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Boston Marathon Visitor Guide

Photo from Boston Marathon - Visitor Guide

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the most prestigious running events in the world. Every year, thousands of runners from around the globe come together to tackle this iconic 26-mile race through the historic streets and neighborhoods of Boston. For spectators, it’s an unforgettable experience full of energy and excitement. Whether you’re a first-time spectator or have been watching for years, our Boston Marathon Spectator Guide will help make your experience even more enjoyable!

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Dive into this comprehensive guide for detailed information on the event, including maps of the race course and spectator areas, advice on where to stay and eat near the finish line, tips for getting around Boston and more. Get ready to cheer for your favorite runners by knowing more with our Boston Marathon Spectator Guide!

History of the Boston Marathon

Boston’s First Ever Marathon

Knowing the history of the first Boston Marathon is an invaluable way to understand and appreciate the magnitude of this event today. It all started in 1897 when 15 daring runners set out on a 24.5-mile route from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Boston. John J. McDermott emerged as the first winner at 2:55:10, and since then, this incredible display of athleticism has grown to become a beloved global phenomenon, with over 30,000 runners from around the world attending each year.

Boston Marathon Map

Boston Marathon Route

The Boston Marathon will follow the same route as past years, starting at the Hopkinton Common area in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and finishing at Copley Square in downtown Boston. The marathon will take runners through some of the most iconic sights in Massachusetts, including small towns such as Natick and Wellesley, as well as the grounds of Harvard University and Boston College. The route will also take runners through the iconic “Heartbreak Hill” section of Newton, which is known for its difficult course. By the time the runners reach Copley Square, they will have completed a total distance of 26.2 miles!

Boston Marathon Participation

To participate in the marathon, first, you must qualify through one of the Marathon’s Official Qualifying Races. Qualifying times vary based on age and gender, so make sure to check the Marathon’s official website for more information. Once you have qualified, you are then able to register for the Marathon, which starts in Hopkinton Common and ends 26.2 miles later at Copley Square in downtown Boston.

Best Place to Watch the Boston Marathon

Spectators at the Boston MarathonThe best place to watch the Boston Marathon will depend on your preference. If you want to watch near the beginning or middle of the race, then Hopkinton Common or Natick make great viewing points. If you’d like to watch at the end, then Copley Square in downtown Boston is an ideal spot to cheer on and congratulate participants as they complete their incredible journey. Additionally, there are several spectator areas set up along key points in the course for friends and family members of participants.

Boston Marathon Start Time

The Boston Marathon will be an incredible event for all involved and a terrific showcase of athletic talent and endurance. All participants should arrive at the starting line in Hopkinton Common, Massachusetts, two hours before the official start time of 9 am ET.

The start times for each division in 2023 have been officially announced as:

  • Military March – 6 am ET
  • Men’s Wheelchair – 8:02 am ET
  • Women’s Wheelchair – 8:05 am ET
  • Handcycles & Duos – 8:30 am ET
  • Professional Men – 8:37 am ET
  • Professional Women – 8:45 am ET
  • Para Athletics Divisions – 8:50 am ET
  • Rolling Start Begins at 9 am ET and Rolling Start Ends at 11:30 am ET

Please note that Boston Athletic Association always labels these times as “tentative” — there can be last-minute changes.

Boston Marathon Pro Tips

  1. Make sure to arrive at the starting line in Hopkinton Common two hours before the race start time of 9 am ET for bib pickup and registration.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the route ahead of time so you know where best to watch from along the way.
  3. Check out the Marathon’s Spectator Guide to find spectator areas and other helpful tips for spectators.
  4. Dress appropriately – layers are key! Temperatures can change quickly during a marathon, so wear clothing you can easily add or remove as needed throughout the day, and bring sunscreen if necessary.
  5. Bring comfortable shoes – you will likely be spending several hours standing around cheering on your favorite runners, so make sure that your footwear is supportive and comfortable!
  6. Pack snacks and drinks – it’s important to stay hydrated while watching a marathon, especially when temperatures are high outside! Consider packing some healthy snacks, such as nuts or trail mix, in case hunger strikes after all those miles run by participants!
  7. Have fun – the Boston Marathon is an incredible event that should be enjoyed by everyone involved, whether running or spectating!

Getting to the Marathon

The Boston Marathon will start in Hopkinton and finish in Boston, Massachusetts. Starting from the Hopkinton Common, the route proceeds broadly southwest along Route 135 before turning onto Main Street and joining Route 16 toward Ashland. From there, runners will pass through Framingham and Natick before entering Wellesley where they will be greeted by enthusiastic crowds. The course then proceeds to Newton Hills and turns onto Boylston Street in Boston, ending at the John Hancock Tower.

Participants must meet certain requirements, including running a certified marathon that follows the same distance as the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles or 42 kilometers) within a set amount of time from the date of application.

5 Other Things to Do While You Are in Boston

Copley SquareCopley Square

Copley Square is the heart of Boston and a must-see destination for everyone visiting the city. Located near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, there are plenty of attractions to explore in this bustling area!

  1. Visit the iconic Trinity Church – This grand Gothic Revival building was built in 1877 and has been a popular attraction in Copley Square ever since.
  2. Take pictures of the John Hancock Tower – This 60-story building stands tall over the skyline and offers amazing views of Boston from its observatory decks.
  3. Check out the Newbury Street shops – From designer boutiques to specialty stores, this street offers something for everyone.
  4. Indulge in delicious restaurants – Whether you’re looking for a fancy dinner or just some comfort food, this area has it all!
  5. Relax at Copley Square Park – Take a break and soak up the sun in this beautiful park located in the center of Copley Square.

Boston City Hall PlazaBoston City Hall Plaza

Boston City Hall Plaza is an iconic area of the city located in the heart of downtown and surrounded by attractions. Here are five things to do while visiting this historic site:

  1. Visit the JFK Federal Building – Located across from City Hall Plaza, this historic building was built in 1965 and serves as a reminder of President John F. Kennedy’s legacy.
  2. Take pictures of Boston City Hall – This beautiful building features a unique design and serves as the seat for all city government functions in Boston.
  3. Explore nearby parks – From Post Office Square to the Greenway, there are plenty of green spaces to explore in the area.
  4. Shop at Downtown Crossing – This bustling shopping area features a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.
  5. Relax by the Boston Common pond – Take a break from sightseeing with a stroll through this tranquil spot located near City Hall Plaza.

These are just some of the activities you can enjoy during your visit to the Boston City Hall Plaza. Have fun and explore the many attractions that this area has to offer!

Boston Public GardenBoston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden is one of the most beautiful and iconic places in all of Boston. With its lush green spaces and picturesque views, it’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or an outdoor picnic. Here are a few things to do while you are visiting this public garden:

  1. Visit the Swan Boats – Take a boat ride around the lagoon – Relax and enjoy a scenic boat tour around the pond in the center of the garden.
  2. Check out the statues and monuments – From the George Washington monument to the Public Garden statue, there are plenty of beautiful sculptures to admire.
  3. Enjoy a picnic in the park – Pack lunch and find your own spot in this romantic outdoor setting.
  4. Explore the botanical gardens – From exotic flowers to colorful foliage, this is one of the most beautiful displays of nature in the city.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an exciting adventure, Boston Public Garden has something pleasing. Enjoy your visit and soak up all the beauty of this park!

Boston Theater DistrictBoston Theater District

The Boston Theater District is a vibrant and lively area of the city filled with world-class theaters, restaurants and nightlife. Here are some things to do while you are in the district:

  1. Visit the Wang Theatre at the Boch Center – Located in the heart of the theater district, this iconic building has been hosting stage shows and performances since 1925. This newly renovated theater houses multiple performing arts companies, including the Boston Ballet.
  2. Take a walk through the Charles Playhouse – Home to the world-class Blue Man Group, this historic theater is one of the most popular venues in the district.
  3. Enjoy dinner at a restaurant – From Italian to Japanese cuisine, there are plenty of places to choose from when you’re looking for a delicious meal.
  4. Catch a show at The Wilbur Theatre – Located just steps away from the Charles Playhouse, this theater hosts a variety of comedy and music acts.

Whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or an evening at the theater, you will always grab excitement in Boston’s Theater District! Enjoy your visit.

Beacon HillBeacon Hill

Beacon Hill is one of the most iconic and historic neighborhoods in Boston. With its cobblestone streets, gaslit street lamps and beautiful townhouses, this area has a unique charm that can’t be found anywhere else. Here are five things to do while you are visiting this lovely district:

  1. Take a walk along the Charles River Esplanade – This waterfront walkway offers magnificent panoramic views of the city skyline, as well as plenty of places to relax and take in the scenery.
  2. Explore Acorn Street – This picturesque cobblestone alley is one of the most photographed streets in the city and is lined with charming brick townhouses.
  3. Visit the Massachusetts State House – This historic building is located at the top of Beacon Hill and was designed by famous architect Charles Bulfinch in 1798.
  4. Check out Louisburg Square – Located on the east side of Beacon Hill, this beautiful park is surrounded by luxury townhouses and offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
  5. Go shopping – Beacon Hill offers plenty of unique shops and boutiques to browse, from art galleries and antique shops to clothing stores and bookstores.

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor escape or a taste of history, Beacon Hill is the best place to stay and explore all the unique sights this historic neighborhood has to offer.


Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is a living history museum located on the waterfront in Boston, Massachusetts. The museum offers visitors an immersive experience that takes them back in time to the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Visitors can explore the museum’s interactive exhibits, including the tea ships, museum exhibits, and live reenactments of the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. The museum also offers guided tours, educational programs, and special events. It’s a great place to learn about American history and experience what life was like during the early days of the American Revolution.

If you’re visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, there are several other nearby attractions and places of interest that you may want to check out. Here are a few suggestions:

  • The Freedom Trail – This 2.5-mile-long walking trail takes you through 16 historical sites in Boston, including the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House, and the Old North Church.
  • Boston Harborwalk – A 43-mile-long public walkway that stretches along Boston’s waterfront, offering stunning views of the harbor and access to several parks, public art installations, and historical sites.
  • Faneuil Hall Marketplace – A bustling shopping and dining destination located in the heart of downtown Boston, with over 100 stores and restaurants.
  • USS Constitution Museum – Located in the nearby Charlestown Navy Yard, this museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the history of the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.
  • Boston Common – The oldest public park in the United States, located just a few miles from the museum, with walking paths, gardens, and seasonal events.

These are just a few of the many attractions and places to visit in the area. Depending on your interests, there are many other museums, historical sites, parks, and landmarks to explore in and around Boston.

Ghosts & Gravestones

Ghosts & Gravestones is a unique tour of Boston’s rich history that brings to life the city’s spooky past. On this night walking and trolley tour, visitors will be taken on a spooktacular journey through the cobblestone streets and hidden alleys of historic Boston. Along the way, guests will discover tales of hauntings, unsolved mysteries and the hidden secrets of some of the city’s most notorious figures. From the old Fort Warren to the dark corners of Chinatown, you never know what might be lurking in the shadows. Don’t miss your chance to experience a spine-tingling tour of Boston’s haunted history!

Old Town Trolley Tours

An Old Town Trolley Tour is a must-do in Boston for any visitor looking to make the most of their time in this historic city. This tour takes guests on a narrated journey through the streets of the city, allowing visitors to explore its rich culture and history at their own pace. The tour includes various stops including the USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument, Beacon Hill, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and more. Not only will guests get to go sightseeing in comfort and style, but they’ll also learn interesting facts and stories along the way. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore one of America’s most beloved cities!


When is the Boston Marathon?

It is traditionally held on the third Monday of April.

How Many Miles is the Boston Marathon?

It is a 26.2-mile course that starts at the Boston Common and ends near Copley Square. Along the route, runners pass through eight cities and towns in Massachusetts, including iconic landmarks such as Fenway Park, Harvard University and Beacon Hill.

Can Non-Runners Go to the Boston Marathon Expo?

Yes, non-runners who have never taken part in it can still experience its spirit through the Marathon Expo. The Expo will take place in conjunction with the historic marathon. It is a free event that allows non-runners to explore the world of running and the marathon. There will be exhibitors and vendors, as well as speakers and activities to bring the experience of the Boston Marathon to all visitors. The Expo is a great way for non-runners to enjoy a day of fun and learning at this once-in-a-lifetime event!

Is There Any Entry Fee for the Boston Marathon?

Yes, there is an entry fee for runners of the Boston Marathon. This fee covers a variety of services, including race support and medical care. For non-runners, it is completely free.

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