Boston attracts throngs of visitors year-round. Between April and November, the city sees hardly any slow times. Make reservations as early as possible if you plan to visit during busy periods; at really popular times, all of eastern Massachusetts seems to book up.
The area is especially busy during college graduation season (May and early June) and major events. Spring and fall are popular times for conventions. Families pour into the area in July and August, creating long lines at many attractions. Summer isn't the most expensive time to visit, though: Foliage season, from mid-September to early November, when many leaf-peepers stay in the Boston area or pass through on the way to other New England destinations, is a huge draw. December is less busy but still a convention time -- look out for weekend bargains.
The "slow" season is January through March, when many hotels offer great deals, especially on weekends. However, this is when unpredictable weather plagues the Northeast, often affecting travel schedules, and when some suburban attractions close for the winter.
You've probably heard the saying about New England weather: "If you don't like it, wait 10 minutes." Variations from day to day or morning to afternoon (if not minute to minute) can be enormous. You can roast in March and freeze in June, shiver in July and sweat in November. Dressing in layers is always a good idea.
Spring and fall are the best bets for moderate temperatures, but spring (also known as mud season) is brief. It doesn't usually settle in until early May, and snow sometimes falls in April. Summers are hot, especially in July and August, and can be uncomfortably humid. Fall is when you're most likely to catch a comfortable run of dry, sunny days and cool nights. Winters are cold and usually snowy -- bring a warm coat and sturdy boots.
Poetry 101 (Degrees) -- Check the Boston weather forecast by looking up at the short column of lights on top of the old John Hancock building in the Back Bay. (The new Hancock building is the 60-story glass tower next door.) It has its own poem: Steady blue, clear view / flashing blue, clouds due / steady red, rain ahead / flashing red, snow instead. During the summer, flashing red means that the Red Sox game is canceled.
Banks, government offices, post offices, schools, and many stores, restaurants, and museums close on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year's Day), the third Monday in January (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the third Monday in February (Presidents' Day), the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), the first Monday in September (Labor Day), the second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans' Day/Armistice Day), the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day), and December 25 (Christmas). The Tuesday after the first Monday in November is Election Day, a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (every 4 years, and next in 2012).
In Massachusetts, state offices close for Patriots' Day on the third Monday in April, and Suffolk County offices (including Boston City Hall and the city's public libraries) close on March 17 for Evacuation Day.
Boston's Independence Day Parties
Even though the Declaration of Independence was actually signed in Philadelphia, Boston fervently embraces the July 4th holiday. Boston Harborfest (tel. 617/439-7700), is the city’s 6-day party leading up to the Fourth of July concert and fireworks. Events include historical reenactments, boat tours, harborside concerts, and a Chowderfest. July 4th ends with a beloved tradition, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The orchestra plays a free concert at the Hatch Shell amphitheater on the Charles River Esplanade, and spectators (hundreds of thousands, by some counts) spread out along both banks of the river and on the Longfellow and Mass Ave. bridges. Fireworks are set off from river barges.
Revolutionary celebrations of another sort continue later in the month, as a popular Bastille Day Party hosted by the French Cultural Center (tel. 617/912-0400) takes over Marlborough Street in Back Bay for a nighttime celebration of Francophone cultures. The event sells out, so buy tickets in advance.
Celebrating Patriots Day, the Third Monday of April
Patriots Day is a Massachusetts-only holiday that commemorates the events of April 18 and 19, 1775, when the U.S. Revolutionary War began. Ceremonies take place in Boston’s North End at the Old North Church (tel. 617/523-6676) and the Paul Revere House (tel. 617/523-2338). Reenactments take place in suburban Lexington, where a faux skirmish breaks out on the field now known as the Battle Green, and in Concord, where simulated hostilities rage at the North Bridge. Consult the Battle Road Committee for information. Patriots Day is also “Marathon Monday,” the running of the Boston Marathon.
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.