Boston's Greenway Walking Tour
The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a 1.5 mile 17-acre park sitting atop a highway tunnel that stretches from Chinatown in the South of Boston up through the Financial District, the Waterfront and ends in the North End.
The park was born out of a plan to remove the elevated highway that ran most of the length of Boston from the South to the North. This highway had split Boston especially the North End section so a tunnel was built, the “Big Dig”, and the highway moved underground. The elevated infrastructure was dismantled (look for a remaining steel column near the Armenian Heritage Park) and replaced with the Greenway park system which had its inaugural celebration in October 2008.
There are six different parks within the Greenway – North End, Armenian Heritage, Wharf District, Fort Point, Dewey Square and the Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park. They are open daily from 7am to 11pm and offer a variety of landscaped gardens, promenades, plazas, fountains and art. There are a variety of eating opportunities mostly comprised of food trucks and carts (daily schedule of vendors - rosekennedygreenway.org/food) but also include an outdoor beer garden and an outdoor wine garden.
A wide variety of plants and trees can be found across the parks and what is currently in bloom can be found here - rosekennedygreenway.org/bloom. The Greenway is Boston’s only organically maintained public park.
There is free wifi offered in the Greenway. Look for the “Greenway” wireless network on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Sites on the tour include: Chinatown Gate, City Winery, Trillium Garden, Greenway Open Market , Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion, Greenway Carousel, Zipporah Potter Atkins House and the Freedom Trail.
Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park
This is the first park at the southernmost end of the Greenway and is located in Boston’s Chinatown area (the 3rd largest Chinatown in the USA after New York City and San Francisco). The one acre park contains design elements taken from Asian traditions and art work and was designed by Carol R. Johnson and Associates. The park is named after Frank and Kathleen Chin who have been instrumental figures in the community development of Chinatown.
Stop 1: Chinatown Gate.
This traditional Chinese Gate, or paifang, is located at the southern tip of the Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park. The gate is a symbolic entryway to Boston’s Chinatown, one of Boston’s most densely populated areas, which has a large number of Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood.
The Taiwanese government offered this gate to the city of Boston in 1982. Two imperial guardian lions (also known as lion dogs or foo dogs) guard the front of the paifang and the gate is engraved with two writings in Chinese: Tian Xia Wei Gong, a saying attributed to Sun Yat-sen that translates as "everything under the sky is for the people", and Li Yi Lian Chi, the four societal bonds of propriety, justice, integrity and honor.
Stop 2: Pavement design.
A section of pavement designed by California artist May Sun is patterned after a Chinese chessboard. The square within a circle pattern symbolizes heaven and earth in the Chinese culture. Running through the center of the chessboard is a "river" of stainless steel and colored concrete, depicting a map of Boston focused on Chinatown, South Station and the Fort Point Channel.
Stop 3: PlayCubes Playground.
Design Museum Boston and Playworld created a temporary play structure of cuboctahedrons designed by Richard Dattner.
Stop 4: Chinatown Stream.
A bamboo lined fountain that suggests a waterfall and rocky stream. Greenway fountains are on daily from late May to early October 9AM-11PM.
Stop 5: Essex Street Gate.
The modern red gateway at the northern end of the park, symbolizes celebration and good fortune and the stylized sampan sail sculpture represents the passage of the Chinese to Boston.
Dewey Square Park
Dewey Square Park is located between Congress Street and Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue. The park is at the corner of Boston’s Financial District and South Station, Boston’s largest railroad station and bus terminal.
The parks’ tables and chairs along with the number of food trucks make this park a popular lunch destination.
Stop 1: Dewey Square Farmer’s Market.
Boston Public Market, the year-round indoor farmers market near Faneuil Hall, has an outdoor farmer’s market on Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30am to 6pm mid-May to mid-November.
Stop 2: City Winery.
An open-air wine garden located at Dewey Square 5 days a week (Monday, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) from May to October.
Stop 3: Boston Calling Block Party.
Weekly block parties Thursday evenings from 5-8 pm featuring music and beer and wine for sale from May through August.
Fort Point Channel Park
Fort Point Channel Park is located between Oliver Street and Congress Street and Atlantic Avenue. The gardens and open spaces were originally designed by Halvorson Design Partnership for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 2008.
Wharf District Parks
The Wharf District Parks are located between Atlantic Avenue and High Street and connect Faneuil Hall and the Financial District with Boston Harbor. There are three open lawn areas, two fountains and many places to sit and relax as well as being a great location for lunch with food truck locations.
Stop 1: Trillium Garden.
An open air beer garden located right in the Greenway, run by the Trillium Brewing Company. The Garden is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 4-10p and Saturdays & Sundays 11a-10p.
Stop 2: Harbor Fog Sculpture.
This sculpture by Ross Miller responds to movement by releasing cool mist and sounds of the Harbor. The fountains are on daily from late May – early October (Columbus Day) 9AM-11PM.
Stop 3: Light Blades.
Every night, twelve vertical glass and steel sculptures illuminate the Wharf District Parks plaza between Milk and India Streets with joyful colors. This unique system of LED lights is programmed to show up to 16.7 million different colors, along with an array of patterns, speed and intensity.
Stop 4. Rings Fountain.
An unpredictable fountain that jets through the air from a flat paved surface. Kids may run through to cool down. At night the lighting in the fountain make it a real spectacle. Running daily from late May – early October (Columbus Day) 9AM-11PM.
Stop 5. Greenway Open Market.
An open-air artisan market offering only handmade items with a focus on local artists and crafters. Open Saturdays and every-other Sunday throughout the summer and early fall.
Stop 6. Drinking Fountain.
There is one public drinking fountain on The Greenway, located near the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion. There is also a ground-level dish for pets. Note: the fountain is not active during the winter.
Stop 7. Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion.
The pavilion is an information and ticketing booth for the ferry service to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Parks which are a collection of 34 islands and peninsulas in the Boston Harbor. The islands offer a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, bird watching, etc. and are an important ecological habitat for local wildlife.
Historical sites at the parks include: Fort Warren (civil war era fort, building began 1833, used as a training facility for union soldiers), Fort Andrews (built in 1900, was an active coast artillery post, one of the army’s earliest radio transmitting stations, had 30 structures in the 1920s, held Italian prisoners of war in WWII), Boston Light (oldest continually operated light station in the country, 1st lit Sept 4, 1716), Deer Island(internment camp during King Philips War – 500 Native Americans held over winter of 1675-76, in 1800s a hospital established for Irish immigrants arriving during the Great Famine, now wastewater treatment which started back in 1875).
The parks do not charge an entrance fee, the only cost is the ferry ride. One ferry ticket can be used to visit as many islands as you like in a single day. It is recommended to allow at least 4 hours to visit one island (including ferry travel), and a full day to visit two. Arrive at least 20 minutes before ferry departure to allow time for boarding. Adult - $20, child - $13 and various packages are available. Boats depart from Long Wharf North in downtown Boston.
Stop 8. Greenway Carousel
This one of a kind 36 seat carousel was made with local animals native to the land, sea and sky of Boston including lobster, cod, fox, squirrel, grasshopper, peregrine falcon, turtle, butterfly, skunk, oarfish, whale, rabbit, owl, and harbor seal.
The Greenway Carousel is located at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove between the Armenian Heritage Park to the north and the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion to the south, across from Faneuil Hall and Christopher Columbus Park on the Greenway.
Tickets are $4 each and the carousel is open mid-April to December.
Stop 9. Mother’s Walk.
Mother’s Walk is a pathway that starts just south of Atlantic Avenue and Cross Street and flows in a meandering path the length of the Wharf District Park down to High Street. Approximately 2,500 pavers mark the path, each with a name and a personal message. If you are looking for a specific paver, the location can be found using the Greenway’s online paver locator - https://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/donate/dedicate/mothers-walk/paver_locations/.
Armenian Heritage Park
The Armenian Heritage Park celebrates the people who have immigrated to Massachusetts and contributed to its culture. The park is located just south of the North End Parks, between Faneuil Hall and the Christopher Columbus Park.
At the center of the park is the Labyrinth, a circular winding path of granite set inside a circular lawn, and at the center of the Labyrinth is a fountain, a single jet of water. The fountains are on daily from late May – early October (Columbus Day) 9AM-11PM.
Next to the Labyrinth is a sculpture, called the Abstract Sculpture, which is a twelve-sided split rhomboid dodecahedron. Each Spring the sculpture is reconfigured symbolizing how immigrants reconfigure their lives.
Stop 1. Central Artery Beam
One of the last remaining steel beams of the Central Artery Expressway is all that is left of the elevated highway that was torn down and the above ground section now turned into the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
North End Parks
The North End Parks are located between New Sudbury Street and North Street. The park is a large spacious lawn surrounded by densely planted perimeter beds.
Stop 1. The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail runs through the park on the north side of Hanover Street connecting to the North End sites.
Stop 2. Zipporah Potter Atkins House
Near this location was the first house owned by an African-American woman in Boston. Zipporah Potter (taking the surname Atkins after marriage) was born in 1645 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her parents were slaves but at that time children born to slaves were free.
When she purchased the house in 1670 she was the first African-American to own land in Massachusetts and one of the first African-American landowners in what would be the United States.
Stop 3. Pergola & Canal Fountains
Running along the eastern edge of the parks is a shallow water fountain “the canal” that has vertical water jets. The fountains are on daily from late May – early October (Columbus Day) 9AM-11PM.
Along the canal is a trellis “pergola” covering a large sitting area with tables and chairs that overlook the lawns.