Boston Columbus Day events provide lots of entertainment throughout the 3-day holiday weekend, which always includes the 2nd Monday of October.
In 2018, Columbus Day weekend includes Saturday October 6, Sunday October 7, and Monday, October 6 - although visitors start to arrive (and hotels book up) as early as Wednesday or Thursday.
A spectacular Columbus Day parade, fall harvest festivals, sports events, and plenty of New England foliage add up to great ways to celebrate this quintessential autumn weekend.
Columbus Day is an official Massachusetts state holiday, which means state offices, banks, and schools are closed, but most other places including stores and shopping malls are open.
Huge Columbus Day sales make this one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year - so keep your holiday shopping needs in mind!
Visitors fill the city - so to get the best Boston hotel rates, this is a time when you'll want to make your reservations early.
Boston's spectacular Columbus Day Parade features an eclectic mix of marching brass bands, military units and Colonial militias, Italian-Boston organizations, Duck Boat floats, politicians, other entertainers, and even vintage autos.
It always occurs on the Sunday before Columbus Day.
The parade celebrates Boston's Italian heritage, Christopher Columbus's expeditions to the Americas, and the commitment of Massachusetts military units to American freedom. Lots of local organizations, military corps, politicians, performers, and high school marching bands provide fun and entertainment.
In odd-numbered years (2019, 2021, 2023), the parade kicks off in Boston and winds through the North End's narrow streets - Atlantic Ave, Hanover Street, Cross Street.
In even-numbered years (2018, 2020, 2022), the parade marches down Bennington Street in East Boston, starting at the Suffolk Downs parking lot and ending up at Maverick Square.
Fall foliage tours are a Columbus Day tradition, as brilliant leaf colors peak around this weekend in Boston and other Southern New England locations.
You can see some of the most breath-taking color in all of New England within an hour or two of Boston - and the easiest way to view the gorgeous leaves is on a foliage tour where someone else worries about the driving!
More Fall Foliage Tours from Boston
Fall Foliage Boston Harbor Cruise on the Northern Lights
This scenic 2-hour afternoon sightseeing cruise around Boston Harbor during the Columbus Day Weekend (as well as the rest of October and early November) shows you colorful fall foliage as you cruise aroung the Boston Harbor Islands.
You'll see Long Island Head Light, Boston Light (America's oldest light house), Fort Warren on Georges Islands, Fort Independence, and the brightly colored foliage on Peadock's Island and Thompson's Island.
A gourmet picnic lunch and non-alcoholic cold drinks to enjoy on board are included in the price of your ticket, and you can purchase beer, wine, cocktails, and hot beverages. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the gorgeous sights!
More Fall Foliage Cruises
Fall foliage cruises to New England and Canada continue into October, and if you can carve a few days out of your schedule to go on one over Columbus Day weekend, there's no better way to enjoy this spectacular season!
Don't forget, though, that you can see plenty of color right in Boston. The Public Garden and the Beacon Hill neighborhoods are great places to start, but also check out our suggestions about the best places for seeing fall foliage in Boston.
Admiring fall foliage is a traditional Boston Colombus Day activity, and you can see plenty of gorgeous color without leaving the city.
If you want to head out of the city, Salem makes a great destination. Not only will you see gorgeous foliage, but you can also enjoy Salem's Halloween decor (on full display throughout October), witch museums, and historical sites.
Columbus Day weekend is a great time to catch a sporting or music event at conveniently-located TD Garden.
This year you can catch the Bruins, the Celtics, and a Bruno Mars concert:
Ticket Discount Code: TicketLiquidator - Enter TLSPRING to get $10 off orders of $350+
Hotels near TD Garden
Coming to an event at the Garden? Spend the night or the weekend at a nearby hotels, such as the glamorous Onyx (shown in photo), part of the Kimpton hotel family:
More top hotels near the Garden:
Cranberry harvesting takes place from mid-September through early November, making Columbus Day Weekend the perfect time for the annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration sponsored by the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.
This old-style family festival celebrates this favorite New England tradition with tours to a cranberry bog to see the harvest in progress, carnival rides for children, food vendors, artisans displaying their crafts, and the opportunity to buy super-fresh cranberries.
The largest cranberry grower in the country, A.D. Makepeace Company, hosts the festival at their welcome center in Wareham, about 30 minutes south of Boston.
Plimouth Plantation and Mayflower II
Only about a mile from the Festival's location in Wareham is Plymouth, site of Plimouth Plantation and Mayflower II.
These authentic reproductions take you back in time to when the first brave band of English Pilgrims sailed to the New World in the Mayflower and landed here to start a new life, just over 100 years after Columbus arrived in the Americas.
Costumed actors make you feel like you've time-traveled back to 1620 and are among the settlers and the Wampanoags, the Native Americans who helped them survive.
How to Visit: Join a day trip by bus from Boston
Friends of Christopher Columbus Park will host a fun Fall Festival on Columbus Day sponsored by lots of local North End and Waterfront businesses.
This annual family-friendly event begins with a children's parade through the park followed by a ceremony at the Christopher Columbus statue, and includes lots of free entertainment and games.
Look for an interesting mix of local performers and entertainment, such as magicians, storytellers, and games.
Where to Stay near Christopher Columbus Park
Top October Tours
Opening Our Doors Day in Fenway - 2018
Fenway Alliance presents "Opening Our Doors," Boston's biggest single day of FREE arts, cultural, and educational events when its members invite you to 60+ activities, performances, tours, music, and games from 10am - 4pm.Festivities start on the Mass Ave side of the Christian Science Plaza at the intersection of Huntington Ave and Mass Ave. The kick-off celebration features a Kids Parade with the Hot Tamale Brass Band, performances, and free cupcakes, with fun activities for all ages all day.
Added plus: Free admission to several top Fenway museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Mary Baker Eddy Library Mapparium.
Cape Ann Artisans Open Studios - 2018
Don't miss this wonderful excuse to tour artist studios along the beautiful Rockport and Gloucester coast on Columbus Day weekend! 17 artists and artisans will welcome you to view their paintings, sculpture, mosaics, photography, pottery, jewelry, and other wonderful creations.
You can easily rent a car and drive up from Boston for the day - or spend the weekend and go for walks along the beach, dine on lobster dinners, and browse in local boutiques, galleries, and antique shops. View Rockport Hotels
Open Studio Tour: October 6, 7, and 8, 10am - 5pm
Where: Open Studio Tour map and more information at www.capeannartisans.com. You can also pick up brochures with route maps at the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, the Rockport Information Booth on Rte 127, and at each studio. Look for the bright magenta Studio Tour banner at each location
More information: 978-546-6186; Cape Ann Artisans website: http://capeannartisans.com
Painting in photo: "The Next Wave" by Cape Ann painter Rob Diebboll, 1 Camborne Way, Rockport
More Columbus Day Events in and near Boston
Schedules & Tickets:
Ticket Discount Code: TicketLiquidator - Enter TLSPRING to get $10 off orders of $350+
You'll find plenty of deals and steals all over the city at the big Columbus Day sales - the best time to begin your holiday shopping! Virtually all stores will have big Columbus Day sales underway. Use these Boston shopping suggestions to get started:
- Newbury Street/Boylston Street - Great mix of designer boutiques and discount fashion - expect to see lots of "SALE" signs
- Wrentham Village - Crowds will be massive - but so will the savings!
- Assembly Row - Discount and factory outlet stores just 5 minutes (by subway) from Downtown Boston- Take the Orange Line to the Assembly Square station
- Boston shopping areas and malls - Where to shop throughout the Boston metro area
Things to Do with Kids on Columbus Day Weekend in Boston
Family-oriented activities to do with kids in Boston on Columbus Day weekend include:
- New England Aquarium - Kids and grownups alike love all the exhibits - great rainy weather choice also - plus huge Imax theater next door. Free Aquarium admission if if you have a GoBoston card, plus you go to the head of the line. More about New England Aquarium
- Boston Duck Tours - Kids' favorite way to tour the city by land and water! More about Boston Duck Tours
- Faneuil Hall Marketplace - Bring your whole family to this popular Freedom Trail site and shopping/eating/entertainment destination - More about Faneuil Marketplace