Some companies and venues sell tickets online or over the phone; many will refer you to a ticket agency. Two major agencies serve Boston: Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000) and Telecharge (tel. 800/432-7250 or TTY 888/889-8587). Many smaller venues use independent companies that charge lower fees than the national companies. One popular firm is Brown Paper Tickets (tel. 800/838-3006). To avoid fees -- and possible losses if your plans change and you can't get your money back -- visit the box office in person. Tip: If you wait until the day before or day of a performance, you'll sometimes have access to tickets that were held back for some reason and have just gone on sale.
Let's Make a Deal -- Some of the best bargains in town are available at the BosTix booths at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (T: Green or Blue Line to Government Center, or Orange Line to Haymarket) and in Copley Square at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets (T: Green Line to Copley or Orange Line to Back Bay). As of this writing, the Faneuil Hall location is on the second floor of the Quincy Market rotunda while the freestanding kiosk, on the south side of Faneuil Hall, is under renovation.
Both locations sell half-price same-day tickets to musical and theatrical performances, subject to availability. You must pay cash in person, and there are no refunds or exchanges. Check the board or the website for the day's offerings. The booths are also Ticketmaster outlets. Both are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. The Copley Square location is also open Monday from 10am to 6pm. BosTix (tel. 617/262-8632) also offers full-price advance tickets; discounts on more than 100 theater, music, and dance events; and tickets for trolley tours. Tip: Sign up for e-mail updates (you can always unsubscribe after you return home).
The city’s premier classical performance venue is the acoustically perfect Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave. (tel. 888/266-1200). It’s primarily host to the resident Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, but it books other musical artists and speakers as well.
While Symphony Hall has more high-profile performers, nearby Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St. (tel. 617/585-1260) on the campus of New England Conservatory, is also a beautiful venue with wonderful acoustics. The schedule is primarily classical, but the hall also books special events like Cuban jazz and lots of student recitals. Most of the programs are free.
The open-air Hatch Shell amphitheater on the Esplanade (tel. 617/727-4708) is best known as the home of the Pops’ Fourth of July concert, but it schedules other events on many summer nights. Family-friendly Free Friday Flicks begin at sunset.
Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave. (tel. 617/747-2261), presents students and staff members from Berklee College’s noted jazz programs, along with touring artists and speakers.
The Boston Lyric Opera (tel. 866/348-9738 or 617/542-6772) nurtures and showcases emerging talent in its classical and contemporary productions. The season runs from November to May at Citi Performing Arts Center's Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St. (1/2 block from Stuart St.), and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont St. (at Berkeley St.). Tickets cost $34 to $140, more for opening night.
Less familiar works make up the repertoire of Opera Boston (tel. 617/824-8000 [ArtsEmerson] or 617/451-3388), which performs at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St. (btw. Boylston and Stuart sts.). Tickets go for $29 to $171.
Boston Baroque (tel. 617/484-9200), a Grammy-nominated period orchestra with a chamber chorus, performs at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall and Harvard's Sanders Theatre. Tickets cost $25 to $73.
Several city churches regularly host classical concerts during the work week. On Tuesdays, King’s Chapel presents a 40-minute recital at 12:15pm, with performances that range from Elizabethan song to Baltic folk music to classical guitar (58 Tremont St.; tel. 617/227-2155; $5 donation requested). On Thursdays, Emmanuel Music puts on free noontime concerts (reserve a spot by phone or online) in the Lindsay Chapel at Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury St.; tel. 617/536-3356). The Fridays at Trinity Organ Recital Series presents 30-minute organ concerts at 12:15pm at Trinity Church, the architectural treasure at the heart of Copley Square (206 Clarendon St.; [tel] 617/536-0944; $10 donation requested).
Concert & Performances Series
The starriest names in classical music, dance, theater, jazz, opera, and world music play Boston as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston (tel. 617/482-2595 [info] or 617/482-6661 [tickets]). It's a subscription series that also offers tickets to individual events, which go on sale in September. Performances take place at Symphony Hall, New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, the Wang and Shubert theaters, and other venues.
World Music (tel. 617/876-4275) showcases top-flight musicians, dance troupes, and other performers from around the globe. Shows (70 a year) are at the Somerville Theater, the Berklee Performance Center, Sanders Theatre, the Cutler Majestic Theatre, and other venues.
The excellent music program at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (tel. 617/278-5156; www.gardnermuseum.org) is in flux while the museum undergoes renovation and expansion. Check ahead for information about the classical series, which at press time had relocated to the nearby Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt), and the jazz series, which was on hiatus. Tickets (including museum admission) cost $23 adults, $18 seniors, $10 students with ID, $5 children 5 to 17 (children under 5 not admitted). Free podcasts are available through the website.
Starting in late November, Boston becomes a wonderland of tiny twinkling lights and decorated Christmas trees, with special holiday programing to match. Annual events include The Nutcracker by Boston Ballet; the Christmas Revels multicultural solstice celebration (tel. 617/972-8300); Boston Pops Holiday Pops concerts (www.bso.org); Black Nativity, the National Center of Afro-American Artists’ annual presentation of Langston Hughes’ song-play, on track for its 50th anniversary in 2020; and A Christmas Celtic Sojourn of Celtic, Pagan, and Christian music of the season, hosted by WGBH radio host Brian O’Donovan. To close out the year, First Night First Day is an arts-oriented, family-friendly New Year’s celebration, and includes music performances, ice sculptures, a parade, and New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Free (& Almost Free) Concerts
Radio stations sponsor free outdoor music all summer. Specifics change frequently, but you can count on hearing oldies, pop, jazz, alternative, rock, and classical music at various venues, including City Hall Plaza, Copley Square, and the Hatch Shell, at lunch, after work, and in the evening. Check the papers when you arrive, listen to a station that sounds good to you, or just follow the crowds.
Students and faculty members at two prestigious musical institutions perform frequently during the academic year; admission is usually free. For information, contact the New England Conservatory of Music, 290 Huntington Ave. (at Gainsborough St.; tel. 617/585-1260), or the Longy School of Music, 1 Follen St. (at Garden St.), Cambridge (tel. 617/876-0956, ext. 1500). Also check listings for free or cheap student performances at other area colleges.
Music Under the Sky & Stars -- The Boston Landmarks Orchestra (tel. 617/520-2200) performs at venues around town -- often outdoors, always free -- on evenings from July through September (and occasionally the rest of the year). A concert is a great excuse to visit a pretty park and hear some excellent music.
A Major Music Festival in the Bucolic Berkshires -- When the Boston Symphony Orchestra goes away for the summer, it heads to Tanglewood (tel. 413/637-1600 or 617/266-1492 out of season), in Lenox, Massachusetts, a 2 1/2-hour drive from Boston. Weekend concerts sell out in advance, but tickets to weeknight performances and Saturday morning rehearsals are usually available at the box office. If you can't get a seat inside, bring a blanket and picnic on the lawn. Consult Frommer's New England for in-depth coverage of western Massachusetts.
The Celebrity Series of Boston and World Music schedule numerous touring dance troupes; check ahead when you're planning your trip.
Boston’s Theater District is a vibrant one. Two historic venues make up the nonprofit Boch Center: the grand Wang Theatre, at 270 Tremont St. (tel. 800/982-2787), which seats 3,500; and the smaller Shubert Theatre at 265 Tremont St. (tel 866/348-9738), which hosts musicals, opera, and dance productions. The box office for both is at the Wang.
Up the street, Cutler Majestic Theatre, at 219 Tremont St. (tel. 617/824-8000) is an exquisite 1903 Beaux Arts facility that books international theater, dance, and opera, as well as one-time events like The Moth StorySLAM. It’s owned by Emerson College. Around the corner, the celebrated Emerson Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St. (tel. 888/616-0272), also owned by Emerson, reopened in 2018 with a 40-year partnership with London’s Ambassador Theatre Group, which will develop the programming. The theater was built in 1900 and premiered seminal musicals such as Anything Goes, Oklahoma!, La Cage aux Folles, and, in 1935, Porgy and Bess.
A few blocks away, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St. (tel. 617/259-3400; tickets from Ticketmaster, tel. 800/982-2787) hosts touring Broadway musicals as well as the Boston Ballet and its annual production of The Nutcracker. Built as an ornate vaudeville house in the 1920s, the Opera House had a gorgeous $54-million restoration in 2004.
About a half mile from the Theater District, in the South End, the Boston Center for the Arts complex, 539 Tremont St. (tel. 617/426-5000), is home to artists’ studios and rehearsal spaces, the Mills art gallery, a couple of good bars, and six theaters, including the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion, the BCA Plaza Black Box Theatre, and the Cyclorama.
The excellent local theater scene boasts two nationally acclaimed repertory companies that stage classic and contemporary productions. In Boston you'll find the Huntington Theatre Company, which performs at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave. (btw. Massachusetts Ave. and Gainsborough St.; tel. 617/266-0800).
The American Repertory Theater, or ART (pronounced A-R-T) makes its home at Harvard University's Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St. (at Hilliard St.), Cambridge (tel. 617/547-8300). The ART also books Club Oberon, a "theatrical club space" -- think performance art, cabaret, and liquor -- at 2 Arrow St. (at Mass. Ave.; tel. 617/496-8004).
The Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon St. (at Stuart St.; tel. 617/585-5678), mounts contemporary and modern works in an intimate second-floor setting.
College companies and venues are too numerous to list. The following websites can give you a sense of what's on when you're in town at Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and Suffolk University.
A Summer Theater Treat -- The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (tel. 617/426-0863) performs free on Boston Common Tuesday through Sunday nights in late July and early August. Bring a picnic and blanket, rent a chair ($7 or so) if you don't want to sit on the ground, and enjoy the sunset and a high-quality performance. The independent company is about half Equity actors, and the sets are spectacular.
Dessert Alert -- Finale is a little chain of "desserteries" -- cafes that serve a mouth-watering variety of glorious desserts in elegant, romantic surroundings. Yes, it's a tad expensive. No, this is not a balanced meal. But the sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) who flock to Finale don't care. The original is in the Theater District at 1 Columbus Ave., in the pointy end of the Park Plaza Building (tel. 617/423-3184; T: Green Line to Arlington), with branches at 30 Dunster St., Harvard Square (tel. 617/441-9797; T: Red Line to Harvard), and 1306 Beacon St., Coolidge Corner, Brookline (tel. 617/232-3233; T: Green Line C to Coolidge Corner). Finale also serves real food, such as salads and pizzas, but the desserts are the real draw.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.