Patriots' Day, a multi-day festival in and around Boston honors the memory and meaning of the first battle of the American Revolution fought in the nearby then-villages of Menotomy (now Arlington), Lexington, and Concord on April 19, 1775.
If you're visiting Boston during April, you won't want to miss this top event, a truly unique Massachusetts State holiday.
Massachusetts officially observes the Patriots' Day holiday each year on the 3rd Monday in April, which also happens to be the day of the Boston Marathon (sometimes called the Patriots' Day Race).
However, festivals, celebrations, parades, reenactments, and other activities unfold throughout the entire 3-day weekend, as well as other times throughout April.
The most dramatic events include Paul Revere's midnight ride from Boston across the countryside, marches of local historic militias, and battles reenacted on Lexington Green, and Old North Bridge in Concord.
The Patriots' Day reenactments are local events, carried out each year by costumed members of historic militias portraying colonists and British soldiers as a commitment to keep history alive and pay tribute to those who fought for liberty almost 250 years ago. You may be surprised by how many locals attend - and how few tourists know about this wonderful annual ritual.
If you're visiting Boston during April, don't miss your chance to attend at least one of these special free reenactments. There's nothing else like them anywhere else in the world - because Boston and its surrounding towns and countryside is where the American Revolution began.
Top Photo: Reenactors portraying Colonial Militia at Minute Man National Historic Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts
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Patriots' Day Reenactments: What to Expect
You'll see 3 major types of Patriots Day reenactments:
- Battles, skirmishes, and the events leading up to them, such as Paul Revere's ride, the engagement between local militia and the British Regulars on Lexington Green, and the dramatic battle at North Bridge when the Colonists first fired at British soldiers
- Depictions of 18th century daily life, using actual historical buildings such as Paul Revere's house in Boston's North End and Hartwell Tavern in Minuteman National Historical Park in Lincoln
- Commemorations of those who participated in these important events leading up to American Independence
In addition, a number of demonstrations show you more about battle tactics in the Colonial period.
For example, hundreds of Colonial and British reenactors stage the "Bloody Angle Tactical Demonstration at Hartwell Tavern" along a half-mile stretch of Battle Road in Lincoln.
You'll see different types of muskets and other weapons in use, learn about their accuracy at 100 feet ("inaccuracy" to be more correct), and get a sense of what an actual battle might really have felt like to those waging it.
The reenactors - local men, women, and children of all ages - stay in the character of the person they represent.
They share lots of information with you during presentations about their daily routines, life in Colonial America, and their feelings about the British and the taxes they imposed.
You'll also find out interesting facts about Colonial Boston and the Massachusetts Bay State Colony. For example, when the Revolutionary war began in 1775, the average family here included 11 children. Sadly, not all of them lived past childhood.
Historical & Sightseeing Tours of Boston
More ways to explore and experience American history in Boston:
Fun Fact about Patriots Day
At least two other states commemorate Patriots Day:
- Maine observes Patriot's Day as a state holiday in recognition of the militias from Maine (which was part of Massachusetts back in 1775) that responded to the call to arms as the British army advanced toward Concord. Maine militias took part in the battles in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
- Wisconsin includes Patriots' Day as part of its 21 Special Observance Days which honor a wide range of American cultural heritage, including Lief Erickson, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, POWs-MIAs, September 11, and Bullying Awareness.
Patriots Day Hotels: Where to Stay near Reenactment Sites
Boston (near the North End)
- Battery Wharf Hotel - Find Rates
- Bostonian Boston Hotel - Find Best Rates
- Marriott Long Wharf - Find Best Rates
Concord / Lincoln / Lexington
Who Are the Patriots' Day Reenactors?
A variety of reenactor groups, with names like "First Foot Guards," "Lexington Minutemen and Lexington Training Band," "His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot," "Colonel Bailey's Second Massachusetts Regiment," "Lincoln Minutemen," and "Concord Independent Battery" participate in the Patriots' Day re-creations of historic events.
Many of these groups are local, while some come from other New England states, and even farther away.
In general, reenactor group members share a keen interest in Colonial and Revolutionary War history, and a commitment to preserving history through authenticity.
Although some of these groups have been active for a long time, many arose in the 1960s, when New England towns revived their long-dormant local militias and minute companies in preparation for the country's Bicentennial celebrations in 1976.
The reenactor groups began by staging mock battles, and then became fascinated by the history.
Even the Colonial uniforms and other clothing worn reenactors are authentic.
In the words of one reenactor:
"These are 'real' Colonial clothes, not 'costumes.' If you want your clothes to look right and fit right, you have to make them yourself . . . I made my own, by hand. I finally even learned how to do buttonholes - must have made 100 or more before I got it right. The trick is to use silk thread."
What Are the Best Patriots' Day Events for Visitors?
With so many reenactments taking place during Patriots' Day weekend, how do you decide which ones to attend?
Whatever you see will be a fascinating glimpse of an earlier time - but here are our recommendations (check the Patriots' Day schedule for times and availability (not all take place each year):
- Events at Paul Revere's House - especially interesting for children.
- Lantern-lighting ceremony in Old North Church commemorates the first in the chain of events leading to the Battle at Old North Bridge.
- Reenactment by the National Lancers, a Massachusetts Militia cavalry troop formed in 1836, of the start of Paul Revere's famous ride to Concord to warn Patriots such as Samuel Adams about the imminent arrival of British troops.
- Reenactment of the "skirmish" on Lexington Green where the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired
Lincoln - Minute Man National History Park
- Saturday reenactments at Hartwell Tavern - Tours and demonstrations by hundreds of reenactors - it's like being in a living history museum - great for kids and adults
- The Parker's Revenge reenactment - See how the Minute Men managed to ambush the British soldiers as they returned to Boston from Concord
- Reenactment of the Battle at Old North Bridge
More Things to Do in Boston in April
Lexington & Concord Revolutionary War Sites Tour
Want to see the place where the American Revolution began, as well as other important sites? On this Lexington & Concord Day Tour, you'll visit Lexington Green where the shot was fired during a "skirmish" between Colonial militias and the British troops.
You also get to explore other sites along "Battle Road" and the Minute Man National Historic Park and the Old North Bridge in Concord, where British troops met the wrath of Minutemen and local Militias who retaliated for those killed earlier in the day in Lexington.
In addition, you'll visit other places important to New England history, such as Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord where she wrote "Little Women," Walden Pond where Henry David Thoroeau wrote his famous work about living in the woods, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the final resting place of Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other early American luminaries.
- Returning visitors who have already see top Boston attractions and wants to explore beyond the city
- History buffs who want to visit the locations of these iconic Revolutionary War events
- First-time visitors who want to see all of these famous sites
Check out other fascinating tours related to the Revolutionary War in Boston
More Patriots Day Festival & Marathon Weekend Articles
- Patriots' Day schedule - Find dates/times for reenactments, parades, and other events throughout April
- The Old North Bridge - Find out what happened when shots rang out here - plus learn about other interesting sites to visit in Concord, Massachusetts
- Boston History - Not sure what happened or when it happened? Check our Boston history timeline
- Boston's Freedom Trail - A 2.5 mile walk through history
- Boston Marathon - Another BIG event on Patriots' Day Weekend
- Boston Events for April - More Fun Things to Do
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