In contrast to the Boston Common , which has an open, parklike feel, the Public Garden is an intimate outdoor space, full of leafy trees and flower beds. Built on landfill in the 19th century, the Public Garden was America’s first public botanical garden, envisioned by its creators as a respite from urban life. A stroll through the park at any hour makes an ordinary day instantly romantic, at no time more than sunset, when the shadows of the trees cast mysterious shadows over the walkways.
The centerpiece of the Public Garden is a lagoon, which is crossed by a fairytale bridge and surrounded by willow trees that trail their branch tips in the water. Tracing lazy circles around the lagoon during the day are Boston’s  famous swan boats (617/522-1966, www.swanboats.com , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Apr.–mid-Jun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. late Jun.–Labor Day, 12–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. $2.75 adults, $2 seniors, $1.25 children 2–15), a flotilla of six large paddleboats with large white cygnets at the stern.
The boats are a mandatory attraction if you are in Boston with children (even if you have to borrow some). Children are also big fans of the nearby bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her seven little ducklings. The statues pay homage to the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, which was partially set in the Public Garden.