Boston’s Back Bay Fens, located within the city’s Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood, is a beautiful outdoor destination filled with formal and community gardens, athletic fields, memorials and historic landmarks.
The Back Bay Fens was established in 1879 by a man named Frederick Law Olmsted. The year prior, there was a public health threat in the Back Bay that was caused by a flooded, stagnant waterway. Olmsted put a plan into place to reinvigorate the marsh area into something beautiful with his creative landscape architecture. He renamed the area the Back Bay Fens at that time.
In 1910 came the damming of the Charles River, which resulted in the Back Bay Fens turning into a freshwater marsh, which Olmsted’s plantings unfortunately couldn’t survive. Only two of the original bridges remained, along with the boundaries of the park and a few trees. That’s when another landscape architect, Arthur Schurcliff, came in and reinvigorated the Back Bay Fens with additions including sports fields and the Kelleher Rose Garden.
The Back Bay Fens is part of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a non-profit run by Bostonians that works to protect and maintain many of the city’s parks.
What to Do & See
The Fenway Victory Gardens are the oldest remaining “victory garden” that was planted during World War II back in 1941 when there was a need for food exports and President Roosevelt called on citizens to assist with growing vegetables. Boston had 49 of these gardens then, and this is the only one that has continued on, though today it is a community garden with 7.5 acres with over 500 gardens.
Kelleher Rose Garden is so beautiful that people not only come to take it all in, but many opt to have their weddings there. Back in the 1900s, rose gardens were incredibly popular, and this garden has been around ever since 1931, designed to face the Museum of Fine Arts, and was later expanded in 1932. It was officially named the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden in 1975.
There are a variety of athletic fields throughout the Back Bay Fens, so bring a ball, some friends and hit the basketball and tennis courts or baseball, soccer and football fields for a pick-up game. You can also jog the track at Clemente Field or walk the Fens loop to get some exercise. If you’re visiting with children, they’ll love time spent on the playground.
While you’re at the Back Bay Fens, you’ll also see World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials. Lastly, bird lovers oftentimes come here to see the unique variety of bird species.
How to Get There & Location
The official address of the Back Bay Fens is 100 Park Avenue, so you can use that as a GPS destination if that is how you prefer to get from place to place by car.
Another option is to opt for Boston’s public transportation via MBTA trains and busses, as there are a variety of ways you can get to the Back Bay Fens. On the train, take the any Green Line to Hynes Convention or the Green Line E to either the Museum of Fine Arts or Northeastern University stops. You’ll have to walk from each stop, but not too far. Or take the #39 or #1 MBTA bus.
Activities & Sights Nearby
Given that the Back Bay Fens is in the Fenway neighborhood, you can probably guess what you are close to — Fenway Park! Go ahead and walk over to Lansdowne Street and catch a Red Sox game or concert while you’re in town. Even if you don’t go in, there are plenty of bars, restaurants and even a bowling alley around Fenway Park that will guarantee a good time.
Two of the city’s most popular museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are walking distance from the Back Bay Fens. Both of these museums are the best places for those who have an appreciation and love for art.
Boston is home to many beautiful college campuses, several of which border the Back Bay Fens. Nearby colleges and universities include Emmanuel College, Simmons University, Northeastern University and the Berklee College of Music.
The Back Bay neighborhood is also not far away and is the ultimate Boston shopping destination, as it is home to the city's well-known Newbury and Boylston Streets.