This post covers the top things to do for Christmas in Boston, including nighttime, free, and family-friendly activities.
I have updated the information for the 2023 holiday season.
My name is Brian, and as a local, born and bred Boston tour guide, and I love answering my tour guests' questions about Christmas in Boston.
I've relied on my experience and expertise as a local to create this general guide to visiting Boston during the holidays.
Additionally, I've sourced some ideas from the roughly 16k members of our popular Boston Travel Tips Facebook group.
Our group consists of locals, like us tour guides, expats, regular visitors, as well as newbies to Boston.
You don't need to join to search for and read the posts, comments, and recommendations.
So, when you are finished with this post, check out our group. A link can be found at the end of this post.
This section covers our top ten list of things to do in Boston for the Christmas holidays.
There is plenty to do with tree lightings, light shows, and even a holiday market!
For more ideas on favorite things to do in Boston, check out the following posts:
Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist attraction discount pass.
1) Common Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 1st, 2023, is one of the most popular attractions in Boston during the holidays.
Nova Scotia annually gifts a Christmas tree to the City of Boston as an expression of gratitude for their assistance following the Halifax Explosion.
There will be an amazing figure skating ice show performed by renowned competitive skaters doing performances as groups, soloists, and more!
The show is hosted by the Skating Club of Boston and will take place at the Bostom Common Frog Pond and is completely free!
The Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place after the show, around 7:55 pm, which includes refreshments, music, and entertainment hosted by local groups.
There will be nearly 7,000 lights on the tree! The ceremony concludes with a spectacular fireworks show.
2) Attend a Concert or Theatrical Production
There are a number of great holiday-themed performances coming to Boston this Christmas season.
Below is a list of ones we think you'd like to enjoy while visiting:
- Chicago - The Musical - Dec 1st-3rd
- Holiday Pops at Symphony Hall (Boston Pops) - Dec 1st-3rd, 6th-10th, 13th-17th, 18th-24th
- The Nutcracker - Musical - Dec 7th
- A Christmas Carol - Dec 7th-10th, 13th, 15th-17th, 21st-23rd
- Disney On Ice Into The Magic - Boston - Dec 21st - 23rd, 26th - 30th
For other things to do in the evenings in Boston, check out our nighttime activities section below.
3) Christmas Festival
Ushering in the holiday spirit is the Christmas Festival taking place in early November at the Seaport World Trade Center.
This festival showcases over 350 American artists selling unique one-of-a-kind crafts that will make for perfect gifts this holiday season.
Tickets are $17 for one day and $22 for 3-day admission ($2 off at the door). Kids 14 and under are free!
This will take place on November 3rd, 4th, and 5th in 2023.
4) Watch a Game
Boston has a number of professional sports teams that you can cheer on. Depending on when you visit, there will usually be a game to attend.
For more family-friendly ideas, check out our things to do with kids section.
5) Use a Tourist Pass to Save Money
A great way to save money this holiday season while enjoying the best of Boston is to purchase a tourist pass.
You'll get great deals on popular tourist attractions so you have more to spend on Christmas shopping!
While an all-inclusive pass provides admission to dozens of attractions over a set number of days, there are also passes that allow you to pay one flat price for the specific services you plan to use.
Here are some of the most notable attractions included with these tourist passes:
- Hop-on-Hop-off Trolley Tour
- New England Aquarium
- Six Flags New England
- Skywalk Observatory
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Museum of Science
- Boston Bike Rental
- Fenway Park Tour
- Boston Duck Tour
- Franklin Park Zoo
- And more!
Depending on which pass you choose and how you use it, you could save anywhere from 20% - 50% off general admission prices.
You’ll also enjoy skip-the-line privileges at certain locations included with each service.
For more details, make sure to read our post covering Boston tourist attraction discount passes.
6) Back Bay Holly Days
Many local shops will have special decorations this Christmas season, and every Tuesday in December stores will be offering special deals and promotions, perfect for the holiday shopper!
Conveniently, our Back Bay Tour is offered every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and ends right in the area.
- Window Decorating Competition: Participating Back Bay businesses will decorate their windows, lobbies, and more to spread cheer throughout the holiday season!
- Promotional Tuesdays: Participating Back Bay businesses will have in-store promotions and/or events every Tuesday night throughout the holiday season.
Dates: Window Decorating Competition - Dec 6th - 17th
Promotional Tuesdays - Every Tuesday from Nov 19th - Dec 17th
7) Events in Harvard Square
Note: Full schedule for the 2023 season is yet to be announced.
Harvard Square hosts a number of free events that are open to the public year-round.
Last holiday season, they hosted a virtual Christmas concert on December 17th and 18th.
However dates of holiday fair is announced, it will take place on the two weekends leading up to Christmas (December 15th - 17th and 21st - 23rd).
For a full list of their events, click here.
We also recommend checking out our free Harvard walking tour to learn more about this historic university.
For more free things to do in Boston at Christmas time, check out our free section below.
8) Go Ice Skating
Ice Skating is a great winter activity and a great way to be active with the whole family this holiday season.
When you're not on a walking tour, we recommend getting your skates on and making your way out to the Boston Common Frog Pond, which transforms into a beautiful rink around Christmastime.
Ice Skating Hours:
- Monday 10:00 am - 3:45 pm
- Tuesday - Thursday 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
- Friday - Saturday 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Sunday 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
- More information here.
There are several best places to ice skate in Boston and you can find them by reading our post on the best ice skating rink in Boston.
9) Visit a Holiday Market
Holiday shopping is a great way to get your cardio in and purchase unique gifts for all your loved ones!
There are a number of holiday markets and places to shop in Boston:
- South Boston Holiday Market
- Faneuil Hall / Quincy Market
- Prudential Center
- Newbury Street
- Snowport Holiday Market
These are free to attend! For more free things to do in Boston, check out our free section below.
10) Boston Blink! Holiday Lights & Sound Extravaganza
Note: Dates for the 2023 event have not yet been announced.
Last year, Faneuil Hall Marketplace hosted its annual light show Blink! from December 3rd - January 1st.
With over 350,000 LED lights, this incredible show lights up to the beat of great holiday tunes.
There will be nightly shows starting at 4:30 pm running every 30 minutes, and the display is open Monday- Saturday 10:00 am - 9:00 pm and Sundays 11:00 am - 7:00 pm.
It's also free to attend!
Boston is a lively city in the evening and offers all kinds of activities and events for night owls.
This section will feature a few of the best things to do after dark during the holidays.
Our previous section covered some of the better nighttime activities such as the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and holiday concerts.
In addition to what’s listed in this section, make sure to check out the section on nighttime activities in our master post on things to do in Boston.
Holiday Boat Cruise
A great way to see Boston Harbor is by taking a boat cruise!
There will be a number of holiday boat cruises this Christmas season, and we recommend going out on either a romantic trip or as a whole family.
Classic Harbor Line is one of the companies worth checking out.
We also recommend reviewing our Boston Boat Tours Review to decide which boat tour company is the best for you.
Boston Harbor: Winter Holiday Weekend Brunch Cruise
- Duration: 2 hours
- Dates: Every Saturday & Sunday of Dec 2023
- Price: Adults $102.90
- To know more or to book, click here.
Holiday Pub Crawl
A great way to see Boston after dark is a bar crawl!
There are usually a number of them throughout the year, and there are a few Christmas-themed ones this year:
For more things to do at night in Boston, we recommend reviewing our master post.
If you plan accordingly, there are a lot of fun activities that are totally free to attend in Boston.
This section will cover several things to do that won’t cost a dime.
Some of the items we’ve mentioned in previous sections like the events taking place in Harvard Square cost nothing for admission.
For more nighttime activities, visit our post on things to do at night in Boston.
Macy's Holiday Windows
Like most Macy's nationwide, the Boston store located a block from Boston Common in the Downtown Crossing district unveils its holiday windows in mid-November with holiday theme displays.
You can also get some great holiday shopping done while you're there!
Take a Sightseeing Tour!
We offer a variety of pay-what-you-want walking tours throughout Boston with something for everyone!
Get an in-depth experience along the Freedom Trail, stroll through Harvard Square and explore Cambridge, or learn more about Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.
If you don’t have time for a walking tour, we also offer a number of GPS-enabled audio-guided tours that are available for you at your convenience!
THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS
Beantown has lots of activities to offer that are fun for the whole family, and we’ll be covering a few of the ones to do around Christmas time in this section.
Don’t forget to check our other sections for ideas like the Boston Blink! Holiday Light & Sound Extravaganza are welcome to people of all ages.
For additional ideas, consider reading our post covering things to do with kids in Boston.
Skiing is a great holiday activity for the whole family!
There are a number of places to ski near Boston, like Blue Hills, Wachusett Mountain, and for those who don't mind a little drive, Pats Peak.
This is a great chance to escape the city for a bit and get in tune with nature and the snow.
If you're a fan of this, we recommend going ice skating as well at the Boston Common Frog Pond, an activity we've listed in our Top Ten section above.
Boston Christmas Lights - ZooLights
The Stone Zoo in Stoneham is great to visit any time of the year, but especially this holiday season when it's all lit up!
Come out to ZooLights, where the tree-lined paths light up with thousands of twinkling lights, transforming the zoo into a wonderland.
Dates: Nov 17th - Jan 7th, 2023 from 4:00 - 9:30 p.m. (Closed Nov. 23 and Dec. 25)
Restaurants to Eat During Christmas
Most of the dining options during Christmas season are closed but here are some where you can go to satisfy your cravings.
- Trattoria Il Panino - Italian
- Ma Maison - French
- The Maharaja - Indian
- Dona Habana - Cuban
- Chart House Restaurant - Seafood
- Bab Al-Yemen Boston - Middle Eastern
- The Sporting Club - American
- Ducali Pizzeria - Pizzeria