Ever heard of “Forest Bathing?” Maybe you’ve done it already without realizing! Known as Shinrin-Yoku in Japan (where the practice is wildly popular), Forest Bathing is the act of wandering the woods to lift your spirits.
In other words, it’s nature therapy. Want to know the perfect place and time to do that in Boston, Massachusetts? The epically beautiful Arnold Arboretum during autumn!
The Arboretum is a treasure. In fact, the park was North America’s first public arboretum, and is now a National Historic Landmark. It spans 281 lush, natural acres that are 100% free to the public!
Too few visitors to Boston realize the Arboretum exists, even though it’s just a short drive from Downtown. The park is also easy to reach via public transportation at the Orange Line’s Forest Hills stop (convenient from the most affordable hotel in Boston), or on the 39 bus (which boards beside this beloved Copley Square hotel).
Who owns and maintains all this pretty land? Why, Harvard University does, ever since 1872 when wealthy whaling merchant James Arnold donated his estate. In 1882, the land was deeded to the City of Boston, but the city granted it to Harvard for a 1,000-year (wow!) lease.
The university pays the seven million dollar yearly operating budget out of its famed endowment, and we citizens of Boston are extremely thankful to Harvard for doing all the work that goes into maintaining the park’s 15,000 plants.
As you might guess from the emerald green grass in these photos, the Arnold Arboretum is part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace: the 1,100-acre chain of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that forms a 7-mile-long green ribbon through our city.
Other “gems” in this necklace include nearby Jamaica Pond and Franklin Park, so if you’re feeling extra energetic, pop over to one of those parks after the Arboretum… preferably with a brief stop on Centre Street for tasty treats first!
Have you gotten the picture yet from these photos of why the Arboretum is a must-see spot for fall foliage? Every color is represented! I took these photos between mid-October and mid-November, so you should be able to catch a good mix of autumn leaves during that time range.
Like a symphony with different instruments coming in as time unfolds, there were new colors joining the rainbow party each week I visited.
Though autumn is spectacular in the Arboretum, any time of year is delicious to wander the park. For photographic evidence, drink in these photos of the flowers there in spring (Mother’s Day is the “Lilac Sunday” celebration), and these magical scenes of the Arboretum under 6 feet of snow during one of our craziest winters. For an updated list of the seasonal events and tours in the park, check out its official site.
Throughout the Arboretum there are both paved paths and super-natural (er, very natural, not alien-eque) unpaved trails through wooded areas, so any mode of movement is possible, from stroller-pushing, to biking, to jogging. Dogs are allowed, too, as long as they’re safely on a leash. Woof woof!
There are numerous walking routes to take through the park, but my favorite to undertake with baby and stroller is to enter through the gate by the Hunnewell Visitor Center, walk to Peters Hill and around that loop, then return to the main entrance for a total of two healthy miles. My parents-in-law, in contrast, are most partial to the spiral trail that winds up Peters Hill and affords a sweet view of Boston.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this cyber “Forest Bath” of the Arnold Arboretum in autumn, and I hope it’s achieved the desired magic of lifting your spirits! May these images also stir your lust to venture out and visit a real forest soon… perhaps even this this one! Click this link to see all my other Emerald Necklace articles.
If you’d like to save this article on Pinterest, click here. Do leave your thoughts in the box below if you’ve visited the Arboretum before, or would like to. I always love reading your comments!
Traveling? Save time with hotels convenient to the Arboretum:
- This bed and breakfast is the closest place to stay to the park, and is delightful.
- Hotels in Copley Square like this well-reviewed spot are ideal for visiting the Arb and the city.
- This sleek Longwood-area hotel is between Downtown and the Arboretum.
- For hip and affordable nearby accommodations, check out this Fenway-area hotel.
Visiting other Boston attractions? Save money and time:
- The Boston CityPass gives admission to 4 top sites at 40% off.
- Use this search engine of Boston tours to book fun and varied ways to see our city!
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The author, Lillie Marshall, is National Board Certified Teacher, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a full-time public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have visited this site over the decade. Lillie also runs Teaching Traveling Global Education Community and Drawings Of… Educational Cartoon Site. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow on social media with the links below!