Memorial Day Activities for Boston Visitors - 2021
Ceremonies & Fun Things to Do on Memorial Day Weekend in Boston
Memorial Day falls on May 31 in 2021 and marks the unofficial beginning of summer in Boston.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the safety precautions and closure still in place, many of the usual activities won't be happening this year. Boston Calling was cancelled, the Red Sox games are postponed to July 17, and won't be in place.
Patio dining at local restaurants, warm weather, and lots to do including the huge Boston Calling music festival, Red Sox games, and the Garden of Flags on Boston Common make Memorial Day Weekend a perfect time to visit.
Many Boston locals head to Cape Cod, the Vineyard, or the New Hampshire mountains for the long weekend.
So for Boston visitors, that means attractive hotel rates, restaurant reservations, show and cruise tickets, and even Red Sox tickets will be easier to get than usual.
You'll also find lots of fun activities, holiday sales, and free events.
Here are 12 suggestions for Memorial Day ceremonies, events, plus fun things to do in Boston during this first long summer weekend.
Top photo: Garden of Flags on Boston Common on Memorial Day Weekend
1. Massachusetts Military Heroes Garden of Flags, Memorial Day Services, Concerts
Memorial Day honors those who died in wars defending our country and our freedom.
Every year, the Massachusetts Military Heroes organization plants a Garden of Flags - 37,000 of them - in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common to commemorate each of the Massachusetts service members who have given their lives to defend the United States and our freedom since the Revolutionary War.
Flags will be put in place on Wednesday, May 26 starting at 1pm and will remain through sundown on Monday, May 31. A name-reading ceremony to honor Massachusetts service members killed since 9/11/2001 will be held in front of the flag display on the Common on Thursday, May 27 at 10:30am. (dates/times to be confirmed)
Annual Memorial Day services will be held on Saturday, May 29, 11am at the Veterans Memorial Park in the Back Bay Fens in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. Veterans Memorial Park (sometimes called the Sergeant Charles Andrew MacGillivary Memorial to honor a local hero), a tranquil green area with monuments commemorating those who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, can be found near the Kelleher Rose Gardens. (dates/times to be confirmed)
At Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston's North End, Prince Hall Freemasons and the Low Twelve Masonic Riders Association conduct the solemn Prince Hall Freemasons Memorial Service near Hall's grave, an annual tradition siince 1908. Prince Hall (1735-1807) was a leader in Boston's free black community and founded "Black Freemasonry" in the U.S., known today as Prince Hall Freemasonry, after being rejected for membership in the all-white Boston St. John's Lodge. He served as Grand Master of the African Grand Lodge, advocated for the education of Black children, and was one of America's first abolitionists. Unlike most of the thousands of African Americans who lived in the North End during the colonial and post-colonial period who are buried here in unmarked graves, Prince Hall is buried in a marked grave bearing his name on the tombstone. A nearby sign explains his important contributions to American history.
2. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park & More Memorial Day Weekend Entertainment - 2021
With the Boston Red Sox playing the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park, the popular 3-day Boston Calling Music Festival underway at Harvard Stadium, and other events at Boston theaters and concert venues, there are plenty of events going on over Memorial Day weekend to keep you entertained!
Plan your weekend and get your tickets now!
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Boston Calling, the popular 3-day indie and pop rock music festival that takes place over Memorial Day Weekend, has been cancelled again due to the pandemic - but returns to the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston in 2022 bigger and better than ever.
Headliners Foo Fighters and Rage against the Machine will take center stage in 2022, along with a third headliner to be announced later.
Look for three music stages, a comedy stage, and more music than ever from over 60 groups, 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.
If you love to shop, don't miss Boston's Memorial Day Weekend deals - you can easily save enough to pay for your weekend in a nice hotel. Because Boston's hot weather really only lasts for about 2 months, summer things get put on deep discount sale early - yes, by this weekend!
5. Free Admission at Museum of Fine Arts & ICA Boston on Memorial Day
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts offers you free admission on Memorial Day (Monday) from 10am - 4:45.
Lots of special family activities will be on display, as well as plenty of special exhibits, including a quilt display, the last few days of a popular Impressionism exhibition, and an exciting display of 60 contemporary Latin American works.
If you decide to visit on another day, remember that you can get free admission when you have either a GoBoston or a Boston CityPASS discount card.
6. Explore Boston - Take a Walking Tour
Boston by Foot, a non-profit organization, features a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of 200+ volunteer guides who offer some of the most interesting walking tours in town at very reasonable prices - tickets generally run about $8-$20.
Tours on Memorial Day typically include walks around the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, the Victorian Back Bay neighborhood, and along the Freedom Trail. No reservations necessary; pay your guide in cash when you arrive at the meet-up point.
Most Boston theaters are closed on Mondays - but if you're coming to Boston for Memorial Day weekend, you'll find plenty of shows and performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
For free entertainment, head to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where Street Performers will be out in force from Saturday through Monday. Mimes, jugglers, puppeteers, musicians, magicians, and comedians will mesmerize you with their talents.
Enjoy your Boston performance or show experience to the fullest when you stay in one of the nearby Theatre District hotels, such as the fun and affordable Moxy, where theater lights and a food truck in the lobby pay homage to the neighborhood:
With so many Bostonians (in other words, crazy Boston drivers) out of town, Memorial Day weekend presents a great opportunity to explore Boston by bike safely. Join a group tour - offerings typically include tours of the Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay.
You'll have to go offshore to find Boston's largest park: the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area.
Although the park includes 32 island and 2 peninsulas, only a few of the islands are open to the public and accessible by ferry - but they provide plenty of recreation, places to picnic, and spectacular scenery. Best of all, you can get to the closest one in only 15 minutes, and it's like being in a different world.
Brunch Cruise - Savor a delicious 3-course brunch on this relaxing sightseeing cruise around Boston Harbor
Sunday Evening Jazz Cruise - Groove to live jazz as you watch the ever-changing sunset colors as the sun sets behind Boston's city skyline
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!
12. Visit America's First Garden Cemetery
Although Memorial Day started as a remembrance of those who died in military service, it is also an occasion for remembering others who have departed, and one of the most beautiful spots in the Boston area for doing this is Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Flowering trees and flowers, exquisite statuary and sculptures, and a gently rolling landscape complete with ponds and resident ducks fill the 175 beautifully landscaped acres.
Directions to Mount Auburn Cemetery (580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge) by public transportation: From Boston, take the Red Line to Harvard Square. At the station, take either the Watertown Square or Waverley Square trolley (#71 or #73). Get off on Mount Auburn Street at Aberdeen Avenue. Mount Auburn is across the street - you'll see the entrance gate. Cross Mount Auburn at the light. Free admission.