Christmas Sights and Doin's in Boston
November 21, 2015 5:43 AM   Subscribe

My family will be joining me in the Boston area for Christmas this year, for the first time, for only a few days surrounding the 25th. If we were in NYC, near where I grew up, I'd know exactly what to do - see the windows, Rockefeller Ctr, St. Patrick's, the Grand Central train show...but I don't know what the Boston equivalents of these sightseeing traditions are. One caveat: Boston seems big on performing arts events for the holidays, and we probably aren't going to be able to coordinate schedules for ticketed events. I'm looking for things you can just drop in to.

I've found out about Blink! at Faneuil Hall and I've heard about the Jordan's Furniture extravaganza, but that's about all I know. THanks for your suggestions!
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Tell them the story of the annual Christmas tree from Nova Scotia.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:56 AM on November 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

From this list of things to do:

"Walk around Beacon Hill on almost any evening as Christmas draws near, and you're likely to hear a caroling party as they wind their way around the narrow streets, carrying candles and spreading holiday cheer."
posted by Right On Red at 6:13 AM on November 21, 2015

Black Nativity is the longest running production of Langston Hughes' song-play and you should to still be able to get tickets.

Ice skating at Frog Pond on the Boston Common?

Jose Mateo's Nutcracker is a great alternative to the Boston Ballet production.

If the weather is good, walking through the Common, up Newbury Street or down to Faneuil Hall and to the Aquarium area, then through the North End are favorite go-tos when my family comes to visit.

Walking around Harvard Square is fun, too.
posted by kinetic at 6:16 AM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

On xmas eve about 7pm there's a family that does a public bell ringing in Louisberg square on Beacon hill. It's pretty small and there is no amplification or really any organization, just one family that's been there for generations stepping out on their porch and doing a bell ringing of holiday songs. Don't expect to see the Secretary of State, his house is on the other side of the square.
posted by sammyo at 6:45 AM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Mayor's Holiday Special includes a list (under "Festivities") of a lot of the events in the Boston area surrounding the holidays.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:16 AM on November 21, 2015

Are there kids involved? Come to my neck of the woods! Stoneham Zoo has lights.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2015

Response by poster: I've been to Black Nativity and loved it, but just in case anyone still comes across it, I'm looking for suggestions for non-ticketed events.
posted by Miko at 2:56 PM on November 21, 2015

Unfortunately most of the things I know about are ticketed, other than various holiday markets.
posted by canine epigram at 5:20 PM on November 21, 2015

Response by poster: If there are markets that are ongoing through Christmas week, that would be awesome to hear about.

It's really interesting how much more "drop-in/stroll-around" ongoing stuff NYC has for the season, while Boston really emphasizes scheduled events as the big holiday rituals.
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2015

The Glass Flowers at Harvard is one of the singularly most impressive single-topic exhibitions I've been to...links here for the museum....they are open near xmas.
posted by lalochezia at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks lalochezia. I live nearby here so I do have a good knowledge of what the museums have to offer (and agree the flowers are awesome!). I was just hoping there were more specifically seasonal holiday markets, light or miniatures displays, ongoing/regular events, special talks/tours/daily concerts, etc. I guess it's just not really Boston's thing.
posted by Miko at 1:12 PM on November 22, 2015

BostInno does a couple of weekly roundups of things to do each week, one focusing on Monday-Thursday and the other the weekend. I receive their daily email, so I don't need to remember to check their What to Do This Week page.

If you haven't already, I'd check out the City of Boston's calendar of events: It includes everything from fun stuff to city business stuff, so you'll definitely want to narrow down that search field.

I think Boston offers equivalents to the NYC attractions you mentioned, just on a smaller scale. For example, while Boston Common with its lights and Frog Pond isn't Rockerfeller Center, it still has decorations, skating, & plenty of holiday cheer. It just isn't as famous or grandiose as New York. There are plenty of gorgeous churches throughout Boston, and downtown, in particular. Window displays are pretty much a universal thing. If you stick to the main areas, such as the Common, the Faneuil Hall area, and Copley Square, there will be no shortage of things to enjoy. I know you want to stay away from museums, but I strongly recommend checking out The Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. It is something to behold and the surrounding area should be decked out in true holiday fashion. Yes, it requires tickets, but you do not need advance reservations with 15-20 minute tours running every 20 minutes. You can most definitely just pop in and check it out. Don't fret, the Boston area certainly like to get its holiday on, and there will be plenty of things for you and your family to enjoy!
posted by katemcd at 4:37 PM on November 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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