New Boston Public Garden App Offers Interactive Tours

At 178 years old, the Public Garden has never looked so good.

boston public garden

Public Garden photo via Shutterstock

You would think that snow-blind Bostonians who are still shell-shocked after the most crippling winter in the city’s history wouldn’t need much coaxing to go enjoy a swan-boat ride, with Mr. Frosty in hand, as the sun sinks down behind the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. And yet, the Friends of the Public Garden, the private nonprofit responsible for maintaining and supporting the 24-acre Emerald Necklace gem, enlisted the help of local ad agency Hill Holliday to do just that.

The Friends tasked Hill Holliday with not only driving visitors to the Public Garden, but also raising awareness for America’s first public botanical garden and the team of more than 2,500 people looking after it.

Hill Holliday came back with two ideas. The first was last fall’s successful #FOPG campaign, in which three rotatable picture frames were erected on the grounds, prompting visitors to snap pictures of its colorful expanses and appreciate them as works of art fit for a museum.

fopg app

Photo via Hill Holliday

The second was an app, engineered by Hill Holliday’s Project Beacon team.

“One of the things we hope to accomplish with this app is engage residents and visitors to the area with a deeper understanding of the Public Garden,” says Eileen Scafidi, communications and outreach director for FOPG. “It’s not uncommon that people know the parks very well, but they don’t know our organization.”

Hill Holliday explains on their site:

For visitors, the interface for the app wasn’t their fingers and a touchscreen, but their legs, moving through the chapters of the Garden’s history as they moved through the physical space. … The experience was enabled by iBeacons, which we installed discreetly at key locations throughout the Garden, allowing us to pinpoint a visitor’s location to within a few feet.

“One of my favorite features is that you can stroll through the garden, and when you come upon one of the areas located on the map, if you have your earbuds on, it pops on and tells you a little bit about the area,” says Scafidi.

For example, if a visitor using the app strolls past the iconic George Washington statue at the mouth of the park, they’ll learn a little more than the average passerby.

“We look at that now and we say that’s not a very interesting story, but if you wind back to the days of the sculpture, it was one of the first to be created in America and not Europe,” says Scafidi.

From Washington to Romeo and Juliet to the swan boats—which open for the season this weekend—at 178 years old, the Public Garden has never looked so good.


The Friends of the Public Garden app is now available for download in the App Store. To learn more about the Friends of the Public Garden, visit