Tag Archives: explore

The National Parks of … Boston?

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

What better way to learn and have fun exploring the outdoors than with a visit to a national park? The dizzying depths of the Grand Canyon, the majestic ocean vistas of Acadia, the stunning views of … Boston? That’s right! Even though an urban center like Boston may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a national park, the greater Boston area is home to over ten sites administered by the U.S. National Park Service. Though the majority of these sites are focused on preserving and interpreting sites of historic interest, the national parks of Boston also contain a number of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and even camping.

As both a history enthusiast and an avid national park visitor, I have been thrilled to have so many national park sites to explore in such close proximity to the Tufts campuses. However, with all these places to visit, deciding where to go and what to do first can be overwhelming. Having now visited each of these special sites, I have attempted to narrow down five of my favorite parks in the Boston area and provide some tips to make the most out of your visit. And the best part? Almost all national park sites in Massachusetts are free! Hopefully this will give you some inspiration and ideas for your next off-campus adventure.

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston, MA

Just beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston is what feels like an entirely different world of peace and calm. Made up of 34 islands in Boston Harbor, the aptly named Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, and more! Catch a ferry from Long Wharf in Boston and sail out to one of the islands in as little as 30 minutes (don’t forget to show your Tufts ID for the student rate). Spend the day exploring Historic Fort Warren on Georges Island, hiking around a city dump turned nature preserve on Spectacle Island, or seeing the oldest lighthouse in the United States on Little Brewster Island.

Boston National Historical Park, Boston, MA

Yes, even the famous Freedom Trail in downtown Boston is a national park site! Walk the 2.5 mile trail to see historic burying grounds, view the site of the Boston Massacre, see the meeting house where the Boston Tea Party began, tour Paul Revere’s House, and climb the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. Though all sites run by the National Park Service are free, some of the affiliated museums charge entrance fees (though all offer student rates with a valid Tufts ID).

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic SiteBrookline, MA

Just down the road from JFK’s birthplace is the home and studio of another notable Bostonian: Frederick Law Olmsted. Though many people are likely unfamiliar with this American landscape architect, almost everyone is familiar with his work, including Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. Tour the studio where many of the firm’s designs were drawn up and explore the beautiful grounds of Olmstead’s suburban home.

John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Brookline, MA

Did you ever wonder what life was like for a president before they became the commander in chief? One of three presidential birthplaces preserved by the National Park Service in Boston, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site preserves the childhood home of the nation’s 35th president. Take a ranger guided tour to learn more about the family, see the bed where “Jack” was born, and learn about the Kennedy children’s dinnertime political debates.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Saugus, MA

Perhaps my all-time favorite Boston-area park, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, is a faithful reconstruction of the wooden factory buildings used by European Iron Makers who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. Explore the buildings to learn the origin of the term “pig iron,” view a blacksmithing demonstration, and hike the short nature trail along the Saugus River.

For more information on all of the national park sites in the Boston area and Massachusetts generally, please visit www.nps.gov/state/ma .

Getting to know the T

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

Ask any Tufts student what their go to means of getting around is and their reply will almost certainly be: “why the T, of course”! The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is the agency responsible for providing public transportation services for the Boston area, including the subway (affectionately known as the T) as well as bus, commuter rail, and ferry systems. Though hanging out on campus is great, you’ll quickly want to get out and explore all that Boston has to offer and the T is one of the best ways to do it. As someone who uses public transportation on almost a daily basis for commuting to work, running errands, and generally having fun, I can attest to the fact that, despite the occasional delay, there is no better way to get around than on the T. Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned about ways to make the most out of public transit in Boston.

Subway

Opened in 1897, Boston’s subway system was the first of its kind in the United States. Today, the system consists of five lines (red, orange, blue, green, and silver) that run through downtown and out to the many surrounding suburbs.

The line that many Tufts students are familiar with is the Red Line, which stops at Davis Square and is just a short walk from the Medford/Somerville campus. A ride on the Red Line can take you to some of Boston’s most notable universities, including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts at Boston, as well as the Boston Common, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, and the birthplaces of the second and sixth presidents of the United States: John and John Quincy Adams.

The Orange Line is also a key travel route for many Tufts students as it makes stops right at Tufts Medical Center in downtown Boston. Aside of commuting to classes and work, you can also hop on the Orange Line to see the site of one of the first battles of the American Revolution at Bunker Hill, watch a Bruins or Celtics game at TD Garden, or grab a bite to eat in Chinatown.

An easy transfer from both the Red and Orange Lines, the Green Line runs through several Boston neighborhoods and is the perfect way to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, catch a ball game at Fenway Park, do some shopping at the Copley Place Mall, or get some studying done at the Boston Public Library, the second largest library in the United States! Though slightly shorter routes, the Blue Line allows for an easy escape to the beaches of East Boston while both the Blue and Silver Lines provide easy access to and from Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Buses/Commuter Rail/ Ferries

In addition to running the subway, the MBTA is also responsible for running buses, commuter rail trains, and even ferry boats in the Boston area. The Medford/Somerville and Boston campuses are directly serviced by eight bus routes, and within walking distance of many more, that are great for making a quick run for groceries or taking a convenient “above ground” journey to the hundreds of tasty restaurants, nifty shops, and cool historic sites in the area that just aren’t served by the extensive subway system.

The commuter rail is similarly useful for making trips from Boston to places a little further afield than those served by the subway, including Tufts’ Grafton Campus on the Framingham/Worcester Line. The commuter rail is also useful for making a day trip to see historic Plymouth Rock, take a stroll around Providence, Rhode Island, and explore the bewitching city of Salem. Of course, you can’t forget about the ferry system with boats leaving from Long Wharf in downtown Boston that can provide you with an alternative route to visit the USS Constitution, take a hike on beautiful Georges Island in Boston Harbor, and yes, even get to Logan Airport!

Taking Your First T Adventure   

The number one necessity for taking a ride on the T is a ticket. Passes can be purchased for single-rides and short periods of time at all subway stations and multiple convenience stores near the Tufts campuses. However, many Tufts students opt to use a reloadable “Charlie Card” that can be topped up with funds as needed for bus and subway rides. Tufts also offers discounted semester passes to students for the bus and subway, commuter rail, and ferry.

Once you have your ticket, just pull up directions for the place you want to visit and away you go to explore the city! If you ever have questions or in need of directions, don’t worry! You’ll quickly find that many of your fellow “Bostonians” are willing to lend a hand and point you in the right direction. Happy travels!