Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday Celebration, various locations. Events include musical tributes, gospel concerts, museum displays and programs, readings, speeches, and panel discussions. Third Monday in January.
Chinese New Year, Chinatown. The dragon parade (which draws a big crowd no matter how cold it is), fireworks, and raucous festivals are part of the celebration. Special programs take place at the Children's Museum (tel. 617/426-8855; www.bostonkids.org). For more details, visit www.chinatownmainstreet.org. Depending on the Chinese lunar calendar, the holiday falls between January 21 and February 19.
Boston Wine Festival, Boston Harbor Hotel and other locations. Tastings, classes, lectures, receptions, and meals provide a lively liquid diversion throughout winter. Check ahead for details. January to early April.
African-American History Month, various locations. Programs include special museum exhibits, children's activities, concerts, films, lectures, discussions, readings, and tours of the Black Heritage Trail led by National Park Service rangers (tel. 617/742-5415; www.nps.gov/boaf). All month.
School Vacation Week, various locations. The slate of activities includes special exhibitions and programs, plays, concerts, and tours. Contact individual attractions for information on programs and extended hours. Third week of February.
St. Patrick's Day Celebrations, various locations. Concerts, talks, special restaurant menus, and other offerings celebrate the heritage of one of the country's most Irish-American cities. March 17; parade is on the closest Sunday.
Red Sox Opening Day, Fenway Park. Even if your concierge is a magician, this is an extremely tough ticket to get at the last minute, so book well in advance. Early and mid-April.
Swan Boats Return to the Public Garden. Since their introduction in 1877, the Swan Boats (tel. 617/522-1966; www.swanboats.com) have been a symbol of Boston. Like real swans, they go away for the winter. Saturday before Patriots' Day.
Patriots' Day, North End, Lexington, and Concord. Festivities commemorate and reenact the events of April 18 and 19, 1775. Lanterns glow in the steeple of the Old North Church. Participants dressed as Paul Revere and William Dawes ride from the North End to Lexington and Concord to warn the minutemen that "the regulars are out" (not that "the British are coming"—most colonists considered themselves British). Musket fire rings out on the Battle Green in Lexington and then at the North Bridge in Concord. For information on reenactments and other events, check the websites of the Paul Revere House and the Battle Road Committee. For information about the riders' destinations, where the festivities traditionally include pancake breakfasts, contact the Lexington Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center or the Concord Chamber of Commerce. Third Monday of April.
Boston Marathon, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston. International stars and local amateurs join in the world's oldest and most famous marathon. Cheering fans are welcome until the last weekend warriors stagger across the Boylston Street finish line in the late afternoon. Third Monday of the month.
Independent Film Festival of Boston, various locations. Features, shorts, and documentaries by international filmmakers make up the schedule for this buzz-worthy event. Check ahead for the schedule. Late April to early May.
Lilac Sunday, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain. The arboretum allows picnicking only once a year, on Lilac Sunday. Wander the grounds and enjoy the sensational spring flowers, including more than 400 varieties of lilacs in bloom. Mid-May.
Boston Pride Parade, South End to Government Center (tel. 617/262-9405; www.bostonpride.org). The largest gay pride march in New England is the highlight of a weeklong celebration of diversity. The parade, on the second weekend of the month, starts in the South End and ends at City Hall Plaza, where the Boston Pride Festival takes place. Early June.
Dragon Boat Festival, Charles River near Harvard Square, Cambridge. Teams of paddlers synchronized by a drummer propel boats with dragon heads and tails as they race 1,640 feet. The winners go to the national championships; the spectators go to a celebration of Chinese culture and food on the shore. Second or third Sunday of June.
Cambridge River Festival, Memorial Drive from John F. Kennedy Street to Western Avenue. A salute to the arts, the festival incorporates live music, dancing, children's activities, crafts and art exhibits, and international food on the banks of the Charles River. Mid-June.
Boston Harborfest, downtown, the waterfront, and the Harbor Islands. The city puts on its Sunday best for the Fourth of July, a gigantic weeklong celebration of Boston's maritime history. Events surrounding Boston Harborfest include concerts, children's activities, cruises, fireworks, the Boston Chowderfest, guided tours, talks, and USS Constitution's turnaround cruise. Beginning of the month.
Boston Pops Concert & Fireworks Display, Hatch Shell, on the Esplanade. Spectators start showing up at dawn (overnight camping is not permitted) to stake out a good spot on the lawn and spend all day waiting for the sky to get dark enough for fireworks. Others show up at the last minute -- the Cambridge side of the river, near Kendall Square, and the Longfellow Bridge are good spots to watch the spectacular aerial show. The program includes the 1812 Overture, with real cannon fire and church bells. For details, check the website (www.july4th.org). July 4.
Puerto Rican Festival & Parade, Franklin Park. Instituted in 1967, this event is part street fair, part cultural celebration, with plenty of live music and traditional food. The highlight of the final day is a lively parade. Late July.
Italian-American Feasts, North End. These weekend street fairs begin in July and end in late August with the two biggest: the Fisherman's Feast and the Feast of St. Anthony. The sublime (fresh seafood prepared while you wait, live music, dancing in the street) mingles with the ridiculous (carnival games, tacky T-shirts, fried-dough stands) to leave a lasting impression of fun and indigestion. Visit www.fishermansfeast.com or www.saintanthonysfeast.com for a preview. Weekends throughout August.
August Moon Festival, Chinatown. A celebration of the harvest and the coming of autumn, the festival includes dragon and lion dances during the parade through the crowded streets, and demonstrations of crafts and martial arts. It's also an excuse to stuff yourself with tasty mooncakes. Mid-August.
Boston Film Festival, various locations. Independent films continue on the festival circuit or make their premieres, sometimes following a lecture by an actor or filmmaker. Mid-September.
Salem Haunted Happenings, various locations. Parades, parties, fortune-telling, cruises, and tours lead up to a ceremony on Halloween. Check the website for specifics. All month.
Oktoberfest, Harvard Square, Cambridge. This immense street fair is a magnet for college students, families, street performers, musicians, and crafts vendors. Second Sunday of October.
Head of the Charles Regatta, Boston and Cambridge. High school, college, and postcollegiate rowing teams and individuals -- some 4,000 in all -- race in front of tens of thousands of fans along the banks of the Charles River and on the bridges spanning it. The Head of the Charles (tel. 617/868-6200; www.hocr.org) has an uncanny tendency to coincide with a crisp, picturesque weekend. Late October.
Thanksgiving Celebration, Plymouth. Plymouth observes the holiday with a "stroll through the ages," highlighting 17th- and 19th-century Thanksgiving preparations in historic homes. Menus at Plimoth Plantation, which re-creates the colony's first years, include a buffet and a Thanksgiving feast. Book in advance. Thanksgiving Day.
The Nutcracker, Opera House, Boston. Boston Ballet's annual holiday extravaganza is one of the country's biggest and best. This is the traditional way to expose young Bostonians (and visitors) to culture, and the spectacular sets make it practically painless. Buy tickets (tel. 617/695-6955; www.bostonballet.org) as soon as you plan your trip, ask whether your hotel offers a Nutcracker package, or cross your fingers and check when you arrive. Thanksgiving weekend through late December.
Boston Tea Party Reenactment, Old South Meeting House and Tea Party Ship and Museum, Congress Street Bridge. Chafing under British rule, American colonists rose up on December 16, 1773, to strike a blow where it would cause real pain -- in the pocketbook. A re-creation of the event is a lively all-ages affair. Mid-December.
Christmas Revels, Sanders Theatre, Cambridge. This multicultural celebration of the winter solstice features the holiday customs of a different culture each year. Themes have included American folk traditions, Victorian England, and the Romani people. Be ready to sing along. For information and tickets, contact the Revels. Last 2 weeks of the month.
First Night, Back Bay and the waterfront. This is the original arts-oriented, no-alcohol, citywide New Year's Eve celebration. It begins in the early afternoon and includes a parade, ice sculptures, art exhibitions, theatrical performances, and indoor and outdoor entertainment. Some attractions require tickets, but for most you just need a First Night button, available for less than $20 at visitor centers and stores around the city. Fireworks light up the sky above Boston Common just before 7pm and over Boston Harbor at midnight. For details, contact First Night (tel. 617/542-1399; www.firstnight.org) or check the newspapers when you arrive. December 31.
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.