This route is a perfect family-friendly ride along the gorgeous Boston Harborwalk in Charlestown, over an impressive bike/ped bridge to Cambridge Crossing, where you can watch duck boats, trains and drawbridges, oh my!
The things I love most about this ride:
- The views of Boston, Boston Harbor and the Charles River
- The comfortable and safe off-street paths along the Boston Harborwalk and the East Coast Greenway
- Many great parks and playgrounds (the best in Boston in my opinion)
- Family friendly restaurants with tasty beer and food. All include spacious outdoor areas where you don’t have to worry about your kiddos running into a busy street.
After my family and I moved from Oakland, CA to Boston, we spent our first 9-months renting a quaint house in the Charlestown neighborhood. The house was built in the early 1800s and was part of a Charlestown Preservarion Society Walk since its one of the oldest free-standing homes in the neighborhood. In addition to loving our house, the neighborhood is truly fantastic, and a multimodal enthusiast’s dream (as long as you’re able bodied). The close nit streets and brick sidewalks bringing you up to the Bunker Hill Monument or down to the Boston Harbor, are inviting at every turn. The grocery store, CVS, Post Office, library, and bank were all about a quarter of a mile away, and the Warren Tavern, where Paul Revere used to hang out, was just down the street. We were car-free for our first few months there and it was incredibly easy to get around. We rented a neighbor’s car on Getaround when needed, which meant we didn’t have to worry about parking or street-sweeping. (Future post on the benefits of the peer-to-peer car rental companies Getaround and Turo coming soon).
We started biking with Tatum for the first time while in Charlestown (see video of first ride cuteness). We put her in the green Ibert bike seat on the front of our bike when she was 11-months. We eventually ventured from our street to the Boston Harborwalk, a 43-mile linear park along Boston’s shoreline, which coincides with parts of the Freedom Trail, Boston’s iconic 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. We had so much history, amazing bike/ped infrastructure and beauty just out our doorstep. (Can you tell I miss Charlestown? Luckily, we’re still accessible via the Orange Line.)
Since we rode this route almost every weekend, I wanted to make a map to share, because I felt 100% comfortable biking it with my 11-month-old. Since a majority of this route is on the Boston Harborwalk, it’s completely separated from cars, and the quarter mile of road with mixed traffic is a dead end, with a 25 mph speed limit (which people actually follow).
I designed this route to have the option to start and end at North Station, so those who don’t live in Boston could easily get in and out (and not have to pay for parking). If you live along the Orange Line, I recommend taking it into Community College or North Station, since its much easier to get bikes on and off the subway compared to commuter rail, it has more frequent service and it’s cheaper. When you get off at Community College, take a right along Gilmore Bridge, your first right down the sidewalk along the new buildings, and down the stairs (which have bike ramps) to Cambridge Crossing. Bikes are allowed on the Orange Line anytime on the weekends, and during off-peak on weekdays. To learn more, check out Bringing Your Bike on the Train. Lastly, theres many other ways to get into Charlestown or East Cambridge, and I include all the transit (including ferry) and some parking options on the Google map.
If you don’t have your own bike or would rather rent or use bike share, I’ve included Blue Bike stations on the map, and I recommend downloading the Blue Bikes app before starting your trip in. Just keep in mind the 30-minute time limit. For this leisurely ride with many stops, I recommend renting from Urban AdvenTours, which rents adult and kids bikes, as well as tag along bikes, trailers and kids bike seats. They’re a walk away from North Station, or closer from Haymarket. Once you have your bikes you can bike along the separated cycle track along Atlantic Ave, back to the start of the route. If you’re in the market for a new bike, all Urban AdvenTours rental bikes are also for sale. Consider the rental an extended test-ride, and if you decide to buy it, the price of one day of your rental goes towards the purchase of your new bike.
If you start or end at North Station, the three things worth highlighting are:
- The Alcove Restaurant, which has great fire pits for non-summer season
- Night Shift Brewing, which just started serving coffee as well
- Row House, which if you came in for a bike ride with your kids, you most likely won’t be able take a rowing class, but keep it in mind for next time. This was my go-to studio for outdoor exercise classes during my time in Charlestown and I miss it oh-so-much!
- *All of these LoveJoy Wharf spots have great views of the Zakim Bridge.*
Once you cross the Locks from North Station, you’ll find a pretty great kids playground, called the Paul Revere Park Playground. The city put this in as a mitigation measure to the North Washington St Bridge construction. Next to the park is a great open grassy field, which can be a great picnic area.
After the kiddos get their energy out at the park, head into Charlestown along the Harborwalk. While biking along this route you’ll see Blackmoor Bar and Kitchen outdoor eating area to your left. I didn’t originally put this on the map, but have since been to their back patio and its a nice spot to let the kiddos roam while you’re grabbing a bite or a drink. Head back onto the path and follow it along along the water and around Constitution Wharf, to see the USS Constitution.
I recommend stopping at The Anchor, “Boston’s only multi-story public gathering space, performing and visual arts venue, open-air wine and beer garden and special event setting” as stated on their website. The Anchor features games, books, and an outdoor piano for free public use. They had a kids pumpkin decorating event in October, and have other family-friendly events such as the Charlestown Navy Yard Scavenger Hunt and Family Ocean Day. They also have bike parking and a bike pump out front, in case you need it.
The other spot I’d like to highlight, that’s just off the route, is Brewer’s Fork. Their outside area is completely enclosed so you don’t have to worry about anyone running off or into the street. If it’s not busy, they’ll also let you bring your bikes in the back since unfortunately there’s no bike parking out front. Whereas, I’d recommend the Anchor for the views and family friendly nature, I recommend Brewer’s Fork for the food and neighborhood vibe.
The last point on the Charlestown-side of the route is Mayor Thomas M. Menino Park. The views are incredible, and there’s lots of places to sit while the kids run around. People come in from all over just to access this park, and you’ll have the best parking spot when arriving by bike. (Just bring your bikes into the park, like everyone else).
This is an in-and-out route, so I suggest taking the easy and comfortable route back along the Harborwalk.
On the interactive Google Map, I include “What Typical Maps Don’t Tell You,” including public restrooms (found close to Pier 6 and where this photo was taken), as well as lovely picnic tables, ripe for a picnic spot.
Now for the Cambridge side! Head over the lovely North Bank Bridge and into Cambridge. At the top of the bridge, you’ll have a perfect vista point of not just Charlestown and the West End, but the Charles River and Cambridge as well. The Boston Duck Tour boats enter and exit the Charles just below the bridge, so it’s a good spot to go slow and hopefully catch this sight (which my daughter loves).
If your kids haven’t had enough park action, the North Point Playground is just at the foot of the bike/ped bridge. It has great water features during the summer, so have the kiddos bring their suits. The bike path to the “Common at CX” is quite lovely. This part of the path is far less utilized in the summer months than the Charlestown side, so this could be a great spot to let the beginners practice riding.
If you need a coffee or treat, I recommend Cafe Beatrice, or The Lexington roof deck, for a full meal. The ground level patio is great for letting the kids run around, and its covered in case theres rain. Cafe Beatrice has a lovely fireplace for the chilly days.
Before you head back home, check out the Lynch Family Skatepark. The park is open from dawn to 9pm. Lights were installed during the fall of 2018 to allow for park operation past dusk. Whether your kiddo(s) are skateboarding, biking or scootering, or just like watching the skatepark, like my daughter, I think this is an excellent use of activating public space under highway interchanges.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram @multimodalmom. Please let me know if you do the route, and I’d love to highlight your trip. Enjoy!