Boston Calling, Memorial Day, Art Walks, Red Sox, Theater, Concerts, & More
Please note: the Covid-19 pandemic may impact some of the events on this page.
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 with Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine. On other Boston concert stages, look for Mika, Bikini Kill, Tod Rundgren, REO Speed Wagon, Zac Brown Band, and Kesha & Big Freedia.
More top May events include Mayflower Sails,Chicago: The Musical and Million Dollar Quartet in the theaters, 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.
Take advantage of the balmy temperatures to take a Boston Duck Boat tour, catch a Red Sox game at Fenway, sample the city's best Asian food at Boston Night Market, or just relax as you enjoy outdoor patio dining at one of our wonderful restaurants.
See for yourself why May is the perfect month to be in Boston!
Top photo: Tulips blooming in mid-May in Boston's Public Garden
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.
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:
TicketNetwork Discount Code - Enter TNTIX to get $10 off orders of $300+
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 Now:
Champagne City Lights Cruise - Raise your glass of bubbly to the glittering city lights as you relax to soft classical music - Through Feb 28
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
Gift Card - Looking for a special gift? Purchase a Classic Harbor Line gift card with a value of your choosing!
Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day:
St Patrick's Brunch Cruise - Savor an Irish breakfast and Irish drink as you enjoy a live Irish Trad Session on board the Northern Lights on this cruise around Boston Harbor - March 13, 14, 17
Live Irish Music Cruise - Enjoy live Irish tunes on this fun sightseeing cruise around the Harbor - March 12, 13, 14, 17
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 in March
Brunch Cruise - Savor a delicious 3-course brunch on this relaxing sightseeing cruise around Boston Harbor - Starts in March
Book Now for May:
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 7
Adirondack III Sunset Sail - Relax as the setting sun turns the sky brilliant colors during this calming sunset sailing experience - Starts May 7, 2021
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!
Mayflower Sails - Celebration
Mayflower Sails is a 6-day maritime festival celebrating two events: the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower in 1620, and a debut sail of the Mayflower II, a replica of the original tall ship, after 3 years of restoration at Mystic Seaport Museum by craftspeople using techniques from the 1600s.
Please note: This event was schedule for last year but postponed due to the Covid pandemic. Stay tuned for updates and new dates!
Planned events include free tours of the ship, live music, and speakers. After the festival, the ship will sail back to its usual location in Plymouth. All daytime events are free to the public.
History "Cheat Sheet": The original Mayflower landed on Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 after a harrowing 66-day voyage across the Atlantic with 102 passengers and almost 40 crew members. About a third of the passengers were Pilgrims, religious dissidents fleeing persecution in England, who established a settlement called "Plimouth Plantation." The Mayflower returned to England in the spring but had been badly damaged during the journey to the New World, and is believed to have been scrapped a few years later. The replica Mayflower II was built in England in 1955-56, and normally can be visited in Plymouth, south of Boston. Visit Plimouth Plantation & tour Plymouth waterfront, with transportation from Boston (also available: small group tour from Boston)
MFA: Memorial Day Open House - Free Admission
When: Monday, May 31 - Memorial Day Weekend
MFA will offer family-oriented festivities this year with special exhibitions and free admission on Memorial Day.
This fun family event takes place in the Shapiro Family Courtyard where you can make art, make music, watch a film, and join tours and discussions in the art galleries.
You'll get to visit historic Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine, enjoy lunch, shopping, and leisure time in quaint Kennebunkport, admire the well-preserved 18th and 19th century architecture in quaint Kenebunk Village, visit Hampton Beach, and see all the charming villages along the rocky coastline as you cruise along in a luxury climate-controlled coach.
Pickup and dropoff from selected Boston hotels is included.
You can now choose a free Red Sox ticket to select home games at Fenway Park as a bonus when you get a 3, 5, or 7 day GoBoston discount card, starting this month. (Or choose a different bonus: a Boston Duck Tour, the 7-hour "Total Boston Experience" tour including Cambridge, Lexington, and Concord, or a New England Whale Watch cruise.)
With the Red Sox bonus, you'll get a ticket to the Outfield Grandstand, Lower Bleachers, or Standing Room sections of the stadium on a space-available basis. Plus, you also get free VIP access (usually only season ticket holders get this), which lets you enter the ballpark up to 2.5 hours before the game to watch batting practice or explore the Big Concourse.
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.
ArtWeek returns to Boston (and throughout Massachusetts) from May 1-10. The 10-day festival features hundreds of free or affordable arts and cultural experiences with artists and the creative process.
What can you do and see? Look for a sculpture re-configuration on the Greenway, open concert rehearsals at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street, fashion creation with digital fabrication at the Cambridge Innovation Center (Milk Street location), culinary creation and story telling at the Pao Arts Center in Chinatown, a performance of life-sized puppets at the Emerson Paramount Theatre, tours and open studios at Fenway Artists' Studios, an open rehearsal at Urbanity Dance in the South End - and that's just the beginning.
Check the festival's website for dates, times, and details plus lots more events. The festival is a collaboration between Boch Center and the Highland Street Foundation.
"The Patios" Return to Boston
"The Patios" return to Boston's City Hall Plaza, transforming the area overlooking Faneuil Hall with comfy seating, a beer garden (opens 4pm Monday-Thursday and at noon on Friday-Sunday), a pop-up lemonade and food stand (Monday-Sunday, 11am-7pm), food trucks (Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm and 5-8pm), outdoor meeting spaces for local businesses, a farmers' market (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30am-6:30pm), and on Wednesdays (12 noon to 2pm), puppies from a local rescue shelter for a "meet and greet" with prospective adopters. Look for an array of free games such as putt-putt mini-golf holes and other family-oriented activities, plus 4 electric grills on Sundays (11am-9pm), available on a first-come, first-served basis.
When: May 2 - through mid November); Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-9pm Closest T stations: Green/Blue: Government Center, Orange: Haymarket
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 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
Celebrate spring by heading to Revere Beach, America's oldest public beach, on Saturday, May 9 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, 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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Best way to save in Boston. Save 50% or more 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.
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.
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 2, and Sunday, May 3pm, 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
Where to Go for Mother's Day Brunch in Boston
Show your appreciation for all those tasty meals your mom cooked for you, and take her out for Mother's Day Brunch at one of these Boston restaurants offering a special menu for the occasion.
Make hotel reservations for Mothers Day weekend for a memorable celebration.
- Beacon Hill Bistro - Enjoy a special 3-course prix fixe brunch from 10am-4pm in this award-winning Beacon Hill restaurant at the Beacon Hill Hotel. 25 Charles Street; 617-723-7575
- Scampo - Try famed Chef Lydia Shire's special Mother's Day a la carte creations on the lunch and dinner menu at this wonderful Italian restaurant in the Liberty Hotel. 215 Charles Street, Boston's West End; 617-536-2100
- North 26 - Special Mother's Day Brunch menu (12 noon-3:30pm). 26 North Street at the Bostonian Boston Hotel; 617-557-3640
Forgot to make reservations? Take your mom for Dim Sum in Boston's Chinatown - but pretend that's what you were planning all along.
Duckling Day Parade
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.
Show your mom your love and a good time by treating her to a special Mother's Day Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner Cruise on the luxurious Odyssey or Spirit of Boston.
Enjoy the gourmet cuisine, feel pampered by the attentive service, and try out the great dance floor if you chose a dinner cruise.
Or just relax on the deck, enjoying the best views of Boston.
Lunch, Brunch, & Dinner Cruises:
Lilac Sunday - Mother's Day Event
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