Escape the city bustle and soak up the serenity in this beloved park that doubles as a respected Harvard University research center.
Leave your Frisbee and football at home; America’s oldest arboretum is designed for quiet mediation and scholarly research. Arnold Arboretum is home to a comprehensive collection of almost 15,000 plants, including varieties and rare specimens sourced from botanical expeditions from all over the world.
Follow the looping paths, which wind through collections of conifers, crab apples, forsythia shrubs and maple trees. The Bonsai Garden is the perfect setting to sit and pen a haiku. Or climb up Hemlock Hill, find a shady spot to close your eyes and breathe in the scents of this tranquil park.
At 265 acres (107 hectares), Arnold Arboretum is the second largest link in Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the city’s seven-mile (11-kilometer) network of parks. Part of the cityscape since 1872, the arboretum was created with funds donated to Harvard University by whaling merchant James Arnold. Today, 75 full-time university staff operate the on-site library and state-of-the-art research center that supports the work of academics and students.
Join a free guided walking tour of the arboretum, available from mid-April to November. Stop in at the visitor center for information on the tours and to find brochures, maps, restrooms and souvenirs.
Plan to eat and drink before or after your visit, as there is nowhere in the arboretum that serves refreshments. There are numerous dining options in nearby Jamaica Plain and Roslindale Village.
The park is open to the public daily and admission is free. Please respect the rules, which forbid picnics, barbecues and tree climbing. Lilac Sunday is the only day of the year the picnic rule is relaxed. It’s held on the second Sunday in May, when the park’s lilac bushes are in full bloom. To mark the occasion and to thank the public for its support, the university stages a day-long celebration with live music and activities.
Arnold Arboretum is located in Jamaica Plain, about six miles (nearly ten kilometers) from downtown Boston. It’s easily accessible by bus or car, and there’s plenty of free parking.