Boston's spectacular Columbus Day Parade celebrates Boston's Italian heritage, Christopher Columbus's expeditions to the Americas, and the commitment of Massachusetts military units to American freedom.
You'll see an eclectic mix of marching brass bands, military units and Colonial militias, Italian-American organizations, saints' societies, drum and bugle corps, Duck Boat floats, politicians, entertainers, vintage autos, and even bagpipes.
The parade always occurs on the Sunday before Columbus Day. It's been held in the North End and East Boston neighborhoods since 1937.
In odd-numbered years (2020, 2021, 2023), the parade takes place in Boston and kicks off at the Boston Public Market near City Hall Plaza and winds through the North End's narrow streets - Atlantic Ave, Hanover Street, Endicott.
In even-numbered years (2020, 2022, 2024), the parade begins in the Suffolk Downs parking lot in East Boston, marches down Bennington Street, and ends at Maverick Square near the waterfront.
The North End Columbus Day Parade (odd years) kicks off at City Hall Plaza near Government Center, marches down Congress Street to State Street, where it turns right and finally crosses the Greenway to the North End. The marchers turn left onto Cross Street, then circle the southern part of the North End along Atlantic Ave past to Christopher Columbus Park, and complete their loop on Hanover Street.
This is a huge parade, and some marchers join from staging areas in the North End rather than at City Hall Plaza - so if you want to see the whole thing, watch it from the North End.
Typically, crowds of spectators are much larger in the North End than in East Boston. When the weather happens to be gorgeous, you can expect many more onlookers in both places.
Best places to watch in the North End are along Atlantic Ave and Hanover Street. Christopher Columbus Park, along the edge of the Greenway and bordering Atlantic Ave, provides extra viewing space.
However, if you want to avoid the largest crowds but still be in the sun, head to Congress Street near the Boston Public Market (next to Haymarket Station).
As you move further up Congress Street toward State Street, you can find plenty of shade from the taller buildings - a plus if the weather is hot (you'd be surprised by how often this can happen in early October), but challenging if you're taking photos.
Hanover Street provides plenty of sidewalk space. Prime viewing spots are from the restaurants lining the street. Make reservations for 12:30 or 1pm, and you'll have the perfect vantage spot for watching, along with a meal of some of the finest Italian or seafood - North End specialties - in the city.
In East Boston (even years), any spot along Bennington Street provides excellent viewing.
Parking in East Boston can be tricky, especially on parade day- so either get there early and look for street parking, or park in a garage near TD Garden or Government Center and take the T's Blue Line from the Aquarium Station to Maverick Station - a 2-minute ride.
Hotels Near the Columbus Day Parade
Regardless of whether the parade is in the North End or East Boston, you'll find the largest choice of hotel accommodations in or near the North End.
In years when the parade is in East Boston, just hop on the subway's Blue Line at the Aquarium Station between the New England Aquarium and the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, and a 2-minute ride will take you to the Maverick Station in East Boston.
Try these terrific hotels in and near the North End (and remember - book early, as Columbus Day is when fall foliage is at or near peak in this area and hotels get full):
Watching all the parade marchers is sure to make you hungry. Fortunately, you can find lots of wonderful Italian restaurants in both the North End and East Boston.
Boston - Head to any of the North End's wonderful Italian restaurants. Or, if the North End is packed with visitors, walk down the Rose Kennedy Greenway and get food at one of the many stalls in the Food Hall at Faneuil Marketplace, or go for Dim Sum in nearby Chinatown. Boston Public Market, directly across the Greenway from the North End, also offers many delicious prepared foods to eat on site or take outside for a picnic.
East Boston - The Columbus Day Parade is a great excuse to go explore all the old favorites and new restaurants in this rapidly developing area just across the Harbor from Boston. You'll find lots of terrific restaurants along Bennington Street and nearby streets in the Central Square Park area near Boston Harbor. Don't miss the incredible pizza at Santarpio's (111 Chelsea St) or the fabulous Columbian food at El Piñon (54 Bennington St).
More Things to Do in Boston on Columbus Day Weekend
More about the Columbus Day Parade
The City of Boston's official Columbus Day Parade in the North End is organized by the North End Columbus Day Celebration Committee, founded on October 12, 1937.
The Committee dedicates itself to maintaining the traditions of the Italian American Community of Boston, which the parade celebrates: family, community, and heritage.
The City of Boston's official Columbus Day Parade in East Boston is organized by the Columbus Parade Committee. Organizations interested in marching in the parade may request an application by calling 617-569-5000.
As is the custom in Boston, as soon as the last bits of confetti fall once the Columbus Day Parade ends, street sweeps arrive to clean the streets.
It's always kind of fun to see them - plus you get a few more minutes to enjoy walking across traffic-free streets before the cars crowd back in.
More Columbus Day Parade Photos from Boston's North End