Spectator Tips for the Boston Marathon

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

If you’re a long-time reader of Carrots ”˜N’ Cake, you know that Marathon Monday is my favorite day of the whole year. It’s really the best day to be in Boston, especially if you live here year-round.


In the winter, Boston can be a miserable place as you’ve seen on CNC many, many, many times in the past. So, in my mind, a random day off in the middle of April, when the weather is finally getting warm, is the official end of winter and start of spring for me. I swear everyone in Boston is in a good mood on marathon day!

One of the things that makes the Boston Marathon so special for me is the energy of the day. I’ve never run the Boston Marathon, but I’ve spectated for 8 years in a row now. The enthusiasm and support provided by the crowds is amazing”” it’s like no other race I’ve attended.


Even though I’ve been on both sides of the fence for a marathon, I have to say that I’m a much better spectator than a marathoner. Here are my tips for watching the Boston Marathon.

Please note: I’ve only ever watched the marathon in the city, so I’m not sure what happens out in Hopkinton (aka the start of the race) and along the rest of the marathon route. These tips mostly apply to spectating from Boston College through Brookline to the finish line in Copley Square.

Rise & Shine

The Boston Marathon doesn’t officially start until 9:00 AM, but if you’re going to spectate, you need to get an early start. The roads close in Hopkinton at 7:00 AM, Newton at 9:00 AM, and Brookline at 9:30 AM. So, if you plan to drive into the city, you need to make sure you plan accordingly. Plus, the elite runners start finishing a little before noon, so if you want a good spot to cheer on the runners, be sure to get there early!


Getting Around

Driving & Parking

In general, driving and parking in Boston is a pain in the butt, so it’s even more difficult on Marathon Monday. Unless you know someone, who lives within walking distance of the race route and has somewhere for you to park, it’ll be tough to find a parking spot. Since it’s Patriot’s Day, metered spots on the street are free, but they’ll be hard to come by. The Boston Marathon website mentions the Garage @ 100 Clarendon as a parking option. It’s located one block from the finish line, but get there early. It will fill up!

Also important to note if you drive: Even if you find a parking spot downtown near the finish line, you might not be able to leave until almost all of the runners have finished the marathon! As I mentioned above, there are a lot of race day road closures, so the majority of the streets in Back Bay are closed.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is a much better option for getting around on race day. The MBTA actually “enhances” service on Marathon Monday to accommodate all of the travelers, so getting to the marathon via public transportation shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Blue, Orange, Red and Green line service will operate on its regular weekday schedule with extra service before and after the marathon.
  • Commuter rail trains will operate on its regular weekday schedule.
  • All buses and trackless trolleys will operate on a Saturday schedule.

If you’re heading to the finish line, just a heads up that Copley Station will be closed all day. However, you can take the Green Line to Hynes Convention Center or Arlington and walk to the finish.

For more information about pre-marathon and race day public transportation, check out this post from the MBTA.


Where to Watch

There’s really not a bad place on the Boston Marathon course to watch as a spectator. Typically, I pick one spot and stay there for the entire day, which is why it’s so important for me to select the perfect spectating location.


I know some people try to move along the route to see their loved ones on the course at multiples points. But, to me, this seems like a lot of work because your only real option for getting to different spots is walking (or biking). Parking is a nightmare, and when the race is in progress, you can walk faster than the Green Line. And, of course, there is no guarantee you’ll see the person you are looking for. I’d much rather stay put and keep my eyes peeled for certain runners. (Ok, the truth is that I’m lazy and just want to drink beer.)

I’ve always watched the marathon in Newton or Brookline, so these are the areas that I recommend for spectating:

  • Heartbreak Hill: Great location to watch and cheer. Falls between Mile 20-21. Inspiring and not very crowded.
  • Boston College: Upbeat. Lots of enthusiastic BC students. Not very crowded.
  • Washington Square: Where I watched last year. Good crowds, but not overwhelming.
  • Coolidge Corner: Fun and lively! Lots of energy. Pretty crowded.
  • Boylston: Near the finish (Mass Ave. to Boylston). Huge crowds, so it’s often tough to see runners.
  • Copley Square: Finish line! Very exciting! Massive crowds of people.


My new favorite place to watch the marathon is American Craft on Beacon Street. I almost feel like it’s a hidden gem on marathon day.

Last year, Mal and I woke up bright and early to drive to American Craft. We had no problem finding a parking spot right on Beacon Street. We also scored a table on the patio! Mal and I had a great time relaxing, spectating, and sipping beers outside in the sunshine.


American Craft is located on the opposite side of the street as the marathon, so it wasn’t super crowded, but we could easily see the runners and cross over to get a closer look.

What to Wear

The weather on Marathon Monday is always unpredictable. I remember years when I wore a tank top and other years when I sported my winter coat. You never know what to expect!

My best advice is to dress in layers. I spectate all day long, so the weather changes quite a bit from morning to late afternoon. I usually wear multiple layers (and sunblock!) and bring a big purse/bag to carry the layers that I remove throughout the day.


Where to Grab Lunch (or a Beer)

There are lots of great places to grab lunch or a beer during or after the marathon!

All of the restaurants listed below will be packed on Marathon Monday, but if you get there early, you can probably snag at spot. A number of these establishments open early to accommodate early bird spectators. Cambridge, 1. and Audobon Circle, for instance, open at 9:00 AM.


For more information about any of these restaurants, click the corresponding link for my review and/or the business website.


I hope my post helps you have the best Marathon Monday ever! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do my best to answer them! It’s my favorite day of the year after all!



    1. Any suggestions for places to stay within walking distance of one of the locations from Mile 16 to finish. We’re coming from Michigan to support our daughter. We KNOW traffic in Boston is nuts, having traveled there for business years ago, so we wouldn’t dream of driving. Thanks for your other great tips!

  1. Great advice! I’m working on trying to figure out where my family should go on Monday so they can spot me- this gives me some more options to investigate.

  2. Thank our for this write up. My husband is running in the 2015 Boston marathon coming from Australia I will be looking for a good spot by myself

  3. Thanks for the hints, we are going to watch my daughter run in the 2016 Marathon, I have been told to watch at Heartbreak Hill then go to the finish. What type of transportation will get me there the quickest-do I try UBER or rely on public transportation? Any other hints would be helpful. Thanks so much!

    1. @Michelle: I want to follow your plan with my daughter at the 2018 marathon. Were you able to move from Heartbreak Hill to the finish line. How did you get around?

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