11 Ways for Boston Families to Celebrate MLK Day

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Bring the kids to these Boston events to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King have a history in Boston. After all, it’s where they met. And many know King considered Boston his second home. So it only makes sense that the city host so many meaningful ways for families to celebrate and remember the legacy of the prominent Civil Rights activist and leader. What events are we most looking forward to this year? It’s gotta be the unveiling of The Embrace as it’s added to the list of artwork honoring Black history in the city. But that’s just one of many family-friendly Boston MLK Day events happening around January 16. Take your pick of concerts, volunteer opportunities, and more as you make your plans. It’s time to turn your day off into a day on.


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Free Events on MLK Day in Boston

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1. The Boston Common is where folks will gather to watch the unveiling of The Embrace.  The memorial, designed by conceptual artist, Hank Willis Thomas, commemorates the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who met in Boston. Watch the action on the large screens near the Parkman Bandstand or from home on NBC10 Boston (it'll be livestreamed). There will be a DJ and refreshments served.  Jan. 13, 10 a.m. Event details.

2. Bring the kids to experience art making, performances, and informative talks at MFA Boston during their MLK Day Open House. Tickets are free and available to Massachusetts residents on a first-come, first-serve basis. Kids will love the drop-in art making and tunes spun by DJ WhySham. Also included is the LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photography exhibit. Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Event details.

3. Spend the day at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on MLK Day. Throughout the museum families will find tons of meaningful activities geared toward kids like sign making and a musical story hour that's all about Dr. King's legacy and mission. Admission is free for the day. Jan. 16, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Event details.

4. Although the zoo may not be the first place that comes to mind for MLK Day celebrations, families can enjoy free entrance to both the Stone Zoo and Franklin Park Zoo on MLK Day. Keeper chats, animal encounters, and storytimes will keep the kids busy as you wander from spot to spot in search of cool animals. Jan. 16, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Event details.

5. Another favorite for families looking for ways to engage kids on MLK Day is the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra MLK, Jr. Tribute Concert.  Enjoy the concert at Faneuil Hall, and although it's free, you'll still need to get tickets in advance. Jan. 16, 1 p.m. Event details.

6. Volunteer with Boston Cares as a way to give back to the community on MLK Day in Boston. Families with young kids (ages 5 and up) can make Valentine's Day cards for seniors. And those with older kids (ages 10 and up) can sign up to make safety kits for Fenway Community Development Corporation residents. Registration is required for both opportunities. Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-noon. Event details.

7. Part of the Celebrate! series at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the multicultural Benkadi Drum and Dance will perform on MLK Day. Signing, dancing, and drumming are at the heart of this family-friendly event focused on the spirit of coming together, in honor of Dr. King. The event is free, but you'll need to reserve a spot. Jan. 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Event details.

8. Head to Cambridge for the Annual MLK Day Commemoration and Remembrance at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Members of the Cambridge community will share readings that call for peace and transformative justice. There will be musical performances and a shared lunch after the ceremony is over. All are welcome to attend. Please be sure to sign up before you go. Jan. 16, 11 a.m.-1:45 p.m. Event details.

Related: 15 Black-Owned Businesses Boston Families Need to Know

More Things to Do on MLK Day with Kids

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9. Returning after its pandemic hiatus is the Multicultural Arts Center's annual King Day concert in Cambridge. This year, the concert has been reimagined. It will focus on Coretta Scott King and her role in the Civil Rights Movement (hint: she held concerts to fund things). Hear Her Sing for Freedom is a chance for listeners to experience what it may have been like to hear her at one of those concerts. Jan. 13-16. $35. Event details.

10. Sit back and experience the Boston Children's Chorus as they perform Becoming King: The 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert at Symphony Hall. Jan. 16, 4 p.m. $15-$75. Event details.

11. Whether you're a Discovery Museum member or not, MLK weekend is a great day to plan a trip to this kid-friendly hot spot. They're hosting a Small Acts, Big Impact: Day of Service where families can drop in to make welcome cards and drop off supplies to assemble "Friendship Baskets" to support the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center. Bring items like dish soap, sponges, paper towels, toothpaste, lotion, and more to donate. Jan. 14-16, 10 a.m.-noon. Included with admission or membership. Event details.

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