You don’t have to be an art history expert to be familiar with Claude Monet and his characteristic dreamlike paintings of water-lilies. In 1893, Monet purchased a tract of land near his home in Giverny, France, where he spent the next twenty years of his life landscaping beautiful gardens and ponds. The white lily blossoms that grew in lattices across these ponds, of course, became the subject of his most famous paintings. So what does all this have to do with Boston, you might ask? Well, we might not all be as skilled with a brush as Claude Monet, and plane tickets to the French countryside might not grow on trees, but everyone can find a little respite from the hustle and bustle of city life by relaxing next to a beautiful pond, canal, or river for a while. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top five places around Boston we think Claude Monet himself might found tranquil enough to paint.
Disclaimer: While we can promise these bodies of water are serene, relaxing, and downright paintable, we can’t promise you’ll become a world-renowned Impressionist if you decide to paint the sights.
1. The Storrow Lagoon, The Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade runs parallel to the south bank of the Charles River basin. The esplanade is bounded by a long, peaceful blue-green lagoon, with picturesque pedestrian footbridges and—where’s Claude?—hundreds of white lily blossoms. The park also features plenty of benches, a few scattered picnic tables, and several very well-maintained playgrounds. If you work up an appetite while walking, running, biking, or even while channeling your inner painter, follow the path towards Longfellow Bridge to the Charles River Bistro. This conveniently-located restaurant offers hearty American favorites like sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, chicken tenders, and ice cream.
2. The Pond, Boston Public Gardens
The Boston equivalent to New York City’s famous Central Park, both Boston Commons and the Boston Public Garden are a must-see for any newcomer to Beantown. Part of the “Emerald Necklace” system of state-owned parks in the Boston area, these two large swathes of beautiful green tranquility are a relaxing escape from the flurry of city life. The four-acre pond situated in the Public Garden is a bit more serene than the nearby man-made Frog Pond in the Commons, and certainly more Monet-esque; with its large weeping willows, pops of seasonal flowers, and large white Swan Boats, it’s a scenic place to lie back and read a book or eat a pretzel from the nearby food stands.
3. The Arnold Arboretum
Located in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale regions of Boston, the Harvard-owned Arnold Arboretum is considered the jewel of the state-owned Emerald Necklace Parkway. Spanning nearly 300 acres, you might want to print out a map before you explore. The ponds and brooks of the Arnold Arboretum are situated near South Street, with easy walking or biking access and plenty of benches. In spring and early summer, the tranquil green waters are encircled by pink flowering trees, reminiscent of the soft pastel colors in Monet’s most famous oil and watercolor paintings. Whether you decide to bring your easel to the arboretum or not, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a painting if you spend any time relaxing in this beautiful park.
4. Christian A. Herter Park, Charles River
Four miles upstream from the Esplanade, the Christian A. Herter Park is a particularly beautiful stretch of the Charles River Reservation. Near the finish line for the famous Head of the Charles Regatta, this area is jam-packed with regatta-goers in late October, but is quite peaceful the other 51 weeks of the year. Bring a picnic lunch, sit with your feet dangling over the boardwalk, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Charles River. Who knows: if Monet had been to Herter Park instead of Giverny, maybe he would have been famous for painting rowers instead of lily blossoms.