Everything You Must Do in Boston This Holiday Season

Published On 11/20/2017 Published On 11/20/2017
boston common tree lighting
boston common tree lighting | Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock
holiday cr[eat]or market
holiday cr[eat]or market | Melissa DiPalma
Nov 26
Bar Boulud
Come Thanksgiving, you can expect to have your hands full with the bird and fixin’s, so why not task experts with the pies? Chef Robert Differ offers five seasonal 10-inch varietals: tall apple, traditional pumpkin, glazed pecan, chocolate cream, and macadamia nut meringue. If you demand a taste test beforehand, pies are available by the slice during Bar Boulud’s lunch and dinner service.
Cost: $30-$45.
Nov 17
Boston Public Market
The Boston Public Market open on weekends is the gift that keeps on giving, this time with its first-ever artisan pop-up. Weekend shoppers will see up to eight regional artisans selling their wares on any given day, including Seedsheets, Egg-a-Go-Go, and Pocasset Naturals.
Cost: A lot of willpower not to overindulge.
Monday - Saturday
Nov 20-Dec 23
Godfrey Hotel
We know the conundrum: You want to shop local but just can’t get to all of the city’s indie shops in time. Enter the Godfrey Hotel’s lobby-area pop-up, which will feature wares from the likes of Boston General Store, Polka Dog Bakery, and DeRoucheau Handmade Knits. It's open on Saturdays.
Cost: Free to browse.
Monday - Sunday
Nov 20-Dec 31
Rowes Wharf
Toast the holidays while at sea (well, harbor). Throughout the season, Classic Harbor Line offers themed rides, including the Irish Christmas Carol Cruise, the Holiday Jazz Cruise, and the Holiday Sunset Cruise, aboard its 1920s-style Northern Lights motor yacht. For those unsure about their NYE plans, take note: There’s also a New Year’s Eve Fireworks Cruise.
Cost: $38-$68.
Monday - Wednesday
Nov 20-Jan 31
OAK Long Bar & Kitchen
Not that you’ll lack for bubbly this holiday season, but top-shelf bubbly is worth the indulgence at least once. Through the end of January,  the bar’s 14-seat, fire place Red Room is pouring vintage Champagnes, limited-edition whiskeys (yes, there’s Pappy Van Winkle), and top-rated reserve wines by both the half and full glasses. It's open Thursday-Saturday.
Cost: $25 for a half-pour of Dom Perignon.
Friday - Sunday
Nov 24-Dec 31
Boston Opera House
A pilgrimage to see the classic holiday ballet is one of those unironic pleasures that’s more difficult to justify as you get older. So grab the nearest tiny dancer and make a day of it; there’s plenty of hot chocolate to be had around town once the show is over (see below).
Cost: $35-$250.
Friday - Wednesday
Nov 24-Feb 14
MET Back Bay
The winter isn’t complete without an afternoon spent savoring a flight of MET Back Bay’s gourmet hot chocolate -- from espresso to caramel sea salt -- all of which can be “adultified” with the likes of Bailey’s and caramel vodka. For those feeling a bit peckish, there are also tableside s’mores for this first time this year -- with extra-large marshmallows, no less.
Cost: Prices vary.
Friday - Sunday
Nov 24-Dec 31
Stone Zoo
Don't worry, no one's going to eat you; there are too many Christmas lights everywhere. Wander through the decorated Yukon Creek pavilion, home to bald eagles, porcupines, and reindeer, then head over to the black bear exhibit -- for the first time, Smokey and Bubba are taking part in the seasonal fun. You can pose for reindeer photos, wave to St. Nick inside Santa’s Castle, and even take a nighttime whirl on the carousel.
Cost: $10.
Friday - Sunday
Nov 24-Dec 31
City Hall Plaza
Remember when your mom wouldn’t even let you get off at the Government Center T stop? Now our government center is ground zero for everything new and exciting happening in the city. The plaza’s now annual European-like Christmas market includes a winding skating path (much better than a rink), a holiday market full of local vendors, and pay-to-play attractions like Santa’s House and Vinopolis, a traveling wine and beer exhibit.
Cost: Free, though some special events require tickets.
Nov 25
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Like many a holiday event, this one’s unabashedly cheesy and unabashedly fun. Listen to more than 150 horn players belt out seasonal tunes and dare yourself not to tap a toe or two.
Cost: Free.
Monday - Friday
Nov 27-Dec 22
No. 9 Park
Our city’s finest restaurants understand that no work gets done in December -- thus the indulgent daytime repasts on weekdays. If the foie gras terrine, French onion soup, and roasted goose for two don’t knock you out, one or more of the cocktails from the guest bartender will.
Cost: Tasting menu is $75, with a $45 wine pairing.
Wednesday - Monday
Nov 29-Jan 1
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
'Tis the season of lights, obviously, and nowhere is that more apparent than down at Faneuil Hall, where more than 350,000 LED lights are part of a seven-minute, musically-themed looped performance. This year it’s a revamped show, with more lights, more music, and more color; you can be the judge of that. And while you’re there, you might as well take a gander at the 85-foot-tall Douglas fir, the city’s largest Christmas tree.
Cost: Free.
Nov 30
Boston Common
If you choose only one city holiday event, make it this one. Newly re-elected Mayor Marty Walsh will usher in the season by switching on both the Boston Common Christmas tree and the string lights throughout the Common and Public Garden; the leadup includes dance, music, and skating performances over at the Frog Pond.
Cost: Free.
Yvonne's Holiday Lunch | Yvonne's
Friday - Sunday
Dec 1-17
Paramount Theatre
Here’s something cool: The Boston staging of Langston Hughes’ nativity retelling is the longest-running production in the nation, now in its 47th year. Staged each year by the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the performance combines scripture, music, dance, and Hughes’s own poetry. And yes, tickets sell out super early.
Cost: Tickets start at $35.
Friday - Sunday
Dec 1-3
Somerville Theatre
All you really need to know is that John Waters is a huge fan. And that it’s an R-rated parody of Tchaikovsky’s ballet in which the characters are all adults. And that it’s basically a stage orgy of burlesque, belly dancing, and hula-hooping, starring characters with names like The Dildo Prince.
Cost: $29.
Friday - Sunday
Dec 1-3
Various locations
Don’t think for a second think that the Faneuil Hall and Copley Place trees are the only Christmas tree tickets in town. On the contrary, so many different Boston neighborhoods decorate their own trees that it takes Mayor Walsh three days to travel to each for its ceremonial lighting. Consistent across all ceremonies: live music and a Santa cameo.
Cost: Free.
Dec 1
Samuel Adams Brewery
Just because ugly sweaters have become all the rage lately doesn’t mean the competition won’t still be fierce at the JP brewery -- beer hipsters know from ironic fashion. Your ticket earns you six seasonal beer samples, unlimited mac & cheese, and the chance to be crowned most hideously dressed attendee.
Cost: $30-$55.
Friday - Friday
Dec 1-22
Back in the day, a sumptuous, sloshy lunch at Locke-Ober was a Boston holiday must, the adult equivalent of sitting on Santa’s lap. Yvonne’s honors the history of its earlier incarnation with a reservation-only lunch service on Fridays this month that includes throwbacks like lobster a la stroganoff and veal parmesan. Both the champagne and the martinis will be flowing.
Cost: A la carte -- and reserve now.
Dec 1
North End
We can’t say much for mall shopping, but we do love mingling with fellow locals during an alfresco evening of small-shop hopping. North End’s stores stay open late as visitors meander between food breaks and gift-shopping breaks.
Cost: Free.
Saturday - Sunday
Dec 2-3
SoWa Power Station
Holiday shopping needn’t always be an albatross. Peruse regionally made wares from more than 100 local vendors and specialty food makers while sipping a seasonal cocktail from Banyan Bar & Refuge. There’s also a flower crown station, fire pits, and both mulled wine and hot chocolate from Gaslight.
Cost: Free to attend.
Saturday - Saturday
Dec 2-16
La Brasa
Truth: Shopping while eating is far less painful. The fine folks at La Brasa aim to ease the holiday pain by combining indie markets with a weekly Saturday brunch. The last two markets of the season feature local artisan goods from the likes of AEO Designs, Nine Day Weekend, and The Sneaky Penguin, plus cocktails slung by guest bartenders.
Cost: To eat, we suggest the wood-oven baked pancake with maple brown butter for $14.
Tuesday - Sunday
Dec 5-24
Boston Symphony Hall
If not now, when? Keith Lockhart leads the troops in renditions of classic holiday fare in a cabaret-like setting (think round tables instead of auditorium seats). In addition to dates earlier in the month, there's a December 31 date as well.
Cost: $33-$160.
Dec 5
Warehouse XI
More locavore shopping, more opportunity to pat yourself on the back. The evening pop-up includes wine, treats from End Bakery, and regionally made clothing, foodstuffs, beauty products, and jewelry. Plus, half of all ticket sales go to Cape Ann Animal Rescue.
Cost: $10-$15.
Dec 9
Back Bay
Your Instagram game is never easier than on this day. Join the 700 scantily clad joggers whooping their way through the Back Bay; all it takes is a red hat, a Euro-style bathing suit, and a whole lot of gumption. At least all that goosebumped exposure is for a good cause, specifically Play Ball Foundation, which funds sports in Boston middle schools.
Cost: $30 to register.
Dec 10
Fairmont Copley Plaza
Not every holiday tradition is traditional -- or even holiday-related. But every December folks faithfully turn out to celebrate the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s in-house black lab ambassadors -- first Catie Copley, and now soul sister Carly, who’s turning seven. (Catie passed away earlier this year.) After a live reading of Catie’s eponymous picture book, the crowd breaks for treats: cake for the humans and Scooby snacks for the four-leggers.
Cost: Bring towels, blankets, or toys to donate to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
Dec 13
Museum of Fine Arts
The massive, artisan menorah is only one of the evening’s treats: There’s also live music, art-making classes (you might even get to make your own dreidel), and more. Check back with the museum for more deets as the event gets closer.
Cost: Free.
Friday - Thursday
Dec 15-28
Tony Williams Dance Center
The Nutcracker staged with the Citgo sign in the background? Local dancing legend Tony Williams rewrites the Christmas classic; heroine Clarice (not Clara) is now intent on exploring the ins and outs of Boston such as the Public Garden and Chinatown. The production includes music from Duke Ellington and more than one hip-hop number.
Cost: $25-$85.
Friday - Sunday
Dec 15-17
Hynes Convention Center
Because there’s no such thing as a handmade iPhone X. But jewelry, fine art, furniture, home accessories, and hand-crafted wares are for sale at this annual exhibition. And unlike other similar gigs, the makers hail from all around the country.
Cost: $15.
Dec 16
Somerville City Hall
Somervilians just go for it during the holidays: over-the-top light strings, ornaments, shrines, and inflatable lawn decor. After a 45-minute trolley ride through either East or West Somerville, return to city hall for hot chocolate, cookies, and a debrief.
Cost: $15.
Sunday - Monday
Dec 31-Jan 1
Various locations
“There’s no booze!” once cried the masses. And yet First Night has not just endured, but thrived for more than four decades; it must be the 12 hours of free entertainment provided by the city. Dance lessons, arts and crafts, ice sculpting, ice skating, musical performances -- it all culminates in the Copley Countdown to midnight, which includes a light and pyrotechnic show right in Copley Square.
Cost: Still free! (Although you can donate to the cause.)