There are few better ways to celebrate spring than by getting outside at one of Boston’s fun, family-friendly festivals. With so many to choose from, it seems like the whole city is cheering the warmer, sunnier days with music, art, flowers, and food. And the best part? Many of the festivals are free!
Cambridge Science Festival
When: April 14-23
Bring your budding science and technology buffs to the Cambridge Science Festival, which takes place all over the city—indoors and out—for more than a week in April. There are dozens of activities for kids of all ages, from the Science Carnival & Robot Zoo with more than 100 ways to explore and have fun, to Introduction to Web Development for Girls & Moms (or Aunts, Grandmas, Big Sisters, etc.). The cost of each event varies, but many are free.
Greenway Spring Food Festival
When: April 22, 11 am-3 pm
Where: Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston
Eating from a food truck used to mean downing a greasy hot dog. Now food trucks are selling everything from grilled cheese and tacos to falafel and ice cream sandwiches. You’ll find the best mobile eats Boston has to offer at the Greenway Spring Food Festival, the perfect opportunity to sample food from trucks that usually line the Greenway during the week, when it's harder for most families to get to the park. Grab lunch and eat it outside on the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway. Admission to the festival is free and meal prices vary by food truck.
Somerville Open Studios
When: May 5 from 6 pm-9 pm, May 6-7 from noon-6 pm
While an art show may not seem like an ideal place to take kids, Somerville Open Studios is truly a weekend for the whole family to enjoy. To make the most of the free festival, pick up or download a kids’ activity book that comes with a maze and scavenger hunt to keep them engaged. Meet other families at the Kids’ Art Show at the Arts at the Armory (and have your child submit a piece in advance to see their own work on display). And take frequent playground breaks at Somerville’s many parks on your way around the city.
Wake Up the Earth Festival
When: May 6 from noon-6 pm
Where: Southwest Corridor Park, Jamaica Plain
This free festival started in 1979 as a way to stop Interstate 95 from coming into Jamaica Plain and continues today as a celebration of community and creativity. The highlight of the Wake Up the Earth Festival is a huge parade with branches that start in Jamaica Plain Center and Roxbury. You’ll also find music and dance performances, a youth stage and storytelling for all ages. Craft, nonprofit and food vendors round out the fest.
When: May 8 from 10 am - 3 pm (Arboretum is open from dawn until dusk)
Where: Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain
One of the most special days of the year in Boston is Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. The free annual festival falls on Mother’s Day each year and you’ll find families galore enjoying this beautiful park during the fest. Get lunch from a food truck or pack your own—Lilac Sunday is the only day of the year you can picnic in the Arboretum.
When: May 14 from 10 am - 12:30 pm
Where: Boston Common, Boston
If you’re not up for the crowds at Lilac Sunday, head to the Boston Common for Duckling Day. A celebration of the classic Robert McCloskey book Make Way for Ducklings, the highlight of Duckling Day is a parade that starts in the Common and goes into the Public Garden near the duckling statue. Before the parade, kids can participate in a vibrant array of family entertainment including crafts, face painters, a magician, and the Knucklebones kids' fitness crew. Registration is $35 before May 6 and $40 on the day of the event.
Harvard Square Mayfair
When: May 7 from noon - 6 pm
Where: Harvard Square, Cambridge
The free 34th Annual Harvard Square Mayfair is a day-long festival of fun for all ages. Kids are sure to be delighted by the live music, dance, and street performers, while parents might enjoy perusing the sidewalk sales and arts and crafts vendors. Attendees can also sample food from all over the world and participate in family-friendly activities.
Revere Beach Kite Festival
When: May 21 from 11 am - 2 pm
Where: Revere Beach, Revere
Head to the shore for an early beach day during the Revere Beach Kite Festival. At the annual festival kids will have the opportunity to build, decorate and fly their own kites, while professional kite flyers dazzle with their skills. In addition to the kite-building, there will be music, face painting, and other family-friend activities. Admission to the festival is free.
When: May 13 from noon - 6pm
In a city home to dozens of festivals, Somerville’s PorchFest stands out as one of the most unique. The day consists of six hours of music in more genres than you knew existed all over the city. It’s decentralized, so bands are literally playing on people’s porches (and in parks, driveways, and other outdoor locations), and the entertainment is completely free. The music starts in one end of Somerville and moves through the city during the afternoon, so it’s best to park somewhere and walk to hear more tunes. Kids who like dancing will love this festival!
Cambridge Arts River Festival
When: June 4 from noon - 6 pm
Where: East Cambridge Waterfront (Edwin H. Land Blvd. to Lechmere Canal), Cambridge
One of the highlights of the Cambridge Arts River Festival is the People’s Sculpture Racing, which was revived last year after a 30-year hiatus. Attendees will delight in watching people push giant sculptures on wheels in a short race next to the Charles River. The free festival also features live music (including a children’s stage) and storytelling.
Dragon Boat Festival
When: June 10-11; races run all day starting at 7 am
Where: Charles River near Harvard Square, Cambridge
Take in thrilling dragon boat races and dance performances at the Dragon Boat Festival in Cambridge this June. This unique festival celebrates ancient Asian culture through the boat races, dancing and music performances, arts and crafts and food. Learn traditional Chinese calligraphy, how to use chopsticks and paper folding in family-friendly activities at this free festival.
Top image of families at Somerville's PorchFest.
This article was originally posted in 2016; updated in 2017.