date published: May 5, 2008

From riding the Swan Boats to shopping on Newbury Street, Panorama guides you through 16 best bets for springtime fun in the Hub
by Panorama Staff

stop to smell the flowers
Arnold Arboretum is one of Boston’s most popular spots in the springtime for nature lovers, what with its nearly 7,000 varieties of trees and flowers spread out over 265 acres. But when the second Sunday of May rolls around, there’s really only one blossom at the Arboretum that’s on everyone’s mind—the lilac. That’s because it’s the annual Lilac Sunday, being celebrated this year for the 100th time at the AA. Lilac Sunday not only lets people tour the grounds and see the famous lilacs in full bloom, but the day is also filled with live entertainment and it’s the only day of the year in which guests are allowed to picnic on the Arboretum grounds. So, pack a lunch, pack the family and come out to Jamaica Plain to sample a little lilac life. Refer to sightseeing listing.

Lick an Ice Cream Cone
Bostonians eat more ice cream per capita than anyone else in the country, so it’s no surprise that the Hub boasts some of the best ice cream parlors of any city. Try the delectable delights of Lizzy’s (29 Church St., 617-354-2911) and Ben & Jerry’s (36 JFK St., 617-864-2828) in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, or Emack & Bolio’s (290 Newbury St., 617-536-7127) and JP Licks (352 Newbury St., 617 236-1666) in the Back Bay, who include such offerings as Green Monster Tea, Manny’s Mocha Chip and Cherry Ortiz among their many flavors as a salute to our beloved Red Sox. And since Newbury Street provides so many great people-watching opportunities, many a perfect spring day can be had simply licking and looking.

take the kids waddling
Boston’s been the setting for a lot of notable pieces of literature, but perhaps none so as enduring and beloved by families as Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings. On May 11, Boston Common acts as the setting for the popular annual Duckling Day Parade, in which youngsters and their families get to play the part of ducklings, retracing the steps of the Mallard family through the park, led by the Harvard University Marching Band. It’s a tradition that generations of Boston children have enjoyed, and a true harbinger of spring’s full glory here in the Hub. Refer to kids corner listing.

Dine by the Sea
As warmer weather approaches and New England enters prime seafood season, there’s no better place to enjoy both than on the outdoor patios at Boston’s seaside restaurants overlooking Boston Harbor. Enjoy a romantic meal under the stars, or an afternoon lunch amid the company of seagulls, at spots like Sel de la Terre (255 State St., 617-720-1300), Tia’s on the Waterfront (200 Atlantic Ave., 617-227-0828) and Intrigue (Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, 617-856-7744), all of which boast menus packed with fresh seafood like lobster and shrimp cocktail.

talk with the animals
Franklin Park Zoo, founded in 1911, is home to more than 200 species of animals—including gorillas, lions, tigers and kangaroos. And spring is the time of the year when a number of the animals who spend the winter in hiding make their debut to the delight of crowds of animal lovers. Visitors to Franklin Park this spring can see two of the Zoo’s newer arrivals—babies Tuli (a Grevy‘s zebra) and Sox (a Masai giraffe, pictured)—as well as all their furry and feathered friends. Refer to wildlife listing.

discover secret gardens
Boston in bloom is a beautiful thing, indeed, but the only thing better than enjoying the city’s bountiful parks and greenspaces is getting a chance to appreciate some natural beauty that few others get to see. That’s why the annual Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill tour, sponsored by the Beacon Hill Garden Club, is such an anticipated event by green thumbs and flower fanatics of all designations. On May 15, participants receive maps to more than a dozen private gardens secreted away in the venerable old Beacon Hill neighborhood—lush and peaceful spots situated right in the heart of the city but hidden away from the hustle and bustle of it all. See how city folk manage to keep their gardens growing and enjoy a day of tranquility and beauty where you’d least expect to find it. Refer to special events listing.

Experience Hollywood in the Hub
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern-day than the many historical tours Boston has to offer, you may want to consider Boston Movie Tours. This walking tour follows the same steps as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, leading visitors to the famous park bench from Good Will Hunting, to a stroll past where the runaway car crash scene from Blown Away was shot, to a refreshing drink at the Bull & Finch Pub, the inspiration for the TV classic “Cheers.” The 2-hour tour covers more than 30 filming locations within 1.25 miles, getting you one step closer to Hollywood, while still enjoying all Boston has to offer. Refer to tours listing.

ride The swan boats
Perhaps the most toy-like and beloved fixture in the Public Garden are the world-famous Swan Boats. Owned and operated by the

t family since 1877, the stately paddle wheel-propelled vehicles take passengers on short jaunts around the central Lagoon. The trip, one of the best bargains for visitors in town (only $2.75 for adults, $1.25 for kids), is unquestionably the most relaxing way to take in the Garden and the surrounding skyline. Refer to tours listing.

get out and rock
A sure sign of spring is the sight of pale and squinty rock music fans emerging from a long winter of nothing but indoor shows in darkened clubs. Beginning this month, outdoor concert spots like the Bank of America Pavilion on the waterfont and the Tweeter Center in suburban Mansfield lure music lovers out into the sun for shows by the likes of Panic at the Disco! (May 11 at the Pavilion) and Kanye West with Rihanna, N.E.R.D. and Lupe Fiasco (May 15 at the Tweeter). Don’t worry—you can still wear black T-shirts and leather pants, as long as you’re willing to sweat a bit. Refer to live music listings.

Wander the sculpture gardens
The Victorian landscaping of Forest Hills Cemetery provides an elegant backdrop for its nationally recognized 19th- and 20th-century memorial sculptures. You can visit the final resting spots of everyone from Anne Sexton and e.e. cummings to playwright Eugene O’Neill in this 275-acre cemetery founded in 1848. In addition, you can attend poetry readings recited in the spirit of the literary giants who are buried here. Be sure to also check out the contemporary sculpture path with its ever-changing free exhibits. Walking tours are frequently offered on Sundays at 2 p.m. for $9. Nearby Lincoln, Mass. is home to another striking outdoor sculpture park at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park. The 35 acres of rolling woodlands and lawns boast an exhibition of large-scale, contemporary American sculpture that can be explored free of charge. Refer to museums listings and sightseeing listing.

Cruise Boston Harbor
Springtime weather may be too temperamental for ocean swimming, but it’s still the perfect time to get out on the water. Boston Harbor Cruises (refer to cruise listing) offers various tours of Boston Harbor, including visits to the Boston Harbor Islands and the USS Constitution. If you have the time to spare, they also offer that New England favorite—whale watching.

explore the Charles River Esplanade
The Esplanade is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities, including kayaking, sailing and jogging. The picturesque, tree-lined asphalt paths that run along the Charles River are especially great for bicycling. Try renting a bike from Back Bay Bikes (362 Commonwealth Ave., 617-247-2336).

Shop ’til you drop
If you’re looking to update your fair weather wardrobe, look no further than Newbury Street. The Rodeo Drive of Boston features an array of fashionable boutiques, including the singular footwear creations of John Fluevog (302 Newbury St., 617-266-1079), the sporty yet fashionable outdoorswear of Barbour (134 Newbury St., 617-375-7829), the modern and trendy creations for women at up-and-coming boutique Soodee (293 Newbury St., 617-236-7888) and popular and affordable Swedish retailer H&M (100 Newbury St., 617-859-3192). Others shops along this clotheshorses’ dream street include Urban Outfitters, Marc Jacobs, NikeTown, Chanel and Louis Boston. And best of all, instead of being cooped up inside a mall while you shop, you can be out under the sun, strolling past the brownstones of the Back Bay. Refer to shop listings.

have a (cannons) ball
With all the attention the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins get, another of Boston’s winning pro teams sometimes gets overlooked. Boston’s Major League Lacrosse team, the Boston Cannons, qualified for the playoffs every year from its inception in 2001 to 2006, winning its division in 2004 and 2005. Cheer on these stick-wielding gladiators when they play their first home game of the season on May 17 at Harvard Stadium versus the New Jersey Pride. Refer to sports listing.

tour the emerald necklace
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted did us Bostonians a huge favor when he sought to create a ring of green spaces around Boston. Because of him, we have an abundance of parkland to explore when the weather is right. The actual necklace is comprised of six parks: the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. They stretch five miles from the Charles River to Dorchester, and if you’re up for it, Boston Park Rangers will take you on a walk through all six parks. Not to be missed, but not technically part of the Emerald Necklace, is historic Boston Common and the Public Garden, the nation’s first botanical garden.

Eat Hot Dogs at Castle Island
William J. Day Blvd., South Boston, 617-268-5744. This free, family-friendly destination is perfect for spending a sunny afternoon. Kids will love exploring Fort Independence or cavorting on the playground, while the whole family can enjoy chowing down on the famous foot-long hot dogs served at Sullivan’s Snack Bar. After the kids work up an appetite running around, order up enough eats for the whole gang and dig in while watching planes take off and land at Logan Airport across the Harbor. Or make like a local by getting in some fishing or basking in the afternoon sun on appropriately named Pleasure Bay.

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