Want to know where to see the most spectacular Christmas lights in Boston? Our festive Christmas tree lighting ceremonies are the place to start.
Boston's holiday lighting ceremonies begin in late November and continue into early December. By the time the last lights go on, the city sparkles with glowing lights.
Typically, the most festive ceremonies feature entertainment, appearances by Santa, fun activities for kids, and perhaps refreshments and singing traditional and popular holiday songs to celebrate the season.
In fact, they're sort of like community parties where everyone shares the magical moment when thousands of beautiful sparkling lights suddenly brighten the winter darkness.
By the time the last lighting event takes place, holiday lights glow across the city, covering not only the largest Christmas trees but also hundreds of trees in Boston Common, the Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square, Prudential Center, the North End, Downtown Crossing, and along the Seaport waterfront.
From the moment the first lights turn on in late November, walking around the city at night to see the sparkling displays and other holiday decorations becomes a favorite winter evening activity. Don't pass up the chance to do this!
- Where to see Boston's 8 biggest Christmas tree lighting ceremonies: Schedule & locations
- More holiday lights in Boston
- Best Boston neighborhoods for seeing lavish holiday decorations
Top Photo: Lighted Christmas Tree from Nova Scotia on Boston Common
Boston's 8 Biggest & Most Festive Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies
These are Boston's most elaborate holiday lighting celebrations and parties, with lots of family-friendly activities in addition to the main event.
These festivities include Columbus Park, the beautiful Christmast Tree given by the people of Nova Scotia in Boston Common, the fantastic Blink! light and music show at Faneuil Marketplace, tree lighting and other gala activities in Copley Square, and more.
All of these events are free admission.
1. Annual Lighting of the Columbus Park Trellis - 2021
The Mayor turns on the 50,000 glowing blue and white LED lights along the 260 foot trellis and 14 nearby trees on Monday, November 22, 5 pm in Christopher Columbus Park (110 Atlantic Ave), transforming the waterfront park into a magical light garden through the holiday season. There's no decision yet if the ceremony this year will include include the traditional events: music, entertainment, and refreshments - but stay tuned!
More to do: Don't miss this chance to have dinner in the North End! You'll find most restaurants located along Salem and Hanover Streets.
2. Macy's Christmas Tree Lighting & Christmas Windows Unveiled
Friday, November 26, 5pm-7pm - Macy's (450 Washington Street) lights up Boston's Downtown Crossing this year on Black Friday when the festive evergreen trees on the Summer Street side of the store light up and the store's famous holiday window displays are unveiled. Look for Santa and his Elves, as well as a special performance by singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield, the Tufts Beelzebubs, and Urban Nutcracker. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021)
At 2pm-4pm prior to the Christmas tree lighting, stop by Macy's Children's Department with your family for face painting, caroling, and a visit with St. Nick.
More to do: Shop at Macy's, of course! Explore all the new shops around Downtown Crossing, and then head to one of the many nearby Theatre District restaurants for dinner or take in a show such as Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker.
3. Massachusetts State House Tree Lighting
A giant Christmas tree in the Rotunda lights up in the annual tree lighting event ceremony at 5pm on Tuesday, November 23, followed by an open house and visit from Santa in Doric Hall. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.) This marks the official kick-off of the holiday season in Massachusetts.
More to do: Before the ceremony, explore the special treasures in the State House. After the tree is lit, walk across Beacon Street to Boston Common, rent skates, and take a twirl around the Frog Pond ice rink.
4. Copley Square Tree Lighting
Monday, November 29, 5pm-6pm - Wreaths with red bows decorate Copley Square, and the Old South Church bell tolls when the lights on the Copley Square tree go on - look for appearances by Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty, plus live music by local groups including the Boston Pops Brass Quintet. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
Prior to the lighting, the Boston Public Library hosts a candy cane tea with the hanging of Christmas wreaths, the lighting of the Menorah, and the smell of cookies baking in the oven from 3-5pm. This wonderful event is free, but due to its popularity, tickets will be distributed by raffle again this year.
More to do: Get a head start on your holiday shopping - check out the national-brand stores along Boylston Street or explore boutiques and galleries on nearby Newbury Street.
5. Faneuil Marketplace: Giant Christmas Trees and Blink! Light Show
By tradition, the "Big Tree" at Faneuil Hall Marketplace is the tallest decorated tree in the Northeast. The tree goes up and lights turn on after Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 30 this year. Faneuil Marketplace's official tree lighting ceremony, when sparkling holiday lights (30,000 of them, plus 1,000 strobes) on all trees in the Marketplace go takes place during a "Holiday Spectacular" ceremony featuring live musical performances at 7:30pm. CBS Boston WBZ-TV broadcasts the event at 7:30pm. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
November 30 - January 1 - The Marketplace lights up with its annual Blink! music and light show featuring 7 songs this year. The show runs daily on the half-hour from 4:30pm-10pm.
More to do nearby: Get all your holiday shopping done and enjoy the holiday performers at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Relax at one of the historic taverns along nearby Union Street. Walk over to nearby Columbus Park and see the spectacular lighted trellis.
6. Boston Common Holiday Tree Lighting & Frog Pond Skating Spectacular
Thursday, December 2, at 7pm (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
This exciting event takes place near the Visitors Information Center on Tremont St and stars the special tree sent as a gift from Nova Scotia (shown in photo at top of page). The Mayor will be joined by Santa and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Refreshments, music, and entertainment will be provided by local groups.
Lights on the tree - about 7,000 of them - go on at about 7:55 pm, followed by lights on 80+ other trees throughout the Common and the Public Garden. When the weather is reasonably good, about 25,000 spectators turn out for this festive event. When the Mayor turns on the lights, the Boston holiday season officially begins!
Before the lighting event, a free ice-skating show featuring Theatre on Ice of Boston, national and international competitive skaters, and Team Excel Synchronized takes place at Frog Pond from 5pm-6pm.
7. Boston's Public Garden
Thursday, December 2, about 7:56 pm. Right after the brilliantly colored lights on Boston Common go on, so do the white holiday lights covering the bridge over the Lagoon and many of the Public Garden's formally-sheared evergreens, giving an ethereal snowball effect across the entire park. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
Don't miss the experience of walking through the Garden in the evening after the lights transform it into an enchanting wonderland.
8. Light Up Seaport
Friday, December 3, 5pm - 9pm - Gather on Seaport Common (85 Northern Ave) for live music, treats from nearby restaurants, and various give-aways, and then see the Christmas tree lighting. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
Stop by District Hall (75 Northern Ave) for kids' activities, a photo exhibit, and a cash bar for adults.
9. Tree Celebration in the North End
Friday, December 3, 6pm - 9pm - Celebrate the season at the North End's lighted Christmas tree at the corner of Hanover and North Streets, meet Santa, and enjoy hot chocolate and caroling. Local North End students will be having their annual bake sale (all proceeds benefit the school), so it's a great opportunity to stock up on holiday treats. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
The North End's Holiday stroll takes place on this same evening - so stop by and enjoy that too!
10. Annual Tree Lighting at the USS Constitution
Saturday, December 4, 4:30pm-5:30pm - Join the USS Constitution crew in the Navy Shipyard in Charlestown for the USS Constitution's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and enjoy holiday music, free hot chocolate and cookies, and a visit by Santa and his merry Elves. (Date, time, details to be confirmed for 2021.)
You can begin boarding the ship at 3:45pm, and are also invited to observe evening colors at sundown with the crew as the ship fires her saluting battery at 4:12pm.
More Fun Ways to See Boston
Need a Boston Hotel or Apartment during the Holidays?
If you're planning to visit Boston in November or December to see a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, go holiday shopping, or just enjoy the festive decorations and good cheer filling the city at this time of the year, use this hotel map to find a great place to stay. Just enter your dates to see what's available:
More Holiday Tree Lighting Events in December
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Thursday, November 18, 8:30pm - Thousands of sparkling gold lights transform this tree-filled parkway into an enchanting forest.
31 Nights of Lights
From December 1 through New Year's Eve on December 31, Prudential Tower displays lights of a different color each night to bring awareness to non-profit organizations.
It's one of Boston's special holiday traditions!
Best Neighborhoods for Seeing Holiday Decorations in Boston
Want to see beautiful holiday decorations, lovely evergreen wreaths on doors, and creative displays of Christmas lights, glowing candles, and perhaps even an animated reindeer or two?
Stroll around these historic neighborhoods in central Boston, and don't be surprised in you happen upon groups of carolers along the way:
Beacon Hill - Start on Charles Street (pop into Tatte for hot chocolate and decorated Christmas cookies), and then explore any (or all) of the sidestreets. If you're hungry, 75 Chestnut (at, literally, 75 Chestnut Street) usually has plenty of cheery holiday decorations as well as very good food. More about Beacon Hill
Back Bay - You're likely to spot gorgeous decorations on the Victorian mansions along Commonwealth Ave and Marlborough Street - but don't skip the dazzling store windows on Newbury and Boylston Streets.
The South End - Anywhere in this neighborhood of gorgeous restored brownstones is a good bet - so wander around enjoying the sights, and then treat yourself to dinner and holiday cheer at one of the many top restaurants and bistros.
Planning Ahead for the Holiday Season?
The schedule for Boston's Christmas tree lighting ceremonies doesn't usually get finalized until around mid-October each year.
If you want to plan ahead to attend one or more of these ceremonies before the final schedule is available, here's a tip: ceremonies usually take place on the same day of the week from one year to the next, so you can use the previous year's date to guess the date for the next year with reasonable accuracy.
However ... keep in mind, there are no guarantees, even once dates are set.
So please note: Dates and times for tree lighting ceremonies are always subject to change and even last-minute cancellations, particularly if we get hit by extreme weather (ie, nor'easters, blizzards, etc.). Please verify dates and times close to the events.
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Need a Boston Hotel or Apartment?
Use this handy map from Booking.com to find the perfect place to stay. Just enter your dates to find what's available, see the best rates, and make your reservations.