Google maps or Yelp can easily guide you to the best brunch and ice cream spots in the city, but what about Boston’s lesser-known natural beauty? These fun outdoor activities will have you experiencing Boston in ways most tourists tend to miss, and all of them are free!
Picnic on Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River, an iconic natural landmark of Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods, provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation along its banks. A paved running and cycling path lines both sides along nearly the entire length, and dirt trails through trees and grass give nature-lovers a place to enjoy the greenery. On the south bank of the Charles river basin, between Massachusetts Ave bridge and the Museum of Science, the riverside path widens into an esplanade, which is lovely to walk or bike during the warmer months. Open grassy spaces, docks on the water’s edge, public playgrounds, and trees spaced perfectly for tying up your hammock take outdoor enjoyment to the next level. For the most scenic riverside picnic, we recommend sitting right by the water as it shimmers in the evening’s golden light. A blanket in the grass or a perch on one of the waterside docks make nice vantage points for watching the sunset. Views of the Boston skyline from Longfellow bridge are also unbeatable on clear days and nights.
November Project at Harvard Stadium
Who has the time or money to go to gyms these days, especially while traveling? To get out and active without the price or hassle, consider joining one of Boston’s weekly outdoor November Project workouts! Free and open to the public, November Project is a worldwide group exercise movement welcoming anyone and everyone to early-morning workout sessions, with the motto “just show up.” Originally started by two Northeastern University rowers to hold each other accountable for early morning workouts, it is now a global phenomenon with “tribes” as far as Hong Kong. No abilities or fitness levels assumed, the energetic tribe leaders guide workouts designed to be as hard or relaxed as you choose to make them. November Project is a fun and affirming social opportunity to be active with new people; joining one of their early-morning workouts is a great way to share smiles, hugs, and endorphins with local Bostonians. Wednesday workouts meet at Harvard Stadium at 5:30am and 6:30am, and usually involve some climbing of its historic concrete steps.
Walk through Mount Auburn Cemetery
You might be turned off by the idea of visiting a graveyard, but it’s not what you think — we promise. The first garden cemetery in the United States, Mount Auburn is a National Historic Landmark and a lively arboretum. A stroll through its vast network of walking paths will take you past tranquil ponds and woodlands full of colorful plants and wildlife. Impressively large and artistic monuments fill the burial grounds, along with intricately designed chapels and memorial buildings. We recommend ascending Washington Tower’s spiral staircase to the top deck for prime views of Boston and its surroundings. The view is especially spectacular in the fall when the trees are changing colors.
Nature walk at Fresh Pond Reservoir
While Boston gets its drinking water from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, the neighboring City of Cambridge gets its water from Fresh Pond Reservoir right next door. Only the best for Harvard students, right? Water politics aside, Fresh Pond is a great spot to enjoy some refreshing time outdoors. A walking path surrounds the entire reservoir, with small trails through the adjacent woods to bring you up-close and personal with nature. About 2.5 miles around, the path is also popular among dog owners; no matter the weather, you’re almost guaranteed to see at least a few pups on your walk as an added bonus!
Just a few miles southwest of Boston’s city center, the Arnold Arboretum flaunts 281 acres of flourishing foliage for those seeking refuge from urban life. Peaceful walking paths through its grounds are free and open to the public 365 days a year. Visitors are welcome to enjoy open grass areas, public benches, nursery and greenhouse facilities, a historic library, and wildlife encounters on the premises. Knowledgeable staff offer free 90 minute walking tours on weekends, Mondays, and Thursdays to teach visitors more about the nearly 15,000 different plant species in the Arboretum’s living collection. Weekly events like lilac bathing and family hikes are also great opportunities to experience the Arboretum in organized community settings.
To take full advantage of the Northern summer’s endless daylight, Marissa will squeeze every last minute of hiking, running, splashing, and climbing into her outdoor adventures through Iceland and Scandinavia. Bananas and coffee are all she needs to fuel up for marathon-treks through rugged mountains, thundering waterfalls, jagged cliffs, and rocky fjords, though trying to keep her two sets of clothing clean in the process might be one of the greatest challenges this world has ever known. Marissa studied engineering and environmental policy, with lifelong goals of saving the world’s glaciers, oceans, forests, and wildlife from the perils of anthropogenic climate change. When she isn’t busy reading about solar panels and cursing modern consumerism, Marissa enjoys rowing on the Charles River, stopping to pet every dog she ever sees, running the occasional marathon, and cooking plant-based feasts for forty at the Dudley Co-op/commune. Her favorite legume is decisively the garbanzo, for its incredible versatility and protein-packed punch.