For the children of the Back Bay, Clarendon Street Playground is an exclusive, gated community: You have to be with someone tall enough to gain entry.
The ritual starts by having your mom/dad/babysitter unlatch the large iron gate, which is faithfully kept closed by all who enter and exit, the better to contain the small and mobile.
Leave your stroller parked alongside the granite amphitheater, and at six months, you start at the infant swings, where the baby next to you and his parent might become your new best friends. A few months later, a few feet away, you'll crawl on the small jungle gym and with mom's help, be guided down your first slide.
Just past that is the sandbox. Toys here and throughout the little park, the busiest and most central in the neighborhood, are donated by area families.
It gets better from there: In the amphitheater, small-scale ball games are played by schoolchildren out for recess. Big-kid swings and the tire swing are in one corner, the large jungle gym in the other. Shade trees throughout provide better cover from the summer sun than any other playground in the area.
Half a childhood of play time could be spent here, just progressing from the baby swings on the Commonwealth Avenue side to the tall slide near Public Alley 424. And with luxurious backyards being in short supply, the playground is our kids' backyard.
Boston Parks and Recreation oversees the park, but from the (Easter eggs are hidden and found) to the Halloween bash complete with hayrides, volunteers of the Friends of Clarendon Street Playground make all the extras happen.
Who needs a water park when you've got Splash Fountain at the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
It's open to the public from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. during the late spring through early November, and is a free, fun and safe way to stay cool during the hot summer months. Plus, it's pretty.
“The fountain display was originally only intended for visual drama,” said Michele Marquez of the Christian Science Center. “But since 1975, children and families have identified it as a point of recreation; so it made perfect sense, when the fountain needed considerable repairs, to overhaul it with the idea of children's play in mind.”
For an extra treat, cool off in the evening. After sundown, lights illuminate the streaming water, which is propelled by 180 water jets that shoot directly out of the ground.
Renovations in 2005 included a new, shallow splash pool area placed in the center of the fountain where the water collects.
“The redesign increased the pool's safety surfacing, added new lighting and fun water display options to the traditional arched circle of jets,” Marquez said.
Also check out:
- Mary Maker Eddy Library. Once your done cooling off (or maybe before), visit the Mary Baker Eddy Library. You can pick up that picnic breakfast, lunch, or the water bottles you forgot at home from the cafe. There is spacious seating (no stroller challenges), plenty of tables, and even a sofa area to relax. Beyond grab-and-go fresh muffins and sandwiches at the counter, the chef-owner is in the kitchen until 2 p.m. and she makes a few special kid plates (Mac & c, dogs, grilled cheese: check, check, check).
- Mapparium. In a slow moment at the popular Mapparium, you can also steal a few extra minutes in the stained-glass, walkthrough globe. Find two opposing spots along the 30-foot bridge, and your kids will experience the "whispering gallery" effect – hear each other's murmuring clearly while standing relatively far apart. Or, stand in the center, and a quiet little voice will seem as if it's using a loudspeaker. (Lightbulb moment: Could this be fodder for a quiet-inducing game at home later? 'Let's pretend we're at the Mapparium and whisper....')
- The Library's summer series. Kids' programming ends August 9, so for two more Tuesdays only, 10 a.m. to noon, there is free admission to the Mapparium (normally $6 for adults but always free for six-and-unders). Craft tables and a music or dance performance draw crowds of campers wearing their matching T-shirts, but the special event is still open to small groups. The library is closed Mondays.
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