date published: May 9, 2005

8 Sure Signs of Springtime in the Hub
by Christine Celli and Marketa Hulpachova

Budding trees and balmy winds are enough to rouse even the grumpiest Bostonian from hibernation. Temperatures are on the rise and winter-worn locals are shedding their coats and venturing out of their homes to savor the sun’s welcoming rays. As it thaws from winter lethargy, the Hub celebrates springtime by offering a wide range of outdoor activities. So head outside for a festival, baseball game, or a leisurely afternoon in the park. Here are a few ways to join in on all the fun.

The Boys of Summer actually started their season in early April, and as ecstatic Red Sox fans continue to celebrate the end of the hometown team’s 86-year championship draught, you’d better believe this city of rabid sports enthusiasts will sell out storied Fenway Park for every single home game. If you have trouble scoring tickets to a game while in the Hub, you can still tour historic Fenway Park daily up until two hours before game time. The history-steeped ballpark—the oldest active stadium in the Major Leagues—is a must see for even the casual sports fan.

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted did us Bostonians a huge favor when he sought to create a ring of greenspaces 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, the 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.

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 hot dogs served at Sullivan’s Snack Bar. 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 while basking in the afternoon sun.

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 (366 Commonwealth Ave., 617-247-2336). And if you’re curious about the secrets of the Esplanade’s most prominent feature, you can take a tour of the DCR Hatch Shell on May 22 from 1–2 p.m. and see it up close.

Garden enthusiasts will want to pay a visit to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, which hosts its annual Lilac Sunday on May 15. Established in 1872, the Arboretum includes plants and trees from all over the world and its library houses a 40,000-volume herbarium collection. In May, though, it’s all about the lilacs. Of the thousands of flowering plants in the Arboretum, only the sweet-smelling lilac is singled out every year for a day-long celebration. Refreshments are available for purchase from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Morris-style folk dancers perform, and picnicking is allowed in the park the only day of the year. If that’s not enough to entice you to pack a lunch and plan a day among the blossoms, there’s also a terrific view of Boston from atop Peter’s or Bussey’s Hill.

Au Bon Pain, 1360 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-497-9797. Every May for more than two decades now, chess master and Harvard dropout Murray Turnbull takes his place at the table nearest the sidewalk in front of the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square. For $2 a game, you can attempt to checkmate him. We wish you luck, but our money’s on Murray.

No one wants to be indoors on a nice day. So forego those big, pre-summer blockbuster movies in favor of the talented street performers who showcase their acts at Quincy Market and Harvard Square. Expect to see anything from a magic show to choreographed breakdancing routines, all for free—or for whatever you can toss in their hats at the end of the show. Weekends are the best time to catch a wide array of acts, but performers can usually be found any day of the week.

Exploring the plethora of corner shops, department stores and outdoor vendors that make up Downtown Crossing, a pedestrian mall in the heart of Boston, is a warm weather must-do in the Hub. Treat yourself to some fried dough while perusing the miscellaneous products on display in the pushcarts, and don’t miss Downtown Crossing’s Art and Culture Week, from May 10–14, a free annual public event featuring live international music, glass blowing tutorials, and historic walking tours.

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