Boston Calling, Memorial Day, Art Walks, Red Sox, Theater, Concerts, & More
Check the Boston Event Calendar for May for fun things to do as spring arrives. Boston bursts into bloom, and you'll want to be outside soaking up the sun.
Top May events include the Boston Calling Festival (cancelled for 2021). On other Boston concert stages, look for performances in the smaller venues (for now).
More top May events include Memorial Day Weekend activities, Mother's Day events, concerts, ArtWeek, and art walks.
More big events include Lilac Sunday, the Garden of Flags on the Common, Duckling Day Parade, special Harbor cruises, Beacon Hill's Hidden Gardens tour, and lots of Theatre District shows and performances.
The Arnold Arboretum's large lilac collection bursts into glorious bloom in May, putting on an exuberant show of color and intoxicating fragrance just in time for Mother's Day. Visit on Lilac Sunday to enjoy family-oriented activities in honor of Mother's Day - or come any time during early-to-mid-May to experience the unforgettable scent of these gorgeous lilacs.
Lilac Sunday is the only day of the year when the Arboretum allows picnics - so take advantage by bringing a tasty brunch or lunch and perhaps a blanket for sitting.
When: May 10; lilac tours and family activities from 10am - 3pm; Arboretum open from dawn to dusk Where: Arnold Arboretum, 125 Arborway, Jamaica Way, Boston Closest T station: Orange Line/Forest Hills; follow the signs to the Arboretum, about a 10 minute walk Parking: Street-side parking spaces are always quite limited so don't count on finding any available on Lilac Sunday - take public transportation! Cost: Free More information: 617-524-1718; Arnold Arboretum website
Memorial Day Weekend Events in Boston
When: Monday, May 31 - Memorial Day 2021
Many Bostonians leave town on Memorial Day - so if you're visiting, you have the best of both worlds: plenty of fun things to do, less competition for tickets (and perhaps lower prices), and somewhat smaller crowds.
Memorial Day Weekend events in Boston range from somber ceremonies of remembrance and the Garden of Flags on Boston Common to fun activities embracing summer weather such as the Boston Calling Music Festival, the city's waterfront location, and of course, the Red Sox, home again in time to play the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park on Memorial Day.
Tour Boston by boat - the best way to see the city! Check out these fun sightseeing, music, and entertainment Boston Harbor cruises on the Yacht Northern Lights and Schooner Adirondack III:
Fun Boston Harbor Cruises To Do Right Now:
Northern Lights Sunset Cruise - Grab a cocktail and apps from the bar and then relax as you watch the sun set on this sail around the Harbor, just in time to catch the USS Constitution fire its cannons as the sun dips down past the horizon
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
Brunch Cruise - Savor a delicious 3-course brunch on this relaxing sightseeing cruise around Boston Harbor
Gift Card - Looking for a special gift? Purchase a Classic Harbor Line gift card with a value of your choosing!
Sunday Evening Jazz Cruise - End your weekend on the perfect note by grooving to live jazz as you watch the ever-changing sunset colors as the sun sets behind Boston's city skyline - Starts May
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
Adirondack III Sunset Sail - Relax as the setting sun turns the sky brilliant colors during this calming sunset sailing experience - Starts May 7
Whale Watching Cruise Tickets
Join one of the exciting 3-hour Whale Watching Cruises departing from the Downtown Boston Waterfront, and experience the thrill of spotting whales off the coast of Boston.
You'll see magnificent creatures such as Humpback and Finback whales close-up from the deck of your ship, and spot White-Sided Dolphins frolicking in the waters.
These cruises sell out quickly and capacity is currently limited to 15 participants per cruise, so don't wait to get your tickets now for this iconic Boston experience!
Where to Go for Mother's Day Brunch in Boston 2021
Show your appreciation for all those tasty meals your mom cooked for you, and take her out for Mother's Day Brunch on Sunday, May 9 at one of these Boston and Cambridge restaurants offering a special menu for the occasion. Seated is still limited due to pandemic distancing, so make reservations well ahead of the event.
Miel Brasserie (InterContinental Hotel on the downtown waterfront; website) - Celebrate your mom with French flair at brunch featuring Chef Didier Montarou's mouth-watering Mother's Day menu; all entrées include the homemade dessert bar with strawberry shortcake
Peregrine (Whitney Hotel, Beacon Hill; website) - Enjoy patio dining and Peregrine's Italian coastal specialties such as dressed oysters, spring risotto, radiatore pasta, confit lamb breast, and lemon pistachio cake
Cafe Luna (612 Main Street, Kendall Square, Cambridge; website) - Take your mom to brunch (9am-4pm) and choose from Cafe Luna's huge brunch m menu with specialty eggs benedict (steak and lobster, crab cake, prosciutto with roasted fig jam, smoked salmon and avocado), Mexican churro French toast, shrimp tacos, wings and waffles, lemon ricotta pancakes, and lots more.
Q Restaurant (660 Washington Street, Chinatown/Theatre District) - Share Mongolian hot pot with your mom, or choose from the extensive Chinese entrees and sushi selections.
Bistro du Midi (272 Boylston Street, Back Bay; website) - Start with a selection of Viennoiserie or a charcuterie board, follow with a main course such as salade Niçoise, duck confit on a Belgium waffle, bavette steak and eggs, or a croque madame, and end with a chocolate hazelnut torte and you'll almost believe you're in Paris for Mother's Day.
Stephanie's on Newbury (190 Newbury St; website) - Relax with your mom on Stephanie's huge patio and treat yourselves to her favorite brunch classics: cinnamon monkey break, a smoked salmon platter, New England clam chowder, a skillet breakfast with eggs, smoked bacon, maple sausage, and baked cheddar home fries, and an ice cream sundae.
Forgot to make reservations? Take your mom for Dim Sum in Boston's Chinatown - but pretend that's what you were planning all along. You'll see other mom/child couples doing the same thing.
Duckling Day Parade - Virtual for 2021
The Duckling Day Parade will be virtual this year - find information here.
On a normal year when there's no pandemic still underway, this is what happens:
When: Mother's Day Sunday, May 9 - parade begins at 12 noon Where: Boston Common and the Public Garden - Preregister at 10am on Boston Common at the Parkman Bandstand; enjoy entertainment until the parade starts
Cost: $35 ($40 on day of event) donation per family, which includes snacks, entertainment, and special goodie bag for each child More info
For the perfect Mother's Day celebration, join Boston's annual Duckling Day Parade with your young children - and be sure to bring your camera!
You'll retrace the path taken by Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their own flock of 8 young ducklings in Robert McCloskey's beloved children's book, Make Way for Ducklings. To really get into the spirit, dress your offspring in yellow to resemble their favorite Ducklings characters, and decorate your stroller or even a wagon.
Look for more concert venues to reopen this month. For example, Boston City Winery reopens on Saturday, May 1 with local Boston blues & jazz musicians Bees Deluxe headlining the start of the new season.
Here's what's happening now, with more events possibly added to the schedule later.
Top May Concerts in Boston
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When: May 6-16 Where: Normally at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, and Coolidge Corner Theatre - but online this year Tickets: Buy season passes (partially tax deductible) or individual tickets - see IFF's website for pricing. More information: IFF Boston Website
The Independent Film Festival Boston spans 11 days this year year, and promises to be bigger and better than ever, with familiar names plus many new ones. IFF Boston showcases independent film makers from around the world working outside of the Hollywood system, and the lineup offers plenty of interesting features, shorts, and documentaries. Lots of panels and parties let you can talk with the filmmakers and ask them questions. Boston film fanatics rate this festival as one of the best.
On April 2 as well as on other SoWa First Fridays in Boston's art-filled South End, over 60 galleries south of Washington Street and at the Artist's Guild at 450 + 460 Harrison Ave, and nearby businesses and restaurants open their doors from 5pm to 9pm to give you a chance to experience the vibrant South End arts community.
Start at either 450 or 460 Harrison, and just follow the gallery lights and signs as you stroll around the neighborhood. Wrap up your evening at one of the South End's renowned restaurants.
Please note: Right now, capacity limitations apply to galleries, plus not all have reopened yet. If you are interested in a particular gallery or artist studio, please check with them directly to confirm their open status and hours.
Martha's Vineyard Day Trip from Boston
Spend the day exploring the beautiful beaches, art galleries, gingerbread houses, and seafood restaurants on this unforgettable Martha's Vineyard Day Trip fro Boston. And don't forget to catch the brass ring at the country's oldest carousel!
Pickup and dropoff from selected Boston hotels plus ferry tickets are included.
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, Memorial Day, Labor Day, & Indigenous Peoples' Day; also on Feb 5, 2021.
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.
The Swan Boats Return - Opening Day: May 8
When: Opening day for 2021 will be Saturday, May 8; 10am-4pm Friday, Saturdays, and Sunday only through June 20; 10am-5pm daily (back to the normal schedule!) from June 21 through Labor Day) Where: Boston's Public Garden Cost: $4.50 adults; $3 children 2 - 15 years; under 2 years free; seniors $4 More information: Boston Swan Boats
In a sure sign that spring has arrived, the pedal-powered Swan Boats return to the Lagoon in Boston's Public Garden every April on the Saturday before Patriots Day.
Welcome spring and enjoy the pale green hints of spring foliage as your boat glides around the shallow pond for the blissful 12-15-minute ride. Soon, the Public Garden's resident real swans will also return.
Arctic Adventure: Exploring with Technology - Find an Arctic fox, travel across a glacier, & more in this immersive exhibit
Science Behind Pixar: See how art and science create magic
Design Engineering Workshop - Design, build, and test solutions for everyday problems
With 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!
Boston-Area Memorial Day Parade - Cancelled for 2021
The largest Memorial Day Parade in the Boston area takes place not in Boston but next door in Somerville - and not on Memorial Day Weekend, but on the Sunday before.
The Somerville Veterans' Memorial Parade parade honors Veterans, active duty military, guard, and reserves, and police, fire fighters, and first responders. The parade kicks off from City Hall at 3pm on Sunday, May 17 and marches along Highland Ave to Davis Square, continues along Holland Street, and ends at the corner of Holland and Broadway.
In case the weather looks iffy, check the City of Somerville's website for any updates, as well as a list of street closures near the route.
Getting there on the T: Red Line/Davis Square
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Harpoon Brewery (306 Northern Ave, South Boston Waterfront) celebrates spring, local music, and local beer with a 2-day beer festival at their brewery featuring a large selection of Harpoon and UFO beers, a brewry tour, handmade brewery pretzels and food from Lucky's Lounge and the Sausage Guyfor purchase, and live music from local bands throughout the weekend.
Dates: Friday, May 15, 5:30 - 11pm (doors close 9:30pm) and Saturday, May 16, 1pm - 7pm (doors close 5:30pm) - rain or shine! (In case of rain, though, don't worry - they have huge tents covering most of their space.)
Cost: $25 cover, paid at door - Includes festival entrance, souvenir pint glass, and first beer. Designated Drivers who register at the Customer Service booth when they arrive get free non-alcoholic beverages.
Getting there: Take the free shuttle from South Station (look for signs on Summer Street) Important to know: Tickets are not sold in advance, and capacity is limited - so arrive early! Age: 21+ More information:Harpoon Brewery website
Revere Beach Kite Festival - TBD for 2021
Celebrate spring by heading to Revere Beach, America's oldest public beach, on Saturday, May 8 at 11am-2pm for the annual family-friendly kite festival.
Bring your own kite, and watch it soar. You'll see people of all ages flying kites, having a great time, and enjoying this lovely 2-mile long expanse of sun and water.
Don't forget that across from the pavilion, you can get fabulous fried clams or a lobster roll at Kelly's Roast Beef, just a short walk from the Blue Line's Wonderland Station.
Lawn on D - Concerts, Art, Games - Opening Day - TBD for 2021
Lawn on D, a playground for adults as well as kids located behind the Convention Center in the South Boston Waterfront, is the site of beanbag and other games plus art installations throughout the summer, along with a rotating series of food trucks. Opening Day is May 1st this year.
But even when no special events are underway, the Lawn gives you a perfect place to just chill under the summer sun.
Featured New Hotel for May: Four Season's Hotel One Dalton
One Dalton Street, Boston's Back Bay neighborhood
The opening this month of Four Season Hotel One Dalton Street in Boston's third tallest building brings another 5-star luxury hotel to chic Back Bay. You'll enjoy the excellent location near renowned Newbury Street, top cultural attractions, and Fenway Park - plus the onsite spa, restaurant, and bar, and superb service.
Even though the Boston Theater Marathon, produced by the Boston Playwrights' Theatre, stretches across a weekend filled with full-length play reading, the heart of this part-festival, part-race takes place from noon until 10pm on one special day when 50 New England theater actors, directors, and technicians present 50 new 10-minute plays (out of 400 submissions) produced by 50 New England theaters.
To call this event "lively" is an understatement! In one short 10-hour period, you'll see the wide diversity of Boston theater in this showcase for the local and New England theater community.
When: May 19, noon-10pm (ticket needed), followed by a party Where: Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts at 527 Tremont Street in Boston's South End neighborhood Tickets: $25 in advance, $35 on day of marathon; all net proceeds benefit the non-profit Theatre Community Benevolent Fund to provide financial help for actors in dire need More information: www.bu.edu/bpt/performances/boston-theater-marathon-xvi
SoWa Open Market Opening Day & Sunday Markets
A sea of white, blue, and even a few red tents await you at SoWa, Boston's biggest outdoor art and indie market showcasing artists, artisans, and designers in Boston's South End.
Add in musicians, the SoWa Vintage Market (downstairs at 450 Harrison Ave) Sundays, 10am-4pm all year), and onsite food trucks, and you have the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Vendors are carefully chosen to avoid duplication - plus the mix of vendors is different every week, so you never know what you'll find.
When: Every Sunday from May 5 through October 26, 10am - 4pm Where: 530 Harrison Ave, Boston's South End Closest T station: Orange Line/Back Bay, or Red Line/Broadway
Free Art and Architecture Tour at BPL
Join one of the Boston Public Library's free tours offered once a day almost every day. You'll see highlights of the library's magnificent Renaissance Revival architecture by Charles Follen McKim and late 20th century building by Philip Johnson. You'll also get to view some of the many works by famous artists throughout the building. Tours last about an hour, and are conducted by trained volunteer guides.
When: Every day in May - and almost every day throughout the year; times vary Where: Meet at Dartmouth Entrance (McKim Building), 700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston Cost: Free Closest T station: Green Line/Copley More information: 617-536-5400; BPL website - click "Central Library/Art & Architecture Tours" on the top menu to get dates and times
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Greenway Open Market
Greenway Open Market, sister market to SoWa Open Market (held Sundays in the South End), brings an eclectic mix of hand-made art, music, and locally produced products to Boston. Look for the sea of white vendor tents - and get ready for some fun shopping, plus good eating at the gourmet food trucks. With a different mix of vendors present each week, you never know what treasures you'll find! It's a quintessential Boston event.
When: Every Saturday and 1st and 3rd Sunday from May through October,
11am - 5pm May, June, Sept, Oct, and 11am-6pm July and August
Where: Rose Kennedy Greenway, near Rings Fountain along the Wharf District parks (look for the Carousel and the vendors' white tents) Nearest T station: Blue Line/Aquarium, or Orange and Green Lines/Haymarket Cost: Free (but of course you'll probably be tempted to buy things
Opening Day for Boston Harbor Islands
When: Saturday, May 16 Where: Long Wharf - North (ferry location) Closest T station: Blue Line/Aquarium Cost: Check Boston Harbor Islands for current ticket costs. You can buy your tickets at Long Wharf ticket booth More information: Park Rangers: 617-223-8666; Harbor Island Express: 617-222-6999
Hop on a ferry at Boston's Long Wharf (near the
Boston Marriott Long Wharf) for a 15 minute cruise to Georges or Spectacle Island. Join a free tour led by the Park Rangers, or enjoy a day of exploring historic sites, photographing birds, enjoying a picnic, hiking, swimming, wading in tidal pools, or simply enjoying the scenery.
Ancient Fishweir Project on Boston Common
When: May 5 through June, with dance and music performances by the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers on Monday, June 1 during school hours Where: Boston Common Cost: Free
Each year, members of the local Wampanoag and Massachusetts Nations collaborate with about 1,000 Boston public school students to build a 150 foot fishweir sculpture on the Common to commemorate those built by local Native people about 5,000 years ago to catch alewife, herring, smelt, and salmon in the tidal flats then covering the area. Remnants of these still exist, buried in layers of clay 28-35 feet under the city's streets.
This temporary fishweir is Boston's only centrally-located historical monument focused exclusively on the Native people who lived here for 12,000 years before the arrival of the Puritans.
If you want to take a look at this temporary memorial, you'll easily find it close to the path running from Charles Street to the baseball field.
SoWa Art Walk in the South End - Cancelled for 2021
The annual spring SoWa Art Walk in Boston's South End gives you the perfect destination for enjoying a Sunday afternoon in May while viewing the creations of emerging and established artists in 200+ working artists studios.
Explore the fascinating artists' studios, and admire the paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, photography, and more in the South End's SoWa (South of Washington) neighborhood, home to the largest concentration of artists in the city.
When: Saturday May 1, and Sunday, May 2pm, 11am-5pm Where: Participating locations include 450 and 460 Harrison Ave in Boston's South End Closest T station: Orange Line/Back Bay; or Red Line/Broadway Parking: Look for signs Cost: Free
Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Special Tour
Once a year on the third Thursday in May, a dozen or so Beacon Hill Garden Club members open their gardens to the public for a special Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill self-guided tour. Celebrate spring by spending a day exploring Boston's secret gardens.
When: Thursday, May 21, 9am - 5pm, rain or shine Where: Beacon Hill; hostess booths will be at the corners of Charles and Mt. Vernon, and Charles and Chestnut Streets Closest T stations: Green and Red Lines/Park Cost: $50 advance reservations (see website for deadline), $60 day of the event More information: website
Boston Calling - Cancelled for 2021
Boston Calling Music Festival, the popular 3-day indie and pop rock music festival that takes place over Memorial Day Weekend, returns to the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston.
Headliners include Foo FIghters. Rage Against the Machine, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Other well-known performers include Jason Isbell, Emily Ruskowski, Run the Jewels, The 1975, DJ Frank White, DJ RM, Girl in Red, and Lamont Price. (Please note - this information for was for last year's festival - which also got canceled due to the pandemic.)
Look for 60+ artists and more music than ever across 5 stages, plus over 30 food vendors, a wide selection of beer and wine, sponsor exhibits, and surprise attractions.
Tickets typically go fast, and prices rise as the dates draw closer. In addition for single-day passes, you'll see options for 3-day passes plus a tiered array of VIP tickets; the most expensive tiers typically sell out the fastest.
Boston Calling 2021 Tickets:
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