September 13, 2004
you’ve seen one hotel gym you’ve seen them all. With stairmasters,
treadmills and a more or less complete set of free weights, they
unquestionably have all the tools you need to get a workout, but
they’ll do little to let you know you’re in fact in one of the
oldest and most beautiful cities in the country. Perhaps you’re
stay in town is brief, but when there’s time to exercise, there’s
time to get outside and experience your surroundings. Boston is
undoubtedly a walking city, but it’s also a running, boating and
biking city, with a slew of scenic and physically challenging
ways to add vibrancy and even a little sightseeing to your daily
workout. And since we know you’re busy, we’ve outlined our
favorite places to break a sweat based on their convenience, what
they have to offer—from bike trails to boat rentals—and even
their visual appeal. So choose the spot that serves you best,
leave some space in the hotel gym for someone else and get moving
The Charles River Esplanade
Distance from Copley Square: 1.28 miles. Walk north on
Arlington Street to the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge where you can
cross over Storrow Drive. You can also cross over at the
Massachusetts Avenue Bridge.
T Accessibility: Take the MBTA’s Red Line to Charles/MGH
and take the footbridge over Storrow Drive towards the river.
About the Course: The Dr. Paul Dudley White Charles River
Bike Path is an 18-mile circuit that starts at the Museum of
Science and runs along both sides of the Charles River to
Watertown and includes several bridges and the Charles River
Esplanade. The path is mostly traffic-free apart from a few
points when it hits a cross street. For longer and shorter loops
and their distances, call the MDC (617-722-5445) and they’ll help
you acquire a map. Roller bladers typically stick to the
Esplanade or take advantage of a flat, 1.5 mile stretch of
Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side of the river—from Western
Avenue to the Elliot Bridge—which is closed to car traffic
Sundays from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Water activities including sailing,
windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking, are available for public
participation from either the Community Boating house on the
Esplanade or at Charles River Canoe & Kayak (see below). A snack
bar, restrooms, payphones and drinking fountains can be found by
the MDC Hatch Shell.
Scenic Appeal: The Esplanade offers eye candy galore, from
people watching to panoramic views of Boston and Cambridge along
a glistening Charles River dotted with sailboats. Your ears will
frequently be happy too, thanks to the MDC Hatch Shell, site of
such nationally renowned events as the July 4th Boston Pops
concert and fireworks and other free outdoor events held there
during the spring, summer and fall. The Esplanade proper is
strictly on the Boston side while the bike trail actually runs on
both sides of the river, with great sightseeing and views
available on either bank. The entire 18-mile bike path takes you
out to the suburb of Watertown, but even an abbreviated trek
takes you past Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and the Museum of Science, not to mention one of the
best views of Boston’s skyline.
Equipment Rentals: Charles River Canoe & Kayak,
617-965-5110. Their green-roofed kiosk is located upstream of the
Eliot Bridge and downstream of the Northeastern Boathouse on the
Boston side of the river. They rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats and
HobieCats by the hour or by the day and offer classes and group
trips for beginners and veterans.
Distance from Copley Square: 0.2 miles, walk down
Dartmouth Street until you reach Back Bay Station. The path
begins behind Copley Place, across the street.
T Accessibility: To run or walk its distance take the
MBTA’s Orange Line to either Back Bay or Forest Hills. For tennis
or basketball courts, Stony Brook station is a good bet, though
there are several options throughout the park. The Pierre
Lallement Bicycle Path officially starts at the Massachusetts
Avenue Station, but may be easier to access from Ruggles Station.
About the Course: The bike path is four miles from start
to finish while the total distance from Back Bay station to
Forest Hills station is a little under five miles. This flat
course crosses over several side streets and is best run during
the day. Safety should be a consideration when running or biking
Scenic Appeal: This long and narrow park runs over and
along the MBTA’s Orange Line from Back Bay to Forest Hills in
Jamaica Plain with the most scenic portions at its start and
finish. Your trek takes you past brownstones, community gardens
and flower beds in the South End, past Northeastern University
and into Jamaica Plain where you’ll find lots of activity—from
pick-up basketball games to kickball matches at the fields of
nearby Boston English High School (turn left at McBride Street).
But perhaps this park’s biggest advantage is its proximity to the
“T.” The Orange Line has six stations between Back Bay and Forest
Hills, offering several points at which you can turn back toward
where you started.
Distance from Copley Square: 3.65 miles.
T Accessibility: Take the MBTA’s 39 bus from Copley Square
to Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, then proceed down the street.
About the Course: Two paths, one for joggers another for
bikers and roller bladers, encircle the pond in a flat oval that
measures 1.49 miles around. A small fitness station can be found
on the Jamaicaway side of the pond while a snack bar, drinking
fountains and restrooms can be found at the Jamaica Pond
Scenic Appeal: Jamaica Pond is often referred to as the
jewel of the famed Emerald Necklace created by landscape
architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The pond itself is actually an
ancient glacial kettle hole, 65 feet deep and the cleanest
natural body of water in the city. Unfortunately this doesn’t
mean you’re allowed to swim, but you can fish (with a license)
and the pond is stocked annually with salmon and trout. It’s also
home to a variety of wild animals. Most frequently seen are
swans, geese and ducks milling about the pond, but fox and deer
have been known to pay a visit.
Equipment Rentals: JP Boathouse on the Jamaicaway (617-522-6258)
rents rowboats and sailboats by the hour for use on the pond.
Private water crafts are not permitted.
The Arnold Arboretum
Distance from Copley Square: 4.36 miles.
T Accessibility: Take the MBTA’s Orange Line to Forest
Hills Station, cross South Street to The Arborway and walk over
the hill to the main gate.
About the Course: As one of the area’s largest green
spaces (265 acres in all), a run or bike around the Arboretum can
follow a wide variety of trails, both paved and unpaved. But
perhaps its best feature for exercise is its hills (Bussey and
Peter’s), which are some of the highest in the city. Maps and
markers can be found throughout the park to help keep you on
track. Water fountains are located near the gates and a restroom
is available in the office which is open Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–4
p.m., weekends noon–4 p.m.
Scenic Appeal: Plant enthusiasts will be in heaven as they
run among thousands of plants and trees from all over the word,
including an impressive bonsai tree collection that can be seen
down the Chinese Path in the center of the park. Save your
stretching for when you reach the top of either hill, both of
which boast spectacular views of the Boston skyline and the
surrounding area—especially in the fall at sunset.
Distance from Copley Square: 4.57 miles.
T Accessibility: Take the MBTA’s Orange Line to Forest
Hills Station, then board the MBTA’s 16 bus to the golf course.
The park is also within walking distance. For directions call
About the course: The largest of the Frederick Law
Olmsted-designed parks in Boston, Franklin Park includes an
18-hole public golf facility (the William J. Devine Golf Course)
that is the second oldest public course in the country. Golf
legend Bobby Jones used to practice here, honing his golf game
while attending Harvard. The course measures 6,009 yards from the
blue tees, 5,622 yards from the white tees, and 5,240 yards from
the reds. Wide open fairways and receptive greens make for a
friendly, pleasurable golfing experience. For those who would
prefer to run or bike, the terrain is hilly and best tackled
during daylight hours.
Scenic appeal: This park may feel slightly off the beaten
path but as home to the Franklin Park Zoo and nearby Forest Hills
Cemetery (the final resting spot of literary giants Eugene
O’Neill and e.e. cummings), it’s well worth the trip. The zoo has
undergone countless improvements over the years and cares for
giraffes, kangaroos, gorillas and boasts a breathtaking butterfly
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One of the best ways to
enjoy Beantown may be on two wheels, biking past city sights
with the wind whipping across your face, paying no mind to
the traffic jams that plague the car-bound. Of course with
cobblestones, potholes and a streetplan that dates back to
the Revolutionary War, biking around Boston can serve up some
rough terrain. If you’d prefer a more structured route, most
bike shops sell maps of the state’s urban and rural biking
paths, some of which we’ve already told you about here. Or
combine some sightseeing with your ride by enlisting the
services of Boston Bike Tours & Rentals (refer to listing,
page 54). A knowledgeable and, from what we hear,
entertaining guide leads you on one of several different
tours of Boston-area sights. Specialized tours follow Paul
Revere’s ride out to Lexington on the Minuteman Bikeway. Or
try the Bike, Beach and Brew tour which takes riders along
Boston’s waterfront and concludes with a visit to the Harpoon
Brewery. For those without wheels, the company offers bike
rentals at a reasonable price, as do the following shops:
- Back Bay Bikes &
336 Newbury St., 617-247-2336
Easy access to the Charles River Esplanade near the
Massachusetts Avenue Bridge.
- Community Bicycle
496 Tremont St., 617-542-8623
In the South End a short ride from the Pierre Lallemont
Bicycle path in the Southwest Corridor.
- Cambridge Bicycle
259 Massachusetts Ave., 617-876-6555
In Central Square in Cambridge, near the Dr. Paul Dudley
White Charles River Bike Path.