BOStoday City Guide Play Banner

Getting back to the roots of the Boston Public Garden


If you’re looking for some common ground to spend a sunny afternoon there is no better location than the Boston Common.

Today, we’re digging into the details of America’s first public botanical garden The Public Garden.

The Boston Common was established in 1634 and the Public Garden, located right across the street, came later in 1837. Today, it features walkable pathways, lush trees, blooming plants, a lagoon, and plenty of iconic landmarks.

Let’s take a look at the roots of the urban botanical garden.

The city appointed a special committee in 1859 to offer potential park uses for the property.

To help the process that same year, the city held a design competition and George Meacham won. His proposal for the garden included a pond, a curved path system, and formal flower beds. If that sounds familiar it’s because the plan shaped how the garden we love looks today.

By 1880, the 24-acre Public Garden featured a Victorian-inspired cast-iron fence, a suspension bridge across the pond, 1,500 trees, and 90,000 bedding plants. And things have been bloomin’ ever since.

Today, the Parks Department and Friends of the Public Garden maintains the park for the 3+ million visitors each year.

Did you know that the lagoon is an artificial pond that is drained for the winter? The six acre pond is refilled in the spring and is shallow at only 3-4 ft. deep. The pond is also home to two resident swans, named Romeo and Juliet, who summer in the Public Garden lagoon. Like typical snow birds, they are moved for the winter in Franklin Park Zoo and the Mayor hosts the Return of the Swans ceremony each year in early May.

The public art in the garden are some of the most iconic + photographed landmarks in the city. Here are four things not to miss on your next adventure to the Public Garden.

The Make Way For Ducklings statues inside the Boston Public Garden.

The statue is based on the story of Mrs Mallard and her ducklings from the children’s book.

Photo by BOStoday team

Make Way for Ducklings, near Charles and Beacon Streets

The “Make Way for Ducklings” statue is one of the most popular sights in the Public Garden. Local sculptor Nancy Schön designed the bronze duck sculpture that is inspired by Robert McCluskey’s book about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their adventures.

Swan Boats, on the lagoon

Open seven days a week from early April to late September, the Swan Boats glide around the lagoon for 15-minute rides. Plan ahead because there is usually a line, especially on summer weekend mornings, though it usually moves quickly with each swan boat holding 20 people.

Ether Fountain, near Arlington and Beacon Streets

The oldest landmark in the garden is the Ether Fountain, which dates back to 1868 and was gifted by Boston resident Thomas Lee. The granite and marble fountain honors the discovery of the anesthetic qualities of ether that Massachusetts General Hospital used for the first time in 1846.

George Washington Statue, near Commonwealth and Arlington Streets

It’s hard to miss the bronze statue of the country’s first President on horseback. Washington spent time in Boston during the early months of the Revolutionary War and the work by Thomas Ball in 1869 is considered one of the best equestrian statues in the US.

The George Washington statue insinde the Boston Public Garden.

The equestrian statue of George Washington was created by Thomas Ball.

Photo by BOStoday team

Check out our other Guides
Make the most of what’s left of patio weather by taking your meals al fresco on one of Boston’s many beautiful patios.
Pack your reusable shopping bags — we’ve rounded up 12 farmers markets around Boston.
Find a spot to get outside and enjoy nature with these trails across the Boston area.
Explore these dog-friendly places in Boston that span places to eat, drink, shop, exercise, and stay the night.
Celebrate Boston’s moments on the big screen.
Check out some of the coolest, most unique Airbnb and Vrbo rentals around Boston and plan for your next adventure or staycation.
Prepare for winter weather in Boston with these seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks.
BOStoday phone
Good news for Boston.
Get the best local news & events sent to your inbox each morning, for free.