boston common park

Colorful to the core: Boston Common in fall

Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Hinkle

BOSTON, MASS.

A historic city ablaze in autumn hues

Yes, there are the quaint, brownstone-lined streets, the bustling harbor, the hot dogs and beers at Fenway Park, and the texture of colonial history lurking in every nook and cranny. But as September blurs into October, the city of Boston takes on a distinctly autumnal identity. At its core is the kind of fall foliage you can find only in New England—crisp, luminous, and everywhere.

Seeking out the best stashes of leaves in our sister city (Portland was, after all, just a coin toss away from being named New Boston) is a simple matter of following the trees—namely within Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of nine parks linked by greenspace and waterways. Make your way down Tremont Street, one of Boston’s original bustling thoroughfares (trying not to get distracted by chic boutiques and sidewalk cafés), to Boston Common, where an impressive variety of deciduous wonders puts on a bright display. Founded in 1634 as a public space for grazing cows, this is America’s oldest park, and the anchor of the Emerald Necklace. In the 1800s, trees, fountains, and statuary replaced the park’s ambling bovines, and the common has since become the city’s favorite patch of green (and, this month, red, orange, and yellow). Do your own grazing at nearby No. 9 Park, where James Beard Award–winning chef Barbara Lynch blends New England’s seasonal bounty with elegant preparations in the shadow of the statehouse.

If a tranquil escape is more your speed, you can do no better than the Mount Auburn Cemetery, which straddles Cambridge and Watertown. Its meticulously maintained collection of more than 5,000 trees and countless plant species unfolds over 175 acres of rolling hills, woodlands, and ponds, all ablaze with autumn’s arrival. Or, for a more aquatic perspective on the city’s fall palette, pick out a waterborne chariot at one of Charles River Canoe & Kayak’s five locations. Flanked on both sides by a tree-lined bike path, the Charles cuts a watery, northeasterly swath through the city, its shimmering waters reflecting—and sometimes carrying—Boston’s kaleidoscope of colors all way to the Atlantic. Rachel Ritchie

parisian gnocchi lobster

Parisian gnocchi with lobster from Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro

Photo: Courtesy of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro

EAT

Dive headlong into the flavorful, locally sourced world of Mediterranean fare at Oleana, where Armenian basturma shares menu space with tamarind-glazed short ribs and chicken with za’atar in an intimate Cambridge dining room. Follow the South End’s hip crowd to Stella for an indulgent Sunday brunch featuring duck confit omelets, linguini carbonara, and eggs Benedict with prosciutto.

STAY

Enter a stylish world of sleek chaises and platform beds at the Ames Hotel (from $300), opened in 2009 inside an 1889 building in the heart of downtown Boston. The small, homey Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro (from $285) combines modernity and history on gas lamp–lined Charles Street, complete with delicious French food served in the ground-floor bistro.

DO

With its riot of showy flowers, meandering paths, and signature Swan Boats, Boston’s Public Garden, another jewel within the Emerald Necklace, makes for prime territory to absorb the season. Or take in the visual riches at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a 15th-century-Venetian-style palace of galleries packed with more than 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and furniture pieces.