Mark your calendars
Whether you’re from Boston or not, there are annual events and activities that define the city and the surrounding area. We have compiled a list of happenings that we believe are quintessentially Boston.
Some of these recommendations may be customary for seasoned Bostonians, while some ideas may come as a surprise. Either way, it’s time to take a look at what adventures, events, and outings to watch out for.
Cape Cod and the islands
For New England, it doesn’t get more “quintessential’’ than Cape Cod. If you’ve been to Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard, try a new activity when you return this summer.
Kayaking, bike rides, and simple beach lounging rank high on our lists..
Pictured is a street scene on one of the main tourists hubs, Circuit Avenue, in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard.
If you’re planning a trip, check out this GPS tour.
For more on the Cape and the islands, check out Boston.com’s guide.
Not ready to devote the time (or money) to a trip to the Cape? Spend time at Boston’s Harbor Islands.
Sullivan’s on Castle Island
Here’s a great sign of summer: When Sullivan’s in Southie starts serving its hot dog, fries, and ice cream.
The South Boston icon has been running for more than 60 years. Known for its hot dogs, the restaurant also serves breakfast items such as french toast sticks and breakfast sandwiches. Locals love visiting the spot for a quick bite and a scenic view.
A Boston.com correspondent joined the busy staff at Sullivan’s on a summer day. Read her account here.
Location: 2080 William J. Day Blvd., Boston
Bike, bike, bike!
It’s hard to wander around Boston and not spot a Hubway station, where people can rent bikes for a fee. In 2012, The company opened stations across Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. Take full use of the recently launched stations and ride the bike paths in Jamaica Plain or Somerville.
Pictured: The Hubway Station at Arlington and Boylston streets in Boston.
For Hubway locations, seasonal hours, and more, visit the Hubway site.
Welcome a flood of childhood memories by taking a ride on the Greenway Carousel. An updated version of this classic, Downtown Boston landmark is currently being constructed, with an opening date set for the end of August.
While you’re down there, take advantage of the many activities on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway between Faneuil Hall and the North End.
Dates: The new Carousel is set to debut on Aug. 31.
North End festivals
Most head to the North End for its cobblestone streets and authentic Italian food. This year, catch one of their many annual festivals that honor saints and that usually feature live music, street food, and a festive atmosphere.
Here is one pick: Check out the September procession for Santa Rosalia di Palermo, the patron saint of Palermo, Italy.
The society for Santa Rosalia di Palermo was first started in 1939 and hosts the annual procession for the saint in the North End.
This year’s event will begin on Sunday, Sept. 8.
Explore Boston’s neighborhoods
This year, get out of your neighborhood and explore someone else’s. People who frequent spots wth heavy foot traffic, such as Newbury Street or the South End’s Tremont Street should give Boston’s vibrant neighborhoods a chance. Head to Charlestown and hang at the local watering hole (one recommendation: Ironside Grill). Instead of heading to the waterfront, try Franklin Cafe or Local 149 in South Boston. Know Boston in and out? Give Union Square in Somerville a shot, home to two restaurants (Backbar and Casa B.) that made Boston Globe Magazine’s “Best of the New’’ list.
Pictured is Monument Avenue in Charlestown.
Need help figuring out which neighborhood you should spend time in? Take this quiz.
Hang out in the trendy Seaport, Kendall Square areas
It seems like almost every month, a new restaurant opens its doors in Southie’s waterfront (pictured). With its idyllic views of Boston waters and brand new buildings, it’s a welcome break from the crowded streets of Downtown Boston.
Another draw is the Institute of Contemporary Art’s “First Fridays,’’ an event on the first Friday of each month that features music, drinks, dancing, and lots of fun.
Walk a few blocks from the Seaport and check out the Fort Point area, another up-and-coming area that features speakeasy-style bars such as Drink and Lucky’s Lounge, and restaurants by renowned chefs such as Barara Lynch’s Sportello and Joanne Chang’s Flour.
If you need a break from Boston, check out Kendall Square in Cambridge, which is similarly developing in an astonishing speed. Visit popular restaurants such as West Bridge or Belly Wine Bar, or give a classic, such as the Cambridge Brewing Company another shot.
Only the brave can survive Sept. 1, the day (and weekend) when Boston is swarmed with students moving in and out of the city. For those who do make it through, Christmas comes early — Allston sidewalks are filled with unwanted items that become treasures for others. The unofficial holiday marks moving day in Boston, and the moving in and out of apartments results in sidewalks swarmed by furniture, light fixtures, tables, and more.
For more on Allston Christmas, read this poem.
Experiment at cocktail and craft beer bars
This one is for the grown-ups: Over the last few years, Boston has seen a huge spike in craft beer and cocktail bars. If you haven’t yet experienced cocktail bars such as Hawthorne (pictured) or craft beer bars such as Meadhall, or if you go and aren’t adventurous beyond a gin and tonic or an Allagash White, this is your year to tread into new territory. Try a martini with some ginger spice or a beer from a local brewery. It’s the easiest (and most fun) way to do something new this year.
Head of the Charles Regatta
Join 300,000 people as they cheer on 9,000 rowers on the Charles River during this annual competitive race, which lasts two days in October. The regatta is the world’s largest rowing competition.
Along with watching one of Boston’s most popular sporting events, enjoy food from food trucks and other vendors and take advantage of one of the last opportunities to enjoy a fall day before the winter season.
Date: Oct. 19-20. For more, visit the official website.
For tips on traveling and more, visit Boston.com’s “Head of the Charles 101’’ guide.
One day for Halloween? In Salem, celebrations last all month. They begin with a kick-off parade in early October and include a zombie walk, a pet (and human) costume contest, a Halloween ball, fairs, psychic readings, and of course, haunted houses. If you head to Watch City, don’t forget to strike a pose with TV show “Bewitched’’ star Elizabeth Montgomery.
Need more tips on where to go in Salem in October? Here are some tips.
Apple picking and leaf peeping
It’s nearly impossible to imagine fall in the area without thinking of the changing colors of fall or biting into a piece of apple pie. Although both apple picking and leaf peeping involve leaving Boston, it will be well worth the ride.
Apple picking: Fun for any age group, the fall tradition involves trekking out to a farm where people can pick fresh apples, taste some cider donuts, and maybe even go on some hay rides. Visit our apple picking guide for locations and recipes.
Leaf peeping: Head to Vermont or New Hampshire (before ski season hits) and take in the scenic colors of the season. Pictured is the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountain National Forest, N.H. Take the GPS tour of the White Mountains foliage. Take a look at the peak foliage map.
Go to a Celtics game
Gillette Stadium is fun to visit, but ticket prices and the cold weather, as well as the distance and small number of games each season, make catching a Patriots game difficult. During the fall season, it may be too cold to sit outdoors at Fenway. Instead, opt for the warmth of the Garden. Even if it’s without Pierce, KG, and Doc.
Don’t want to splurge on tickets? Head to the various bars around the Garden during a game and catch the excitement with fellow Celtics fans.
Visit Plimoth Plantation
When Thanksgiving comes around, don’t get too caught up in cooking a turkey dinner and remember to take advantage of the history surrounding us.
History will literally surround you at Plimoth Plantation, where visitors get to experience a demonstration of how colonists andWamponoag tribe members lived in the 1600s.
Pictured: The living exhibit is named after a Wampanoag warrior-counselor, Hobbamock, who lived near the Pilgrims in the 17th century. Directed by the leader, Massasoit, Hobbamock played a role as guide and ambassador to the colonists, while also keenly keeping a close eye on their new neighbors.
View the complete Plimoth Plantation gallery here.
Address: Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Ave., Plymouth
This is one notable destination with two significant dates: The Boston Common pond is known for both its opening as a watering hole in the spring and then its conversion to an ice skating rink in the winter. Both days mark yet another way to celebrate the changing of seasons in Boston.
Boston Common tree lighting ceremony
The Boston Common tree lighting ceremony first took place in 1942, when the city lit a 45-foot tree. A new tradition was born in 1971, when Nova Scotia began donating the tree as a symbol of thanks for Boston’s help during a fatal accidental explosion between two ships at the Halifax harbor.
Take part in the annual tradition, along with Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other notable guests and kick off the holiday season in Boston.
Date: Check the City of Boston’s official site at a later date. The event has not yet been scheduled.
Take a look at the Boston Common Tree Lighting through the years.
First Night Boston and Polar Plunge
The City of Boston puts on 12 hours of ice sculptures, live music, a parade, and fireworks on New Year’s Eve. The event attracts about a million people, with many family-friendly activities available throughout the day.
For more on First Night, visit the site.
After welcoming the New Year, those brave enough to jump in icey cold waters ring in the New Year by taking a plunge in waters in South Boston, Quincy, Marshfield, and more. The event takes place early morning on Jan. 1.
No, it’s not the season opener at Fenway. It’s not even opening day for the Red Sox. True Bostonians know it’s the day the Red Sox pack their trucks at Fenway Park and head down to Florida for spring training. It’s a day full of anticipation and hope, and a day many locals welcome with smiles. If you’re getting really antsy for the date to approach, keep this link to a countdown clock handy.
Truck Day is just the beginning. Gear up for Fenway’s season opener, where the park will transform itself to welcome thousands that visit each year.
Be sure to attend a game at Fenway, and head to one of the neighborhood spots off the beaten path.
Pictured: Suitcases were loaded and carried into a truck during moving day at Fenway Park.
Saint Patrick’s Day
Irish culture is alive and kicking in Boston, and in no place more than South Boston, known as Southie to locals. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie attracts 600,000 to 1 million specators every year, and is listed as the second largest parade in the country. After attending the parade, head to one of the many beer bars around Boston (or before the parade, why not?).
Sure, many major US towns host a marathon, but no one else has the Wellesley “Scream Tunnel,’’ where students and locals line up to give runners encouragement, and maybe even a kiss.
This day is a big spectator sport: Spend the day on the sidelines with friends and watch runners power through the streets of Hopkinton to Boston.
Date: The run takes place on Patriots Day, the third Monday of April.
We know it’s spring in Boston when swans are released into the lagoon of the Boston Public Garden. The Swan Boats were first launched in 1877 and have since been a time-honored tradition for more than 100 years.
Keep an eye for the launch date, and whether you’re local or not, make sure you spend time in one of the area’s most scenic spots.
Date: It varies every year and depends on the weather. Keep an eye for dates on the official website.
Mother’s Day Parade
Skip Mother’s Day brunch and do something new, and very Boston-specific: Every Mother’s Day, hundreds take to the Boston streets for the annual Duckling Day Parade, where families retrace the steps of the beloved characters from the classic children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings.’’
The annual event takes place in the Boston Public Garden.
Samantha “Sami” Norton, 5, of Boston, hopped off the lead duck, while her sister, Hannah, 7, stayed on a bit for the ride.
Date: Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014.
Attend a parade in one of Boston’s neighborhoods
Boston’s neighborhoods are bustling with pride, and they don’t hesitate to show their love for where they live at local events.
Catch the Dorchester Day Parade, which takes place every summer. The parade route is 3.2 miles.
Pictured is Will Droser, who wore a sticker labeling him the “parade guy” and walked at the start of the parade.
The Bunker Hill Day Parade in Charlestown commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was fought in 1775 during the Revolutionary War.
The 13th Annual Haitian-American Unity Parade is held in Mattapan each year and celebrates the culture of Haiti with food, dancing, and music.
Check back for 2014 dates.
Fourth of July
A city that is rich in history has to have a Fourth of July celebration with a bang, and Boston’s annual event doesn’t disappoint. Catch a show with the Boston Pops and other celebrities. The musical performances are followed by fireworks, so sit along the Charles River or find a roofdeck to watched the Boston skies illuminate.
If you want to escape the city on this holiday, give Marblehead a chance — the North Shore town has some of the best fireworks in the country, according to Coastal Living Magazine.