My friend David recently asked me about my recommended Boston walks, and I was happy to oblige. I guess I’ve got a bit of a reputation. I’m a big walker, whether it’s my perfunctory walk to work (I go down Medford’s Main Street, which is actually quite nice) or a semi-planned uber-trek (like last November’s Coolidge Corner->Kenmore->Downtown Crossing superwalk). I think nothing of walking three miles to get somewhere (heck, it only takes about an hour), and I often do much more. My day off the grid last month totaled nearly nine miles. Just yesterday, I walked from Teele Square in Somerville to Harvard Square and back — all told, almost six miles, when you count continuing on to Clarendon Hill on the return trip.
For me, walking is the ultimate leisure activity. By myself, I can immerse myself in music, people-watching and scenery at the same time. With friends, quality conversation usually transpires. Not to mention that walking is a fine way to get around the Boston area, and an excellent way to get in shape while doing something you need to do anyway — get from point A to point B. And the way I feel after a good, long walk, well, I have yet to find a substitute.
With the benefits of walking in mind, here are some of my favorite Boston walks:
- Labor Day Walkabout: This jaunt is thus-named because I did it on two successive Labor Day weekends. I start from my house and hit Union, Inman and Central Squares before turning down Mass. Ave and crossing the bridge to the Esplanade. I then walk the Esplanade all the way to the Longfellow (“salt-and-pepper”) Bridge, which I cross to get to Kendall Square. By then, I’m usually feeling a bit achy and catch the T. All told, a bit over five miles. Check out my photos from last year’s walkabout; I’m hoping to reprise the walk this upcoming Labor Day weekend, as well.
- Cambridge Crosstown: Mass. Ave. in Cambridge is a heck of a main drag. From Central all the way up to Porter, and even farther down to Cameron Ave., you get a lovely tour of the People’s Republic on wide sidewalks in good repair. And if tragedy strikes and you just can’t go on, the No. 1 or No. 77 buses will bail you out. Yes, it’s only three miles from Central to Cameron, but with all of the awesome stores along the way — my favorites being Looney Tunes, Joie de Vivre and Bob Slate — it’ll take you much longer than an hour. Don’t forget the new Berryline that just opened on Mass. Ave. between Porter and Harvard, or stop at Porter’s Tavern in the Square for a tasty drink outdoors.
- Downtown: Living north of the river, I sometimes find myself missing downtown Boston. Yes, I know, that seems silly to say when I am minutes away by train or bus, but it happens. When it does, I like to take some version of this walk to really drink in the city. Going down Newbury or Boylston, there are plenty of stores to dip into. When I hit the Public Garden and the Common, I end up wandering and winding around for a while before heading to Downtown Crossing. A nice extension is to keep walking up Summer Street past South Station to the Fort Point Channel, to take in some semblance of a water view and hang out at the nice boardwalk outside the Children’s Museum.
- Brownstone Tour: Maybe I’m biased because I went to BU, but I love Boston’s brownstones. When I’m jonesing for some brownstones, I make my way to the BU East T stop and begin my trek down nostalgia lane by going down Bay State Road. Yeah, sure, I lived there for three years in college (talk about being spoiled), but it’s also one of the prettiest streets in the city. From there, I head down Marlborough Street for a quiet, scenic stroll, and when I hit the Public Gardens I loop onto Commonwealth Ave. for the return trip (and to pay homage to Leif Erikson).
- The Emerald Necklace: I’ve already detailed this walk, but I can’t recommend it enough. You can stay on the grid, if you like.
- The Freedom Trail: Same as above. But aside from walking the Freedom Trail proper this past May and two Februaries ago, my friend Katy and I also did a Charlestown trek during a freakishly warm day last December that ended up traversing a bunch of the Freedom Trail. Charlestown is so charming, the North End so awesome and the view from Bunker Hill so amazing, that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the Freedom Trail.
I have a few areas I’ve been meaning to explore — namely, the swath of Cambridge between Mass. Ave. and Fresh Pond that is sliced by Concord Ave., and the path from Central Square through Cambridgeport to BU, down Amory Street toward Brookline Village. It’s nice that despite living in Boston for nearly 12 years (!), I still have discoveries ahead of me.
What are your favorite Boston-area walks?