The Rose Garden in the Fens is a beautiful retreat on a warm, sunny day. The garden was designed by Arthur Shurcliff, and opened in 1930. It contains over 200 varieties of roses, arranged in a circle, with an extended garden with sculptures.
The garden is open to the public from dawn to dusk, and has garden parties, and is available for weddings.
One of my favorite places in Boston is the Arnold Arboretum. The Arboretum is well known and well used by locals but not so much among the tourist crowd. When I lived in Roslindale I took morning and evening walks in the Arboretum almost every day along the paved roads and unpaved walking paths. I'd describe the park as well kept, but not manicured. It's casually designed so you can feel free to go off-trail and explore the woods and take a nap or a picnic in the grass. The Arboretum was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (also the designer of NYC's Central Park) as part of Boston's Emerald Necklace, a network of green spaces that encircles the city. The Emerald Necklace also includes the Boston Common, the Public Garden, the Esplanade, the greenway along Commonwealth Ave, and the Franklin Park Zoo. The Arboretum is operated by Harvard University and is the oldest public arboretum in North America. Admission is FREE!!!
My favorite section of the Arboretum is on the Roslindale side, the section known as Peters Hill, separated from the rest of the park by Walter Street and Bussey Street. Being insulated from the larger part of the park by busy streets, this section is pretty much frequented by locals walking their dogs or taking the kids out for a stroll. If you're lucky you might see a game of Irish street bowling in the late afternoon or early evening. At the top of Peters Hill there is a lovely skyline view of downtown Boston. And there is an interesting 18th century graveyard toward Walter Street. In the winter when snow covers the hill, it makes for a great tobaggan ride!
Other highlights of the Arboretum are the bonzai collection which is in the main part of the park, sheltered in a secured gazebo during the warm months near the Dana greenhouses. In the spring, the lilac collection attracts visitors from all over the area. And the rhododendron collection is absolutely breathtaking when in bloom. And there are lots of little "secret gardens" stashed all over the park. Cute little spaces just off-trail where you can meditate or just get away from it all. It's definitely worth your while to explore here.
The Arnold Arboretum can be accessed via either the Orange Line subway or Needham Heights Commuter Rail (starting from South Station or Back Bay). Get off at the Forest Hills stop.
This is a special park in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston that is used for educational purposes by Harvard. It's real big, you could really spend the whold day hiking, relaxing, etc. The grounds are absoultely breathtaking! It is great anytime of the year, as there are different plants, trees, and flowers for every season. There are two hills that offer great views, as well as a collection of very old bonzai trees. (some around 100 years old!!)
To get there:
Take the orange line "T" to the Forest Hills station. Walk up a hill (Arborway St) and the park is on your left. Both Arborway and Centre Streets border the park
Start at the Boston Commons and walk towards the start of Highway 2. Then walk all the way along highway 2 allow the center lane which is a looooong park with benches and statues and which takes you all the way to Fenway. Break into Fenway and then run around the place until you get kicked out. Ok, don't do that part...but the walk is nice and is usually not crowded.
The Fenway Victory Gardens were established in 1942, after President Roosevelt asked cities to provide land for its residents to grow their own vegetables. This is not only the oldest garden, but in fact, the only one still in existence from World War II to the present. The gardens are a continuation of Olmstead's Emerald Necklace.
A stroll through the gardens in the springtime is a joy. Busy gardeners at work, tulips blooming, and the smell of the earth, all the while the skyscrapers loom near by. Gardeners pay only $20 a year to rent their plots, and membership is available exclusively to city residents.
Dividing the areas between Back Bay and Brookline is the Fens, part of Boston's Emerald Necklace, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead to enhance the green space within the city.
The Fens includes the Muddy River Reservation, with preserved wildlife, a beautiful co-op garden, rose garden, baseball field, basketball courts, and pleasant walking paths. You can soon forget that you are right in the middle of the city.
I guess I'll say this is "off the beaten path" only as it's not seen by most typical tourists. The Frog Pond is a round shallow basin used for recreational swimming purposes during the summer but, more importantly, as a skating rink during the winter months, which is extremely popular with Bostonians.
This arboretum has more than 14,000 different kinds of flora & fauna. You can see bonsai, lilacs, roses, tulips, maple trees, bamboo trees, cork trees, etc. It`s an amazing & serene place. Very calming.
The arboretum is pretty extensive & there are some areas between the trees where you can see an excellent view of Boston!
There is also a research center if you want more info on what you see.
Located at 125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-3500.
Directions: Take the T (Orange Line) to Forest Hills Station. The Arboretum's Forest Hills gate is one block NW of the station along the Arborway.
The Swan Boats--I don't think these are as famous as they were when I was a child. But they used to be free, now there is a small charge to ride these boats that look like swans. It is fun for all ages and a nice way to relax and take in the scenery.