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Special events

Fall: Foliage and apple picking

Bostonians know you can get some beautiful views by driving out of the city for an hour or so. Foliage in the Boston area tends to peak around the middle of October, although it can vary depending on the amount of rain in the summer and the temperatures in early fall.

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Fall: Head of the Charles Regatta

What the Boston Marathon is to running, the Head of the Charles Regatta is to rowing. For two days in the second-to-last weekend in October, thousands of rowers compete in a variety of races along a three-mile course on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. More than 200,000 spectators line the banks of the river on either side to cheer on their favorites.

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Spring: Lilac Sunday

On one Sunday every May, the Arnold Arboretum celebrates the scores of lilac bushes that line its paths. Stuff your nose in the fragrant bushes, learn more about the plants and how to care for them and take a picnic lunch (Lilac Sunday is the one day a year when the arboretum allows picnicking). If you're adventurous, climb to the top of Peters Hill for great views of the surrounding area and downtown Boston.

Admission is free. The best way to get there from downtown hotels is to take the Orange Line to Forest Hills - the station is basically right outside one arboretum gate.

Lilac Sunday info.

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Spring: Make Way for Ducklings Parade

Quack!Make Way for Ducklings is THE Boston children's book - Robert McCloskey's classic tale of how Mr. and Mrs. Mallard find a home for their new brood in the middle of the big city.

The annual Make Way for Ducklings Parade, held every Mother's Day, is THE impossibly cute Boston kids tradition, in which scores of kids dressed as ducks (with the odd Officer Mike scattered about) waddle, walk or are pushed in carriages along Mrs. Mallard's route. Starting at the Boston Common, opposite the State House, the procession winds its way up and down Beacon Hill (where some otherwise staid residents stand curbside and quack at the passing kiddie ducks) before ending at the Public Garden - where the kids promptly line up for a chance to sit on all of the statutes of ducklings and Mrs. Mallard. A trip on a Swan Boat - which will take you around the Duck Island the Mallards settled on, is the perfect way to end the occasion.

Getting there: Take the Green Line to Park Street, then walk up to the top of the Common. When you see lots of kids dressed like ducks, you'll know you're in the right spot. The parade typically kicks off at 1 p.m.

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Spring: Patriots Day

Fire!

In Massachusetts, the Monday closest to April 19 is an official holiday, commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord - although most people outside the state seem to know it mainly for the annual running of the Boston Marathon.

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Summer: Fourth of July

In Boston, the Fourth of July is celebrated for an entire week.

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Summer: Italia Unita Festival

An annual celebration of all things Italian. Held the third week in July, the festival transforms Central Square in East Boston into an Italian fair - featuring everything from homemade Italian food to nightly live performances. Now featuring the annual Italian sausage-eating competition.

Best way to get there is via subway: Take the Blue Line to Maverick, then follow the crowds up Meridian Street.

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Winter: First Night

First Night is Boston's annual celebration of the New Year. All day long on Dec. 31, you'll find events across the Back Bay and downtown. Many, including the ice scupltures in Copley Square and Boston Common, the Grand Procession parade down Boylston Street and fireworks at 7 p.m. (on Boston Common) and midnight (on Boston Harbor) are free. Indoor events generally require a First Night button, sort of a pass for all off the events.

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