Elm Bank Reservation
GOOD FOR: Ages 0-4

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:900 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily; gates open to cars at 8 a.m.
Fee: Free

mass.gov/dcr; 617-333-7404

Bathrooms: At the Hunnewell Building
Water/Snacks: At the Hunnewell Building

USGS Natick

Elm Bank Reservation, home to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Gardens at Elm Bank, offers natural beauty both wild and planned.

Kids are delighted by the oversized chair in Weezie's Garden at Elm Bank.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

Elm Bank Reservation, run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, has 182 acres of woodlands, fields, and old estate lands to explore. The property is surrounded on three sides by the Charles River; head to the canoe launch if you want to paddle. The easy trails here are stroller-friendly, the paved paths are great for biking, and the fields are perfect for kicking a soccer ball around.

What families—especially those with toddlers—will enjoy tremendously are the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s gardens, which occupy 36 acres on the reservation. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1829, is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public’s enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment. You can visit several different types of gardens. A $5 donation is suggested, which can be left in the box at the gate.

Once inside, head straight to the utterly charming Weezie’s Garden for Children, which has a sand play area shaded by banana trees, a wooden tower to climb, an enormous chair fit for a giant (or for small kids to scramble up), and plants that kids are allowed and encouraged to smell and touch.

Other gardens include an Italianate Garden, a Garden-to-Table Chef ’s Garden and its Food Pantry Garden, an educational New England Trial Garden, and a Goddess Sculpture Garden. If you have a phone with you, you can listen to a free audio tour describing the gardens. In winter, a steep hill behind the horticultural building is popular for sledding.

Remember: Dogs are allowed only in sections of the reservation; look for signs marking where they are forbidden to go. Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.

Plan B:

Just 2 miles farther west on MA 16, the Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary (Trip 45) has a wonderful 1-mile hike that traverses boardwalks over marshes and a pond.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Wellesley Square, at the corner of Washington and Grove streets, has several places to eat.


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