The best New England fall travel always seems to be equated with back roads and rural scenes, so any talk about cities not being great autumn destinations is really just an urban myth.
Boston is one of America’s finest cities, so why wouldn’t the fall travel season be part of that mix? Many Boston neighborhoods offer wonderful foliage scenes — since the city offers so many green spaces — and those colors juxtaposed with the skyline and Charles River result in some truly memorable scenery. FYI, the best time to see Boston foliage is usually from mid to late October.
In a certain regard, Boston might be at its peak vacation status in the fall. Think about it: the tourist crowds aren’t as frequent as in the summer, and much of the hot weather has given way to cooler, comfortable temperatures. You will most likely need a jacket at night while rustling through the leaves.
Additionally, outlying nearby quaint towns like historic Concord and Lexington never fail to offer some fantastic fall memories. Cape Cod and the southern Maine coast are just an hour away. Apple picking farms provide further enhanced New England fall travel joy. For football fans, the New England Patriots play at Gillette Stadium in the Boston suburb of Foxborough. Also in Foxborough, Normandy Farms Campground offers a world-class camping experience into the fall time. On the North Shore, Haunted Happenings in Salem takes place throughout October with a legendary Halloween celebration of parades, costume balls, haunted houses and tours.
While we encourage you to experience all of those destinations, the bottom line is that you could just stay in Boston and be more than satisfied with the overall fall travel experience. And even though Boston is known as an expensive city to live, the reality is that local and travelers can enjoy many fall destinations and events without paying a cent! With that in mind, here are 10 ways to enjoy fall in Boston for free…
6 Best Places to See Boston Fall Foliage
Boston Common and Public Garden (Find on map)
The Boston Common and Public Garden are beautiful green park-like areas contiguous with each other in the heart of the city. You’ll also find plenty of park benches along the way to take a break and enjoy the natural fall beauty virtually everywhere you look. The many trees and shrubs create an often spectacular variety of fall colors with the ornamental trees quickly changing color first. FYI, the Boston Public Garden is the oldest public botanical garden in the United States dating back to 1837 and one of the best in the country, according to those in the know.
In addition to the flowers, check out the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues, near Charles and Beacon Sts., featuring Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings — inspired by Robert McCluskey’s famous children’s picture book about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their adventures!
Arnold Arboretum (Find on map)
Fall time is ideal to admire the magnificent landscapes and vibrant densely-populated plant life on 281 acres in this lovely oasis in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. A great time to visit is during “Autumn in the Arnold Arboretum” tour offering a “spectacular show of color in both foliage and fruit.” Andrew Gapinski, manager of horticulture at the Arnold Arboretum, will be guiding this special tour, on Tues., Oct 23, starting at the Hunnewell building. For cancellations due to weather, call 617- 384-5209.
The Arnold Arboretum is the oldest public arboretum in North America!
Boston Esplanade (Find on map)
This stretch along the scenic Charles River that separates Boston and Cambridge makes for an ideal walk, jog or bike ride in the fall with the mix of water views and an often high concentration of trees yielding predominantly red, orange and gold colors. The way the colorful leaves reflect in the water is a sight to behold!
Beacon Hill (Find on map)
On the west side of the downtown is Beacon Hill — bound by bound by Beacon St., Bowdoin St., Cambridge St., and Storrow Drive — with its brick sidewalks, gas lamps, million dollar brownstone neighborhoods, and the stately, historic Massachusetts State House (which you can tour). A walk from Mount Vernon St. to Louisburg Square offers a fine combination of trees and home gardens that look especially nice in the fall.
Rose Kennedy Greenway (Find on map)
Rose Kennedy Greenway used to be an eyesore, but incredible city revitalization has made this area a pulse of the city as a gathering place. It is now a 1.5 mile stretch of parks, a carousel, grassy areas and rotating contemporary art exhibitions. Fall is especially nice with the Greenway’s trees, shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses.
Back Bay Fens (Find on map)
The Back Bay Fens, as part of the “Emerald Necklace” parks designed in the 1800s by famous landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, offers some of Boston’s best fall foliage foliage as this riverside recreation area features the equally beautiful Victory and Kelleher Rose Gardens.
4 Free Boston Events in the Fall
Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, 12 noon – 11:59 p.m.
The Berklee College of Music — one of the world’s premier music colleges — features this annual fall music show. Enjoy this free admission outdoor concert with world-class musicians traditionally providing a wonderful show, Food and drink, arts, crafts, and unique gifts are available for purchase at the event. For more information, log onto the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival web page.
Columbus Day Parade in the North End of Boston, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2019, 1:00 p.m.
The Columbus Day Parade Celebration in East Boston will offer brass bands, vintage cars, military units, and politicians walking south on Bennington St. from the parking lot starting at the Boston Public Market and winding through the North End’s narrow streets – Atlantic Ave, Hanover Street, Endicott. Free admission. Check out the Boston Discovery Guide web site for updates.
Boston Book Festival, Copley Square, Saturday, Sunday — Oct. 19 Copley Square, Oct. 20 Roxbury (times, locations to be announced)
The Boston Book Festival is a free admission event that “promotes a culture of reading and ideas and enhances the vibrancy of our city,” according to its web site. The event celebrates literature and writing with dozens of author talks, seminars, writing workshops, exhibitors and publishers, live music, and kids’ entertainment in and near Copley Square. More information on the event can be found on the Boston Book Festival web site.
Head of the Charles’ Regatta, Charles River, Saturday, Sunday — Oct. 19-20
Here, you can see, for free, thousands of athletes from around the world compete in this Charles River rowing race. This is the world’s largest regatta, dating back to 1965! For more information on best vantage points and a list of vendors at the event, log onto the Head of the Charles’ Regatta web site.