A Book Come True: the Boston Public Garden

A real Swan Boat

The city of Boston, MA, boasts many historical landmarks, from its harbor to its courthouse to Paul Revere’s home.  However, to many children, more notable than any of these places is the Public Gardens, where the book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey takes place.  In fact, the book and the garden have become so well known that the city has made it fairly easy to see the site of each of the important happenings in the book that appear in the garden.



The Public Gardens is located in between Arlington, Beacon, Charles, and Boylston Streets in downtown Boston, across from the Boston Common (more on that later) and near the Boston Courthouse.  There is metered parking on most if not all sides of the garden; however, the day we were there the parking was free (I believe it was Sunday).  Also, we had trouble finding a place to park, as the Public Garden is quite popular.

A loon (as well as mallard ducks) lives in the pond

We entered the Public Garden by a gate on the south side of the garden.  This put us at the far end of the pond, and we had a nice little stroll along the paved pathways over to the swan boat dock.  The garden is quite wheelchair accessible, as well as a popular place to take children in strollers.  There are many different kinds of trees, many with name tags on them, as well as various other kinds of plants.  This is a nice touch, if you’re into botany.  The garden also has plenty of places to simply relax, and as I recall there were plenty of people on a weekend in July, but it wasn’t so crowded you couldn’t take a nap or sit back on the grass between the different paved walkways.

Our first stop was at the statues of the Mallard family located in the northeast part of the park.  These are bronze statues, quite a bit larger than life-size, and usually have children sitting on them.  If you’re at all a Robert McCloskey fan, this is a must do.

A Swan Boat glides across the pond

Another must-do for McCloskey fans is a ride on the swan boats (offered seasonally 10am-4pm (April through June and Labor Day through September) and 10am-5pm (late June through Labor Day); $2.75 adults, $1.50 ages 2-15, $2.00 seniors (2010)).  The boat dock is located on the eastern side of the pond, fairly near the bridge that spans the pond, and here you can buy tickets for your boat ride.  The boat operator peddles the boat around the pond, under the bridge, near a small island (the same as in the book!), and then back under the bridge to the boat dock.  The swan boats are wheelchair accessible for non-motorized wheelchairs.  Again, this is a must-do for Robert McCloskey fans.

In the book, the people on the swan boats fed the Mallard family peanuts, giving them a way to live in the city of Boston.  However, visitors are no longer allowed to feed the ducks that still live in the pond.

The corner of Charles and Beacon Streets

It is also interesting to cross the bridge and wander around the western side of the park.  There are more plants here, as well as more and different vantage points of the pond.  Once you’ve become tired of wandering the garden, head for the northeast corner.  Here you can actually see the street signs for Beacon and Charles Streets, and see where the Mallards crossed the busy intersection (and it’s still very busy) to the garden!

A Swan Boat operator peddles his craft

If you still have some time on your hands, and don’t mind a bit of walking, you can cross Charles Street at this intersection and go onto the Boston Common.  There is plenty of room here for picnics and relaxation, including a few more benches than are in the Public Garden.  There are also events held here at times.  If you have children, you might want to go over to the middle of the northern side of the Common (across from the court house) where the Frog Pond is located.  Children are allowed to wade in this pool, although there are many regulations that are strictly enforced (no swimming by older children or adults, small children must wear swim diapers, no adults or children over 12 unless they are accompanying a child, no excessive splashing, etc, etc, etc.).  In the winter, ice skating is allowed on the Frog Pond, although there is an admission price for those over 13 ($4.00 (12/10)).  There is also a playground for those who are playing in the pond (I believe there is an age limit although I don’t recall what it is).  Anyway, it’s a nice little place to let the children play, although I felt that the rules were suffocating.


So, if you’re looking for a child-friendly place to visit, or are in love with Make Way for Ducklings (or if you were in love with the book as a child), the Public Garden is a great place to wander, remember, and see in real life what Robert McCloskey captured in his treasured story.

Fees: None to enter the Public Garden or the Boston Common; fees are charged for the swan boats and for skating on the Frog Pond

Trail ★★★★★

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Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

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