park and as the oldest park in America, it has some history. There are statues scattered throughout the park and include George Washington, 9/11 Memorial, Make Way for Ducklings, and even Japanese Lanterns. Besides the ducklings, one of my favorite sculptures is the Ether Fountain; the oldest monument created in 1868 which honors the discovery of the anesthetic qualities of ether, first used in 1846 at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Angel of Mercy is shown in one panel and the granite figures at the top portray the parable of the Good Samaritan. My other favorite is the Bagheera Fountain and the name is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and shows one of the characters, a panther named Bagheera, lunging at an eagle. It’s supposed to symbolize escape from captivity. Adeline loved climbing and running all over the statues and monuments while Mama & Dada could read a little history.
Or as Adeline says, “Belax”. There is something so magical about this park. When we visit Boston, there is just a constant rush, crowds, busy hospital appointments and procedures, trains, ubers, busy streets, quickly walking everywhere. It’s sensory overload and although the rush of the city is what makes it so exciting, it also can be a bit much for this girl who now lives in the country. Coming to the park for us just lets us shed some of that stress that has rested on our shoulders.