Support the news

8 Summer Festivals, Happenings And Dances To Check Out Around Boston

When out-of-towners think of Boston, they often think of bone-chilling winters and snowfall records surpassing 27 inches. But maybe it's because we know that horrific, relentless cold that the city comes to life with such vigor in the summer.

Come June, when temperatures finally warm and we're excited to be outside again, there seems to be a collective mindset of celebration in response.

With an almost endless slate of events, festivals and exhibits, it can be hard to narrow down what to do. From live music on front porches to disco dancing on a pop-up roller rink in front of City Hall, here are the ones you can't miss.

Cambridge Arts River Fest

Central Square

June 1

A band plays at the Cambridge River Fest in 2016. (Courtesy Cambridge Arts)
A band plays at the Cambridge River Fest in 2016. (Courtesy Cambridge Arts)

The River Festival is a great way to kick off summer because it basically has it all: food, performances, music, street vendors and our personal favorite, the mermaid promenade. The parade features people in costumes and puppets of sea creatures floating through Central Square as if out of the ocean.

The day is also a great time to purchase some local art, or even get involved with activism at the Climate Action Extravaganza, full of information and educational sessions on how to battle climate change.


Porchfests

All Around Greater Boston

Through September

People watch musicians perform on on Lamartine Street at the JP Porchfest in 2017. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)
People watch musicians perform on on Lamartine Street at the JP Porchfest in 2017. (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)

Travel from porch-to-porch in your own neighborhood — or another — for a celebration of local musicians that feels like a mix between a concert and a block party. See solo acts, bands and even families play a variety of genres on the comfort of their own stoops. It’s more intimate than any other live music you could see this summer, and it may teach you a bit about your neighbors, too.

Here are dates for various Porchfests happening in and around Boston this summer. Be sure to check out individual listings for more information about timing and lineups:

  • Newton: June 1
  • Brookline: June 8
  • Arlington: June 8
  • Fenway: June 15
  • Quincy: June 22
  • Jamaica Plain: July 13
  • Belmont: Sept. 7
  • Natick: Sept. 14
  • Roslindale: Sept. 14
  • West Concord: Sept. 21
  • Milton: Sept. 21

Dragon Boat Fest

Cambridge

June 9

The drummer, right, at the bow of the boat leads a crew in some pre-race stretching before the start of competition at the Dragon Boat Festival on the Charles River in Cambridge in 2002. (Robert E. Klein/AP)
The drummer, right, at the bow of the boat leads a crew in some pre-race stretching before the start of competition at the Dragon Boat Festival on the Charles River in Cambridge in 2002. (Robert E. Klein/AP)

The festival, which claims to be the oldest in the nation of its kind, started in 1979 to honor the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese reformist who took to poetry when the king ignored his ideas. Legend has it that Yuan was exiled and his home was invaded, so he drowned himself in a river. Since then, people have been racing dragon boats along rivers on the fifth day of the fifth moon on the lunar calendar every year.

The beautiful, ornate dragon boats will race on the Charles River, along with traditional food and performances, from dance to martial arts. It’s a sight to see.


Donna Summer Roller Disco

Boston City Hall Plaza

June 21

A man roller skates at the Donna Summer Roller Disco in 2015. (Greg Cook/WBUR)
A man roller skates at the Donna Summer Roller Disco in 2015. (Greg Cook/WBUR)

Boston City Hall plaza hosts the ultimate celebration of Summer (the season and the disco icon hailing from Mission Hill, complete with a pop-up roller rink and every hit you’ve ever wanted to boogie to. Don’t have roller skates? Don’t fret, the city has free rentals available on a first come, first serve basis.


St. Peter's Fiesta

Gloucester

June 26-30

The St. Peter statue is carried up Prospect Street in Gloucester during the St. Peter’s Fiesta in 2016. (Greg Cook/WBUR)
The St. Peter statue is carried up Prospect Street in Gloucester during the St. Peter’s Fiesta in 2016. (Greg Cook/WBUR)

For a festival that celebrates both commercial fishing and the Catholic faith, venture outside the city to the North Shore the last weekend in June. Residents dressed in all white will parade icons through the streets atop beds of flowers, masses are held and prayers will be said all to bless fishermen’s fleets ahead of the busiest season of the year.

In addition to religious ceremonies, there will be boat races, great Italian food, live music and the famous greasy pole contest — in which Gloucester’s bravest charge a slippery, oiled 40-foot pole in an attempt to capture the Italian flag at the end of it.


City Dance Party

Cambridge City Hall

June 28

The City Dance Party in front of Cambridge City Hall. (Courtesy Kyle Klein)
The City Dance Party in front of Cambridge City Hall. (Courtesy Kyle Klein)

Ever wanted to go dancing in the streets with all your friends while thousands of people groove alongside you? Head to Central Square in late June for just that. It’s a huge party that makes you feel connected to the heartbeat of the city as you get down.

DJs will spin music, colorful lights will create ambiance and some chaos-lovers will probably climb the light poles.


Festival Betances

South End

July 20-21

The crowd cheers at the Greased Pole Tournament at Villa Victoria’s annual Festival Betances in 2016. (Greg Cook/WBUR)
The crowd cheers at the Greased Pole Tournament at Villa Victoria’s annual Festival Betances in 2016. (Greg Cook/WBUR)

Celebrate Latinx culture with traditional music, dance and cuisine in the South End. This year’s festival is putting “Latinas En Foco” with a female-led lineup of artists and performers. The day is full of color and excitement, and features diverse arts from a variety of Latinx countries.

The event also features its own greasy pole contest.


International Sand Sculpting Festival

Revere Beach

July 26-28

Guy Olivier Deveau from Montreal works on his sculpture at Revere Beach in 2015. (Hadley Green for WBUR)
Guy Olivier Deveau from Montreal works on his sculpture at Revere Beach in 2015. (Hadley Green for WBUR)

Remember the satisfaction you felt when you were a kid and built the perfect sandcastle? Get ready for that to be blown out of the water at Revere Beach in July, where masterpieces are built out of the beach. Top sand sculptors from around the world are invited to create and showcase their masterpieces.

To see the works in progress, head to the country's first public beach earlier in the weekend, or go Sunday evening to see complete sculptures and find out who gets crowned the winner. The event also features food trucks, live entertainment and a fireworks show.

Related:

Laney Ruckstuhl Twitter Digital Producer
Laney Ruckstuhl is a freelance digital producer.

More…

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news