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Hot Dog! Boston’s Got Great Spots for Eating Out

Parks offer scenic views, grassy expanses, pickup soccer


Whether you’re working on your tan in lunch-break installments or spending your weekend out and about in the city, there is no reason to duck inside for food with so many beautiful spots to snack and snooze. Many Boston-area parks are just a T ride away. These stand out for their picnic-friendliness and their convenience.

The Esplanade, Boston
When most people think of the Esplanade, they think Boston Pops and the Fourth of July. But there are actually three miles of grassy expanses, benches, and designated picnic areas to explore along the Esplanade.

Created with landfill in a series of stages, the Esplanade runs between the BU Bridge and the Museum of Science on the Boston side of the Charles River. It is home to playgrounds, athletic fields, a wading pool, bike paths, a skating rink, and a community garden.

You can walk all the way from the BU Bridge or hop the T to any number of stops and walk toward the river — you can’t miss it.

Boston Common and Boston Public Garden
There is no place more central than the Boston Common when it comes to the MBTA. With stops of all four colors either at the common or two blocks away at most, no connections are necessary to enjoy a picnic at Boston’s premiere park. Treat yourself to some fried dough and check out the local T-ball action, or spread a towel and enjoy your chow in front of some of the best skylines in town. The Frog Pond draws children to wade in its fountain on hot summer days.

Across Charles Street from the common is the Boston Public Garden. The two parks have vastly different characters. The larger and more pastoral common lends itself to recreational activities and hosts concerts and plays, while the Public Garden is devoted to ornamental design, with a variety of flora and the centrally featured Swan Pond, home to the city’s world-famous Swan Boats.

The Park Street (Red Line) and Boylston Street (Green Line) stations are on the Common; the Downtown Crossing (Orange Line) and Government Center (Blue Line) stops are within walking distance.

Franklin Park, Dorchester
Franklin Park seems like a bit of a trek until you realize that it is the only park in Boston where grilling is legal. Even better, it has grills. It also has a zoo. So while the pilgrimage may not be practical for your lunch break, consider packing some burgers or hot dogs and making a day of it on a sunny weekend. And don’t forget to visit the wattled cranes on your way out.

Take the Orange Line to Forest Hills, then walk a mile or hop on a #16 bus at the station — it goes right through Franklin Park.

Corey Hill Outlook, Brookline
It is rather fortunate that the steep walk up to Corey Hill Outlook — at the top of Summit Avenue on the Brookline-Brighton border — comes before lunch. And it’s a shame you can’t roll back down to the T afterwards. Safely, at least. This underrated picnic spot features breathtaking views of the city and an air of tranquility that only being atop a steep hill can provide. There is little traffic, fresher air, and a thoughtfully placed bench from which you can take it all in.

Whether you hike up from the B trolley’s Washington Street stop or the C trolley’s Winchester stop, you get a free workout with this lunch.

Christopher Columbus Park, Boston
Although most outdoor eateries in and around Boston Harbor tend to be tourist-oriented, Christopher Columbus Park offers the same beautiful setting minus the premium. Bring a blanket and find a grassy spot near the water. Tia’s restaurant is right beside you if you need a refreshment.

Take the Blue Line to Aquarium station.

BU Beach
A small stretch of grassy lawn behind Marsh Plaza and the College of Arts and Sciences overlooking the Charles River, the BU Beach is a campus favorite for relaxing and catching some rays. With an abundance of take-out options nearby, it is a picnic standby for the University community.

Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Plain
Jamaica Pond is a true Boston gem. Although frequented by walkers, joggers, and fishermen, it is the army of ducks and geese that will most appreciate your sandwich leftovers. The entire pond is lined with benches facing the water; more secluded grassy areas are on the east side of the pond. During warmer months, there is a snack bar, as well as rowboat and sailboat rentals, restrooms, and a water fountain.

Take the Orange Line to Green Street. Or if you are up for a 15-minute walk, take the Green Line’s D trolley to Brookline Hills and walk along Cypress Street until you hit the pond.

Cambridge Common, Cambridge
If you live north of the Charles and don’t fancy the trip inbound, the Cambridge Common should be your first choice for a picnic. Easily accessible via the T or any number of buses, the area around the common dishes up some of the best take-out in town, and you will have no shortage of options. Bring a blanket or pick out a bench and join in the pickup soccer after your meal.

Take the Red Line to Harvard Square.

Note: Brookline’s Larz Anderson Park allows grilling and has stationary grills for public use. Unfortunately, the park is difficult to reach by public transportation. There are no parks in Cambridge where grilling is legal.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.

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