The most heartening sign that spring is coming is the emergence of tiny flower buds all around the city. The and the take the enjoyment one step further in their annual springtime floral celebrations. Every April, the hyacinths that drop from the upper levels of the museum’s garden atrium bloom for one month, displaying their vibrant orange blooms for the winter-weary visitors. If lilacs are more your style, the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain boasts one of the oldest and largest collections of lilac bushes in the world, predating even the founding of the Arboretum in 1872. The Arboretum celebrates this fact every year with its annual lilac festival on the second Sunday in May, when thousands of visitors come to view the suddenly-blooming, fragrant flowers.
Free Friday Flicks
WBZ radio has been sponsoring outdoor films at the along Storrow Drive for 25 years and running. So grab a blanket or lawn chair and relax—the ambience and fresh air can make even the most insidious Adam Sandler film worth watching. And it’s free! Past movies include everyone-friendly faves like Shrek and Back to the Future. The series begins at sunset on Friday, June 17. (celebrateboston.com/free-friday-flicks.htm )
Everyone digs a stroll along the Charles River in the spring, but few ever think to actually get in it. Just next to the Esplanade, you’ll find a fleet of available watercraft for rent at . First-time boaters need to take an orientation class before getting out on the water and more instruction if they plan on sailing. A variety of membership levels are available, but everyone can get in on boating-related get-togethers like seminars, Friday night barbeques and more.
James Joyce Ramble
The lore holds that this olde event dates back to 1984, when someone commented that reading Finnegan’s Wake was like running a marathon. And so was borne this annual run through Dedham’s streets (which is safer than walking) whilst well-read spectators shout highly literate, inscrutable quotes to egg on participants. Yaw, yaw, yaw! Leapor Orthor! Fear siecken! May 1. (ramble.org )
Hash House Harriers
Why walk while drunk when you can run? This is basically a high-speed pub crawl, in which the Harriers partake in an alcohol-fueled marathon and then retire to a bar and sing very dirty songs (they call them “hymns”). If you join, they may favor you with an x-rated pseudonym like Cum Titty or Sphincter Sicle—hey, we all have dreams. The next run takes place on April 16 in Jamaica Plain. (bostonhash.com )
Walk for Hunger
Put those longer daylight hours to good use. Project Bread’s 43rd Annual Walk for Hunger  will take to the streets on May 1. Money goes toward funding 400 emergency food programs in 135 Massachusetts cities and towns. The trek kicks off on Boston Common and then makes a 20-mile loop around the city, covering Comm Ave, Beacon Street, Newton Centre, the Cambridge Boat Club and Harvard University. Walkers are treated to music at 12 different points, with free snacks and refreshments at the halfway mark.
Fly a kite
Little known fact: the kite’s first use was as a weapon by the Chinese military some 3,000 years ago. We don’t recommend this. National Kite Flying Day is actually in February. We don’t recommend this either. Don’t be a fool, do it when it’s warm! With all the handy beaches and fields, there are lots of great locales around Boston. Find nifty suggestions here  and here .
Chihuly, “Through the Looking Glass”
Blowing glass isn’t only for crunchy types in Vermont. The form has firmly established itself in the art world through the efforts of some truly spectacular master craftsmen. At the top of the heap is eyepatched Washington native Dale Chihuly, who’s exhibiting his ethereal, Willy Wonka-like glass gardens in 13 countries. On April 10, he arrives at the with an exhibition that runs through August 7.
Drink & Hunt
Just when you thought you’d run out of things to do on your smartphone, now you can add bar-hopping. Drink & Hunt is a new business that makes the time-honored tradition of wandering bar to bar into a high-tech scavenger hunt. Using a web-based application, you and your team can compete for prizes as you drink your way through five bars. Customized, thematic and private tours are available if you want to get fancy about it. (drinkandhunt.com )
April 8 is a red-letter date for Boston this year—literally. It’s opening day in —and we’re playing the Yankees. The boys of summer are back and what better way to feel the warmth of the season than to get over to the Green Monster? Tickets earlier in the season are also much easier to get at reasonable prices ($30 and up).
2nd Annual Cambridge Poetry Festival
Hey, did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Neither did we. But thankfully the Cambridge Arts Council  is on the ball. Lyrical festivities start at noon on April 3, curated by the Poet Populist Jean-Dany Joachim. Showcasing homegrown poets, writers, performers and singer/songwriters throughout the day, there will also be readings by the four final candidates for the next Cambridge Poet Populist to be elected on Apr. 29. Free performances continue throughout the month, with open-mic poetry and musical performances at different venues throughout Cambridge.
Boston's hippest wine experts the Second Glass are going national with their (massive, chaotic and unpretentious wine tastings), but that doesn't mean that they've forgotten about their hometown. The team will bring it all home this April 22 and 23, with the same wine-soaked mayhem we've come to expect: 250 wines from 90+ cellars, tasty bites from local eateries, a DJ, temporary tattoos, Crash Courses for those who want to learn more and a photobooth that only gets better as the night rolls on.
DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park
Galleries are great to visit in the winter, offering stable climate-controlled zones in a season of temperamental and tempestuous weather. But with warm air returning, why not get your art fix outdoors in the sunshine? DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park  in Lincoln (about 15 miles from Boston) is the perfect opportunity, featuring astonishing art in a 35-acre area alongside Flints Pond. Not too shabby.
Get out of Dodge
As much as it pains us to praise the MBTA, Bostonians should be happy that there’s a comprehensive transportation system at all. In many other cities, you’re up a creek if you haven’t got a car and want to make an escape. The best part of the city’s system might be the least utilized by downtown dwellers—the Commuter Rail. Fresh ocean air, natural wonders, historical landmarks and wildlife preserves are all easily reachable. A good place to begin is picturesque old fishing villages along the North Shore, like Marblehead and Gloucester. (mbta.com )
Emerging America Festival
The Huntington Theater, American Repertory Theater and the ICA are joining forces for their second year running to show all the stuff that’s too weird for their regular theater programming. For example, check out Dahlgren, a stage adaptation of Samuel R. Delany’s bizarre sci-fi novel by MIT’s Jay Scheib. The Gold Dust Orphan’s Ryan Landry tells the story of Norman Bates’ dead mom in Psyched. You get the idea. Did we mention there are parties? The fest runs from May 13 to 15. (emergingamericafestival.com )
The best part about the Boston Marathon is… not running it. The third Monday in April has historically been a day to celebrate hard work, determination, physical prowess and daytime drinking. If your boss doesn’t give you Patriot’s Day off, call in sick to work and head down to celebrate at (literally) any spot on Boylston Street, where you’ll be part of the hordes of sightseers lifting their glasses to some of the greatest athletes of our time. Pop into bars like The Pour House, Charley’s and The Beacon Hill Pub to watch the race and have a pint. And, don’t worry: if you’re fresh out of sick days the celebrations go on long after the whistle blows. (baa.org )
Visionary landscape architect Frederick Olmstead liked , the centerpiece of the Emerald Necklace, for its "reflections and flickering half-lights," and a stroll through the woods around the pond will clue you into what he’s talking about. The best place to relax, though, might be on the water itself. Rowboats, kayaks and sailboats are available for rent. If you’ve got a fishing license for some reason, bring your pole and your best Huck Finn smirk.
“The Record” at the ICA
If you’re older than 25, you might remember the LP. It’s cover was 12 inches square and sported bright, flashy artwork so large you could see it with your naked eyes. Now it’s gone the way of the Model T Ford and Archie Bunker’s chair: it’s in a museum. Go pay your respects at the ’s group exhibition, paying tribute to the LP through multimedia, running April 15 through September 5.
Stretching from Cambridge to Bedford, the 11-mile Minuteman Bikeway is a great way to check out Greater Boston’s outer boroughs. Built on a former railway, it’s open to biking, rollerblading, jogging, walking and more—anything sans motor. There’s also plenty to see along the way including Alewife Brook Reservation, Spy Pond and Arlington’s Great Meadows. Casual pacing is the name of the game, so speed demons should look elsewhere. (minutemanbikeway.org )
Independent Film Fest of Boston
Why attend Boston’s 11th Annual Independent Film Festival when you’ve got your Netflix subscription? Do we even need to answer that question? Since 2002, the dedicated folks behind the festival have worked hard to bring directors, actors, producers, sponsors and attendees together in an interactive environment and create an experience beyond just previews and popcorn. This year’s highlights include the highly-acclaimed Being Elmo (with Kevin Clash the voice and hand behind Sesame Street's Elmo, in attendance) and Miranda July’s The Future (with the queen of quirk herself in attendance). The IFF runs from April 27 to May 4 at the , , and . (iffboston.org )
Shop open-air antiques
Spring is the antique shopper’s favorite time of the year; both the SoWa Open Market in the South End and the Brimfield Fair  in Brimfield, Mass open their gates for the season in May. The opening day for the SoWa Market is May 1, going every weekend through the fall. A reliable roster of vendors offers everything from locally-farmed vegetables to vintage treasures. The first run (of three) for the Brimfield is May 10 through 15. Every thrift hunter worth her salt knows that the early bird gets the World War II-era quilts, vintage cocktail rings and antique metal signs. Spanning acres of the Brimfield fairgrounds, the hundreds of vendor tents are matched only by the multitudes of food vendors selling everything from fried dough to pickles on a stick. Even if you’re not a professional antiquer, both fairs are perfect for spending a lazy day window-shopping.
Boston Comic Con/Anime Boston
Comics are not anime, and vice versa, so neither group of geeks will appreciate us lumping them together like this. Our hope is to incite a huge internecine battle of nerds, with Comic Con guests like famous Playboy artist Gahan Wilson taking on Anime manga maven Dave Lister in a cage match using colored pens. Either way, both would have a pretty awesome costume. Anime Boston: Apr. 22–24 (animeboston.com ). Boston Comic Con: Apr. 30–May 1 (bostoncomiccon.com ).
Although Massachusetts was one of the first places “civilized” by colonists, it’s done a good job of keeping some places indigenous. If you’re looking to spend some time where the wild things are, start with the state Audubon Society, which maintains 34,000 acres of conservation land and 51 wildlife sanctuaries in the state. Around Boston, start with the , with 150 miles of trails and some pretty sweet vistas, or the , which boasts meadows, 10 miles of trails and an island you get to via canoe.
You’ve heard the story of the “shot heard round the world.” but how many people have actually seen it happen with their own two eyes? Every April 18, on the battle green in Lexington, reenactors don their scratchiest wool uniforms and load their muskets with blanks to recreate the start of the Revolutionary War and the subsequent battle between American rebels and British troops. Standing on the green, you will also witness the famous ride of Paul Revere and his infamous decree that “The British are coming!” Post-battle, you can hobnob with troops from both sides, take a tour through Buckman Tavern or buy any number of Lexington and Concord paraphernalia at the gift shop. The bad news is that the battle starts at dawn, but the good news is that there’s a pancake breakfast, and you’ll probably still make it to work on time. (battleroad.org )
Hartford, Connecticut is a relatively short ride by bus (unlike, say, Los Angeles), so why not bounce down there to see Weezer, Snoop Dog, George Clinton, Holy Fuck plus some local bands on May 28 and 29? The B.O.M.B. moniker might sound ominous, but don’t worry—it only stands for “Bring Our Music Back.” (bombfest.com )
Boston Beer Summit
Every year around this time, the Boston Beer Summit  presents its annual beer-lovers’ fantasy island. This year the celebration is at the on April 15 and 16, and features more than 50 brewers from around the world, over 200 different brews, live music, and hearty food (you’ll need it!). This is one of the four yearly events that the Beer Summit sponsors, along with Oktoberfest, Winter Jubilee and Harvest Fest, and is, safe to say, the most raucous thanks to the overwhelming elation at the newly-warm weather.
Indulge your inner nerd
Mad scientist/math geek enclave Sprout  is where you can get hands-on with science in a casual atmosphere. The org offers workshops on everything from lock-picking to bicycle creation, plus the chance to just hang out and swap ideas with a zany cast of characters. Sprout also has free spaghetti dinners once a month with a guest speaker.
Toss the ball around
Although the crowds and landscaping make many of Boston parks unfit for full-on sprinting or slo-mo dives for the frisbee, there are a few good open spaces. They’re mostly in the western half of the city, like the Cassidy Playground at Cleveland Circle, Rogers Park in Brighton, Danehy Park in Cambridge, and Joseph Lee Playground in Boston. If you’re solo and looking for pick-up games, basketball matches are easiest to find; there’s even a website for it. Check out nofouls.com  for game times, courts, and directions. (mass.gov/dcr )
Franklin Park Zoo
Baby chicks are the eternal signifier of spring, but what about a baby gorilla? brings the cute when it kicks off the busy season in April with its newest arrival: baby gorilla Kambiri. Kambiri isn’t the only reason to go to the zoo though; it’s the perfect excuse to be outside while not having to do any strenuous activities. You can spend the day looking at exotic animals (giraffes!) in, essentially, your backyard. Also, the Franklin Park Zoo is a member of the Species Survival Plan, and is non-profit to boot. So by spending a day there you’re not only supporting the zoo, but helping to conserve wildlife and ensure its future survival. Oh yeah, and they have tigers. In Dorchester. Where else in Dorchester are you going to see a tiger?
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
From May 14 to 15, join legions of survivors and supporters in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer . In the course of this weekend-long event, walkers traverse 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday. The route goes all the way from UMass Boston to Reebok World Headquarters in Canton and back. It’s mostly sidewalks and city streets, with occasional chances to crisscross parks and hiking trails.
Take to the streets in Chinatown
’s dim sum brunch is great all year round. The gigantic dining room is always packed no matter the weather, and the carts piled high with unidentifiable (but unwaveringly delicious) plates know no season. However, once the winter has broken, Chinatown becomes more of a destination rather than simply a means to an end. Take a walk down Kneeland Street after you’ve eaten all you can eat, and stop in at the multitude of Chinese markets that spring up on the corners. You’ll find everything from Durian fruit to sardines stacked up for sale, and can spend the rest of the day wandering through the myriad of shops lining the busy streets. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can stop in at for their infamous “off the menu” selection of flaming drinks. Ask for the Flaming Ferrari and see what we mean.
Who cares about that groundhog? The opening of local patio bars is one of the first telltale signs that spring is very much happening. Grab some friends, bring a sweater and get a drink or two at some of the local watering holes that boast open-air seating. Head down to some of our favorites like , , or for some springtime drinks and outdoor lounging. Just make sure that you get there early and/or save a lot of seats.
Learn to make stuff
If you’re looking to reinvent yourself this spring, Somerville is home to a quirky organization that can help. is a hub of activity with a little something for everyone: “free craft Fridays” from 6pm to 11pm, and classes that range from sculpture metalworking to 3-D printing.
Tour outdoor art
Now that those giant mounds of ice have finally melted, it’s time to limber up once more. For art lovers, Cambridge is just brimming with excuses to move your feet. The Cambridge Arts Council offers online maps of various art spots throughout the city, for self-guided tours of free art on display. Swing by Lisa Carter’s striking, Swing era-style mural outside of Western Front in Cambridgeport, featuring raucous dancers kicking it into high gear. In Kendall Square, you can cruise by the environmental sculpture “Galaxy,” by Otto Piene, a bronze globe enveloped by mists of steam. For more ideas, check out cambridgema.gov .
Two pounds of flesh
Shakespeare sure could write a hell of a line. The Merchant of Venice—coming to the March 29 through April 10—has a lot of great ones, most notably Shylock’s insistence that he receive—literally—a “pound of flesh” as compensation for a debt. (Very “it puts the lotion in the basket,” no?) Starring Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham, this production is sure to inspire you to make a little flesh-seeking trip of your own… to Brookline’s , where you can do your best F. Murray impression at the counter. Agonizing usurer’s identity crisis not included.
Schlock Around the Clock
’s annual Schlock Around the Clock festival has changed a bit from its original incarnation as a 24-hour B-movie marathon, but it still holds it down as the premiere schlocky movie series in the area. April 22 through April 24 is set to be a weekend of gratuitous nudity, clunky dialogue and effects right out of a SyFy Network original may not be for everyone; but if you enjoy the finer (re: terrible) aspects of the ’70s and ‘80s then this festival is for you. Creative Director Ned Hinkle is well-versed in all things kitschy from his experience collaborating with Alamo Drafthouse virtuoso Lars Nilsen on last year’s Grindhouse Festival, and is sure to have some terribly awesome tricks up his sleeves.
Whale watching isn’t just for junior high school field trips anymore. Hop on one of the boats that head out of Boston Harbor daily in order to rediscover how awesome it actually is to be within spitting distance of the largest mammals on earth. Bring a sweater and park yourself at the hull of the boat for the day so that you’re sure to not miss a second of the hot whale action. The snack bar may not be the best, so make sure to pack provisions or plan ahead (you might want to leave the tuna fish sandwich at home, though). Still, the boat has a fully-stocked bar for you to indulge in after learning your share of marine biology for the day. (neaq.org )
Nothing says “together” like heavy dance beats and outer space noises. This fest, running from April 18 to 24, is about embracing the machine as a method of uniting us all. The impressive event takes over 19 different venues throughout Boston for an epic seven-day celebration of everything technological and terpsichorean. (togetherboston.com )
Go green… thumb
Everywhere you look, new plants are springing from the earth. Why not help them along? For you budding gardeners out there, several workshops are offered at the . Learn about anything from how to create your own high-density orchard (April 2 at the Wakefield Estate in Milton), to what exactly triggers germination in seeds (April 16 in the Dana Greenhouse classroom at the Arboretum). And once you’re in the swing of things, volunteer at the scenic , which offers spots gardening or working in the green house of the lush 175-acre National Landmark.
Cheese class at Formaggio
No pun intended, but it’s probably safe to say that is breaking out of its mold as simply the preeminent cheese monger’s paradise; the place is moving into the realm of higher foodie education. Formaggio offers different classes each month, ranging from Cheese 101 to making your own cheese, and everything in between. Along with the springtime cheese classes there’s always a possibility that the teachers at Formaggio will add another butchering class if demand is high enough. As gruesome as it sounds, it’s probably the most interesting (and bloody) food class you’re ever going to take. Workshops are often accompanied with wine and, obviously, cheese. They fill up quickly, so if you’re looking to fulfill your New Year’s resolution of becoming a cheesemonger, now’s the time.
Masters of Suspense
For “,” will welcome Howie Carr, WRKO radio host and Herald columnist. He’s also the author of Hitman, which follows the notorious mob assassin Johnny Martorano and the famously M.I.A. Irish mob leader James “Whitey” Bulger. Joining Carr will be journalist and author Casey Sherman, author of Search for the Strangler, about the Boston Strangler and the murder of his aunt Mary Sullivan, believed to be the youngest and final Strangler victim; and WRKO radio host and Herald columnist Michele McPhee, author of A Date with Death, about the Craigslist Killer.
Springtime means April showers, May flowers, and spring cleaning. This seasonal purging is the bargain hunter’s best friend; flea markets and yard sales spring up on seemingly every corner and are always filled with treasures that you never knew you always wanted. The Revere flea market  in the Loews Theatre parking lot and the Lynnwaymart Flea  in Lynn are the best bets for the transportationally-challenged. But if you can wrangle up a car, check out the Londonderry Flea Market  in New Hampshire and the Raynham Flea  in (you guessed it) Raynham, Mass for used items ranging from the practical (everyone needs kitchen utensils) to the bizarre (how many velvet paintings does one person really need?).
Cambridge Science Festival
According to our homeboy from across the pond, Sir Isaac Newton, “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” The Cambridge Science Festival —with its smorgasbord of lectures, debates, exhibitions, concerts, plays and workshops—is sure to exert a force that will get you off your couch and up to Cambridge, April 30 through Mary 8. Just a sampler: On May 5, you can have lunch with Walter Gilbert, 1980 Nobel prize winner in Chemistry—no biggie. And from on May 6, Nerdnite Presents Nerdtacular, an event that invites all you poindexters to get down with your smartypants selves at the MIT Museum. Events take place throughout the city.
Go all out for Derby Day
Churchill Downs may seem like a long way off when looking at a map. But at in East Boston, you’ll swear you were in Louisville. The Downs throws what it calls “Boston’s Biggest and Best Derby Party,” with a big screen outside, live music and barbeque. Plans are still being finalized for this year’s revelry (live racing is scheduled to start up at the Downs on May 21), but it promises to follow in annual tradition. Even if you’re not risking it all on steeds like Mucho Macho Man, just go to have a mint julep—or four. And what’s a day at the races without a hat to rival Eliza Doolittle’s? For proper head cover, jet over to in Jamaica Plain , which has 6,500 hats to choose from, including its own line of women’s Derby hats.
Acoustic music bonanza
Spring is in the air, and so begin seasonal mating rituals like serenading your lady/manly love. If you’re looking to get your fiddle in tune, , between Harvard and Central Squares, features lessons, repairs and instruments for purchase (banjo, mandolin, guitar) as well as an “Old Timey Music Jam” every Monday night. Once you’re strumming along, go listen to the dulcet sounds of the Cambridge Spring Dulcimer Festival  (April 29 to May 1) with workshops and performances by the likes of Fennig’s All-Star String Band.
This multi-venue celebration of technology and the arts once wandered nomadically amongst various gallery spaces in the city. But now, it’s no longer homeless. Atlantic Wharf, a new 31-story tower in Fort Point will be cyber central for the sprawling festival as well as for the entire year to follow. From April 22 through May 8. (bostoncyberarts.org/festival )
Get thee to a food truck
There’s a whole world of food truck cuisine just waiting to be devoured. Of course, in true Boston style, these scrumptious offerings may not be screaming at you as you walk by. Comfort food abounds: M&M Ribs aka Big Moe’s serves up barbecue with soul food sides, all packaged up as take-out in the corner of a deserted lot (Hamden Street near Melina Cass Blvd; 617-306-0788). Better for your soul than for your waistline, Boston Speed Dog  slings some of the city’s best hot dogs, with its famous “secret” sauces. Fillbelly’s  is the place to find chicken and waffles. The recently opened Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese  sets up shop on Beacon Street and Chestnut Hill Avenue in Cleveland Circle. But there are healthy options, too. One of the crowned victors of the City of Boston’s Food Truck Challenge last year, Momogoose , offers vegan and non-vegan Asian cuisine including an impressive list of curries, plus a dessert bar. Conveniently, they’re relocating to City Hall Plaza in April this year. MIT-area favorite Clover Food Lab  found a brick-and-mortar home this past year in Harvard Square, but the original iteration can be found parked in a lot on the MIT campus  or in the Financial District’s Dewey Square .
Three flavors of Midsummer
If you’re a fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s comedy about confused, horny people running around the woods, you’re in luck. This spring in Boston, you can check out three different iterations of the show. The Boston Ballet  performs George Balanchine’s 1962 danced-through adaptation at the (Apr. 7–17). Then in May, ArtsEmerson  brings David Leddy’s Susurrus to Boston Common. It’s an audiovisual adaptation of Midsummer that involves a solo walk around the park with an iPod, lots of trees and no actors. We don’t know what that all means, but we do know that it killed at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest last year (dates TBA). And if you’re feeling clubby, the A.R.T. ’s disco version of Midsummer, The Donkey Show, continues to glitter-coat Oberon every Saturday night.
Stop for a scoop
is a local institution, with shops in the Back Bay, Coolidge Corner, Davis Square, Harvard Square and (duh) Jamaica Plain. The local chain is known for its funky atmosphere, hip scoopers and flavors so good they'll bring you to your knees, so expect to wait in line on hot days. A bit tougher to get to—but worth the trek—is in Inman Square. It’s a favorite among local restaurateurs looking to amp up their dessert menu with the shop's painstakingly crafted, beautifully realized seasonal flavors like fresh rose, burnt sugar and ginger molasses. is another Cambridge spot with out-there flavors. The staff constantly works to create new and interesting varieties like the salty bacon and the smoky sweet burnt caramel (which was actually made by accident).
—Mike Dunphy, Alexis Hauk, Andrea O'Meara, Jessie Rogers, Jenna Scherer, David Wildman