Boston Discovery Guide's recommendations for the 13 best things to do in Boston in October share a common theme: Soak in the gorgeous October weather, enjoy gold and crimson fall foliage, and join the seasonal celebrations and festivals happening in Boston this month.
Boston's huge Columbus Day Parade, art festivals and open studios, the world-famous Head of the Charles Regatta, interesting walking tours, and New England Patriots football games give you plenty of great excuses to be outside.
This year, 2021, there's a potential bonus: the Boston Marathon, which couldn't take place as usual in April due to the pandemic, has been rescheduled for Columbus Day Weekend.
And don't forget Halloween events in Boston and nearby Salem all month!
Marching through Boston's North End neighborhood in odd-numbered years (2021, 2023, 2025) and East Boston during even-numbered years (2022, 2024, 2026), the Columbus Day Parade celebrates the city's Italian heritage, the armed forces and their contributions to American freedom, and implicitly, the voyages and explorations made by Christopher Columbus.
This 2-hour parade attracts more people from the neighborhood than tourists, and chatting with all the neighbors and other groups while watching the bands, military units and honorary militias, floats, performers, clowns, and even antique cars march by adds to the fun.
Be sure to: Go for dinner in one of the mouth-watering North End or East Boston Italian restaurants after the parade:
North End - You'll find dozens of great choices along and near Hanover and Salem Streets - basically, you'll be happy with whatever you choose if you like Italian cuisine; if not, head to Neptune Oyster (63 Salem St)
East Boston - Head to Santarpio's Pizza (113 Chelsea St or Belle Isle Seafood (1267 Saratoga St); you'll also find lots of good Central American restaurants along Bennington Street.
Bonus Event on Columbus Day Weekend: The Boston Marathon 2021
Boston Marathon runners not far from Heartbreak Hill
The Boston Marathon - one of the city's biggest events of the year, and also known as the "Patriots Day Race" - features about 31,500 elite runners from around the world competing in a route made difficult by rolling terrain and features such as "Heartbreak Hill." Although this hugely popular event normally takes place in April, it has been rescheduled this year for Monday, October 11 - stay tuned for more details!
With its many historic graveyards, ghost stories, and grisly murders (think Jack the Ripper), not to speak of millions of pumpkins from the surrounding New England countryside, Boston revels in Halloween, with celebrations and special events going on all month. If you're visiting, not-to-be-missed events include the famous Ghosts and Gravestones tours, ImprovBoston's very funny and totally outrageous GoreFest production, and if you have time, a day trip to Salem, the witch capital of the world.
Sculls (racing boats) powered by rowers ply the Charles River almost year-round - truly a quintessential Boston sight.
But when over 11,000 local and elite rowers from around the world gather for the huge Head of the Charles Regatta in late October, they fill the river with an exciting spectacle that attracts huge crowds along the banks and looking down from the bridges. Best of all, the Regatta gives you the perfect excuse to be outdoors enjoying fall foliage during the most beautiful season of the year.
Find a great viewing spot from either the Cambridge or Boston side of the river or one of the bridges, and enjoy the races!
Combine walking around and viewing Boston's fall foliage with seeing interesting parts of the city from an "insider" perspective by taking a walking tour. Here are 3 excellent choices:
Boston Wine Tasting and Walking Tour - You'll stroll around one of Boston's iconic neighborhoods - the North End, South End, Back Bay, or Harvard Square - while your guide leads you to 3 award-winning restaurants where you'll sip up to 6 different wines while your guide shares information about Boston's culinary scene, wine pairings, and other tips. Boston in October doesn't get much better than this! Find out more and book your tour now
Boston Food & Beverage Tours - Sample Boston food and beverage favorites while you tour iconic neighborhoods:
7. Indulge Your Passion for Sports
For Boston sports fans, October offers Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots games. With TD Garden right in the middle of the city, getting to a game couldn't be easier. Even though Gillette Stadium requires a little more time to reach, you can easily get there and back on the special "Patriot Train" departing from North Station.
Boston Public Market, located at 100 Hanover Street near the Rose Kennedy Greenway and City Hall Plaza, showcases locally produced food from 40 or so New England farmers, fishers, and specialty bakers, coffee bean roasters, and candy makers and is always a great place to pick up prepared food for an impromptu picnic or ingredients for dinner at home.
In October, giant pumpkins steal the show. Stop by to admire the biggest and the best - and then browse the booths for a tasty snack.
Open Studios will be a virtual event this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Online festivities will include live artist talks and discussions, studio tours, workshops and demonstrations, performances, readings, docent tours, and LOTS of art. Check here at the event website for details:
The Fort Point Arts Community, located next to the Fort Point Channel, dividing Downtown Boston from the South Boston Waterfront, has flourished since the first artist pioneers arrived in the 1970s to convert abandoned factories to art studios and galleries. More than 300 artists now live and work there, and on one special weekend in October and another in May, open their studios to the public in one of the city's biggest art events.
Fort Point Open Studios provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the many diverse studios, talk with the artists, and immerse yourself in this world of art. It's also a great excuse to explore more of the rapidly developing South Boston Waterfront.
By early October, Boston's many trees begin to show tinges of gold and crimson and by the end of the month, breathtaking fall foliage can be seen throughout the city.
October is the easiest time of the year to take stunning photos. You'll see plenty of tourists and locals walking around the city with cameras in hand.
If you have to pick just one spot for your foliage viewing/photographing, head to the Lagoon in Boston's Public Garden. With giant weeping willow trees and bright-colored maples of many species reflecting in the water, you can take stunning photos from many different perspectives.
Be sure to check the views from the middle of the suspension bridge - or stand on the shore and make it the focal point of your photos. As an added benefit, Boston's famed swans will still be in residence for most of the month.
In just another month, October's relatively warm, sunny days will be just a memory - so go outdoors and soak up the sunshine now - masked, of course!
Patio dining at Boston restaurants - You can still comfortably dine outdoors this month, especially if you're wearing a sweater
Picnic on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Need something to eat? Walk over to the Boston Public Market, where you'll find plenty of tasty take-out. More about the Greenway
Explore a neighborhood - Beacon Hill, across from Boston Common and the Public Garden offers plenty of breathtaking 18th and 19th century architecture.
Relax on the Esplanade - Boston's Esplanade along the Charles River offers spectacular scenery from wharfs floating just above the water -
Find a chair, relax, and enjoy fall foliage along the shore. More about the Esplanade
13. Enjoy a Show in Boston's Lively Theatre District
Boston's vibrant theater scene includes more than a dozen major performance venues in the Downtown Theatre District. From Broadway hits to avant-garde experimental theatre, you'll find performances all year but October is usually an especially good month to find exciting shows, musicals, and dance.