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How to Spend Memorial Day Weekend in Boston

Celebrate summer’s start by remembering fallen soldiers, a music festival, free museum entry

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More Americans—an estimated 39.3 million—are expected to take to the roads, sky, rails, and water this Memorial Day weekend than have in the past decade. But those planning to stay local for the long weekend will find a host of events in and around Boston: commemorations of fallen soldiers, a first-rate music festival, free museum admissions, a new exhibition at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum commemorating the 100th birthday of the 35th president, and a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, among others. We’ve put together a list of some of what the city has to offer this weekend.

Flag Garden at the Boston Common

Each year on Memorial Day, the Boston Common is transformed into a field of red, white, and blue—37,000 American flags—one for each of the courageous Massachusetts men and women who died defending their country, dating back to the Revolutionary War. The moving Flag Garden is at the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Boston Common, courtesy of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund.

The Flag Garden, atop Flagstaff Hill on the Boston Common, is on display through Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. Take any MBTA Green Line Trolley to Arlington or Park Street.

USS Constitution and USS Constitution Museum

The USS Constitution Museum, devoted to the War of 1812, pays tribute to the men and women who served in the nation’s military, with a special program, Honoring Our Heroes, throughout the weekend. This year, the museum is partnering with Operation Gratitude, encouraging visitors to make survival bracelets to be distributed to deployed troops overseas and to first responders at home and to write thank you notes to be included in the 100,000 care packages it distributes each year. Visit the USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, berthed nearby. The ship is still in dry dock, undergoing an extensive restoration, but is open to visitors. Crew members are available on each deck to answer questions and give tours. The museum and ship operate separately and have separate hours.

The USS Constitution Museum, in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; phone: 617-426-1812. Suggested donation is $5 to $10 for adults, $3 to $5 for children, and $20 to $25 for families. Admission is free for all active duty, retired, and reserve military personnel. Honoring Our Heroes events and activities are Saturday, May 27, through Monday, May 29. The USS Constitution is in the Navy Yard’s Drydock I and is open Tuesday to Friday, 2:30 to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed most Mondays, but is open Memorial Day. Admission is free, first-come, first-served. Visitors 18 and over must provide a valid state or federal-issued ID or passport. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to North Station and walk over the Charlestown Bridge, following signs for the Freedom Trail.

Learn about the daily struggles and challenges the crew of the USS Constitution faced during the War of 1812, at the USS Constitution Museum. A special Honoring Our Heroes event this weekend pays tribute to the men and women who served in the nation’s military.

Learn about the daily struggles and challenges the USS Constitution crew during the War of 1812, at the USS Constitution Museum. A special Honoring Our Heroes event this weekend is a tribute to the men and women who served in the nation’s military. Photo by Greg M. Cooper Photography, courtesy of the USS Constitution Museum

Veterans Memorial Park 71st Annual Memorial Day Service

This recognition of fallen service members is held at the Back Bay Fens Veterans Memorial Park, which has monuments commemorating World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans, and also honors Boston resident Sergeant Charles Andrew MacGillivary, who received a Medal of Honor for his role in the Battle of Normandy. Enjoy the adjacent Kelleher Rose Garden, with its more than 2,000 rosebushes comprising over 100 varieties of climbers, tea roses, and floribundas.

The Back Bay Fens Veterans Memorial Park 71st Annual Memorial Day service is Saturday, May 27, at 11 a.m. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center, switch to an E trolley outbound, and get off at the Museum of Fine Arts. The park is a 10-minute walk.

Cambridge Memorial Day Parade and Observance

In keeping with tradition, the Cambridge Veterans’ Organization and the Cambridge Department of Veterans Services will hold their annual Memorial Day Parade and Observance on Monday, May 29. It begins with a canon salute at 9:30 a.m. on the Cambridge Common, then the parade proceeds through Harvard Square and up Mount Auburn Street to Coolidge Avenue, concluding at the Cambridge Cemetery. Veterans’ groups, elected officials, police and fire personnel, color guards, bands, and more will march in recognition of veterans. A Memorial Day observance, with rifle salute, musical performances, and a bugler playing taps, will be held at the cemetery beginning about 11 a.m.

The Cambridge Memorial Day Parade and Observance is Monday, May 29, at 9:30 a.m. on the Cambridge Common and is expected to arrive at the Cambridge Cemetery, 76 Coolidge Ave., at 11 a.m. Take an MBTA Red Line train to Harvard Square.

Memorial on the Mystic: “A Commonwealth Remembers” Concert and Fireworks Tribute

Honor America’s fallen heroes with this special free Memorial Day concert, featuring performances by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony and N’Harmony, at Somerville’s Sylvester Baxter State Riverfront Park, starting at 7:30 p.m., followed by fireworks.

Memorial on the Mystic: “A Commonwealth Remembers” Concert and Fireworks Tribute is Monday, May 29, at Sylvester Baxter State Riverfront Park, Assembly Row and Great River Road, Somerville. Take an MBTA Orange Line trolley to Assembly Square. Lawn chairs and blankets are recommended. In the event of rain, the event will be held at the Somerville High School Auditorium, 81 Highland Ave., Somerville.

Other Memorial Day Weekend Events

This year’s annual Boston Calling Music Festival, relocated to the Harvard Athletic Complex, is headlined by Tool, Chance the Rapper, and Mumford and Sons (above) and features a comedy lineup curated by Hannibal Buress.

This year’s annual Boston Calling Music Festival, relocated to the Harvard Athletic Complex, is headlined by Tool, Chance the Rapper, and Mumford and Sons (above) and features a comedy lineup curated by Hannibal Buress. Photo courtesy of Boston Calling Music Festival

Boston Calling Music Festival

The popular music festival Boston Calling returns this weekend, but with a twist. Formerly held twice at year at Boston City Hall, the retooled festival is now at the Harvard University Athletics Complex in Allston and will be held just once a year. It kicks off Friday, May 26, and runs through Sunday, May 28. The artist lineup is headlined by Grammy winner Chance the Rapper, known for his breakout album Coloring Book and singles “No Problems” and “Ultra Light Beam,” on Friday. Among the other headliners are Grammy-winning folk-pop band Mumford and Sons and the reclusive rock band Tool, playing its first Boston show since 2012. Find a full list of performers here. And for the first time, the festival will include a comedy lineup, organized by Hannibal Buress. Food vendors like Tasty Burger, Bon Me, Joe’s American Bar & Grill, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, and Zinnekin’s Belgian Waffles will be on hand for hungry concert-goers.

The Boston Calling Music Festival is at the Harvard University Athletics Complex, 65 North Harvard St., Allston, Friday, May 26, through Sunday, May 28. Purchase three-day passes, weekend passes, and single-day tickets here. Gates open Friday at 2:30 p.m. and music ends at 11 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday gates open at noon and music ends at 11 p.m. Large bags and backpacks are prohibited. Find directions here.

SoWaOpen Market

Now in its 14th season, the SoWa Open Market is the self-proclaimed “largest celebration of local artists, farmers, chefs, brewers, and musicians from across New England.” Each weekend, more than 150 vendors bring their products for thousands of visitors. The market has jewelry, paintings, photography, ceramics, apparel, and more. The Farmers Market sells fresh produce, meats, jams, baked goods, plants, and flowers. Come with an appetite: the Food Truck Bazaar has more than a dozen local food trucks offering all kinds of cuisine. There’s even a Beer Garden for the 21+ crowd, with a large selection of craft beers and wines. And be sure to check out the SoWa Vintage Market next door, which sells antiques, collectibles, and vintage clothing.

The SoWa Open Market is held every Saturday and Sunday from April 29 to October 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 460 Harrison Ave. in Boston’s South End. Find a complete list of events and markets here. The SoWa Vintage Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from April 29 to October 29, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 450 Harrison Ave.

JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The JFK Presidential Library and Museum is hosting a five-day celebration over Memorial Day weekend to commemorate the centennial of President John F. Kennedy, who was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 29, 1917. The museum’s new yearlong exhibition in honor of the centenary, JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos, opens Friday, May 26.

The  new exhibition features items drawn mostly from the library’s collections and chronicles historic milestones in Kennedy’s career and administration, as well as events of his personal and family life, such as family items from his childhood and adolescence, a flag from PT 109 (the boat JFK commanded during World War II), items relating to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and notes jotted down by the president in preparation of his landmark address to the nation on civil rights. Several items have never before been displayed, among them some personal belongings, such as JFK’s sunglasses, a high school scrapbook he compiled at Choate, and gifts from his young children. The exhibition runs through May 2018. Find the schedule of events for the weekend here.

JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos is on view at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston. Find hours, admission prices, and directions here.

View the Museum of Fine Arts special exhibition Matisse in the Studio free on Memorial Day.

View the Museum of Fine Arts special exhibition Matisse in the Studio free on Memorial Day. More than 50 paintings and sculptures are on view through July 9. Matisse’s Interior with Egyptian Curtain (above). Courtesy of the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Free Memorial Day Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts

To commemorate Memorial Day, the Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission on Monday, May 29. View some of the more than 450,000 works of art in the museum’s storied collections, and two spectacular temporary exhibitions. Matisse in the Studio features 36 paintings, 26 drawings, bronzes, cut-outs, and prints by Henri Matisse, one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. The works are paired with 39 objects from the artist’s private collection, including African textiles, sculptures, even a chocolate maker that was a wedding present. It’s the first major international exhibition to examine the importance of Matisse’s personal collection to his art.

Boticelli and the Search for the Divine, explores the work of 15th-century Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. Comprising two dozen paintings, it traces changes of style and subject matter over the course of his career, reflecting the shift in the political and religious climate in Florence during his lifetime.

Other events on tap Monday include art-making activities and performances by Sociedad Latina and the Jewish Arts Collaborative.

The Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Memorial Day Open House is Monday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Sociedad Latina performance is at noon. The Jewish Arts Collaborative performance is at 3 p.m. Find directions here.

Free Memorial Day Admission to the Institute of Contemporary Art

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is also offering free admission on Monday, May 29. In addition to viewing the ICA’s permanent collection, visitors can take part in the new installation Fish Out of Water by artist Bennie Flores Ansell using stencils, markers, and acetate paper to create flying fish creatures to be added to Ansell’s piece on display. Be sure to check out Ashes, a video installation by Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 100 Northern Ave, is offering free admission on Monday, May 29, in honor of Memorial Day. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find directions here.

Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park

With new faces Chris Sale and Andrew Benintendi in the lineup, the Boston Red Sox are already being touted as possible 2017 World Series contenders. This weekend, the team hosts the Seattle Mariners in a three-game series beginning Friday, May 26. What says start-of-summer more than a visit to Fenway Park?

The Boston Red Sox take on the Seattle Mariners on Friday, May 26, at 7:10 p.m., Saturday, May 27, at 4:05 p.m., and Sunday, May 28, at 1:35 p.m. Purchase tickets here or visit the Red Sox ticket office, 4 Yawkey Way; hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Connor Lenahan can be reached at lenahan@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on How to Spend Memorial Day Weekend in Boston

  • Ken Liss on 05.26.2017 at 8:18 am

    The JFK 100 celebration is also taking place closer to BU, in Brookline, where the 35th president was born just half a mile from West Campus. Events will take place at the JFK Birthplace, now run by the National Park Service, and elsewhere in town. http://www.brooklinema.gov/1378/JFK-100

  • Lauren Pellerano Gomez on 05.26.2017 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this guide, Connor! We will share with our Twitter audience and tag both you and BU. If time and space permit, please feel free to list AFH’s upcoming Open Studios event on 5/31 at the Artists For Humanity EpiCenter. We’ll have wine, cheese, studio tours and networking on deck. Any questions, please feel free to email me at the address below.

    Thank you!

    All best,
    Lauren
    LPelleranoGomez[at]afhboston.org

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