Lifestyle

Celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at Boston’s Best Holiday Events

An events guide to the best Boston Christmas market and more seasonal fun.

Lindsay Ahern, photo courtesy of Snowport
Lindsay Ahern, photo courtesy of Snowport
Lindsay Ahern, photo courtesy of Snowport

The lights are twinkling and there’s so much holiday spirit in the air that Boston’s drivers are lightly tapping a beep-beep instead of laying on the horn, right? Maybe that’s just an egg-nog-fueled daydream, but it’s hard to deny that the city is brimming with good cheer this season-festive vibes and champagne cocktails alike.

From the annual winter wonderlands and holiday markets that locals look forward to all year to new holiday events joining the mix (including cocktails served in festive-clad dinosaurs, holiday music trivia, an orchestral Kwanzaa performance, and a holiday market curling lesson), it’s a winter wonderland out there. Plus there are plenty of ways to give back to the community. ‘Tis the season for Boston’s best holiday events.

Photo credit: Melissa Hom
Photo credit: Melissa Hom
Photo credit: Melissa Hom

Holiday Drinking in Boston

Miracle: A Christmas Cocktail Pop-Up Bar

November 24–December 24, 5 pm
Cambridge, Free entry
The globe-trotting, Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bar is delivering sippable festive cheer in Cambridge this year at Hotel Marlowe with over-the-top libations like the minty, tequila-based Christmas Crickets and the almond-milk-based Jingle Balls Nog (cocktails start at $10). Drinks are served in spectacular cocktail glasses, some of which you can buy. One and done shopping? We’ll drink to that.

Satan Claws: Holiday Music Trivia

December 7, 8 pm
Everett, Free entry
Remember when your partner joked that your holiday music knowledge is cute but useless? Well, the taps at Bone Up Brewing Company will soon flow with the seasonal favorite Biere de Krampus (a hearty holiday ale with ginger, figs, and honey)-and that can mean just one thing. It’s time for the holiday edition of Audio Triviality’s Music Trivia. So brush up on themes like Belsnickel, Santa, and-yes-their sadistically scampish counterpart, Krampus, who terrifies children who have misbehaved (ah, Christmas memories). Holiday terror aside, now’s your time to shine as bright as Rudolph’s nose while going all out on the Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs trivia.

Sips & Sounds at The Dagny Boston

December 7 and 14, 4 pm
Downtown, Free entry
Walk right into the ultra-cozy library at The Dagny Boston to find glimmering trees, live tunes from Berklee College musicians, and a champagne attendant ready to pour you a glass of bubbles. The completely free experience makes the perfect amuse-bouche for a holiday date night. Better yet, pop in just because and soak up all the holiday magic. The staff won’t let you move in and stay forever but they will give you that glass of bubbles and a luxurious moment of holiday tranquility.

Hanukkah Blessing Wine Tasting and Class

December 13, 7 pm
Cambridge, $89
Cambridge’s event-savvy Bonde Fine Wine Shop is ushering in the Festival of Lights with an intimate Jewish foods and kosher wine pairing event limited to just eight people. Owner and sommelier Bertil Jean-Chronberg will empower you with enough next-level wine know-how to make your friends and family linger long into the night. The class includes a flight of four wines, light bites, and oodles of sommelier secrets.

Matzoball Jewish Singles Holiday Party

December 24, 9 pm
Downtown, Starting at $50
The laudedgrandaddy” of Jewish holiday parties marks its 37th year of Christmas Eve revelry with live DJs spinning hip hop, house, and more at the Royale. The lively, packed dance floor barely leaves room for a sprinkle of Kosher salt between revelers, and maybe meet your soulmate. No matter what, you’ll definitely ditch all the Santa-saturated TV viewing and maybe, just maybe, throw back some shots. Tickets sell out fast, so if you’re looking to switch it up this year, set the dreidel aside and put your party pants on.

Winter Sports Events in Boston

Curling Lessons at Snowport

Ongoing
Seaport District, Free
Don’t tell pickleball, but a new sports darling is in town-and she’s a cold-weather legend. Once just a niche sport in the Winter Olympics, curling’s popularity is booming. Get in on the action with a free, 30-minute lesson at the Seaport District with the North End Curling Club. Plus, it’s the perfect stop while you’re visiting the annual Snowport wonderland, where you can also look out for the famed Betty the Yeti, shop the Holiday Market, buy a fluffy Christmas tree, warm up in the Envoy’s rooftop igloos, or check out the Light Up Seaport and Menorah Lighting events along the way. Reservations are required for curling lessons, which are held Saturdays from 2 pm to 4 pm.

Ice Skating at Boston Common Frog Pond

Ongoing
Downtown, Prices vary
The holidays aren’t complete without a failed double-Lutz jump at Boston’s famed outdoor ice skating rink. Frog Pond is one of Boston’s most cherished (and wholesome) winter traditions. Set along the walking paths of Boston Common, the small rink offers skate rentals, and you can buy a hot chocolate to help keep your hands warm. The trees of the Common are festooned with holiday lights–giving irresistible Hallmark Christmas movie vibes–and the nearly 400-year-old park is aglow with holiday magic.

WWE Live Holiday Tour

December 27, 7:30 pm
West End, Starting at $37.50
Nothing screams the holidays quite like a Hulk Hogan-style Atomic Leg Drop, so save the date for the WWE’s Holiday Tour Live at TD Garden. Beloved basher Rhea Ripley is featured in many promotions, but keep your fingers crossed since the rotating line-up is full of surprises. Whether you’re a SmackDown, NXT, RAW, or Survivor Series fan, TD Garden is bringing the late-holiday-season noise that makes the chaos of family bickering look downright cordial.

Photo credit: Hilary Scott, photo courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra
Photo credit: Hilary Scott, photo courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra
Photo credit: Hilary Scott, photo courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra

Holiday Arts and Culture Events in Boston

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebrations in Boston

November 25 and 30
Citywide, Free
To thank Boston for sending aid after a devastating explosion in Halifax in December 1917, Nova Scotia sends a huge Christmas tree each year. Kick off the season with the 82nd year with the 82nd Boston Common Tree Lighting when, starting at 6 pm, the official Christmas tree and lights throughout Boston Common and the Public Garden light up in sequence. At 8 pm head over to Commonwealth Avenue, when the trees there will be set aglow and you can score cookies and hot chocolate.

Boch Center

Ongoing
Theater District, Prices vary
The Boch Center is breathing new life into the holiday classics this year. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (November 24–26) kicks off the festive season with Rudolph (and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster!) coming to life in costumes that match the original 1964 cartoon. (MJ O’Connor’s andLegal Sea Foods are both offering pre-show dining packages.) Next, the Boch Center unleashes Elf in Concert (December 22–23) with the orchestra performing the movie score in real time as the film shows on the big screen.

Snowflake Crossing: A Winter Wonderland in Downtown Crossing

November 25–December 25
Downtown, Free
Four frosty weeks of festivities, twinkling trees, and larger-than-life snowflakes at Snowflake Crossing kicks off at noon on November 25, when 100 tuba players rock the holiday classics on the Downtown Crossing steps. On November 30, the play ship at Martin’s Park, decked out in holiday lights, gets illuminated following a celebration with hot chocolate, a real fire truck, and a visit from The Grinch. Throughout the season, Summer Street Plaza hosts musicians, food vendors, a holiday market, and carolers. Plus, check in with Santa on the weekends to see about getting your name off the naughty list.

Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops

December 1–24
Fenway–Kenmore, Prices vary
Boston Symphony Orchestra’s annual Holiday Pops show is nothing short of spectacular. The theater’s acoustics are primo and the room is filled with both the vibrations of booming orchestra music. But it’s the near-tangible feeling of hope filling the room that creates a few moments when there isn’t a dry eye in the house (darn you, nostalgia!). The musicians offer a reprieve by mixing it up between big classics and silly riffs on holiday movie scores. Yes, there’s also a brief yet zippy sing-along, and if you ho-ho-hope hard enough, you might get a special visitor.

Castle of our Skins: As I Heard When I Was Young

December 2, 3 pm
Forest Hills, Free entry
Black artistry’s elegant and deeply felt power is front and center this festive season, as Castle of our Skins presents Brian Raphael Nabors’s Kwanzaa Suite as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston. It’s performed in seven parts (each exploring the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa) along with African and pan-African selections such as Monthati Masebe’s Nomadic Nirvana for string quartet, a gorgeous Ugandan piece, and more. All are invited to join the season’s beauty and embrace kuumba (creativity) at this free event at Bethel A.M.E. Church.

A John Waters Christmas

December 16, 8 pm
Back Bay, Starting at $34.50
Kriss Kringle probably won’t deliver a stocking full of cinematic perversion, but you know who will? The one and only John Waters. The renowned counter-culture filmmaker is coming to Boston for A John Waters Christmas presented by The Bowery Boston. For one day only, catch an in-person glimpse into the inner workings of Waters’s wicked brand of genius. He’s got a holiday goodie bag stuffed full of his obscenely dark comedy-and for an upcharge, you can join a smaller group of fans to hang out with him for a “group therapy” sesh or post-show Q&A.

‘Yippee Ki Yay’ at the The Huntington Theater

December 27–31
South End, Starting at $25
‘Tis the season to order a few cocktails and argue whether or not the fact that Die Hard’s bomb-diffusing storyline taking place at a Christmas party is enough to land it on the Christmas movie list. Yippee Ki Yay, a one-man parody paying tribute to the 1988 classic action romp starring Bruce Willis, lands at the Huntington Theater just in time for the great holiday debate. Besides, some of the best Christmas movies aren’t about Christmas.

Photo courtesy of Studio by Garden Streets
Photo courtesy of Studio by Garden Streets
Photo courtesy of Studio by Garden Streets

Holiday Shopping in Boston

Studio by Garden Streets

Ongoing
Cambridge, Starting at $55
This bustling maker space helps you deck the halls with holiday workshops teaching expert-level holiday skills. Make your own evergreen winter wreath (December 2 and 15, $110) using a fresh evergreen starter-wreath before adding on extras like other greenery, pinecones, and festive ribbon. At the Art of Gift Wrapping class (November 25 and December 9, $55), learn advanced wrapping skills that will make for a more polished-looking package and the courage to ditch the lame gift bags.

Local and Artisan Holiday Shopping

Throughout December
Citywide, Prices vary
Skip the commercial stores on Black Friday to shop at SoWa Artists Guild for one-of-a-kind work from over 80 artists. Visit Dorchester’s outdoor Holiday Market at The Lot for clothing, jewelry, and Boston-themed gifts together with cozy cocktails and photos with Santa (December 2–3). Small Mart’s holiday market (December 2, 16, 23) brings together over 20 vendors with vintage and handcrafted gifts. And Beacon Hill’s The Hidden Art Gallery has transformed into a winter wonderland for the Holiday Art Show, where you can stock up on giftable watercolors, digital prints, and framed photography, starting at just $25 (weekends, December 2–16).

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Melanie Carden is a private chef turned travel writer. She’s equal parts adrenaline-seeker and Golden Girls vibes. You can find her trying new things, thrifting for treasures, grinding it out on a trail, or lounging on a picnic blanket-Aperol spritz in hand. She’s fickle about social, but the sporadic nuggets are worth the wait-cricket tacos, anyone?

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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