A Nest with a View: The Charles River and The Esplanade

Let Me Tell You a Story....

In Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard fly a long way to find a suitable home where they could raise their children, and they settle not just in Boston, but in a spectacular spot along the Charles River. Mrs. Mallard surely understood the central tenant of real estate because since the Mallards settled in 1941, Boston housing prices have skyrocketed with the average square foot in Back Bay selling for a cool $1,256 a square foot, and parking spaces selling for 3x more than the average house in Ohio.  McCloskey, however, eventually settled in Maine. 

Of course, Mrs. Mallard would have had to keep her investment even during the years that the Charles earned the famous moniker “Dirty Water,” as sung by The Standells in 1965. In fact, it wasn’t until 2013 that people were allowed to swim in the Charles after a 20+ year remediation effort. Today you’ll see Bostonians rowing, paddle boarding, swimming and doing all sorts of nautical feats in the watershed. In June there is the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, for the 4th of July the Boston Pops play at the Hatch Shell, and in September there is the Head of the Charles, where tiny people sit in the fronts of boats and yell at their muscled teammates to row faster. If that doesn’t describe Boston to a T, we don’t know what does. 

There are three bridges along the Esplanade that you can use to cross Storrow Bridge, which is famous for shearing the tops off of unsuspecting moving trucks at the beginning of every school year. Storrow is named for the Investment Banker that advocated the creation of the Charles River Basin from the mud flats it once was. Whichever way you cross over Storrow, know that the Arthur Fiedler bridge is the one closest to the Esplanade Playground, which you should make your way.

At the Esplanade playground, let your progeny perform death-defying gymnastics safe in the knowledge that MGH, the number 2 hospital in the nation, is just a stone’s throw away. While they tire themselves out, you can find the Hatch Shell and hum the 1812 Overture and look across the river at Harvard. Heck, if your kid doesn’t fall on their head at this playground, maybe you’d be wiling to fork over the $50,000 annual tuition fee for them to go there. Once they’re done playing, go ahead and whip out those snacks like the pro that you are and read them Make Way for Ducklings.

For Kids

Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941 – so it’s way older than your parents. Probably even older than your grandparents. But a lot of the buildings in the drawings are still around. Some of them are nearby, and some are across the river at other stops. As you read the book, try to remember each building and see if you can find it. Your parents can help, too. From here, you should be able to find the island where the ducklings learned to swim, and the Salt and Pepper Bridge. That’s called the Longfellow Bridge, for a famous Bostonian poet who wrote The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

Having Fun? Let's Keep Going

Now it’s time for you to find the ducklings! Since their mom taught them how to cross the street to get to the pond in the Boston Public Garden, you’ll need to do the same. Take your parents’ hand and sing That’s How You Cross the Street as you cross busy Beacon Street to find the Ducklings. After you find them, then you can find the Merry-Go-Round and the Frog Pond in the Common! Are You Ready?

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