In the hierarchy of summer destinations, New England’s resplendent array of beaches is undisputed royalty. Crane and Coast Guard. Scusset and Siasconset. Wingaersheek. The surf and sea breeze, the shimmering shorelines. The perfect summer getaway.
If you can muster the energy to get there, that is.
For many Boston-area residents, a day at the beach is often a bridge too far, demanding a bit too much time and effort. Packing up the car, fighting traffic, waiting in line for parking, all for a postage-stamp patch of sand by numbingly cold water? Maybe next weekend.
So for the carless or time-crunched, for weary workers and harried parents, the city’s parks and playgrounds, roof decks, and riversides provide a quick escape and a sweet respite from the urban grind.
At the Public Garden and Paul Revere Park, along sun-splashed stretches of the Greenway and Esplanade, from Post Office Square in the Financial District to Peters Park in the South End, many city dwellers spread their beach towels and work on their tans in the heart of the city. They’re used to the sirens and don’t miss the gritty sand and scavenging seagulls.
Sure, the neighborhood park might not be as glamorous as a day trip to the ocean. But in a city where winter can seem to last half the year, warm, sunny days can’t be squandered, many say.
“You don’t need to travel to find the sun,’’ said Jenna Albers, a 24-year-old from Beacon Hill whiling away Thursday afternoon on the Boston Common.
While some took full advantage of peak tanning hours, the powerful sun kept many in the shade and sent throngs of families to the Frog Pond wading pool in search of relief. Young children splashed and sprinted through the shallow water, ignoring parents’ pleas and the occasional lifeguard’s whistle. Families used park benches as their plot of sand, covering them in towels, picnic baskets, and coolers.
There was no sea breeze, but a watery mist helped brush the heat away. And merciful shade was only steps away.
For children, Frog Pond is a magical place. On one side, there is a merry-go-round. On the other, the Tadpole Playground, with sprinklers and fountains, and a nearby face-painter. They could be happy for hours.
Midway through the afternoon, three mothers brought their eight children to the pond, delighting as they found a good-sized square of shaded grass.
“Perfect,’’ said Amy Narvaez, a 30-year-old mother of two from Roslindale, as she and the children stretched out a blanket. “What a spot!’’
As the children scrunched on to the blanket, Narvaez opened up the picnic basket and started handing out lunch. Ham-and-cheese sandwiches, fruit, and Capri Suns. The children, none older than 10, dug in. The faster they ate, the sooner they could be in the pool.
At the Christian Science Center yesterday, crowds thronged to the campus’s popular pool and fountain as if it were a water park. Luz Ruiz, a 32-year-old from Everett, even brought her 7-year-old’s remote control boat. Until then, he would just splash.
Adults need to splash sometimes, too, said Roger Lussier, a 27-year-old who took a five-minute break from his pedicab to run through the fountain.
“I went in shoes and everything,’’ he said, laughing as water droplets freckled his glasses and dripped from his baseball cap.
Along the Charles River in Brighton, the sun and shade were in equal demand. Across a grassy field, 20-somethings chatted on the phone as they lounged in beach chairs, read page-turners, or drifted off into catnaps. Some lay perfectly still for long stretches, stirring only to reorient themselves to the sun or to grab a treat from Snowy Joe’s ice cream truck.
Most wore little clothing, but made sure to apply sunscreen. But some of the older crowd, while mindful of warnings about the sun’s damage, said they never touched the stuff.
“I don’t want to scare it away,’’ quipped a 60-something Brighton resident named Lorraine, who had been roasting in the sun for several hours. Asked if she ever got burned, she frowned, as if letting a child know it was past his bedtime.
Across the way, a couple sat near the river. They sat on the asphalt’s edge, feet dangling. Behind them, bikers and runners zipped by. Before them, kayakers and rowers. Beyond that, a steady stream of cars and motorcycles rumbled along.
There was no sand or swimming, but it was only minutes from their Watertown home. They could come here for a short visit or stay until the sun went down. They brought shrimp and iced tea and swapped stories. As families packed up the children and the sun bathers called it a day, they laughed and lingered, in a riverside nook all their own.
Globe correspondent Sydney Lupkin contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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