Polar Bear Plunge, Martin Luther King Jr Day, Wine Festivals, Games, Hotel Bargains
Top Boston Events for January 2021 include New Year's Day festivities, and lots more fun things to do all month in the city - indoors and outside.
Please note: many of the usual activities this year are canceled or modified due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic - so please check for updates.
Here's a summary of what normally happens, in case you're planning ahead for next year:
Kick off the New Year by watching Boston's famous L Street Brownies make their annual Polar Plunge.
Treat yourself to a New Year's Day Brunch and then work off those extra holiday pounds later at the Frog Pond Ice Rink on Boston Common.
Join commemorations of renowned civil rights leader (and former Boston University student) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., savor wine and food pairings at the renowned Boston Wine Festival, head to the Garden to cheer the Celtics and Bruins, and don't miss the fantastic lineup of shows in Boston's Theatre District.
Many Boston hotels give you their cheapest discount rates of the year during January. With so much going on in the city, January is the perfect time to enjoy world-class music, museums, sports, restaurants, and more.
January weather can feel cold - in fact, it's our coldest month of the year - but you'll find plenty of indoor warmth in our welcoming Irish pubs, historic taverns, and superb restaurants, you'll find a city filled with excitement, fun, good food, and cheer.
January 2021 official holidays in Boston:
New Year Day - January 1
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day - Monday, January 18
Boston Harbor Hotel's epic Boston Wine Festival kicks off with themed "Battle of the Cabernets" dinners on Friday, January 15 and Saturday, January 16 as cab experts lead diners through blind tastings.
This year's series features 22 events featuring exceptional wineries and the world-famous dinners by Chef Daniel Bruce. Attendees have the opportunity to take advantage of a special room rate including complimentary self-parking, based upon availability. Due to the pandemic, the hotel has put numerous safety protocols iin place, included reduced seating capacities and seating parties only within their own groups. Tickets and more information are available at bostonwinefestival.net.
The Boston Wine Festival continues through March, and is the country's longest-running wine and food pairing festival.
January can be cold, but don't let that stop you from seeing the city! These fun tours and indoor destinations will let you enjoy the best of the city while staying warm and comfortable!
Featured New Hotel for January: Revolution Hotel in Boston's South End
40 Berkeley Street, Boston's South End
A trendy vibe, "micro" guest rooms, and - dare we say it, cheap rates position the new Revolution Hotel as one of Boston's most attractive affordable hotels, especially considering its close distance (5-10 minute walk, depending on where you're going) to Downtown Boston. Free high-speed wifi is a nice bonus.
Where: TD Garden
Nearest public transportation: Green Line/Orange Line or Commuter Rail to North Station, next to the Garden Where to celebrate: Boston bars near TD Garden
Boston Harbor Cruises for Sightseeing & Special Events
Northern Lights Sunset Cruise - Unwind on this popular after-work cruise as the sky changes brilliant colors and light music plays in the background. Stop by the bar for a drink, watch the sights go by, and hear the USS Constitution's traditional sunset salute - Through Dec 4
Holiday Brunch Cruise - See historic sights and panoramic views around Boston Harbor with friends and family as you enjoy this relaxing cruise with brunch, hot chocolate, and holiday cheer - Book now
An Irish Christmas Carol Cruise - Get into the holiday spirit on the Northern Lights as you raise your glass and toast the holidays with festive holiday music playing in the background on this popular Harbor cruise - Book now
Adirondack III Day Sail - Enjoy cool breezes and the afternoon sun on this relaxing sightseeing sail around Boston Harbor and the Inner Harbor Islands - Starts May 7, 2021
Adirondack III Sunset Sail - Relax as the setting sun turns the sky brilliant colors during this calming sunset sailing experience - Starts May 7, 2021
City Lights Champagne Cruise on Northern Lights - Unwind with a glass of champagne as you gaze at Boston's sparkling skyline as relaxing music plays softly in the background on this affordably-priced night cruise around the Harbor - Starts Feb 19
Boston Harbor Cruise on Northern Lights - Soak up Boston's unique sites and rich history on this comfortable sightseeing cruise around the Harbor - perfect friends and family experience! Drinks and small bites are available for purchase at the bar - Starts March 12
Boston Concerts & Shows - January 2021
Top January Concerts in Boston
Schedules & Tickets
TicketNetwork Discount Code - Enter TNTIX to get $10 off orders of $300+
Please note: The Museum is currently closed due to the Covid pandemic. The celebration of Dr Martin Luther King Jr's legacy will be virtual this year, and will be streamed on the museum's event page, Facebook, and YouTube.
When: Monday, January 18 - Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day; 5pm-6pm
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Fenway, Boston; 617-267-9300; www.mfa.org - but viewing will be virtual
MFA will celebrate Dr King's legacy with special exhibitions, performances, and free admission on Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day.
Look for family-friendly activities and special exhibits throughout the museum celebrating Dr King, who lived in Boston while studying at Harvard and BU.
Boston's Celtic Music Festival on January 14-16 (followed by workshops on January 17 and 18) takes place virtually at Club Passim this year, and will be available for viewing during the Passim YouTube site. Concerts spotlight Boston area, New England, and Eastern Canadian Celtic musicians and singers. Workshops are fee-based.
Closest T station: Red Line/Harvard Square Cost: Ticket donations between $15 - $25 are suggested and appreciated More info and full schedule: https://www.passim.org/live-music/festivals_summer_series/bcmfest-2021
Winter Trails Day at Weston Ski Track near Boston - 2021
Winter Trails Day, on Sunday, January 3 is a national event designed to introduce everyone to the fun of being outside during the winter on cross-country skis or snowshoes - but unfortunately, it did not take place this year due to the pandemic. However, you can still enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in this wonderful location within easy reach of Boston. Reservations are a "must" this year, and you can find all the information you need on their website.
This is the information about the free event which did not take place - we're leaving it up so that you'll know what to expect if you want to plan ahead for next year:
Weston Ski Track, located only 30 minutes west of Boston, offers free snowshoe and cross-country skiing lessons between 9am and 2pm. For snowshoeing, you get a free snowshoeing trail pass and a quick lesson; to stay longer, rent snowshoes on site for a modest fee. For the free cross-country skiing lesson, you need to purchase a trail pass (1-day passes are cheap) and rent skis if you need them (also inexpensive); you also need to pre-register to get the free lesson. Special lower rates are available for kids and seniors.
2 Easy Ways to Save BIG in Boston on Tours, Cruises, Admissions
Best way to save in Boston. Save up to 50% when you take a Boston Harbor cruise or Duck Boat tour, visit Plimouth Plantation, the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Museum of Fine Arts, Fenway Park Tour, and more. Compare to find out which one is best for you.
What to See in Boston's Museums - January 2021
- Current & Up-Coming Shows
Women Take the Floor - Female artists' visions & voices - Through May 3, 2021
Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation - See the transition from urban street art to museum walls - Through May 16, 2021
Black Histories, Black Futures - Teen curators take over - Through June 20, 2021
Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art - February 6 - January 9, 2022
Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art fo Ekua Holmes - Distinctive vision and commitment to Black imagery by a Roxbury artist/book illustrator - February 27 - Oct 17, 2021
Museum (and show) admission: $25 adults; free entrance with Boston Discount Cards (GoBoston card and Boston CityPASS). Free admission on Wednesdays after 4pm, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lunar New Year Celebration Day (Feb 1), Memorial Day, Labor Day, & Indigenous Peoples' Day; also on Feb 3.
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston - Current & Future Shows
i'm yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times - New acquisitions and iconic works - Through May 23, 2021
Beyond Infinity: Contemporary Art after Kusama - Her pioneering ideas and artistic vision - Through July 18, 2021
Eva LeWitt - Huge colorful hanging wall sculpture made from coated mesh fabric - Jan 16, 2021 - Oct 23, 2022
Admission: $15 adults; free entrance with GoBoston card and Boston CityPASS. Closed on Mondays. Free admission on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, & Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Museum of Science Exhibits - 2021
Please note: the Museum of Science is currently closed due to the pandemic but you can check out MOS at Home here.
MOS at Home:
Sounds of the Arctic - Hear marine mammals using hydrophone recordings from different Arctic locations to learn who swims there
Daily Live Stream - Museum educators share fun livestreamed presentations for the entire family
Permanent Exhibits (when the museum reopens)
With 29 fascinating permanent exhibits for all ages, there's always something to see, do, and learn. Here are just a few of the most popular: Butterfly Garden (extra fee), Colossal Fossil: Triceratops Cliff, Cosmic Light, Dinosaurs, Hall of Human Life, Live Animal Care Center, Mathematica, Nanotechnology, Natural Mysteries, New England Habitats, The Light House - plus 17 more!
The enormous New England Auto Show at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, 415 Summer Street, South Boston Waterfront) is by far the biggest in New England, and showcases all the newest models for basically every domestic and imported brand. If you're planning to buy a new vehicle in the coming year, want to compare models and features, chat with dealers and factory reps, or just want to keep up with the newest models and technology, you owe it to yourself to go!
Tickets: $17 adults, $7 kids ages 6-12 (under 6 free), with $1 of each ticket sold donated to local charities
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrations in Boston - 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January - January 18th in 2021 - to commemorate Dr. King's role in ensuring civil rights, peace, and equality in America. Dr. King lived in Boston for several years while he studied at Harvard and Boston University, where he received his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1955.
Boston's Museum of African American History normally sponsors an annual tribute concert by the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, with readings and speeches by distinguished guests including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. The museum is currently closed through January 31 due to the pandemic, and it does not appear that this event will take place. Please check the Museum's website for any updates.
More Suggestions for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021:
Born on the Water: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert by the Boston Children's Chorus. January 17, 4pm. The concert will be streamed live. Free, but you need to reserve a ticket. You can find information here on BCC's website.
Visit the Free at Last sculpture (shown in the above photo) honoring Dr. King in front of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, where he studied from 1951-55.
Normally BU hosts a Commemoration of MLK Day: Words Beyond the Dream (another of the city's biggest MLK Day events) at 2pm on January 18 in BU's George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom (775 Commonwealth Ave). The event includes performances, music, and readings by special guests and students who reflect on the power of words to empower social justice and civil rights, and features Aretha Franklin's music. More info: 617-353-4126 (Dean of Student's office). However - the start of BU's spring semester is delayed to January 25 this year due to the pandemic, and this event does not appear to be scheduled for 2021.
Brattle Theatre: Honoring Dr Martin Luther King Jr Annual Family Festival - Streaming for 2021 - Normally the theater shows films focusing on the ideals , people, and music connected to Dr King, including peronal accounts. Ages 5+. Starts at 10:30am on January 18; ticket information: www.brattlefilm.org (search the calendar). Because the theater is currently closed due to the pandemic, it is highlighting a virtual programming series of films on popular streaming services - some are free, and some are subscription-based. The theater releases the schedule about a week in advance - so check back on about the 11th to see what's on for MLK Day: https://www.brattlefilm.org/category/calendar-2/
A Celebration of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr - The Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, Museum of African American History, and distinguished Boston leaders will evoke the power and promise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a performance and concert at Faneuil Hall - 1pm on Jan 18. Please note: This event does not appear to be scheduled for 2021.
Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service - Honor Dr. King's memory by participating in this event to make a better America by volunteering to help others in our community. Despite the pandemic, volunteers are needed and the event will be virtual in 2021 - find details here: https://www.bostoncares.org/mlkday. Find more details about Boston Cares at bostoncares.org
Cambridge MLK Day of Service - January 18, 2pm-5pm - This event appears not to be scheduled this year. Normally, this is what happens in case you want to plan for next year: Everyone meets at City Hall in Central Square to join other volunteers in making fleece scarves and blankets for homeless children, sorting food and books, and doing other things to help people in need. The event is free, but don't come empty-handed - please bring a can of food, gently used winter clothing, or a children's book to donate.
MLK Memorial Breakfast, January 18, 11am-3pm - This event is virtual for 2021. Join Boston's movers and shakers at this annual event, normally attended by about 1,500 people at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (415 Summer Street). This is the nation's longest running event in honor of Dr. King's legacy. Speakers this year include U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, MA Attorney General Maura Healey, Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins, Segun Idowu, Executive Director of the MA Black Economic Council, Dr. J. Keith Motley, President & CEO of the Urban League of Easter MA, Cleveland Sellars, civil rights activist and former SNCC leader, and other social justice, community, religious, and business leaders. Normally the Old South Church Gospel Choir performs (not clear if that will happen this year). Registration is required, and donations are requested - see the Boston MLK Breakfast website for more information.
Enjoy free admission on MLK Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, plus films, performances, and art activities to celebrate Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day - 10am - 5pm. ICA Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum also offer free admission on MLK Day. Please note: as of early January, these museums are closed due to the pandemic but expect to open later this month - so stay tuned.MFA's annual celebration of Dr King's life will be virtual this year - see above.
Due to the pandemic, the rink is closed for the season.
In normal years without a pandemic, you can head over to Frog Pond every Tuesday Night (except for major holidays, and school breaks / vacations) from 6pm - 9pm for College Nights. Show your current college ID and get half-price admission (bring your own skates or rent them for $12 at the rink) - it's the best Cheap Date in Boston!
When: Through mid-March, depending on the weather Where: Frog Pond, Closest T station: Red & Green Line/Park St
Boston One-Minute Play Festival - Postponed to 2022
Here's your chance to see terrific theater from 50+ Boston area playwrights - in a 3-night marathon at the Boston One-Minute Play Festival, aka the Boston Theatre Marathon.
The 4-day event benefits Boston Public Works, a Boston playwrights' collective and event co-sponsor, along with Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
Where: Boston Playwrights' Theatre at 949 Commonwealth Ave on the Boston University campus Dates: January 5-7, 8pm Tickets: $20 per evening Ticket information: www.facebook.com/events/596337904143628/
L Street Brownies Take Their Annual Plunge
Are they crazy . . . or just incredibly fit and brave?
Ever since 1904, the L Street Brownies celebrate the New Year by plunging into the icy waters of Dorchester Bay and raising money for local charities. If you're visiting Boston and want to have a true "insider" experience of our real culture - head to Carson Beach/L Street Beach for this famous Boston event on January 1.
Up to about 500 swimmers typically participate in the New Year event. Irish bagpipers usually play until they also jump in the water. A large crowd of friends and onlookers cheer the swimmers on while passing around towels, vitamin C, and flasks.
Many of the L Street Brownies, a polar bear swim club formed in 1902 and named after the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston, swim here daily throughout the year. As with many things in Boston, this is the oldest Polar Bear club in the nation. Although most members appear to be 50-something or younger, a number are in their 80s and 90s and attribute their strong immune systems to the daily exercise and icy water. Each year, the plunge is dedicated to the memory of past and recently departed Brownies.
Do the Brownies ever cancel their plunge due to cold weather? They didn't in 1918, when the record low was 3 degrees below zero (not counting wind chill). The temperature this year is supposed to be 5 degrees above zero at the time of the swim - balmy by comparison.
When: Tuesday, January 1 at 9am. Registration for those making the plunge starts at 8:15am, and doors close at 9:30am. No need to register in advance - you'll fill out a short form once you get there. In case you're wondering, the plunge begins at a different time each year, because it's determined by the tide, which varies from year to year. Where: L Street Bathhouse at Curley Community Center (617-635-5104), 1663 Columbia Road, Carson Beach, South Boston Closest T station: Red Line/JFK-UMass Station; walk half a mile to the Curley Community Center. Alternately, take the T Red Line to Broadway Station and transfer to the #9 or #11 City Point bus. The locker and shower rooms won't be available at all this year, so if you're swimming, come dressed for the swim and bring some dry (and warm) clothing. In case you're not familiar with this beach, you should know that it features lots of rocks and shells, so swim shoes are a good idea. More to know: You must be 16+ to participate. Lifeguards will be on duty. No pets or alcohol allowed.
Creative costumes are encouraged. Strong recommendation: Leave kids under 12 at home, as no inside areas are available where they can keep warm during the swim. This is especially important this year due to the FRIGID weather! Note: MBTA subway and buses run on a holiday schedule on New Year's Day; expect more of a wait than usual Parking: Available along Day Blvd Cost: Free
Be sure to make advance reservations, as lots of Boston locals as well as visitors go out for brunch on New Year's Day to get a good start on the New Year.
Boston Baroque First Day Concert
Boston Baroque welcomes the New Year with a thrilling performance of Handel's Fireworks Music and Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor. Celebrate with complimentary champagne and chocolates during intermission.
When: January 1, 3pm Where: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University Parking: Nearby garage, free Tickets and more information: website