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Globe Magazine

Explore these less-traveled spaces at 8 Boston area parks and open spaces

Take time this summer to try and see old-standby outdoor spaces in a new way.

Chinatown’s Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park.Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff

The only bright side of fewer tourists is more room for the rest of us. Read on for ideas about corners of old classics to experience anew (just check on evolving rules before heading out).

1. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway

As you stroll the mile and a half of the Greenway, don’t let the mouthwatering distractions of chicken and rice plates, mac & cheese, or bacon burgers keep you lingering in the socially-distant lines for the Dewey Square food trucks. The linear park continues farther east to Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park at the edge of Chinatown. This appreciation of civic leaders features a serpentine walkway lined with bamboo and a fountain that usually doubles as a mini-waterfall. Don’t miss Furen Dai’s witty neon art installation, A Mouse with Ears and Tail. Serenity dwells here at the edge of downtown.


2. Paul Revere Park

Downriver from the Charles River Esplanade, Paul Revere Park in Charlestown didn’t fully open until the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was completed. The grassy spot just down Warren Avenue from Constitution Marina sits at the mouth of the Charles River. The park is a monument to Boston’s ingenuity. Lie in the grass and behold a majestic, close-up view of one of the world’s widest cable-stayed bridges, or walk over to North Station by crossing the 1978 flood control dam and locks that keep the river higher than tidal Boston Harbor. On the way over, swing the levers to ring Paul Matisse’s mellifluous Charlestown Bells.

3. Franklin Park

Legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned Roxbury’s Franklin Park as the grandest solitaire in the Emerald Necklace, even designing a sprawling field house of wood and local puddingstone. Now in atmospheric ruins, Overlook Shelter saw its glory days in the 1960s and ’70s as Playhouse in the Park, where greats like Duke Ellington and Odetta performed. A half-mile stroll up Pierpont Road connects to another set of grand ruins on Schoolmaster Hill. Named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived nearby when he taught school in Roxbury in the 1820s, the stone ruins of a community center at the hilltop afford a dramatic overlook of rolling greens and golf course fairways below.


4. Arnold Arboretum

Talk about survivors. Conifers were among the earliest woody plants to evolve, and even made it through the “Great Dying” of 250 million years ago that wiped out 90 percent of life on earth. The arboretum’s collection spans 211 different species planted over 24 acres. The Conifer Path begins at the Walter Street gate among the larches and follows a crushed stone path past spruce and fir, hemlock and cedar. The conifers may not be as splashy as the flowering plants, but the pine-scented air in the glens carpeted by fallen needles restores the spirit.

5. Olmsted Park

With its charming boathouse and well-trod circular path, Jamaica Pond may be the people’s choice of the Emerald Necklace parks. But the 1.8-mile circuit around Leverett Pond, in Brookline’s neighboring Olmsted Park, can be just as invigorating (and often far less crowded). Two years after Frederick Law Olmsted completed his work on the Emerald Necklace, Brookline renamed the only portion entirely within its municipal borders to honor the creator of the system. With its woodsy paths, open meadows that serve double duty as playing fields, and rustic stone bridges and walls, the park has all the picturesque landscape features that Olmsted prescribed as a balm for stressed-out urbanites.


6. Boston Harborwalk

There’s a lot to see on the roughly 40 miles of the Boston Harborwalk as it follows the shore from the Neponset River in lower Dorchester to Constitution Beach in East Boston. The otherwise nondescript stretch of beach on Columbia Point, before it turns the corner to head north along Carson Beach, looks like a strand of gray stones. But beach glass glitters among the rocks. Located just below the green lawns of Dorchester Shores Reservation, a place we think of as “beach glass beach” yields some of the most unusual wave-tumbled glass on the harbor — including the occasional apothecary stopper or antique glass turned an ethereal purple hue by the sun.

7. Blue Hills Reservation

Lots of Blue Hills hikers scramble up the red-dot trail to the 635-foot summit of Great Blue Hill for the terrific views. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Monadnock, 70 miles away in New Hampshire. But you don’t have to work that hard. The blue-blazed Skyline Trail to the top of 496-foot Buck Hill is less strenuous and still provides a grand perspective. Coming from the east side at Route 28, the moderately steep rock-strewn path is crisscrossed with roots. The final ascent on granite steps is a civilized approach to the flat summit. Boston Harbor spreads out below, and Monadnock is still visible to the north. Wild blueberries abound at the summit in August.


8. Boston Harbor Islands

Not all the islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park are, in fact, islands. A handful are connected to the mainland. Among them is Deer Island in Winthrop, where public walkways and trails total about 5 miles and the 2.6-mile perimeter path is fully handicapped accessible. Walk, jog, cycle, or drop a line in the water. Feeling lazy? Spread a picnic and take in the views of the Boston skyline and the air traffic coming and going at Logan. Whatever you do, thank the massive egg-shaped digesters for the sparkling clean water of Boston Harbor.


Patricia Harris and David Lyon are frequent contributors to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.