The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live

Our best tips to get the most out of Marathon Monday


The Boston Marathon is right around the corner, and whether you’re a local just trying to catch the action, a friend or family member of a racer, or a die-hard fan coming to spot the elites, the places you chose to watch the race live can make or break your experience.

Boston is a point-to-point course, meaning it’s fairly challenging to get from the start to the finish in time to see either the winners or that runner in your life who’s making the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boylston St.

Thankfully, there is an effective public transit system which can allow you to pop in to a few key vantage points if you wish to do a “spectator’s marathon” of sorts on Patriot’s Day.

To help you with your planning, we’ve gathered a list of the best places to catch all the action live on Marathon Monday.

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 1

Mile 0 – The Start line

Now, in terms of watching the race, you won’t see much of it from the startline

But hear me out; there’s something special about being at the startline of the Boston Marathon. Nowhere else on the course will you have everyone together with this great collection of buzz, nerve, and excitement.

Yes, it’s going to be chaos, but there’s nothing like it.

Getting There

Google Maps Link

You can take a few adjacent highways to get into town (just as the buses taking runners to the athlete village), but keep in mind, the roads around the start close at 6:30 a.m., and with multiple starting waves it’ll be a while before you get out of there.

Pro tip: It’s going to be a bit of a gong show with so many runners arriving, so your best bet is to park at Hopkinton State Park and take a spectator shuttle bus to the start line from there.

If the idea of being in a small town that’s suddenly tripled in population for a few hours is stressing you out, you can also easily drive out to the start line and comfortably park on a side street in the days leading up to the race. There are even police at the painted start line who will stop traffic for you so that you can get a photo in the middle of the road.

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 2

Mile 3 and Mile 6 – Ashland vs. Framingham

If you’re looking to catch the early miles of the race, you’ve got two very different options: Ashland and Framingham.

If crowds aren’t your thing and you’re looking for the easiest place to find a parking spot and seat, Ashland is going be the place for you. It’s also the location of the original Boston Marathon, before the course expanded to a full 26.2 miles.

The downside? It’s a bit of a mixed bag

If you’re just looking to get a glance at the elite runners while they’re all still together, this location is great. If you’re looking for a friend or family member running the race, it’s going to be a challenge. The race is just too packed together at this point.

Getting There

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 3

Google Maps Link

Train Schedule Link

To get to Ashland, take the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line and get off at the Ashland stop. Driving it probably a bad idea because the road closes at 6:15 a.m.

By the time runners get to Framingham, it’s a bit more spread out and will likely be your first chance to spot your loved one easily.

However, it’s going to be a lot more crowded than Ashland, so you’ll either have to get there early or hope you get lucky finding a good spot.

T.K. Skenderian, former communications director for the B.A.A., said, “It’s probably the best spot in the early part of the course to see your loved one, and afterward, you’ll have time to hop back on the train and see them again further down the course.”

Getting There

Google Maps Link

Train Schedule Link

By train, get off at the Framingham stop, and you’ll be right at the course.

Mile 13 – The Wellesley Scream Tunnel

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 4

This is probably the most iconic spot in the world to take in a marathon. It’s also total madness. Wellesley College is right at the midway point in the race, so elites and the rest of the pack are presumably still feeling good. Students at the college add to the positive vibes, by offering raucous cheers, refreshing beverages (some of the alcoholic variety) and a kiss. If you’re cool with the madness, it’s a real fun time.

Getting There

Google Maps Link

Train Schedule Link

Hope off the commuter train at Wellesley Square. It’s a short walk from the station, just follow the noise.

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 5

Newton Hills & Heartbreak Hill

The Newton Hills actually begin around the 17-mile mark and finish off with Heartbreak Hill between miles 20 and 21. A great spot to watch the “race within the race” begin in Boston is at the first major turn in the course, in between miles 17 and 18. The Newton fire station at the corner is one of the iconic spots on the course. If you’ve got a loved one running, make sure to ask them what was going through their mind as they made that turn.

If you’re hoping to catch the action on the notorious Newton Hills themselves, be prepared; it’s always one of the busiest spectator spots. However, if you can find yourself a good viewpoint, the crowds are going to be buzzing and the energy will be electric.

Heartbreak Hill has built a reputation for being the undoing of many runners every single year, so if there’s one place supporters are needed, it’s there. There’s a lot going on around Heartbreak: hundreds of spectators, an excellent array of motivational signage, lots of suffering runners, and usually an ice cream truck. If you want to see the agony and ecstasy of marathoning in full display, stand at the crest of Heartbreak.

Getting There:

Google Maps Link

Subway Schedule and Map Link

To get to Heartbreak, take the MBTA subway to the Boston College stop on the Green Line B branch. If you want to go back closer to the fire station before the hills start, get off at the Woodland stop.

The Best Places To Watch The Boston Marathon Live 6

Boylston Street

Google Maps Link

Subway Schedule and Map Link

If you want to see the champions of the Boston Marathon be crowned, there’s no other place to be than the finish line on Boylston Street.

But don’t be surprised if you’re caught standing on your tip-toes in a crowd that goes ten deep.

It’s going to be busy, so busy that if you’re keen on a good viewpoint, I’d get there early, really early. You might have to sacrifice seeing any other part of the race, but it’s also a moment you won’t want to miss.

“Both of the final turns, onto Hereford and onto Boylston Street, are special,” Skenderian said. “Once people make that last turn onto Boylston, they’re jacked up. It’s an emotional place.”

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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