Boston Weather in December

What to Expect

Boston Weather in December: What to Expect

Temperature Ranges, What to Pack, Things to Do

Boston weather in December can be unpredictable.  

Howling winds, rain, warmer temperatures than you might expect, sudden snow squalls, and beautiful bright sunny days form an unpredictable mix. 

But you'll be rewarded for visiting Boston in December, despite the weather. 

You can expect attractive Boston hotel deals, plenty of museums and sports events, and exciting shows at the Boston Opera House and other Theater District venues make December weather in Boston enjoyable.  Even better:  sparkling holiday lights and Christmas decorations, fantastic winter holiday markets, and lots of cheer wherever you go.

If you're planning to travel to Boston in December, keep in mind that the city tends to be warmer than the average temperatures for December weather in Massachusetts most of the time - except when coastal storms called nor'easters slam down freezing rain, snow, or sleet on us.


Although each year is different, we can almost always be sure of getting some snow, even if it is only a few flakes or flurries, at least a few days of 50 degree or higher temperatures, possibly some rain (or freezing rain or sleet), and usually many days with brilliant sunshine. 

Just be aware that some years bring a lot of snow - so check our December packing tips below to make sure you'll be prepared!

Top photo:  Boston's Public Garden in December - weather was chilly, but not cold, and as you'll notice, there's no snow on the ground and the holiday lights turn it into a winter wonderland

December Weather in Boston 

December weather in Boston is tricky to predict because fairly wide temperature variations mean we may get snow . . . or just rain.

Most days will be somewhere between chilly and cold.  If the sun is shining and no wind is blowing, you will feel comfortable regardless of the thermostat (assuming you're wearing a couple of layers and moving around).  But on gray days, especially if there is strong wind, December can feel frigid.

During most years, December is the balmiest month of Boston's winter.  However, some years prove the exception.

These photos will give you a sense of what December Boston weather can look like.  Note that none of them show snow on the ground - although snow certainly can happen this month.

Color fall plants still in place in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood in early December
Colorful fall plants still in place in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood in early December

Although a few splashes of fall foliage may remain at the beginning of the month, by mid-month it has mostly disappeared - except for the weeping willows around the Lagoon in the Public Garden. 

Lots of evergreens throughout the city keep the landscape from looking bleak.

Boston Police officer patrolling on horseback in Boston's Public Garden in December - most leaves have fallen, but the willows still have their golden foliage
Boston Police officer patrolling on horseback in Boston's Public Garden in December - most leaves have fallen, but the willows still have their golden foliage

Days are the shortest of the year in December - but because the weather is still relatively warm and dry compared with January and February (and for that matter, March and April), sitting outside in late afternoon can still feel relatively comfortable.

Mid-December in Boston's Public Garden
Mid-December in Boston's Public Garden - chilly, but still a lovely time to be outside (wearing coats, of course)

December Temperatures and Conditions

December weather in Boston differs every year.  In general, though, you should expect cold weather; if you happen to experience a balmy day, just feel lucky!

If you're planning a Boston visit during December, you should take a look at average temperatures for the month - as well as the record highs and record lows:

Record high temperature for December:   76° F (1998)
Record low temperature for December:   -17° F (1933)
Average December high temperature:  41° F
Average December low temperature:  28° F
Average number of days with precipitation in December:   11
Average snowfall in Boston for December:   9

Although large snow storms don't usually hit Boston in December, they can happen at any point in the month, including at the very beginning.

By the end of the month when the New Year's Eve / First Night celebration takes place on New Year's Eve, temperatures are typically in the frigid zone, especially after night fall.

If you are planning to travel during December, weather can be a big consideration when deciding what to pack, so be sure to check the Boston weather report before coming.   

And this is the time of the year that you should also familiarize yourself with extreme Boston weather weather conditions and what to do if you encounter them . . . just in case.

What to Pack for Boston in December

Holiday decorations in Boston's North End
Holiday decorations in Boston's North End - Light snow fell a couple of days before this photo was taken, but as you can see, it has all melted

Boston weather in December dictates that you should bring a heavy jacket or coat, preferably one that's waterproof. 

Warm gloves, a scarf, and a hat and/or earmuffs are also a must, and an umbrella can be a great addition. 

Don't forget that Boston is a great city for walking, regardless of the weather. 

If you're staying anywhere in central Boston, you'll find that sidewalks usually get shoveled quickly.  However, you still need to consider the best way to keep your feet warm.

Boots with heavy soles and ideally an insulated lining provide the best protection.  Make sure they're comfortable for walking.  Warm socks also help keep you comfortable. 

Check our general suggestions about what to pack for your Boston trip to get more tips.

Best Activities for Enjoying December Weather

Cold Boston weather in December makes indoor activities very attractive - theaters, sports, and museums rank high on lists of popular things to do. 

On New Year's Eve, First Night is Boston's biggest celebration.  Festivities usually start around noon and end after midnight. Many take place outdoors - so dress warmly, and remember your gloves and a hat.

Ice sculpture for the First Night festivities in Boston Common
Ice sculpture for the First Night festivities in Boston Common - As you can see in the background, the ground is bare - those are ice shavings at the front of the photo

December is also a terrific time to shop in Boston, as many stores offer tempting discounts to lure in shoppers.  Check out Lord & Tailor and Ann Taylor in Prudential Center, Macy's in Cambridgeside Galleria, and Gap in Faneuil Marketplace.  Stores and boutiques along Newbury Street also burst with bargains during December.  Holiday Markets, both indoors and outdoors, pop up all over the city.

And don't forget that December is actually a wonderful time for outdoor activities, unless a nor'easter is raging.  Go ice skating on Boston Common's Frog Pond, or head to nearby ski areas for downhill and cross-country skiing.

If you're more of an indoor person, another fun option where you can stay toasty warm while seeing some fantastic outdoor views of the city: combine sightseeing with music, food, and perhaps winter cocktails on these themed Boston Harbor cruises on the fully enclosed and heated yacht Northern Lights: 

Celebrate the holidays while relaxing and sightseeing on the festively decorated Yacht Northern Lights on these special cruises around Boston Harbor:

  • New Year's Eve Fireworks Cruise - Celebrate the New Year on this fabulous 3-hour fireworks cruise with live music, dancing, appetizers, & more!  Fills up early - so don't wait to book! - Find out more
  • New Year's Day Brunch Cruise - Welcome the New Year on January 1st with a tasty hot 3-course brunch on this relaxing 2.5 hour sightseeing tour Boston Harbor - Find out more
  • An Irish Christmas Carol Cruise - Get into the holiday spirit with Slainte, the Northern Lights' house Irish band.   Raise your glass as you join in singing some merry Irish holiday ballads on this 90 minute Harbor cruise - Find out more
  • Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise - Join in singing your favorite Christmas holiday songs led by the Blue Motion Jazz Quartet on this cozy 90 minute Harbor Cruise on the Northern Lights with drinks and snacks available for purchase at the yacht's Main Deck Bar. - Find out more
  • Holiday Sunset Cruise - As the ship's captain points out highlights of passing landmarks and soft music plays in the background, watch the ever-changing sunset colors as the sun sets behind Boston's city skyline on this relaxing 90 minute cruise around the Harbor.  Find out more
  • Holiday Jazz Cruise - Relax to the sounds of jazzy Christmas tunes performed live by Blue Motion Jazz Quartet, and enjoy an adult beverage on this 90 minute romantic evening cruise past iconic attractions along the Boston waterfront - Find out more
  • Holiday Brunch Cruise - See historic sights and panoramic views around Boston Harbor as you enjoy this 2 hour narrated cruise including hot chocolate and brunch (Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and spiked hot chocolate available at the bar) - Find out more
  • Cocoa & Blues Holiday Cruise - Enjoy Boston's sparkling skyline at night along with spiked hot chocolate or a glass of champagne as City of Four, Northern Lights' house R&B/funk band, plays contemporary versions of holiday classics inspired by Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and the Temptations - Find out more

More Scenes of December Weather in Boston

What does Boston look like once the weather turns colder?  These photos will give you an idea of how Boston can look in December.

Ice rink on Boston Common - As you can see, a few people are in shirtsleeves, and there is no snow on the ground
Ice rink on Boston Common - As you can see, a few people have shed their jackets, and there is no snow on the ground

Ice skating on Frog Pond in Boston Common attracts huge crowds in December, especially when there's no snow on the ground to slog through when getting there.

Boston weather in November - Roses in bloom in the Public Garden
Massachusetts State House, with holiday lights on Boston Common

Boston Common is the site of many Christmas decorations - the huge tree sent by the citizens of Halifax, Nova Scotia each year, plus many lighted trees throughout the area. 

Occasionally snow will cover the ground this month, which makes the trees look especially festive.  Other years, green grass still prevails.


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