The Charles River meanders 80 miles (129 kilometers) through eastern Massachusetts, including Boston and Cambridge, before emptying into the Atlantic. The Charles, as it’s often called, plays a role in the daily lives of many Bostonians, especially walkers, joggers, cyclists, kayakers, and those who love to quietly relax by the water.
The Esplanade, a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) green path that runs along the Boston side of the river, is the best option for a relaxing stroll. Simply start near the Museum of Science and continue west to the Boston University Bridge. Along the way, you’ll pass plenty of joggers, wild geese, lemonade stands, and boat rental opportunities. Alternatively, join a guided bike tour of Boston or Cambridge, which includes a ride across and along the river.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Charles River is a must for all first-time visitors to Boston and Cambridge, as well as families with small kids and outdoor and exercise enthusiasts.
- Stand-up paddleboard, canoe, and kayak rentals are available on the Boston and Cambridge sides of the river.
- Concerts, movies, and performances take place at the Hatch Shell, located by Massachusetts Avenue near the Esplanade.
- There are pedestrian bridges that cross Storrow Drive in order to reach the river and Esplanade.
- Public bathrooms are located behind the Hatch Shell and at the Dartmouth Street facility.
- The Arthur Fiedler footbridge at Arlington Street, located near the Hatch Shell, is accessible to wheelchair users, as is the Esplanade.
How to Get There
The Charles River runs through a sizable portion of Boston and Cambridge. Via the T, take the green line to the Arlington stop or the red line to the Charles/MGH stop. If driving, free and paid metered parking options are available along the river; there is limited parking along Storrow Drive.
When to Get There
The Charles River area is lovely year-round, but may be at its best for the city’s annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. This is the defining Fourth of July event in New England, drawing more than half a million people to the riverbanks each year. The event is headlined with a performance by the world-famous Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra.
Located in Cambridge, just north of Boston, this Ivy League university boasts a campus filled with historical buildings, monuments, classic architecture, scenic green spaces, and plenty of museums. Free guided tours, as well as a self-guided option, are available. Plus, many guided city tours of Boston include a stop at the school.