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Explore Boston's Calendar and Major Events


Boston has no shortage of events and activities to participate in and attend throughout the year, from celebrations of the city’s (and the country’s) history to cultural festivals and sports competitions. For a rundown of them, peruse the following list, which is broken down by month. Most events are family-friendly and open to all ages, and many are free.


January

A great way to warm up in the middle of winter (or at least produce some rosiness in your cheeks) is with the Boston Wine & Food Festival. Featuring brunches, dinners, tastings, classes, seminars, and “wine tours” (where you sample vintages from different international vineyards), the 12-week-long Wine & Food Festival will leave your spirit soaring and your mouth watering. Most of its events take place at the Boston Harbor Hotel.



February

Are you a hockey fan? For the last 70 years, the Beanpot hockey tournament has been held on the first two Mondays in February, with teams from Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Boston College competing. The tournament takes place at the TD Garden arena.


March

What would Boston be without the Irish? Not only does Boston have the highest percentage of Americans with Irish ancestry of any major metropolitan area, but the city was the site of the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737. The parade that takes place these days began in 1901. Since then, the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been an annual tradition held on the eponymous holiday in the traditionally Irish neighborhoods of South Boston and Dorchester. Running 3.2 miles, this popular event lasts about two hours and is commemorated with many specials at Boston Irish bars and pubs.


April

Given Boston’s extensive Revolutionary War history and important role in the founding of the United States, Patriot’s Day is especially relevant in Boston, where celebrations commemorate the day when some of the earliest American patriots and famous Founding Fathers fought the British at Lexington and Concord. There’s a reenactment of the battle in Lexington, along with anniversary ceremonies and cannon firings.


Of course, what would Patriot’s Day be without a reenactment of Paul Revere’s famous Midnight Ride to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming? Unlike the real ride, which took place at night, the reenactment is held during the day and takes a slightly different route, starting from Paul Revere’s house in the North End of Boston, one of the city’s most famous historical sites.


Patriot’s Day is also the day of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest marathon and one of its most important road races, which attracts 500,000 visitors and about 30,000 participants annually and has seen four record times set in its 125-year history. The Marathon starts in suburban Hopkinton and ends at the Public Library in Boston’s Copley Square.


Beyond Patriot’s Day, April is the beginning of the season for public activities on the city’s picturesque Esplanade, the narrow strip of land along the Charles River fronting Back Bay and Beacon Hill. Things to do include free concerts at the Esplanade’s Hatch Memorial Band Shell (including the Fireworks Spectacular with the Boston Pops orchestra; see July, below), free outdoor movie screenings, sailing, kayaking, bicycling, jogging, and viewing the foliage (including dozens of cherry trees in the spring and leaves in the fall).


May

Every year for more than a century, Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum botanical garden has held Lilac Sunday, a rain-or-shine spring event that showcases the 408 lilac plants the 281-acre nature preserve boasts. Free for all visitors, Lilac Sunday is the only day of the year when picnicking is allowed on the Arboretum grounds, located in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods of Boston.

June

The start of summer in Boston sees the city celebrate Gay Pride with the Boston Gay Pride weekend, featuring a flag-raising ceremony and block parties in and around the city’s South End and Back Bay neighborhoods.

If you’re an ice cream fan, the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl at Patriot Place in Foxborough is the nation’s largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival, where you can sample delicious frozen desserts while watching live entertainment and raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Scooper Bowl traditionally takes place on a Saturday in the middle of June.

July


Every July 4th, the Boston Pops perform at the Esplanade Hatch Memorial Shell (see the month of April, above), complete with a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River. Boats, canoes, and up to a million spectators crowd the shores of the river, hoping to get a great vantage point to see the fireworks. It’s usually one of the best days (and nights) to be outside in the summer in Boston, but if you want to secure a good spot to spread a picnic blanket, you’d better get there early (maybe even before 8 a.m.)!

Along with the July 4th celebration on the Esplanade, the Boston Harborfest is a series of family-friendly events taking place over the July 4th weekend that include live entertainment, historical reenactments, boat tours, and more.


Have you ever wanted to see New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park performances in Central Park, but without a crowd of tens of thousands? Boston’s Shakespeare on the Common offers many of the same plays, but with less of the crowds and the New York attitude. Put on by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, the outdoor shows are held in the evenings on the Boston Common for approximately two weeks from the end of July to early August.

If music or films are more your thing, Summer in the City at the Boston Harbor Hotel is a series of concerts and movie screenings that take place outside on the Boston waterfront, where you can also dine al fresco. Running all summer from early June to late August, the entertainment starts at 6 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.

September

As fall returns, the Boston Film Festival brings stars and new movies to the city, with more than 90 films on offer, including shorts, documentaries, independent features, and big Hollywood studio productions. Awards are given for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and more than a dozen other categories. Premieres, parties, and special screenings take place at many of Boston’s finer cinemas and hotels. Consult the festival’s website for a full schedule.



October

Autumn is the time of the Head of the Charles Regatta, the largest rowing competition in the world between nearly 800 high schools, colleges, universities, and rowing clubs from 30 countries, including all the Ivy League schools, Oxford University, and Stanford University. Some 225,000 visitors turn out to watch the teams row three miles on the Charles River from Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse to the Eliot Bridge. Harvard Square tends to be the focus of extracurricular activities, and locally, Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Brandeis University, MIT, Wellesley College, and Boston College compete in the event. The Head of the Charles takes place every year on the next-to-last complete weekend of October.


For Halloween-related events, head north of Boston to the city of Salem, notorious for the infamous witch trials of the 17th century. Salem’s Haunted Happenings are a series of Halloween-themed events kicked off by a parade through the city’s downtown.


November

Who could forget that the British Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1620, establishing Great Britain’s second American colony? Every year, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration commemorates the uniquely American holiday and tradition with a VIP event and concert at Plymouth’s Memorial Hall, followed by a parade along the waterfront, the home of the famous Plymouth Rock and a replica of the Mayflower ship. A day later, there’s a farmer’s market where you can buy many of the ingredients and foods that make the historical American holiday famous.


Starting Thanksgiving weekend and running until New Year’s Eve, the Boston Ballet puts on The Nutcracker, the beloved production scored by Tchaikovsky that captivates and enraptures children, who often make up a substantial percentage of the audience. Although adults of all ages are appreciators of The Nutcracker, it’s recommended for children from ages 5 and up (kids below age 2 are not admitted).

December

For the last decade, the city of Boston has thrown a holiday light and sound extravaganza in and around Faneuil Hall Marketplace called Blink! Running for virtually the entire month of December, the all-day, all-ages event features the largest Christmas tree in the Northeast and animated LED lighting displays that synchronize to holiday music.


For the Christmas season, the Boston Pops orchestra puts on a series of Holiday Pops concerts featuring seasonal music and including shorter children’s matinees (for ages 4 and up) on the weekends. Shows take place at Symphony Hall and run for the length of December.