Home Places to visit Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston, USA review

Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston, USA review

The Boston skyline above North End Parks, Rose Kennedy Greenway
The Boston skyline above North End Parks, Rose Kennedy Greenway

Turning an eyesore highway into a green oasis

Another in my occasional Cool Gardens series. Now it’s the turn of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, Massachusetts.

During my train trip across the US, I became good at two things; stumbling across wonderful dive bars and unexpected gardens.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway was one of the latter – in our four-day stay in the city, we found it as we walked the Freedom Trail, which crosses the northern end of the park – or should I say parks?

What makes the Greenway so special is that it is a series of interconnected contemporary parks which run for a mile-and-a-half on top of a highway tunnel – in effect, a roof garden at street level in the heart of Boston.

Organic park in the city

The 17-acre green space is run on strictly organic principles and each park has its own style and planting. In the Chinatown Park, you’ll find three types of bamboo, Chrysanthemums and a goldenrain tree.

There is a rich diversity of North American native plants in the Wharf District, including red maple and river birch.

We walked through the North End Parks, with its European inspired formal perennials beds and box hedging.

Our visit at the end of May didn’t see the beds at their best but they were still pretty impressive – full of iris, alliums and salvia.

Elizabeth Magnolia

We’d just missed one of the highlights, the Elizabeth Magnolia, the first truly yellow-coloured magnolia, scattered throughout the beds and lawns, which finished blooming in early May.

The box beds (running parallel to Surface Road), contain herbaceous perennials such as Echinacea, daylilies, lavender Japanese anemones and catmint for high summer and late season colour. Early flowering daffodils brighten the beds in spring.

Casting shade over the North End Parks is the Washington elm, a cultivar of the American elm, state tree of Massachusetts. The Washington elm is resistant to Dutch Elm Disease and is the largest tree on the Greenway.

There are seven fountains throughout the parks. The North and South Canal, with jets of water spouting from May to October, run alongside the North and South lawns in the North End Parks, perfect for cooling off (not necessary on the chilly, damp day we were there).


In 1991, construction began on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (the ‘Big Dig’), one of the most technologically challenging in US history, to remove the elevated highway and create a tunnel system below Boston.

The Greenway was created to reconnect some of the city’s oldest, most diverse, and vibrant neighbourhoods.

On October 4, 2008, the parks’ Inaugural Celebration was held. The Greenway was named after Rose Kennedy, the Boston-born matriarch of the Kennedy clan.

Sightseeing tips

  • We didn’t see enough of the gardens in such a short visit – make time to see them all. They’re all downtown, so plan them into your day.
  • The Greenway has an excellent website, www.rosekennedygreenway.org.
  • The Holocaust Memorial, a couple of minutes away, is incredibly moving. That should go without saying, but this one, comprised of six glass towers, is a totally immersive experience. Why we should never forget.

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