Tourists flock to Boston from around the world, yet almost none of them know about one of our city’s most beautiful spots to visit: Jamaica Pond. I must let you in on the secret, as Boston is my favorite city ever, and seeing photos of this pond may just spur you to book your ticket here!
Jamaica Pond is located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, just a few stops from any Copley Square hotel on the 39 bus, or a 20-minute drive southwest from the top-rated downtown Boston hotel. Most tourists never venture beyond Back Bay and Downtown, so don’t miss out like them!
The pond is ringed by a tree-canopied walking path that is both wheelchair and stroller accessible. The loop is 1.5 miles around, making for a dreamy 30-minute stroll, but you can still enjoy the pond with only a few steps, as benches and picnic lawns line the banks. Bonus mission: Can you find the two-backed bench shaped like a “U?” My toddler likes to climb in and pretend we’re in a canoe.
If you’re meeting someone at the pond, the classic starting landmark is the Boathouse. Yes, boats are available to rent to see the glory of the pond up close, though swimming isn’t allowed. This cluster of small buildings also offers bathrooms, a water fountain, and a raised terrace bandstand that is sometimes graced by impromptu dance parties or Bluegrass band jam sessions.
Though most tourists don’t know about Jamaica pond, locals sure do. Smiling Bostonians from all backgrounds and ages walk, jog, and play there every day, and good people-watching is guaranteed. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the man who circles the pond with a bright green parrot on his shoulder!
In addition to people-watching, there’s delicious nature-watching. At the far end of the pond from the Boathouse, a mysterious, tiny island (pictured above) beckons, promising fairy towns or gnome cafes on its wee emerald shores. If you see a cluster of people gathered on that side of the pond and pointing, they’ve likely found the long tree branch where a family of turtles likes to sunbathe.
When timing your visit, I’d strongly suggest staying for the sunset. Every side of the pond boasts a different take on the sky’s beauty, so bring your camera and move around to get the best view. After the heavens’ light show, just walk from the Boathouse down Pond Street to grab a delicious dinner at any of the many restaurants on Centre Street. That Jamaica Plain thoroughfare offers cuisines for all budgets and tastes, and trust me, I’ve tasted them all. Yumminess abounds.
So what about the history of this magical place? Where did Jamaica Pond come from, anyway? In fact, the pond is a natural kettle hole created by an ancient glacier. At 53 feet deep and a mile and a half around, it is the largest standing body of water in the city of Boston, and used to supply the city with much of its ice. The pond feeds into the Charles River, separating Boston from Cambridge (you know — Harvard’s home), via the Muddy River, and is a central jewel of Boston’s Emerald Necklace Parks system created by Fredrick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s. The Arnold Arboretum, just south of Jamaica Pond, is another gem of the necklace. Thank you, dearest Olmsted, for the gifts of green-space that you gave humanity!
Today, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, an awesome local nonprofit, works with the city to maintain the pond’s perfection. Every month there are events and attractions at Jamaica Pond, from the public piano art project pictured below (my toddler was confused about why the rhinestones didn’t make music when slapped), to outdoor concerts and movies, to October’s colorful Lantern Festival. You can also make your own event by bringing a picnic and eating in the fresh air with loved ones.
So, where to stay in Boston if you want to be near Jamaica Pond? This lovely B&B (click for rates and availability) is a 2-minute walk away from both the pond and the yummy eateries of Centre Street. Slightly further (a 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk) is this Longwood-area hotel or this Brookline hotel. While it’s exciting to stay right in Downtown Boston or Back Bay, there’s something to be said for the calmer feel of lodging a mile or two further south of the city center, so pick the location that works best for your style.
Jamaica Pond is totally free, but a good money-saving tip for Boston adventures is to get a CityPass or GoCard. These are bundled entrance passes which provide up to half-off admission ticket prices to beloved Boston attractions like the Aquarium or Museum of Fine Arts.
So what about you? Does Jamaica Pond seem like a spot worth adding to your Boston itinerary? If you’ve been there, how was your experience, and what tips would you add? Do share!
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