columbus day parade
Columbus Day

Columbus Day Parade

The Columbus Day Parade in Boston celebrates Boston’s Italian heritage, Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the Americas, and the commitment of Massachusetts military units to American freedom. 

The Heritage Day Parade will not be held this year, but we will be holding a special event to commemorate Heritage Day! Stay tuned!  The information about the parade will remain on the website in case you wish to plan for next year.

The event features marching brass bands, military units, Colonial militias, Italian-American groups, saints’ societies, drum and bugle corps, Duck Boats, politicians, entertainers, vintage autos, and even bagpipes. 

Columbus Day Parade always takes place the Sunday before the holiday.  Since 1937, it has been held in the North End and East Boston neighborhoods.

 

What you need to know about Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day events in NYC | 6sqft

Each odd-numbered year (2021, 2023, 2025), the parade winds its way through Boston’s North End’s narrow streets – Atlantic Avenue, Hanover Street and Endicott – beginning at the Boston Public Market. 

This parade marches down Bennington Street from East Boston’s Suffolk Downs to Maverick Square near Boston’s waterfront on even-numbered years (2022, 2024, 2026).

Check the Boston Events in October page for the exact date and time for the Columbus Day Parade.

Columbus Day Parade San Francisco 2021

San Francisco joined dozens of other cities in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Tuesday, a move hailed by many as long overdue but denounced by others as divisive and cruel.

Guido Perego, president of the Italian Athletic Club in Boston’s traditionally Italian-American North Beach neighborhood, said, “To take our day away is an insult to our culture.” “The city basically pits one culture against another.”

The change was approved 10-1 by the board on Tuesday.

There are other cities like San Francisco. The federal holiday has been rebranded as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in four states and 55 cities, including Seattle and Phoenix. In 1992, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the U.S. to do so.

In 1937, Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday on the second Monday of October. The holiday’s reputation and that of its namesake explorer have become increasingly controversial over the years.

Howard Zinn, a social activist and historian, challenged the popular narrative of Christopher Columbus as a stoic hero who overcame adversity to discover the New World in the first chapter of his 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States.”

Zinn cited evidence that Columbus enslaved and slaughtered the “gentle” Native people he encountered in the Caribbean Islands, leading to the extermination of native people across the continent.

 

Columbus Day Parade Chicago 2021

In downtown Chicago, the Columbus Day Parade returns this year.

Last fall, it was canceled and replaced by a car parade due to the COVID pandemic.

This year’s queen and court were introduced by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans on Wednesday night.

The parade will take place at 12:30 p.m. on State Street between Wacker Drive and Van Buren Street.

According to the JCCIA website, this will be the 69th annual parade. JCCIA serves as a congress for Chicagoland Italian American organizations and represents the community on a local, state, national, and international level, according to the site.

It filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Park District in order to return a statue of Christopher Columbus to Arrigo Park, which was removed during civil unrest last year.

The genocide of indigenous Americans was attributed to Columbus, according to activists.

Where to Watch the Columbus Day Parade

The North End Columbus Day Parade (odd years) begins at City Hall Plaza near Government Center, marches down Congress Street to State Street, where it turns right and finally crosses the Greenway to the North End.  After turning left onto Cross Street, the marchers circle the southern part of the North End, passing Christopher Columbus Park, and finishing on Hanover Street.

Columbus Day Parade (October) - New York, New York - Arrivalguides.com

The parade is huge, and some marchers join from staging areas in the North End instead of City Hall Plaza – so if you want to see the whole thing, watch it from the North End.

Paraders from Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona from the Abruzzo area in Italy, wearing medieval costumes – that’s Boston Public Market and the Congress Street back entrance to Haymarket Station in the background

There are typically much more spectators in the North End than in East Boston.  If the weather is particularly nice, you can expect well over a thousand people to watch both events.

 

Trumpeters and drummers from Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona

 

Columbus Day Parade marching down Hanover Street in Boston’s North End

The best viewing spots in the North End can be found on Atlantic Avenue and Hanover Street.  Christopher Columbus Park offers additional space for viewing along the Greenway and along Atlantic Ave. 

To avoid the largest crowds but still be in the sun, head to Congress Street near the Boston Public Market (next to Haymarket Station). 

As you move up Congress Street toward State Street, you will find plenty of shade from the taller buildings – a plus if the weather is hot (you’d be surprised how often this occurs in early October), but a challenge if you’re taking photos.

Photos: Columbus Day Parade 2018 in NYC - silive.com

Boston City Counciler At-Large Michelle Wu marching down Hanover Street in the Columbus Day Parade

There is plenty of sidewalk space on Hanover Street.  From the restaurants along the street, the best spots to watch are from.  You’ll have the best seat in the house for watching at 12:30 or 1pm, as well as a meal of some of the best Italian or seafood – North End specialties – in Boston.

There are plenty of good spots to see the Boston skyline along Bennington Street (even years). 

Colonial militia reenactors in Boston Columbus Day Parade

Getting to the Parade

By far the easiest way to get to the parade is on the T (Boston’s subway):

Closest T stations:

– North End:  Blue Line/Aquarium

– East Boston: Blue Line/Maverick

If you drive:

Parking near the TD Garden or Government Center will allow you to walk across the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the parade route if you are going to the parade in the North End.  You should be aware that streets near the parade route will be closed and traffic will be rerouted – and likely very congested.

On parade day, parking in East Boston can be difficult – so get there early and look for street parking, or park in a garage near TD Garden or Government Center, and take the T’s Blue Line from Aquarium Station to Maverick Station – a 2-minute ride.

19 Photos of the Columbus Day Parade in Little Italy | Cleveland | Cleveland Scene

Cross Street filled with smoke after Colonial militia members fired muskets (yes, they’re real, but no bullets – just smoke) as they march in the parade

Hotels Near the Columbus Day Parade

You’ll find the largest selection of hotel accommodations in or near the North End, regardless of whether the parade is in the North End or East Boston. 

It will only take you 2 minutes to get to the Maverick Station in East Boston from the Aquarium Station on the Blue Line between the New England Aquarium and the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in years when the parade is in East Boston.

Book early, as this is when the foliage in the area is peaking and most hotels are full around Columbus Day):

Where to Eat After the Columbus Day Parade

Watching all the parade marchers is sure to make you hungry.  Fortunately, you can find lots of wonderful Italian restaurants in both the North End and East Boston.

  • You can find wonderful Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End.  You can also walk down the Rose Kennedy Greenway and get food at one of the stalls in the Food Hall at Faneuil Marketplace or eat Dim Sum in nearby Chinatown if the North End is packed with tourists.  Located across the Greenway from the North End, the Boston Public Market offers many delicious prepared foods to eat on site or take outside.
  • This rapidly developing area just across the harbor from Boston is the ideal place to sample all the great restaurants and old favorites during the Columbus Day Parade.  Around Central Square Park, near Boston Harbor, you’ll find many wonderful restaurants along Bennington Street and nearby streets.  Don’t miss the delicious pizza at Santarpio’s (111 Chelsea St) and the delicious Columbian food at El Pi*on (54 Bennington St). 

Columbus Day Parade marchers at the edge of Christopher Columbus Park

Columbus Day Parade 2021 in New York - Dates | Columbus day parade, Columbus day, Parades

More Things to Do in Boston on Columbus Day Weekend

More about the Columbus Day Parade

The North End Columbus Day Celebration Committee, founded on October 12, 1937, organizes Boston’s official Columbus Day parade in the North End. 

In addition to preserving family, community, and heritage traditions of the Italian American Community, the Committee dedicates itself to maintaining those traditions.

East Boston’s official Columbus Day Parade is organized by the Columbus Parade Committee.  Those interested in marching in the parade may request an application by calling 617-569-5000.

Clowns in the Columbus Day Parade

After the Columbus Day Parade ends, street sweeps arrive to collect any remaining confetti. This is a tradition in Boston.

When they’re here, it’s always kind of fun – and you get a few more minutes to enjoy walking on traffic-free streets before cars start moving again.

 

Street sweepers clean Hanover Street immediately after the Columbus Day Parade ends

More Columbus Day Parade Photos from Boston’s North End

 

Reading Memorial High School Marching Band on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End

Reading High School flag twirlers


Where to Watch the Columbus Day Parade

The North End Columbus Day Parade (odd years) kicks off at City Hall Plaza near Government Center, marches down Congress Street to State Street, where it turns right and finally crosses the Greenway to the North End.  The marchers turn left onto Cross Street, then circle the southern part of the North End along Atlantic Ave past to Christopher Columbus Park, and complete their loop on Hanover Street.

Your guide to the Columbus Day Parade NYC 2021 ▷ Route, Map & Highlights

This is a huge parade, and some marchers join from staging areas in the North End rather than at City Hall Plaza – so if you want to see the whole thing, watch it from the North End.

 

Columbus Day Parade - floats in Boston's North End neighborhood
Paraders from Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona from the Abruzzo area in Italy, wearing medieval costumes – that’s Boston Public Market and the Congress Street back entrance to Haymarket Station in the background

 

Columbus Day Parade - floats in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

Typically, crowds of spectators are much larger in the North End than in East Boston.  When the weather happens to be gorgeous, you can expect many more onlookers in both places.

 

Columbus Day Parade - floats in Boston's North End neighborhood
Trumpeters and drummers from Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona

 

Columbus Day Parade marching down Hanover Street in Boston's North End
Columbus Day Parade marching down Hanover Street in Boston’s North End

Best places to watch in the North End are along Atlantic Ave and Hanover Street.  Christopher Columbus Park, along the edge of the Greenway and bordering Atlantic Ave, provides extra viewing space.

However, if you want to avoid the largest crowds but still be in the sun, head to Congress Street near the Boston Public Market (next to Haymarket Station).

As you move further up Congress Street toward State Street, you can find plenty of shade from the taller buildings – a plus if the weather is hot (you’d be surprised by how often this can happen in early October), but challenging if you’re taking photos.

 

Boston City Counciler At-Large Michelle Wu marching down Hanover Street in the Columbus Day Parade
Boston City Counciler At-Large Michelle Wu marching down Hanover Street in the Columbus Day Parade

Hanover Street provides plenty of sidewalk space.  Prime viewing spots are from the restaurants lining the street.  Make reservations for 12:30 or 1pm, and you’ll have the perfect vantage spot for watching, along with a meal of some of the finest Italian or seafood – North End specialties – in the city.

In East Boston (even years), any spot along Bennington Street provides excellent viewing.

Colonial militia reenactors in Boston Columbus Day Parade
Colonial militia reenactors in Boston Columbus Day Parade

Top October Tours


Getting to the Parade

By far the easiest way to get to the parade is on the T (Boston’s subway):

Closest T stations:
– North End:  Blue Line/Aquarium
– East Boston: Blue Line/Maverick

If you drive:

If you are going to the parade in the North End, park in a garage near TD Garden or Government Center, and walk across the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the parade route.  Keep in mind that streets near the parade route will be closed, and traffic will be rerouted – and likely very congested.

Parking in East Boston can be tricky, especially on parade day- so either get there early and look for street parking, or park in a garage near TD Garden or Government Center and take the T’s Blue Line from the Aquarium Station to Maverick Station – a 2-minute ride.

 

Boston Columbus Day parade - Colonial militia
Cross Street filled with smoke after Colonial militia members fired muskets (yes, they’re real, but no bullets – just smoke) as they march in the parade

Hotels Near the Columbus Day Parade

Regardless of whether the parade is in the North End or East Boston, you’ll find the largest choice of hotel accommodations in or near the North End.

In years when the parade is in East Boston, just hop on the subway’s Blue Line at the Aquarium Station between the New England Aquarium and the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, and a 2-minute ride will take you to the Maverick Station in East Boston.

Try these terrific hotels in and near the North End (and remember – book early, as Columbus Day is when fall foliage is at or near peak in this area and hotels get full):

 

 


Where to Eat After the Columbus Day Parade

Watching all the parade marchers is sure to make you hungry.  Fortunately, you can find lots of wonderful Italian restaurants in both the North End and East Boston.

  • Boston – Head to any of the North End’s wonderful Italian restaurants.  Or, if the North End is packed with visitors, walk down the Rose Kennedy Greenway and get food at one of the many stalls in the Food Hall at Faneuil Marketplace, or go for Dim Sum in nearby Chinatown.  Boston Public Market, directly across the Greenway from the North End, also offers many delicious prepared foods to eat on site or take outside for a picnic.
  • East Boston – The Columbus Day Parade is a great excuse to go explore all the old favorites and new restaurants in this rapidly developing area just across the Harbor from Boston.  You’ll find lots of terrific restaurants along Bennington Street and nearby streets in the Central Square Park area near Boston Harbor.  Don’t miss the incredible pizza at Santarpio’s (111 Chelsea St) or the fabulous Columbian food at El Piñon (54 Bennington St).

Check out more Italian restaurants in Boston

Columbus Day Parade marchers at the edge of Christopher Columbus Park
Columbus Day Parade marchers at the edge of Christopher Columbus Park

More Things to Do in Boston on Columbus Day Weekend


More about the Columbus Day Parade

The City of Boston’s official Columbus Day Parade in the North End is organized by the North End Columbus Day Celebration Committee, founded on October 12, 1937.

The Committee dedicates itself to maintaining the traditions of the Italian American Community of Boston, which the parade celebrates:  family, community, and heritage.

The City of Boston’s official Columbus Day Parade in East Boston is organized by the Columbus Parade Committee.  Organizations interested in marching in the parade may request an application by calling 617-569-5000.

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood
Clowns in the Columbus Day Parade

As is the custom in Boston, as soon as the last bits of confetti fall once the Columbus Day Parade ends, street sweeps arrive to clean the streets.

It’s always kind of fun to see them – plus you get a few more minutes to enjoy walking across traffic-free streets before the cars crowd back in.

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood
Street sweepers clean Hanover Street immediately after the Columbus Day Parade ends

More Columbus Day Parade Photos from Boston’s North End

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood
 

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood

 

 Columbus Day Parade in Boston's North End neighborhood
Columbus Day Parade in Boston - St Agrippina Society Float

 

Reading Memorial High School band in Boston's Columbus Day Parade
Reading Memorial High School Marching Band on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End

 

Reading Memorial High School flag twirlers
Reading High School flag twirlers

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