By Saturday afternoon, under a warm sun, Boylston Street looked like it should on a perfect spring day: shoppers crowding into local stores, parking hard to come by, and sightseers packing the broad sidewalks that had been the scene of devastation 12 days before.
Young couples held shopping bags on bent arms and diners reclined on bistro seats on outdoor patios. Parents pushed children in strollers and pedicab drivers stood on their bikes at street corners, searching for customers. A saxophonist and guitarist played for change outside The Tannery.
From the moment the two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 until Wednesday, Boylston Street had been a crime scene, empty except for federal investigators, National Guard soldiers, and police.
On Wednesday, the city reopened the area to the public.
“It seems very important to us at least that the functioning of Boston go back to normal,” said Emily Hanson, 29, of the South End.
The city is offering free parking throughout the Back Bay this weekend to encourage residents and visitors to shop and support stores that were closed after the bombings.
“The city encourages all to come back to the area, go to our restaurants, go to our shops and get involved in the recovery effort,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement Friday.
On Saturday, Cindy and Jared Solomon, North Reading residents who normally don’t shop on Boylston Street, made a special trip to the city to support local businesses.
“They took a pretty big hit economically and obviously much more than that, and we just wanted to support the city,” Cindy Solomon said.
The couple brought their 14-week-old son, for his first trip to Boston.
“The city is full of life,” Jared Solomon said. “It’s good.”
Robin Assaf and Malek Al-Khatib, of the West End, also came to Boylston Street to show their solidarity.
“We just wanted to come down and show that they didn’t win,” said Assaf, a lifelong Bostonian.
It felt great to see so many people, she said, and called it part of the healing process.
“I’ve never seen it so busy down here,” Assaf said.
The largest crowds were perhaps outside Marathon Sports and the Forum restaurant, both of which were hit by the blasts. Forum remains shuttered. Marathon Sports has reopened, but some windows are still covered by plywood.
Assaf said their trip was a way to honor the people lost as well as to celebrate those who were saved by the city’s swift response to the attack.
“The city continues to live. We need to celebrate the city and we need to prove to everyone . . . ” Al-Khatib started before Assaf finished, “. . . that Boston welcomes everyone.”David Abel contributed to this report. Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at email@example.com.