The Charles River Esplanade is a 3-mile long, 64-acre park along the Boston side of the Charles River, located right between the Museum of Science and Boston University bridge.
Before the Esplanade is what it is today, this area was part of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. But in the early 1900s, the damning of the Charles River basin changed this stretch of land and in the 1930s it was designed by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff into the foundation of the park we know today. That included new trees, docks, pathways and monuments. Eventually, Storrow Drive was built, and today it separates the Esplanade from Boston proper, with the parkway accessible via footbridges.
Today’s Esplanade is a Boston staple and a beautiful place for Bostonians and tourists alike to relax, exercise and simply spend time outdoors.
Things to Do on the Charles River Esplanade
The Esplanade is such a beautiful destination that you’d have a great time simply picnicking or riding a bike along the Charles River. But there are plenty of other activities to consider during your next visit, especially when the weather is nice.
First, get out on the Charles River by renting a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. There are a few different places to rent them, with one convenient option at Community Boating for $45 for the day during the months of April to October.
The Esplanade Fitness Program program invites people of all ages and abilities to take part in free popup and routine fitness classes, all of which are hosted in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The fitness classes are taught by local fitness professionals and have included Zumba, Sunset Yoga, 3K runs, and Bootcamp. You can keep tabs on what fitness classes or events are coming up on the Fitness page of the The Esplanade Association website.
For those new to the area or visiting for a weekend, you may want to learn more about the Esplanade, which you can do via free guided tours offered once a month from February to December. The tours last approximately 1.5 hours and focus on different subjects, including history, wildlife, and photography.
Throughout the year, other activities pop up with local companies, such as Night Shift Brewing’s Owl’s Nest beer garden, which is a beautiful spot to grab a few local craft beers after work or on the weekends. Even better, dogs are more than welcome to join you on the greenway.
The Esplanade is one of the most happening places in Boston, with events taking place all year long.
One of the most popular events is the Boston Pops Independence Day Concert and fireworks at the DCR Hatch Shell, which is also home to many other free and ticketed concerts throughout the year.
The Esplanade Association also hosts a variety of other annual events throughout the year, including the Esplanade 5k Run, which typically takes place in May, and the festive Moondance Gala, the only black-tie event on the Esplanade.
As the weather heats up, be sure to grab one of 200 tickets to the Annual Summer Dock Party. Ticket sales go back to the Esplanade Association to ultimately keep the area looking as good as possible and continue providing free activities for the community.
Dog owners will love the Canine Promenade, a half-mile Halloween costume parade just for your four-legged friends. It’s the perfect fall photo opportunity!
Recreational Areas & Facilities
Aside from events, here are a few other recreation areas to check out, along with facilities.
Head down to one of the Esplanade’s five docks overlooking the Charles River, especially during the golden hour as the sun sets on a nice night.
If you’re visiting with kids, head to one of three playgrounds for hours of entertainment. The Esplanade Playspace is designed for children ages 5-12 and is located near the Hatch Shell. The Stoneman Playground is between Fairfield and Massachusetts Avenue and has activities perfect for toddlers and kids. Lastly, the Charlesbank Playground is also geared toward ages 5-12 with lots of climbing structures, located near the Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields and the Museum of Science.
You’ll also see people playing pick-up games and picnicking at Fiedler Field and taking boats out at the Boston University Sailing Pavilion and Union Boat Club. The Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields are where organized sports are typically played, especially youth leagues. There are also tennis courts and an exercise course available for those looking to get a workout in.
If you’re hungry, head to the Charles River Bistro, located at the base of the Fiedler Footbridge. Open from April to October, this is where you can grab food and beverages, while also playing free games and participating in other events that are open to the public, such as Live Jazz Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Restrooms are located behind the DCR Hatch Shell and at the Dartmouth Street Facility, but note that they are closed during the winter months. For more details on restrooms and a map of the Esplanade, visit esplanadeassociation.org.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to the Esplanade is by public transportation on Boston’s MBTA. The closest station is along the Red Line at the Charles/MGH stop. If you prefer to drive, there are nearby parking facilities, though you will likely still need to walk a bit. Storrow Drive separates the park from Boston, so in order to enter the park, you walk over one of eight footbridges.