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Autumn Along the Charles River: 7 Spots for Scenic Foliage

“Leaf peeping is a long-held tradition in Massachusetts, and COVID-19 hasn’t changed that,” says Kristine Tilton, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. “In fact, this fall may be the best time for visitors and locals alike to see the gorgeous colors of autumn along the Charles River. Being outside means plenty of opportunities for fresh air and social distancing while experiencing a true northern autumnal experience.”

The Charles River winds 80 miles from Hopkinton, MA to Boston, doubling back on itself several times and traveling through 23 cities and towns before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the most well-traversed rivers in the country, and every year, it’s a destination to see the fall colors in their most radiant glory.

“Whether you want to experience nature at its finest or see fall colors from the comfort of the city, the Charles River is a wonderful destination to enjoy scenic foliage,” says Kristine.


If you’re visiting Massachusetts this fall, or even if you’ve been a long-time resident, we’re sharing some great spots near the Charles River where you can enjoy gorgeous fall colors while still social distancing.

1. Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade is a 3-mile long, 64-acre park along the Boston side of the Charles River. It’s located between the Museum of Science and Boston University bridge, and is a beautiful place for visitors to exercise, relax and enjoy the great outdoors. This area was originally part of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, but in the early 1900s, the damming of the Charles River basin reinvented the landscape. In the 1930s, landscape architect Arthur Asahel Shurcliff designed a destination filled with trees, docks, pathways and monuments.
Location: The Esplanade stretches for 3 miles one way along the Charles River on the Boston side, between the Museum of Science and the Boston University (BU) bridge.


2. Charles River Reservation
This 20-mile reservation stretches along the Charles River and offers plenty of activities from picnics and playgrounds to sports fields, boating, and bike paths. The Reservation is home to both the Charles River Greenway (a 4-mile path along the river that connects with the Charles River Bike Path) that offers a paved, 22-mile route from Boston to its western suburbs. The trail is also part of a larger, developing network called the East Coast Greenway, which stretches from Maine to Florida.
Location: 1175A Soldiers Field Rd, Boston, MA 02116


3. Watertown Riverfront Park and Braille Trail

Along the river from Watertown Square to Brighton is a unique experience for the signed and visually impaired alike. Here, you’ll find a half-mile Braille Trail that allows the blind and deaf-blind to enjoy nature and explore the banks of the Charles River. An unsighted person follows a guide wire to points of interest, including a sensory garden with stationary rowboats and a wooden xylophone. Braille messages are threaded throughout the train to provide information and insight. For the sighted, this riverfront park is a regional greenway link that offers bike and pedestrian paths, river overlooks and sculptural benches.

Location: 147 Charles River Rd #101, Watertown, MA 02472


4. Charles River Peninsula
The Charles River Peninsula plays an important role in protecting the beauty and environmental value of the upper Charles River corridor. Located near Needham, MA, it is a 1.5-mile loop trail that offers beautiful river vistas, a number of activity options and a variety of trails. Highlights include a wooded shoreline of birch, hemlock and beech, along with an upland peninsula that rises gently to a 20-acre open field. Visitors can follow a narrow footpath that tracks the river along the reservation’s shoreline, and head to the field’s highest point for views of the Charles River. An old wooden railroad trestle is visible at the western end of the reservation.

Location: Needham, MA 02492


5. Paul Revere Park

This 5-acre park, located in Charleston, MA, was the first park to open along the "Lost Half Mile" of the Charles River. It runs along the Charles River between the Freedom Trail on North Washington Street and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. The park features a large oval-shaped lawn, an informal performance area and a playground.

Location: N. Washington St, Boston, MA 02129


6. Christian Herter Park
The Christian Herter Park is one of the best-known stretches of the Charles River and has been pictured in Hollywood films and postcards. It is very urban and heavily trafficked by powerboats, and much of the focus is on the 350-seat outdoor amphitheater.

Location: 1175 Soldiers Field Rd, Allston, MA 02134


7. North Point Park
This 14-acre park, located on the East Cambridge waterfront, was designed by Carr Lynch and Sandell. Located in the “lost half mile” of the Charles, this park was completed in 2007 as part of the Big Dig mitigation.

Location: 6 Museum Way, Cambridge, MA 02141

For more information about great places to see autumnal glory along the Charles River, please contact us at 781.591.7113.


Beautiful Riverfront Community

Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities.


Celebrating Dynamic Living

Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.

Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors.


Confidence of Care

The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone.

 For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.591.7113.