Charles River Reservation: Esplanade
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:Along the Charles River, Boston, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free
Contact:; 617-626-1250

Bathrooms: Portable toilets near the Hatch Shell
Water/Snacks: Water fountains along the river

The Charles River, one of Boston’s defining natural features, offers recreational activities for everyone.

The Esplanade along the Charles River offers myriad recreational activities.
Photo by: iStock

The Charles River Reservation runs 20 miles from downtown Boston to Riverdale Park in West Roxbury and offers myriad recreational activities, from strolling on its banks or biking and inline skating on paved paths, to sailing lessons and rentals. If you live in Boston, it’s easy to take the river for granted, but that’s a mistake. It’s one of our best—and free—outdoor spaces.

The Esplanade, officially known as the James J. Storrow Memorial Embankment, is probably the most famous area of the park. Esplanade translates from the French as “promenade along a shore,” the perfect description for this 3-mile stretch along the Boston shore of the Charles River, from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge. The site of the Hatch Memorial Shell, well known as the stage for the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert, is here. In summer, free family movies are often shown on Friday nights.

Overall this section of the reservation contains miles of paths and riverbank to enjoy, plus a wading pool, a number of sports fields, and two playgrounds— the Esplanade Playground at the Longfellow Bridge and Stoneman Playground farther west near the Fairfield Street footbridge. You couldn’t ask for a more scenic spot to spend time with your family. In addition to all the activities you can enjoy on your own, the nonprofit Esplanade Association runs a number of special events throughout the year, including concerts, a dog parade, and exercise classes. Visit for a calendar.

Remember: Except for special events, you can’t park near the Esplanade; it’s really better to take public transit if you can. Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.

Plan B:

The Museum of Science, near the north end of the Esplanade, is a great alternative option, with exhibits that appeal to kids.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Cross over the footbridge to the Back Bay for any kind of dining you could want. Charles Street offers a wide range of quick food options, including pizza and sandwiches.


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