Fens and Back Bay
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This action-packed Boston walking Tour will show you some of the best of Boston. Explore the Greenery of The Fens and the Brownstones of the Back Bay, two of Boston's best neighborhoods. The walk stops at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), The Fens, Fenway Park, Kenmore Square, Newbury Street, and Copley Square before finishing at the impressive Christian Science Church.
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Route Description for Fens and Back Bay
The Fens and Back Bay are two of Boston’s busiest, most exciting neighborhoods. As a hub of culture and entertainment, it’s not difficult to find something exciting for everyone. To explore these two areas, we are going to begin between the Fens and Evans Way Park at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
The entrance to the Gardner Museum is around the left side of the building along Evans Way, but take a moment to stop in front of it and appreciate the architecture of the gorgeous building. The museum was built as the private residence of art-collector Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband, John L. Gardner, and it was modeled after 15th century Venetian palaces. The original building contains Gardner’s vast private collection, which contains items ranging from early Dante manuscripts to Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait”, at age 23. The new expansion was completed in 2012 and houses contemporary art and space for visitor programs and performances.
In 1990, the Gardner Museum was the site of one of the most baffling art heists in history. The two thieves dressed as Boston police, gained entry to the museum, and stole 13 works of art. “The Concert” by Vermeer is thought to be the most valuable painting stolen, valued at $200 million. The amount of property stolen totaled at $500 million. 27 years later, the case remains unsolved and the FBI have no leads. The empty frames of the stolen paintings still hang in the galleries as a reminder of what was lost.
The museum is open every day except for Tuesdays from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM, or 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM on Thursdays. Plan your trip accordingly, because this collection is second to none. Admission is $15 for adults and free to all under 18 or those named “Isabella”.
Exit the Gardner Museum crossing the street toward Evans Way Park. Walk straight through the park, and take a left past the School of the Museum of Fine Arts then take a right on Museum Road followed by a left on Huntington Ave. This will take you to the main entrance of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Museum of Fine Arts was originally founded in 1870, but doors opened at the current location in 1909. It is home to one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas and averages over 1 million visitors each year. From Paul Revere’s silver work to mummified animals, the MFA is sure to have something that will please everyone. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is $25.
Exit the museum left at the Huntington Ave exit and turn left onto Forsyth Way. At Fenway, cross the road and take the path that enters the Fens. The Fens were established in 1879 and are a part of the Emerald Necklace park system. From ball courts to Victory Gardens, the Fens are a bustling outdoor area.
For our stroll through the Fens, you’re going to follow the path off Fenway and across the bridge. This bridge makes for a great spot to snap pictures of the nature around you, so definitely take some time for that. Then, once you make your way across the bridge and come to the fork in the path, follow it to the right. Continue along it as it takes you past the War Memorial. The memorial was created by John Francis Paramino and Tito Cascieri and was completed in 1949. Originally, it commemorated the 3,000 men and women from Boston who lost their lives in World War II. Since then, memorials for Bostonians who lost their lives in the Korean and Vietnam wars have been added around the original memorial.
After the War Memorial, continue on the path until it reaches Park Drive. Take a right on Park Drive (or the path immediately before) and follow it around the Fens. This will take you past the Fenway Garden Society’s gardens and up to where Boylston Street and Charlesgate intersect. Cross Boylston Street, heading down Charlesgate and take your first left onto Ipswich Street.
If you’re making this walk during a Red Sox game, you’re about to hit a ton of traffic, but the environment will be a lot more exciting. Follow Ipswich Street as it curves around, then turn right on Lansdowne Street. Lansdowne Street is home to most of the Fenway bars and if you’re looking for a break from the walk, we suggest stopping into Lucky Strike for a game of bowling or Lansdowne Pub for a pint.
After stopping for a drink, continue on Lansdowne to explore the area near Fenway Park. Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox and at 104 years old, it is the oldest ballpark in the MLB. It is on the National Register for Historic Places and is a pending Boston Landmark. Tours of Fenway Park are open year-round, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM as long as it’s not a game day.
From Lansdowne Street, turn right onto Brookline Ave and follow it until it reaches Commonwealth Ave. This will put you at our fifth stop - Kenmore Square. Home to the iconic Citgo sign and the Boston University Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Kenmore Square is a popular spot for east campus BU students. Kenmore is also extremely busy during Red Sox games and on Patriot’s Day as the Marathon runs right through the square. If you’re looking for a spot to grab a bite to eat or a drink, Cornwall’s has a great relaxed pub feel or Eastern Standard is excellent for more upscale dining.
Take Commonwealth Ave through Kenmore and follow it to the right. This will take you past the Harvard Club and to Massachusetts Avenue. Turn right on Mass Ave followed by a left on Newbury Street. Newbury Street was one of the earliest roads in Boston and today is one of the best shopping districts in the city. It is also filled with many fantastic restaurants, especially Lolita, a trendy tequila bar, Trident, a bookstore and cafe with an excellent brunch menu, and Emack and Bolio’s for delicious ice cream.
Take your time as you stroll Newbury Street and make sure to check out the variety of boutique shops along the way. Eventually, you’ll reach the intersection of Newbury Street and Dartmouth Street. Turn right onto Dartmouth Street, walk one block and cross the street. This will take you into Copley Square.
Copley Square is named for Bostonian and painter John Singleton Copley. Originally known as Art Square, in the 19th Century the square was home to sites such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, the New England Museum of Natural History, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Today, it is home to the Boston Public Library, which as you walk up Dartmouth Street from Newbury Street will be located on your right-hand side. Trinity Church is located across the square to the left, as well as the Boston Marathon finish line, and the Tortoise and Hare sculpture.
After exploring the sites of Copley Square, head back to where we entered the square and take a left on Boylston Street and walk toward the Boston Public Library. Similar to Newbury Street, Boylston is packed with incredible restaurants, notably Solas Irish Pub or Towne Stove and Spirits. After a bit of walking on Boylston, you’ll be able to spot the entrance to stop number 8 - the Prudential Tower. This skyscraper was built in 1964 for Prudential Insurance. With a shopping center on the first floor, the Pru is the second tallest building in Boston and offers a restaurant, Top of the Hub, and Skywalk Observatory on some of the highest floors of the building. Both sites will give you the opportunity to take the best possible pictures of Boston.
Shop your way through the Pru, then walk past Barnes and Noble to exit via the Huntington Arcade. Directly across Belvidere Street is the final stop on this tour - the Christian Science Plaza. The Christian Science Plaza in Boston is the headquarters of the Christian Science Church, which was founded in Lynn, MA, by Mary Baker Eddy in 1875. The original Mother Church building was built at this site in 1894. This site is also home to a reflecting pool, which is definitely one of the most serene locations in Boston. After finishing this walk, take a minute to relax at the reflecting pool. Exit the Christian Science Plaza on to Falmouth Street and then take a left on Massachusetts Avenue. This will take you directly to the Mass Ave T stop where you can catch the Orange Line or a 1, 170, or CT1 bus to continue exploring Boston.
Insider Hints for Fens and Back Bay
- Pre-book tickets to tour Fenway Park. Tickets are available online starting two weeks before your tour date. (Adults $20, Children $14).
- The Fenway area can get really busy on game day, you may love the atmosphere or hate the crowds.
- Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts is by voluntary contribution Wednesday nights after 4:00 PM.
- If you take this walk on a Saturday in July or August, plan to end at the Prudential Center at sundown to catch a movie in the south garden.
- To further explore, instead of going to the Mass Ave T stop, turn right at Mass Ave from the Christian Science Plaza and then turn right on Clearway Street. On the left side of the street will be a shoe store, Bodega, disguised as a convenience store.
Getting to the Fens and Back Bay Trailhead
The easiest way to get to the Gardner Museum on public transportation will be to take the 9 or 19 bus to Louis Prang St @ Evans Way stop. After getting off the bus, walk down Louis Prang Street past Evans Way Park and to your left, you’ll see the museum.
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