The Importance of Boston’s Greenspace:
I’ve lived in Boston most of my life, and my #1 favorite thing about this city is the network of parks that stretch across it — a feature poetically named: The Emerald Necklace.
This 1,200-acre park system was created by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880s and consists of a chain of greenspace. It serves both a practical and a psychological function. On the practical side, it diminishes flooding and cleans our air.
On the psychological side, our network of parks keep us sane! Olmsted was a visionary who gave the incredible gift to our city of public, protected nature — free for us all to enjoy. I cannot underestimate to you the importance of the Emerald Necklace in making Boston wonderful.
What are the Parks in the Emerald Necklace?
Each individual park — or “jewel” — of the necklace boasts different features, and the entire chain is roughly seven miles long. The distinct sections of the greenspace chain are, moving north to south:
- Boston Common (which dates back to 1634 and is likely the most famous of all our parks!)…
- Boston Public Garden (likely the most photographed park by tourists, thanks to its Swan Boats and classic beauty)…
- The Commonwealth Ave. Mall (a lovely green pedestrian walkway in the middle of a long straight road which begins at the Public Garden)…
- The Back Bay Fens (ever wonder where the name “Fenway” came from in “Fenway Park?”)…
- The Riverway, Aborway, and Jamaicaway (winding, green-lined roads along the waterways)…
- Jamaica Pond and Olmsted Park…
- The Arnold Arboretum…
- Finally, Franklin Park (biggest of them all)!
Which Emerald Necklace Park to Visit?
I’m glad you asked! The answer is easy: as many as possible. Most visitors to Boston — and many locals for that matter — are only familiar with the Public Garden or Boston Common (NOT “Boston Commons!” There is no “s!”). There are so many other not-to-miss green-spaces in the park network, however!
What follows is an exploration of several of them. I will periodically add to this article as I have time to photograph and write about more parts of this Bostonian wonder. Now, enjoy our wander though the parks!
Emerald Necklace Parks, Boston
These green, welcoming, FREE parks are the key to happiness in Boston as a local or a visitor, and some of the best attractions to visit!
The Arnold Arboretum
With 281 acres of winding paths, some paved (great for strollers) and some made of dirt or stone that meander through forests and along brooks, this park is truly worth the trip out of downtown. Plus, it's close to the next Emerald Necklace gem...
Right near the Arboretum sits a shining jewel of the Emerald Necklace: Jamaica Pond. This body of water is about 1.5 miles to walk or jog around the paved path. From every angle, you get a different beautiful view -- especially at sunset! Boats are also available for rental. Oh, and it's near awesome food options, too!
This is Olmsted's biggest park in the Emerald Necklace and sprawls 527 acres, boasting a zoo, lots of forest paths and playgrounds, mystical-looking ruins (photo-shoot, anyone?), a stadium, and even a golf course. Just be careful not to get lost, as this greenspace goes on and on.
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Walk for miles along this tree-lined pedestrian median to end up in the Boston Public Garden! Comm. Ave. (as it's sometimes nicknamed) is particularly stunning in spring when all the trees become a riot of pink blossoms. Magenta rain!
Boston Public Garden
This greenspace, along with historic Boston Common, is the most well-known part of the Emerald Necklace, and is the green heart of downtown Boston. You can't really visit our city without posing near the Washington statue, but scroll down to see some other spots to snap photos.
Photo Ideas in the Emerald Necklace
There are some excellent spots to take pictures in Boston's parks! Here are some articles that feature modeling poses and locations in the Emerald Necklace. I bet you can guess from this my favorite backdrop for pictures in our city!
The Arboretum for a Female Fashion Shoot
See some of the park features that were best for modeling dresses from my friend's wonderful fashion company in the Arnold Arboretum.
My Modeling Try in "the Arb"
While working with a company famous for reversible dresses and stretchy dress pants, I, too took to the Arboretum for the photos. I may or may not have done some awkward costume changes behind a towel.
An Engagement Photoshoot in the Public Garden
Get ideas here for how to use the Public Garden's willow trees, reflective pools, and bridge for great photos. Oh, and while you're getting ideas... consider that that bridge (the smallest suspension bridge in the world) is where we got engaged!
Male Modeling in the Arboretum
Not to be outdone, my husband also descended upon the Arb for his jaunt showing off travel clothes for guys. We attempted as ridiculous as possible juxtapositions between his macho manliness and the pink flowers of the park.
Second Trimester Pregnancy Photoshoot with Flowers
Pregnancy and flowers go well together, and the Emerald Necklace has its share of blossoms for flowering motherhood. Just watch out for ticks!
Third Trimester Photoshoot at Jamaica Pond
The pond was a good backdrop for my giant pregnant belly (back when I was "with child" with my now kindergarten-aged son).
Emerald Necklace Activities and Festivals
There are constantly events going on in Boston's parks, but here are two of my favorite things to do.
Swan Boats in Boston Public Garden
Of course, who could miss the swan boats in the Public Garden? They are every bit as lovely as they seem. Nearby is the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue.
Lilac Sunday: an Arboretum Festival
Every Mother's Day, the Arnold Arboretum celebrates Lilac Sunday: when riots of purple, pink, and white lilacs appear in the park and fill the air with fragrance. One tip is to visit the day before or after the festival instead of the actual day, as it gets mighty crowded because it's so great!
Emerald Necklace Maps and Resources:
For a detailed map of the Emerald Necklace park system — or individual park maps — click here and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy has you covered.
The nonprofit Conservancy plays a key role in maintaining our city’s greenspace, and we are extremely thankful to its tireless work. It also offers a frequently-updated event listing for what’s going on in the Emerald Necklace at any given time… and there’s always a lot going on! But my favorite activity is just to stroll and observe.
What Do YOU Think of Boston’s Famous Parks?
After reading that list, what jumps out at you about our extensive park system? Which park is most alluring to YOU? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!