Memorial Day falls on May 29 in 2017 and marks the unofficial beginning of summer in Boston.
Patio dining at local restaurants, warm weather, and lots to do make Memorial Day Weekend a perfect time to visit.
Many Boston locals head to Cape Cod, the Vineyard, or the New Hampshire mountains for the long weekend.
So for Boston tourists, that means attractive hotel rates, restaurant reservations, show and cruise tickets, and even Red Sox tickets will be easier to get than usual.
You'll also find lots of fun activities, holiday sales, and free events.
Here are 10 suggestions for ceremonies, events, plus fun things to do in Boston during this first long summer weekend.
Memorial Day honors those who died in wars defending our country and our freedom.
Every year, the Massachusetts Military Heroes organization plants a Garden of Flags - 37,000 of them - in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common to commemorate each of the Massachusetts service members who have given their lives to defend the United States and our freedom since the Revolutionary War.
Flags will be put in place on Wednesday, May 25 starting at 1pm (date and time to be confirmed) and remain through sundown on Monday, May 30. A ceremony to honor Massachusetts service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by reading their names will be held in front of the flag display on the Common on Thursday, May 26 at 10:30am (to be confirmed)
2017 also marks the 71st Annual Memorial Day services to be held on Saturday, May 28, 11am (time to be confirmed) at the Veterans Memorial Park in the Back Bay Fens in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. Veterans Memorial Park (sometimes called the Sergeant Charles Andrew MacGillivary Memorial to honor a local hero), a tranquil green area with monuments commemorating those who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, can be found near the Kelleher Rose Gardens.
Additionally, Honor & Tribute: Memorial Day Concert will be held at 6:30pm on Monday, May 30 at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End and will feature the Metropolitan Wind Symphony Orchestra. The concert is free, and is sponsored by the City of Boston Veterans' Services.
2. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park & More Memorial Day Weekend Entertainment
With the Boston Red Sox playing three games at Fenway Park, the Celtics in the NBA finals (maybe) at TD Garden, the 3-day Boston Calling Music Festival underway at Harvard Stadium, Blue Man Group making everyone laugh, Mamma Mia! at Boston Opera House, and kids' favorite Hedwig and the Angry Inchworm at Shubert Theatre, there are plenty of events going on over Memorial Day weekend to keep you entertained!
Plan your weekend and get your tickets now!
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Friday, May 26
Saturday, May 27
Sunday, May 28
Monday (Memorial Day), May 29
Tuesday, May 30
Fun Hotels near Fenway Park
If you're coming to a Red Sox game, spend the night or the weekend at one of the nearby hotels, such as the hip Verb Hotel, directly across the street from Fenway Park:
More top hotels near Fenway Park:
3. Shop the Memorial Day Sales
If you love to shop, don't miss Boston's Memorial Day Weekend deals - you can easily save enough to pay for your weekend in a nice hotel. Because Boston's hot weather really only lasts for about 2 months, summer things get put on deep discount sale early - yes, by this weekend!
Best places to look? If you want to pick just one spot among all Boston shopping areas and malls, focus on Back Bay, where you'll find lots of different options - Prudential Center for upscale stores, Copley Place for international designer boutiques, and Newbury Street/Boylston Street for more designer boutiques, unique local stores, and Nike and the other big athletic gear stores.
4. Free Admission at Museum of Fine Arts on Memorial Day
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts offers you free admission on Memorial Day (Monday) from 10am - 4:45.
Lots of special family activities will be on display, as well as plenty of special exhibits, including a quilt display, the last few days of a popular Impressionism exhibition, and an exciting display of 60 contemporary Latin American works.
5. Explore Boston - Take a Walking Tour
Boston by Foot, a non-profit organization, features a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of 200+ volunteer guides who offer some of the most interesting walking tours in town at very reasonable prices - tickets generally run about $8-$15.
Tours on Memorial Day typically include walks around the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, the Victorian Back Bay neighborhood, and along the Freedom Trail. No reservations necessary; pay your guide in cash when you arrive at the meet-up point.
Check out times and other details on the Boston By Foot Website.
Another option - try this self-guided Memorial Day walking tour from Boston Common to Fenway Park to Faneuil Markeplace and the Waterfront (the Red Sox aren't playing on Memorial Day weekend this year, so this will be a great opportunity to go on a Fenway Park Tour).
Popular Boston Tours & Day Trips
Find More Popular Boston Activities
6. Go to a Show
Most Boston theaters are closed on Mondays - but if you're coming to Boston for Memorial Day weekend, you'll find plenty of shows and performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
For free entertainment, head to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where Street Performers will be out in force from Saturday through Monday. Mimes, jugglers, puppeteers, musicians, magicians, and comedians will mesmerize you with their talents.
For half price and discount tickets for Memorial Day Weekend, check Goldstar:
- Cinco de Mayo Weekend Cruise @ Spirit of Boston - Goldstar $10, regular $20
- Pier Pressure: Memorial Day Weekend Party Cruise @Spirit of Boston - Goldstar $10, regular $20
- Charles River Sightseeing Cruise @ Charles Riverboat Company - Goldstar $9, regular $19
- Charles River Twilight Cruise @ Charles Riverboat Company - Goldstar $9, regular $19
- Charles River Sunset Cruise @ Charles Riverboat Company - Goldstar $9, regular $19
- Sunset Cruise @ Massachusetts Bay Lines - Goldstar $4-$14, regular price $6-$24
7. Explore the City by Bike
With so many Bostonians (in other words, crazy Boston drivers) out of town, Memorial Day weekend presents a great opportunity to explore Boston by bike safely. Join a group tour - offerings typically include tours of the Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay.
8. Head to the Beach . . . In or Near the City
Although Boston itself is on a harbor, real beaches - yes, with sand and places to lie in the sun or buy a hot dog and slush - are closer than you might think.
True, these beaches aren't quite as magnificent as the Cape, but you can get to them on public transportation without being stuck for hours in traffic.
But if you're committed to going to the Cape, avoid the traffic by taking the ferry to Provincetown from Boston.
9. Cruise out to the Harbor Islands
Boston's largest park is actually offshore: the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. Although the park includes 32 island and 2 peninsulas, only a few of the islands are open to the public and accessible by ferry - but they provide plenty of recreation, places to picnic, and spectacular scenery. Best of all, you can get to the closest one in only 15 minutes, and it's like being in a different world.
Get discount tickets from Goldstar for these special Harbor Island tours:
Find out more about Boston Harbor Islands
10. Visit America's First Garden Cemetery
Although Memorial Day started as a remembrance of those who died in military service, it is also an occasion for remembering others who have departed, and one of the most beautiful spots in the Boston area for doing this is Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Flowering trees and flowers, exquisite statuary and sculptures, and a gently rolling landscape complete with ponds and resident ducks fill the 175 beautifully landscaped acres.
Directions to Mount Auburn Cemetery (580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge) by public transportation: From Boston, take the Red Line to Harvard Square. At the station, take either the Watertown Square or Waverley Square trolley (#71 or #73). Get off on Mount Auburn Street at Aberdeen Avenue. Mount Auburn is across the street - you'll see the entrance gate. Cross Mount Auburn at the light. Free admission.