Arnold Arboretum
GOOD FOR: Ages 0-4

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:125 Arborway, Boston, MA
Hours:Park: dawn to dusk daily; visitor center: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends
Fee: Donations accepted
Contact:; 617-524-1718

Bathrooms: At the Hunnewell Building visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountain at the visitor center.

The arboretum is a haven for families who bring their kids in strollers, teach them to ride bikes, or just amble along and enjoy great views.

Arnold Arboretum
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

One of the oldest parks in the United States, the Arnold Arboretum has been enjoyed since 1872. It is the second-largest park in Boston’s Emerald Necklace, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and its paved paths invite people out for a stroll, kids on bikes, and people exercising their dogs. In winter, cross-country skiers cut paths through the snow and sledders enjoy the snowy hills.

Amateur botanists will like that many of the trees and plants are labeled for easy identification. A small bonsai tree collection is always popular with kids. The arboretum’s excellent website also offers downloadable podcast guides, a tree-of-the-month fact sheet, and bird checklists. A letterbox puzzle (see page 150) is also a fun way to explore the arboretum. This is found on the same downloadable sheet as the tree-of-the-month information. If the visitor center is open, stop in for maps and check out exhibits and artwork.

From April through October, the arboretum offers free monthly Family Drop-In Activities. The events range from crafts to scavenger hunts. On weekends in May, June, September, and October, arboretum interpreters are at the ready with hands-on fun and stories about the grounds. The second Sunday in May is celebrated as Lilac Sunday, a festival that has become a Mother’s Day tradition for many families.

Remember: Except on Lilac Sunday, picnicking is not allowed on the arboretum’s grounds, so plan to eat elsewhere. Tree climbing, plant picking, and walking on plant beds and mulched areas are prohibited. Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.

Plan B:

Jamaica Pond (see Trip 12), a short distance north of the Arnold Arboretum, offers fishing and sailing.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Restaurants and shops are on Centre Street, South Street, and Hyde Park Avenue, and in nearby Roslindale Square. A detailed map of restaurants is available at the visitor center.


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