The Garden and the Common

Boston felt a lot like my hometown of Halifax.   That familiar feeling was strongest for me in two downtown parks – the Public Garden and the Boston Common.    Here at home, we have two very similar parks in name and appearance, even if they’re both somewhat smaller in size.   About an hour or so after first landing in Boston, my wife and I walked through the Public Garden and immediately felt at home as it has something strikingly in common with its namesake in Halifax: an abundance of friendly ducks:

Boston Public Garden

Just across the park, the theme of ducks continues, this time with a clever piece of public art.  “Make Way for Ducklings” by Nancy Schön is a wonderful nod to the 1940s children’s book by Robert McCloskey that tells the story of a family of ducks raised in the the Boston Public Garden.  Like all great public art, this piece is interactive with kids climbing all over the ducks:

"Make Way for Ducklings" by Nancy Schön

This is a beautiful, tranquil park.  Although frequented by large crowds, it’s not too hard to find a quiet place to take in a calming view.  I was fond of this one of the Lagoon Bridge and a duck swimming slowly past:

Lagoon Bridge in Boston Public Garden

Another of the attractions in the park is the swan boats that can take you out for a quick spin around the lagoon:

Swan Boats in Boston Public Garden

I skipped a ride on the swan boats, more than happy to just find some shade beneath a mature tree and look out over the lagoon and the city rising above the far end of the park:

Boston Public Garden

The Boston Common, just across the street from the Public Garden, has a completely different feel to it.  Many describe it in the following terms – the Common is like a family’s backyard while the Public Garden is a family’s more formal front yard.  I think that pretty much sums it up.  The Common is where Boston comes to just hang out and play.  It’s a sprawling space with open views in all directions.  Below, the Beacon Hill neighbourhood rises just to the north of the Common:


And looking west, the taller buildings in the Back Bay loom large in the distance:


Just like the Public Garden, the Boston Common has a few interesting pieces of more modern public art.  The two below were my favourites, and I think describe pretty well the distinction between the two parks.   The frog closest is Tommy, a fisherman.  The one just in the distance behind Tommy is Angela, a thinker.   There are a number of other whimsical frog sculptures designed by David Phillips throughout and reinforce that this park is for fun and frolicking.


Whatever your preference: the front yard Public Garden, the back yard Boston Common, or hopping between the two depending on your mood (which was my approach), Boston’s residents and visitors are the richer for these two gems in the heart of the city.


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