This place brings out the kid in me. Or should I say that it brings out kids. Either way, this lovely 42-acre green space nestled in the heart of the city appeals to all ages. Each time I come to Boston, I find myself drawn to the its ageless charms.
Created in the 1830’s as a promenade and playground for the city’s wealthy residents, the Public Garden today combines formal botanical plantings and meandering paths. The center of the park, an irregularly shaped lagoon, is the focal point of activity, with families and lovers enjoying leisurely rides on the famous "Swan Boats," and children feeding the many ducks, geese, and real swans congregating on the banks of the lagoon. Weeping willows dip their long tresses into the water’s edge, mounted policemen clip-clop by, and elderly ladies with perfect posture sun themselves on benches. This bucolic scene is best surveyed from the whimsical "suspension bridge" (the world’s smallest) that spans the middle of the lagoon
The charms of Boston’s Public Garden have been celebrated in two famous children’s tales, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings and E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. Visitors (especially those with children) should keep an eye out for the small "Make Way for Ducklings" statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. Adoring parents take advantage of this perfect photo-op, their little darlings sitting astride Mrs. Mallard's back. The sculpture is also the focal point of the "Ducklings Day Parade" held annually on Mother’s Day, featuring tots dressed in duckling costumes, an "oh, how cute!" concept if ever there was one. In E.B. White’s tale, Louis the mute swan makes a name for himself accompanying the swan boats while playing on his trumpet. (He also feasts on watercress sandwiches just across the street at the Ritz Carlton, where you can have a sumptuous though pricey afternoon tea.)
On this trip I was resolved to take a ride on the Swan Boats, something I’d missed on two previous visits to Boston. A tradition since the 1870’s, the boats were invented by immigrant Robert Paget; the boat concession is still run by the Paget family. He got the idea from the scene in Wagner’s "Lohengrin" in which the hero crosses a river in a boat drawn by a swan. Each boat's stately progress around the lagoon is propelled by a single hardworking (and very fit) college student pedaling in the back. My son, who initially baulked at taking a "children’s ride." was unable to maintain his preteen guise of "too cool to care about this" as we glided serenely around the lagoon: "Look, there are two swans!" (The swans, named Romeo and Juliet, are both males, I was told.) All that was lacking from an otherwise perfect afternoon in the Public Garden was music. Where's Louis the trumpeter swan when you need him?