Try one of these five free destinations for a dog-optional nature walk. Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 19, but temperatures are warming. Get outside.
ONE: The Arnold Arboretum
Now, before the flowers bloom in spring profusion, is the perfect time to pause and examine the Arboretum’s many varieties of bark. Dogs on leash are welcomed.
TWO: The Blue Hills Trailside Museum
All Mass Audubon Sanctuaries are open. Enter your zip code to find one near you. The Blue Hills Trailside Museum boasts a free mini outdoor zoo with two snowy owls, two deer, a turkey vulture, a fox, and ducks. The resident otter and turtles will arrive later in spring. It costs just a quarter to feed the ducks from a dispenser. Parking is ample and free.
THREE: The Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
Don’t miss The Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, always free, tucked away on the back streets of Mattapan. It offers a community garden, beehives, trails through spring meadows and wetlands and plentiful parking. Trails are open dawn to dusk daily.
FOUR: Castle Island
This free 22-acre park in South Boston (Southie), the city’s Irish neighborhood, has something for every age. View the exterior of 19thcentury granite Fort Independence, fly a kite, or sit on a bench and people watch.
For children visiting Castle Island, it’s especially fun to watch planes fly overhead on their approach to nearby Logan Airport. Children may also spot a dredger deepening Boston Harbor to 60 feet to allow larger tankers and cruise ships to enter Massport’s Conley Terminal in South Boston. Children can collect hermit crabs from the waters of Pleasure Bay (and swim there too). There are dog bowls stationed next to water fountains all over for those with dogs. Restrooms are located near the fort. For walkers, The Pleasure Bay Loop is 1.84 miles. The Castle Island Loop is .79 miles.
If you get hungry, Sullivan’s is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They charge just $2.30 for a hotdog and $2.50 for a small fries. They also offer breakfast from 9-10:30 a.m., from their $1.50 donut to the Sullivan’s Trifecta for $10.50: a bacon, ham, or sausage and egg sandwich with tots and 3 French toast sticks. Parking is ample and free.
FIVE: The South Shore Natural Science Center
The Center’s 30 acres of field, forest and meadow in Norwell are open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Walk the wooded trails behind the Center or cross the street to the well-marked trails of the 260-acre Jacob’s Pond Conservation Area, where you can also walk your dog (on leash). Inside the Center, the Vine Hall Art Gallery and the Nature Gift Store are always free. To see the small reptiles in the EcoZone costs just $5 for both adults and children. Children under 2 are admitted free of charge. Parking is free and plentiful.