spectators’ guide

11 great places to watch the Boston Marathon

Adam Hayes for the boston globe

Boston Marathon runners like to say that each town carries them along the 26.2-mile race. There has always been a sense of pride and responsibility in being a spectator of the elite race, but that’s especially true this year when supporters want to show the region’s resilience after last year’s tragedy.

There’s hearty cheering in all eight cities and towns that make up the route, but there’s a disparity in decibel levels when comparing, say, family-friendly Natick Center to wild antics at Wellesley College. Here are some great viewing spots along the route, and what to expect from the sidelines.

T.J. Spirits, 355 Union St. (Route 135), Ashland, 508-881-1565. A mile and a half into the race, this restaurant and bar has been described as like running through South Carolina (there’s no shortage of beer, barbecue, and bikers). An outdoor deck offers great views of the race, but plan to get there at 7 a.m. before police close the street.


Natick Center. The Marathon route flattens out around the town green — about 10 miles in — and families cheer from every spot of sidewalk in this quaint New England downtown. The steps at St. Patrick’s church offer a good view, but don’t be surprised if a runner yells “Pray for me!”

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/file
Students show support — and affection — for runners at Wellesley College.
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Wellesley College. “Kiss me!” “Love me!” “Hug me!” It seems every Wellesley student is proclaiming her affection for the runners here at the halfway point of the race. It’s a constant roar from the crowd, and the Scream Tunnel, as it’s been aptly named, can feel something like a mosh pit so be prepared to jockey for a good view. You’ll likely get distracted watching the women, who are as much a part of the show as the runners.

Downtown Wellesley. The crowd is just as enthusiastic, but a little more well-heeled in downtown Wellesley. At this perfect place to cheer with a young brood, families line up early in front of the stores and on the green with picnics and blankets. To keep kids focused on the task, bring money for a treat from the ice cream truck.

The Heartbreak Hill area along Commonwealth Avenue, Newton. Plop yourself on the curb along any part of this 3.5-mile stretch, which draws generations of families and young professionals. There are bake sales and lemonade stands galore, and hawkers stroll up and down the road with plastic horns and Dora the Explorer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles balloons.

Boston College. Students reportedly start celebrating at midnight, which makes the scene just past the 20-mile mark a doozy. Most years, the BC band plays, adding to the collegiality — and the noise level.


Cityside restaurant and bar, 1960 Beacon St., Cleveland Circle. 617-566-1002, There are few rooftop views open to the public, and Cityside is one of the best. The restaurant opens at 9 a.m. on race day, and there’s usually a line of people, mostly college students from the neighborhood, waiting for a seat on the second floor where wait staff serve a limited menu.

Golden Temple, 1651 Beacon St., Brookline. 617-277-9722, You can carbo-load in solidarity with the runners at this Chinese restaurant, which serves buy-one-get-one-free Marathon specials. Golden Temple has tables outside on race day, but get there by 11 a.m. if you hope to snag one. Then, immediately order a Mai Tai.

Audubon Boston, 838 Beacon St., 617-421-1910, The restaurant just reopened under new ownership, but its Marathon rituals remain the same. The door opens at 9 a.m. Should you desire one of the window seats, which directly face the 25-mile marker, plan to get there at 11 a.m. or earlier.

Kenmore Square. Depending on how much you like pandemonium, Kenmore may or may not be for you. The sidewalks are staked out by midmorning by enthusiastic BU students. Add to that crowd all the Red Sox fans awaiting the 11 a.m. game. Once the game lets out from Fenway Park around 2 p.m., it’s elbow-to-elbow for a while.

Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, Here the spectating is civilized on a patio space that unofficially marks the beginning of the last mile of the Marathon. Expect a line out the door at 8 a.m., but a manager said the restaurant tries to keep the tables turning at a 90-minute pace during race hours to give more customers the opportunity to enjoy the view.

Jill Radsken can be reached at