Tag Archives: Massachusetts

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 .

Surviving a Boston Winter

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. student

The seasons changed on October 12th. It was a long, hot, and humid Boston summer but that morning I woke up and the air was crisp and cool. My windows were open, so a breeze drifted in and made me shiver. I was almost cold. As I am from Washington, I am not used to the summers here and I welcomed fall with open arms. Fall is bright leaves and apples and frosty mornings that give way into drizzly afternoons. Fall is beautiful. But fall means winter is not far behind. And winter can be a nightmare.

In my hometown the average winter temperature hovers around 40°F. It’s very rainy all the time. The frost in the morning rarely lasts past 11am. Once in a great while we will get six inches of snow, but we mostly just get a light dusting a couple times in February. Boston is a whole other world. Average temperatures can get below freezing. When rain happens, it comes down in icy sheets that soak through to the bone. Snow falls constantly during the winter. Huge piles of snow build up along the roads and sidewalks, never fully melting between snowfalls. It could not be more different from the drizzly, cool winters I was used to. But I survived my first winter and with my second right around the corner, I want to spread the knowledge so everyone knows that winter is nothing to be afraid of.

The first thing I did was buy a winter coat. This may seem obvious. but it’s important to mention. One week into freezing wind and icy rain, I went to the store and bought a poufy, waterproof, and probably unnecessarily expensive coat. I wear that, pop on some gloves and a soft hat, and I can make it through anything.

I also started to plan my travel around the weather. If you want to leave the office at 6pm, but it’s only 5pm and the weather forecast calls for snow in 30 minutes, just leave right away. Keeping your schedule flexible is important in making sure you avoid being forced to huddle in the doorway of a Dunkin’ until the snow/hail/ice nightmare that is currently falling from the sky goes away.

However, when you do get caught in a storm (and you will eventually get caught in a storm, no matter how much you try to avoid it), be prepared. Keep extra socks and maybe even extra shoes in your office. Make sure you have hot cocoa, tea, or coffee to clutch while you are drying out. Always have a clean set of pajamas waiting for you at home so you can go straight from a hot shower into warm pajamas and then snuggle into bed. There is nothing like getting home after a long day in the office, soaked to the bone because you forgot to check the weather before you left and got stuck in a torrential downpour, and jumping into bed with a cup of tea and your laptop to watch an entire season of Parks and Recreation. Without winter I wouldn’t have that experience, which brings me to my final point.

Find the things you love about the winter. The first snowfall is beautiful. Everything is clean and soft and silent. The world stops for a moment as the flakes gently float to the ground. Rain makes the best sound when it hits the windows, sharp and crisp and calming. When I leave my house early in the morning the ice shines in the sun. It’s like the world turns into a winter palace, elegant and glowing. Rabbits love the snow. The athletic fields behind Boston Avenue always have pawprints on the otherwise untouched fields of snow.

Winter is cold and wet and always signals the beginning of “maybe this is a cold, maybe it’s the flu, maybe I’ll just have a stuffy nose and sore throat for the rest of my life” season, but it’s not the end of the world. For those of you who come from Wisconsin or Quebec or the planet Hoth, you will probably not even blink when winter hits. But for those of you who come from anything warmer than a temperate zone, keep this in mind. Graduate school is tough and sometimes wading through snowdrifts up to your knees seems like it may actually be the breaking point. Just pull on your coziest socks, strap on your most waterproof boots, and know that there is no winter-related problem that a warm drink and a cozy blanket can’t fix.