Swan Boats, like these being assembled for the summer season, have graced the pond in Boston Public Garden since 1877. Boat builder Robert Paget designed the pleasure boats to be pedalled like a bicycle and the fleet is now operated by the fourth generation of his family.
Boston – Been There

In Boston the ugliest duck might lead you to a swan

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Boston – Been There In Boston the ugliest duck might lead you to a swan

Bostonians are known for balancing the often wildly different sides of their city. Town and gown, New England reserve and Irish raucousness, stuffy Back Bay members’ clubs and noisy Irish bars.

Tara Isabella Burton
Tara Isabella Burton Travel Writer

The people of Boston are known for balancing the often wildly different sides of their city. Town and gown, New England reserve and Irish raucousness, stuffy Back Bay members’ clubs and noisy Irish bars. So it is perhaps natural that my tour of Boston is likewise chameleonic – or should I say, amphibious?

Duck Tours have been running here in Boston since the 1990s, using ungainly WWII-style landing vehicles – equal parts boat and truck – repurposed as tour buses. Irreverent ConDUCKtors (as they’re known – the word is trademarked!) lead groups around both Boston’s historic center and along the Charles River.

From the water, the divisions between Cambridge and Boston, town and gown, start to collapse. Red brick houses and 19th-century churches are visible on both sides of the river. I start to wonder if Boston isn’t so divided after all.

The Duck Tour brings me to the Public Garden by Boston Common, where I encounter a different kind of boating bird. The Swan Boats are the 19th-century swan-prowed pleasure craft immortalized in Make Way for Ducklings, the “official” children’s book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today, children scramble on the side of the pond and families spread out picnic blankets on the bank. Tourists, students, locals, and visitors alike all clamber onto the boats as we watch. No rivers, no bridges, no arbitrary status of town or gown separates us.

Here, too, Boston comes together.

Michaela, a proud Bostonian and local expert in the true sense of the word, recommends this hotel in Back Bay. Check it out!

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