With the arrival of fine weather, it will soon be best time of year to be out in Boston. If your child was born in late spring, summer or early fall, house his birthday party at a local park or playground is an easy, fun and very affordable option. Luckily, there are a number of green spaces from Waltham to Water where children’s parties are not only allowed, but welcomed. The best part of all? Most are free (or almost free). Just be sure to call or email each park ahead of time to reserve a spot to spread out (if needed) and find out what kind of food and extras, like bouncy houses or shows, are allowed.
West of Boston
Larz Anderson Park
larz anderson is Brookline’s largest park and a great place to celebrate your child’s big day. The park offers an enclosed children’s playground, as well as picnic areas and ball diamonds. Visitors can relax in one of 12 picnic areas, each of which has a table and charcoal grill and can accommodate up to eight adults. Looking for a bigger site? Check Larz Hut, which can accommodate up to 85 people with several tables and grills. Reservation rates for picnic sites vary. For example, $45 for a resident for each timing permit (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and $90 for a non-resident. For the Larz Shelter, it’s $175 half-day for a resident and $275 for a non-resident.) 617-730-2069
Beaver Brook Reserve
On the border of Belmont and Waltham, Beaver Brook ReserveThe spray park and adjoining playground are very popular in the warmer months, so to secure a spot at one of the covered picnic tables you need to claim your right early. The parking lot is a short walk from the spray deck, so keep that in mind if you have a lot of gear or young children who don’t like to walk. The 59 acres of fields are a great picnic spot, but only for people who aren’t afraid of dogs – Beaver Brook is a popular spot for dog walkers. A permit is required for groups of 20 or more. 617-727-538
The city of Arlington offers a host of parks to choose from this sensation miles from the city. With playgrounds and picnic tables, many parks are well suited for outdoor parties. Children can hike the trails in the woods or run in the fields. Be sure to check applicable permit fees and booking details at arlingtonma.myrec.com. 781-316-3880
A great way to cool off by the water is to host a birthday party at Reservoir Beach – Pavilion Picnic Area, which is also in Arlington. Reservoir Beach offers two-hour time slots, at $200 for residents and $300 for non-residents. It includes supervised swimming and a picnic pavilion. Please note that guests are limited to 25. 781-316-3880
Want to party by the river? Christian A. Herter Park extends along the Allston side of Eliot’s Charles Bridge beyond the Artesani playground and paddling pool. In addition to the spray park, the park offers a large open field and a rental kiosk operated by Charles River Canoe and Kayak. The park offers a limited number of picnic tables for groups, but arrive early to reserve your spot. 617-626-1250
Danehy Park is a 50 acre park near Fresh Pond in Cambridge, with a walking path, huge fields and a spray park. Danehy is the only park in Cambridge that allows grilling, but even without it there are picnic tables and plenty of room to play. To reserve a place for a party between May and November, it is recommended to obtain a permit two weeks before the planned event. 617-349-6200
With miles and miles of trails, Breakheart Booking near Saugus features two lakes and has free parking (177 Forest Street in Saugus and 100 Hemlock Road in Wakefield). There is no rental fee, but groups of 25 or more will need a permit. 781-233-0834
Nestled behind the Arsenal project in Watertown, Arsenal Park is a perfect place to party with the little ones. The 13-acre park has a spray park and romp, and playgrounds that can be rented with a permit for a fee. You can verify availablity on their website. There are 19 tables and two grills that can also be reserved starting at $2 an hour for less than 10 people. 617-972-6464
Another large park with many hiking and walking trails, as well as two beaches, is Hopkinton State Park. The Hopkinton Reservoir offers a beautiful, serene view, especially in the fall. For rental options and fees for birthday parties, visit facilities to place. 508-435-4303
South of Boston
If you really want to go deep in the forest, then Myles Standish State Forest near Plymouth is a good place to explore. There is a picnic pavilion you can reserve, with daily parking fees of $8 for MA residents and $30 for non-MA residents. Then you can head to Plymouth for more fun and great food along the waterfront, and catch a glimpse of Plymouth Rock at Pilgrims Memorial State Park. 508-866-2526
The show island
What could be more exciting than a birthday party on an island? Boston Harbor Islands have great options for birthday parties. Two of the best are Georges Island and Spectacle Island, both of which offer on-site catering if you don’t want to bring your own food. Granted, the ferry isn’t free ($10/child), but a birthday picnic on the beach overlooking the town makes up for that. Georges Island has two large group picnic areas with shaded shelters and grills, not to mention Fort Warren, a Civil War-era fort with a ghost. Twenty minutes from Boston, Spectacle Island has sandy beaches, five miles of walking trails, and stunning views of the city. In summer, lifeguards are even on duty for swimmers who want to brave the water. Groups of 25 or more must request a free group authorization. Please note that the reservation is currently on hold. Please visit bostonharborislands.org or call 617-223-8667 for future availability.
Dorchester’s Franklin Park is 485 acres, and in such a large park there is something for everyone. The park offers four different options for special events. For younger kids, the Playstead is a great place for a birthday party. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1886, it is currently a large field with picnic tables near the entrance to the zoo. Visitors can also party in the Shattuck Picnic Grove, the Wilderness Picnic Site or Schoolmaster Hill. Groups of more than 25 people need a permithowever, there are no permit fees. 617-635-4505
Schoolmaster Hill, Franklin Park
This article was originally published on April 11, 2017 and updated on July 20, 2023.