Despite soaring gas prices, an estimated 41.5 million Americans—about 5 percent more than last year—will be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend. While the long weekend offers a great chance to get away, staying in Boston has its own rewards. From memorials commemorating fallen soldiers to free museum days and music festivals, the city has plenty to offer as we mark the unofficial start of the summer season. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best options below.
Celebrating Our Soldiers
Flag Garden at the Boston Common
Each year on Memorial Day weekend, the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Boston Common is transformed into a sea of red, white, and blue: 37,000+ American flags, one for each of the men and women from the commonwealth of Massachusetts who died defending their country, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. The Flag Garden is 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 28. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Arlington, Boylston, or Park Street.
This Memorial Day weekend, the USS Constitution Museum, devoted to the War of 1812, is honoring all those who served in our nation’s military with a special program, Honoring Our Heroes. Guests can learn about the daily struggles crew members of the USS Constitution (also known as Old Ironsides) faced during the war. Visitors to the museum can honor current members of the armed services by creating survival bracelets that will be shipped by Operation Gratitude to deployed troops and first responders in the US. Be sure to visit the USS Constitution, just across the pier. The oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world has just undergone a two-year, $15 million restoration. The museum and ship operate separately and have separate hours.
The USS Constitution Museum, in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, is open from 9 am to 6 pm 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 26, through Monday, May 28. The USS Constitution is inside Boston National Historical Park, next to the USS Constitution Museum, and is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm, closed most Mondays, but is open Memorial Day. Admission to the ship is free for all visitors, 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.
Veterans Memorial Park 72nd Annual Memorial Day Service
The Back Bay Fens Veterans Memorial Park hosts its annual recognition of fallen service members on Saturday, May 26, at 11 am. The park has monuments commemorating World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans. Guests can also enjoy the nearby Kelleher Rose Garden, which features more than 2,000 rosebushes.
The Back Bay Fens Veterans Memorial Park 72nd Annual Memorial Day service is Saturday, May 26, at 11 am. 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.
Feel like donning your running shoes for a good cause? Boston’s 14th annual Run to Remember half marathon and 5-mile race returns this Sunday, May 27. The event, which honors first responders, will start at the Seaport World Trade Center, and is coordinated by the Boston Police Department and the Boston Police Runners Club. Participants can take part in either a half marathon or 5-mile run, both of which wind through historic downtown Boston. Both events begin at 7 am, and a postrun celebration is scheduled from 11 am to 1 pm. Proceeds benefit the Boston Police Runners Club community and kids programs. Can’t make it to the run but want to help? You can make a donation here.
The Run To Remember half marathon and 5-mile race is Sunday, May 27, starting at the Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Blvd., Boston, at 7 am, with a celebration from 11 am to 1 pm. Number pickup and the Sports and Fitness expo are on Saturday, May 26, from 9 am to 5 pm, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Register for the run here. Take the Silver Line to the Seaport World Trade Center Boston.
Cambridge Memorial Day Parade and Observance
Cambridge’s annual Memorial Day Parade and Observance, organized by the Cambridge Veterans’ Organization and Cambridge Veterans’ Services, is Monday, May 28. The parade kicks off with a cannon salute on the Cambridge Common at 9:30 am and then proceeds through Harvard Square, up Mount Auburn Street to Coolidge Avenue, ending at the Cambridge Cemetery. Marchers include veterans’ groups, elected officials, bands, color guards, a drill team, and youth organizations. A Memorial Day observance with musical performances and a rifle salute, will follow the parade at approximately 11 am.
The Cambridge Memorial Day Parade and Observance is Monday, May 28, at 9:30 am, at the Cambridge Common, and is expected to arrive at the Cambridge Cemetery, 76 Coolidge Ave., at 11 am. Take an MBTA Red Line train to Harvard Square.
Other Memorial Day Weekend Events
In a sure sign of summer’s imminent arrival, Boston Calling, the enormously popular three-day music festival, returns—and what a lineup there is. This year’s program kicks off Friday, May 25, and runs through Sunday, May 27, and for the second year in a row, the whole event is taking place at the Harvard University Athletic Complex in Allston. Eminem will be making his return to the New England stage for the first time since 2005—he performs on Sunday at 9:10 pm. Other headliners: the Killers (performing Friday at 9:20 pm) and Jack White (Saturday at 9:20 pm), Pussy Riot (Friday at 6:20 pm), and the Decemberists (Sunday at 6:05 pm). Find the complete lineup here. The festival also has a separate lineup of comedy acts and podcasts, like Pod Save America, at the Arena. Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, fresh off of curating a special Boston Calling film series at the Brattle Theatre, will introduce several acts.
Plan to come hungry. Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, El Pelon Tacqueria, Fomu, and Tasty Burger are among the dozens of food vendors on hand throughout the weekend.
The Boston Calling Music Festival is at the Harvard University Athletic Complex, 65 North Harvard St., Allston, Friday, May 25, through Sunday, May 27. Purchase three-day passes, weekend passes, and single-day tickets here. Gates open Friday at 2:30 pm and music ends at 11 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, gates open at noon and the final performance ends at 11 pm. Large bags and backpacks are prohibited. Find directions here.
Free Admission to the Institute of Contemporary Art
Although the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is typically closed on Mondays, Memorial Day is the exception. Not only is the museum open, but admission is free in honor of the holiday. Visitors can view special exhibitions featuring work by artists Kevin Beasley and Caitlin Keogh. The Beasley exhibition features sculptures that combine sound and clothing embedded with microphones and musical equipment. In a different vein, Keogh’s paintings explore issues of gender and femininity through large vivid canvases whose crisp lines and bold colors are imbued with the language of illustration.
The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 100 Northern Ave., has free admission on Monday, May 29, in honor of Memorial Day, from 10 am to 5 pm. Find directions here.
The Museum of Fine Arts is also offering free admission on Memorial Day. The open house includes a series of family art-making activities, gallery tours, and more. Visitors can create their own art inspired by some of the exhibitions currently on display, including M.C. Escher: Infinite Dimensions, featuring more than 50 prints by the famous Dutch artist, and Phantasmagoria, an exhibition that invites guests to experience a form of entertainment popular in the 19th century, where moving images of demons and spirits are projected using original hand-colored lantern slides. The open house will also include a multidisciplinary concert created by teenagers from Sociedad Latina, and part of Boston artist Nora Valdez’s powerful exhibition, Immigration Nation: A Community Art Project.
The Museum of Fine Arts Memorial Day Open House is Monday, May 28, from 10 am to 5 pm, 465 Huntington Ave. Admission is free. Find directions here.
Open each Sunday from May through October, the SoWa Open Market features approximately 175 vendors selling jewelry, paintings, clothing, ceramics, and more. The farmers market sells fresh produce, meats, baked goods, plants, and flowers. You’ll also find 10 food trucks featuring a variety of cuisines, and for those 21+ there’s the SoWa Beer Barn located in the SoWa Power Station, which in addition to beer, cider, and wine, offers live music by local musicians. Check out the SoWa Vintage Market next door, where you’ll find antiques, collectibles, and vintage clothing for sale. This Sunday, you can also participate in DIY Day from 11 am to noon where, for $18, you can craft your own crystal bracelet with Seeking OM, an artisan company specializing in holistic, handcrafted products.
The SoWa Open Market is held every Sunday from May through October, from 10 am to 4 pm, at 530 Harrison Ave. in Boston’s South End. Find a complete list of events and markets here. The SoWa Vintage Market is downstairs at 450 Harrison Ave., and is open every Sunday, year-round, from 10 am to 4 pm.
Visitors to City Hall Plaza this summer are in for a surprise. The plaza has been transformed into a series of nine custom patios and a pavilion, all built by sculptor Jeff Smith using salvaged material. Called The Patios, the structures are home to Wachusett Brew Yard, Honeycomb Creamery, and mini-golf stations, as well as a rotating selection of food trucks. The Patios also includes a Wag Wednesdays program, when Schultz’s Guest House brings adoptable puppies to the plaza. Stop by for a beer or a cone.
The Patios at One City Hall Plaza are open every day through August. Take an MBTA Green or Blue Line to Government Center, or the Orange Line to Haymarket.
Looking to take in some theater this Memorial Day weekend? SpeakEasy Stage Company is presenting the East Coast regional premiere of Allegiance, a musical story of a fictional Japanese-American family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes after Pearl Harbor and placed in internment camps. Based on real events, the production stars George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes), who was an internee as a child, alongside Tony winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon, Mulan). The production runs through June 2.
The SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Allegiance is at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., in the South End, through June 2. Phone: 617-482-3279. Purchase tickets here.