What better way to get a real feel for a city than the energy and vibrancy of a festival? New Englanders take great pride in their historic home, and their love for the city is on full display during Boston’s many festivals.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but highlighted are some of Boston’s best annual festivals that you should make a point to see:
Boston Holiday Pops
Boston Pops is the second identity of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which is often referred to as “America’s Orchestra,” playing a range of light classical and contemporary music in a laid-back atmosphere. For a particularly magical evening, head to one of their December holiday shows at Boston Symphony Hall. Expect a diverse medley of holiday tunes in a festive setting. Schedules and tickets can be found here.
Boston’s 11-hour New Year’s celebration is the oldest and biggest New Year’s arts festival in the country, drawing over one million revelers with diverse activities and showcases in visual art, music, theater, and dance. Highlights include a Grand Procession Parade down Bolyston Street, two fireworks shows, and an impressive array of ice sculptures. Participants can buy First Night buttons for $10 (free for children under 4), which is essentially your ticket to a myriad of events at the festival.
Boston Wine Festival
Held annually at the Boston Harbor Hotel, the Boston Wine Festival is the nation’s longest-running wine and food event, featuring many of the world’s top vintner’s. Attendees will enjoy pairing dinners, expert seminars, and celebrity chef demonstrations.
St. Patrick’s Day
With Boston’s huge Irish-American population, there’s no better place in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the city hold’s claim to the country’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade, organized by immigrants in 1737. Festivities usually last several days with the city temporarily transformed into a sea of green pride.
The Boston Marathon
Founded in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, held every Patriot’s Day (the third Monday of April). It is one of the six World Marathon Majors, attracting about 30,000 participants and over 500,000 spectators every year. The atmosphere is electric (even for those uninterested in running) with local pride on full display.
Boston Harborfest & Chowderfest
With Boston’s historic past, it’s no surprise that the city hosts the largest Independence Day festival in the nation, with over 200 events from July 2 to July 6. Over 3 million visitors from around the world come to enjoy a wide variety of events including walking tours of Boston, historical reenactments, Harbor cruises, and of course, impressive fireworks displays! For many, one of the highlights is the famed Chowderfest, where Boston’s top eateries compete to make the best clam chowder that you can judge.
Cambridge Arts River Festival
This awesome free arts festival is held in early June along the banks of the Charles River and features a wide array of jazz, folk, indie, and rock music along with interactive activities, dance, theater, and visual art demonstrations. Many exhibits are geared toward children, making it a great event for families, while the food stalls never fail to draw the culinary enthusiasts of Boston, and a plentitude of bubbles and hula hoops, well, they bring everyone else!
Held annually in mid-August, the Fisherman’s Feast was first celebrated in Boston in 1910, but the event is based on a tradition that goes all the way back to 16th century Sicily, where fisherman would honor the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help). A vibrant celebration of Boston’s Italian roots, the streets of the North End are transformed by glittering lights, game stalls, and an abundance of Italian eats.
Head of the Charles Regatta
The Head of the Charles Regatta is the world’s largest 2-day regatta with 9,000 rowers competing in 61 events in October. Drawing a crowd of over 300,000 spectators, New England’s fall colors make a beautiful backdrop and an excellent way to spend a crisp fall afternoon in Boston.