1. Holiday Pop-Up Bar
We love festive holiday drinks at Ye Olde Tavern Tours! If you do too, we might see you at a Miracle pop-up bar around Massachusetts. This popular event started in NYC and now spreads holiday cheer worldwide, including the Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge, Mystic Station in Malden, and the Citizen in Worcester. Given Boston’s history as a major rum producer, we recommend the “Bad Santa,” a rum-based cocktail with citrus, spices, and coconut! Open the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas.
2. Boston Common Tree Lighting
Boston is not short on holiday cheer when it comes to lighting up the city. If you want to see one of the biggest tree lighting ceremonies in action, head to the Visitor’s Information Center on Boston Common on Thursday, December 5th from 6-9pm. There will be refreshments, music, and (of course) Santa until the lights start coming on around 7:55pm. Over 80 trees throughout the Common and Public Garden will be lit up.
Also, while you’re in the area check out the historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill. Quaint Charles Street will close down to cars from 6-9pm. You can get a start on your holiday shopping and enjoy the carolers!
3. Ice Skating on Frog Pond
The Boston Common gets festive during the day time too – check out the frog pond for some ice skating! Open at 10am every day over the winter (except some holidays), adults skate for $6 and children (under 58 inches) get in free. You can also rent skates and skating aids.
4. Boston Beers + History
Start the holiday season off right with Ye Olde Tavern Tours! We’ll take you down the Freedom Trail, serve up some New England winter beers, and teach you about Boston’s history, including an epic snowball fight that ended in the…you’ll have to join us to find out!
5. Santa Speedo Run
If a Turkey Trot sounds like a bit much for you (a whole 5K?!), we have the perfect holiday training regimen--the Santa Speedo Run! On Saturday, December 14, join a group of runners/drinkers on a one-mile run through Back Bay, which starts and ends with libations. One minor detail: Most of the runners will only be wearing speedos and Santa hats! While the costume isn’t necessary, they do recommend dressing in holiday cheer and helping out the Play Ball! Charity, which you can do as a spectator as well.
6. SoWa Holiday Weekend
We love the South End's SoWa market (short for South of Washington St.) on any Sunday, but it’s especially festive during the holidays. It will be open in the evening on Friday, December 6 and all day December 7 and 8 for a special holiday weekend. It’s always full of art, shops, and food, but to get into the holiday spirit there will be ice sculptures, handmade gifts, and holiday DIY workshops as well!
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the second oldest graveyard in Boston. It was established in 1659 in the North End. Named after shoemaker William Copp, the burying ground has many tombs of Boston’s less-affluent craftsmen and artisans. Here are some highlights to check out when you visit, perhaps as part of a day in the North End!
1. Daniel Malcolm lived in the North End and was a member of the Sons of Liberty. He evaded paying taxes during the buildup to the Revolutionary War, but he didn’t get to see American independence, as he died in 1769. When the British soldiers occupied Boston, they’d often hang out at Copp’s Hill and use Malcolm’s tomb for target practice!
2. Puritan ministers Cotton and Increase Mather are also buried at Copp’s Hill. You may know them for their fiery role in the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century.
3. Robert Newman was a sexton at the Old North Church. He helped hang the lanterns during Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride: “One if by land, two if by sea…” The sea in Longfellow’s 1861 poem, by the way, referred to the Charles River, which separates Boston from Charlestown. The British placed cannons on Copp’s Hill during the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place in Charlestown in 1775, because it was high ground.
4. You’ll also find the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Edmund Hartt, who was the ship’s master carpenter, is buried at Copp’s Hill.
5. The animal life at Copp's Hill is amazing. On several occasions we've seen a black cat roaming through and bunnies (bunnies!) hiding over in the bushes by Malcolm's grave (#1 on this list).
One of our favorite buildings in Boston, the Old State House, currently has an exhibit about John Hancock's home called "Through the Keyhole." Hancock's uncle built a mansion on the top of Beacon Hill that John later inherited. Before the house was leveled in 1863, Hancock's front door and several items from inside the home were saved and are part of the current display. The North Bennet Street School in Boston recreated the striking doorway.
We recommend visiting the exhibit and then joining one of our tours to find out about John Hancock's impact on revolutionary Boston!
Given its rebellious and revolutionary history, Boston is THE place to celebrate Independence Day! And because revolutionary history is what we do best, we have the perfect recommendations to help you make the most of the holiday. Follow the schedule below for a full day of celebration or pick what fits with your BBQ and beer-drinking plans.
9-10am: Flag-Raising Ceremony and Parade to Granary Burying Ground
Grab your coffee to go and join other Independence Day celebrators at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. The Mayor will give some opening remarks to kick off a parade toward Granary Burying Ground, where city officials will lay wreaths on the graves of those who helped launch the American Revolution, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence – Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine.
10-10:30am: Reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House
Continue on the parade route to assemble in front of the Old State House for a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. But the first time it was read in Boston, it was broadcast from the very balcony you’ll see it read from today. Abigail Adams attended the reading and wrote, "Great attention was given to every word...and then three cheers."
10:30am-1pm: USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise
The USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides,” is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Launching from its home in Charlestown Naval Yard at 10:30am, the ship will head out to Castle Island to fire a 21-gun salute at 12pm. You can watch the ship come and go from much of Boston Harbor, but local sailing groups and boat companies also offer tickets to ride alongside Old Ironsides on her annual expedition.
8-11pm: Boston Pops Firework Spectacular on the Esplanade
The city’s most famous Fourth of July event takes place at the half shell, along the Esplanade and Charles River. There will be crowds, so stake out a spot anywhere along the Esplanade throughout the day. The concert starts at 8pm and the fireworks fly from 10:30-11pm. You can see the fireworks from most places downtown with a view of the Charles River. This year’s guest performers include Queen Latifah and Arlo Guthrie.
Not a fan of big crowds? Celebrate a day early! Join us for a tour on July 3 at 2pm to learn some revolutionary history and drink local craft beer. Afterwards grab some dinner and head to the Esplanade. The Boston Pops have a full dress rehearsal (without the fireworks) from 8-10pm that’s much less crowded.