Boston Marathon

Map: The best places to watch the Boston Marathon

From the starting line to the final stretch, here are the spots you should check out on Marathon Monday.

Fans cheer as runners pass Wellesley College during the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016. AP Photo/Steven Senne

Marathon Monday is a special day for the athletes and the spectators. Whether you’re cheering on a loved one or just want to have a good time, the 26.2-mile course has plenty of awesome places to catch the action.

There’s probably no single “best” place to watch the Boston Marathon. But in order to help readers make an informed decision about where to watch the race, we talked to Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) officials and polled readers for their expertise.

Ahead, read more about some of the best places to watch the Boston Marathon, and check out our interactive map as well.

Starting line

The elite women cross the Boston Marathon start line in Hopkinton in 2016. – AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

While you won’t get to see much of the race from the starting line, nowhere else on the course has a greater collection anticipation and possibility. If you’re going to watch the race from Hopkinton, be sure to get there early.


Pro tip: Drivers should park at Hopkinton State Park, then hop on the B.A.A. shuttle bus to the starting line.


The men’s elite runners just after the three-mile mark in Ashland in 2009. Ashland is the first place to get a good look at the elite racers ahead of the pack. – Mark Wilson/Globe Staff

If crowds aren’t your thing, Ashland is one of the easiest places to find a seat. The area is also a good place to watch the elite runners early in the race.

That said, it’s an almost one-mile walk to the course from the Ashland commuter rail stop, so if you’re looking to quickly travel down the course via rail, it may not be your best bet. While it won’t be crowded for spectators, it will be for racers, which also means it may be tough to spot your loved ones in the pack.


Spectators cheer runners on in downtown Framingham in 2014. – Bill Greene / Globe staff

Framingham draws large crowds of enthusiastic revelers, and the Framingham commuter rail stop is easily accessible to the route. Framingham’s train depot also ranks among the most historic spots to catch the race, according to a statement provided by B.A.A. communications director Kendra Butters.

Per Butters: “Similar to Ashland, the Framingham Train Depot is a great spot to watch athletes pass by, then jump on the inbound Commuter Rail to Boston!”


Spectators in Natick watch the elite runners in 2014. – Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

The closer you get to the finish line, the larger the crowds in each town hub. The crowds in Natick Center around the 10-mile mark are a fun, rollicking bunch, while the West Natick rail stop is quieter and more remote, and will let you stand out more.


“Natick is a great spot to watch because it is pretty flat and runners are still in a pretty good mood, coming off the downhills earlier in the race,” said reader Sarah, of Natick.


Fans cheer as runners pass Wellesley College in 2016. – AP Photo/Steven Senne

The Wellesley Square commuter rail stop drops you off in the center of town right next to the race. At just around the halfway point of the race, it’s a good place to send some encouragement before heading closer to the finish line. If you want to experience the famous Wellesley College scream tunnel, head about a mile west from the Wellesley Square stop.

According to reader Ed M., Wellesley is the top spot to catch the Boston Marathon not only because it’s near the halfway point, but because it’s “easy to park, [there’s] space to spread out, and places to eat.”

Newton/Heartbreak Hill

A runner taps a sign to celebrate climbing Heartbreak Hill during the 2016 Boston Marathon. – Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

If there’s one section of the course where racers need encouragement, it’s the Newton Hills, which begin around the 17-mile mark and end between miles 20 and 21, a bit before Boston College.

If you want to catch the start of the tough stretch, hop on the D branch of the Green Line and ride to the Woodland stop. Even better, if you walk a half mile to the east, you’ll find the Newton Fire Station, a great landmark to give runners a loud cheer of support as they start the hardest part of the course.

Boston College

Boston Marathon runners near Boston College and the M21 committee’s ‘The Heartbreak is Over’ archway, which celebrates the runners’ ascent of Heartbreak Hill. – Caitlin Cunningham/Boston College

If you’re committed to checking out a steeper portion of the hills, you can ride the D branch of the Green Line to Newton Centre and walk 12 minutes to Commonwealth Avenue, but the more spectator-friendly spot is off of the Boston College stop on the B branch.


Not only will runners be relieved to have made it through Heartbreak Hill, but this stretch is the first part of the course with a high concentration of restaurants.

Cleveland Circle

Orange slices were on offer to Boston Marathon runners on Beacon Street at Cleveland Circle in 2006. – John Blanding/Globe Staff

One advantage to Cleveland Circle and nearby stretches of Beacon Street is that the area is accessible from the B, C, and D branches of the Green Line. (The Cleveland Circle stop on the C branch brings you closest, but because fewer stops leave from downtown Boston, the D branch is recommended.) reader Eddie said that this area is his favorite, especially if you can find a spot at the popular restaurant The Abbey.

“We can watch the leaders on TV, then follow friends on the app and go out to the corner to cheer them when they get close,” Eddie said. “If you can get an outdoor seat at the Abbey, it’s all good.”

Just down the street is Washington Square Tavern, a Marathon Monday favorite of reader Mark V.

“Gerry Finnegan throws a party like no other at Mile 23,” Mark said. “The Tavern hosts outdoor grilling and a truly fun all-day affair.”

Kenmore Square

Spectators watch runners in Kenmore Square during the 2009 Boston Marathon. – oon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Runners approaching Kenmore Square can see the Citgo sign looming larger, beckoning them forward. Once they’re there, the spirit from fans either heading to or departing from the Red Sox game makes Kenmore one big party.

“As a two-time finisher of the race, it was the best to see the rowdy crowds and familiar faces alike to power me to Boylston,” said reader Amy. “It’s lively post-Sox game, and there’s a lot of restaurants/outdoor spaces to gather.”

Boylston Street

Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi turns onto Boylston Street from Hereford Street en route to winning the men’s race at the 2014 Boston Marathon. – Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

If you’re set on watching the race’s final stretch along Boylston Street, be prepared for big crowds. If you can handle the crowds, it’s worth experiencing the sheer emotion of thousands of runners completing this incredible athletic feat at least once.


Also, don’t be fooled by your GPS: While the Copley Green Line stop would normally bring you right to the finish line, it’s closed on race day, meaning you should ride to the Hynes stop.


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