The star of America’s East Coast bustles with activity this August. From food festivals to fine art exhibitions and hipster markets, there’s plenty to enter in your diary

The ‘Boston Brahmins’ have traded their Back Bay townhouses for summer cottages on Nantucket, while well-rested (and newly tanned) students have yet to return to the city’s many universities… August is a quiet time in Boston 

That’s why it’s also an excellent time to visit, since there are still plenty of special events, art exhibitions and fun festivals to bide your time between business meetings or fill a family vacation schedule. Here’s our guide to what should be on every out-of-towner’s itinerary.

Taste oysters at the Boston Seafood Festival

Taste oysters at the Boston Seafood Festival

Boston Seafood Festival (2 August)
You can’t visit Boston without indulging in fresh fish from famed New England waters, and this one-day-only seafood soirée is where to do it. The outdoor festival features restaurant vendors, cooking demos, a lobster bake and even an oyster-shucking contest. Buy a ticket, grab a brew, and crack open some claws. (Rather enjoy a proper restaurant? We recommend bivalves at Island Creek Oyster Bar and the legendary lobster roll at Neptune Oyster.) www.bostonseafoodfestival.org

Waitress (opens 2 August)
Cab over to Cambridge for this world premiere from Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre, helmed by artistic director and national cultural power player Diane Paulus. (Her revival of the musical, Pippin, recently won a Tony Award.) This poignant tale of a small-town baker dreaming of a bigger, better life features music and lyrics by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles (‘Brave’) bringing together two influential women for one show served piping hot. www.americanrepertorytheater.org

The ICA building

The ICA building

Foster Prize Exhibition (until 9 August)
Performance art is big in Boston. In fact, this year the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) awarded its biennial Foster Prize to performance artists for the very first time. Here’s your last chance to catch the esoteric, ephemeral live installations from four Foster recipients whose challenging works fuse abstract sculpture, digital installations, experimental music and, of course, live movement to stimulate the senses while challenging conventional definitions of art. Inspiring. www.icaboston.org

Kinky Boots (11 to 30 August)
The Boston Opera House hosts the multiple Tony-winning musical that made Cyndi Lauper the first woman to win the Best Score award solo. The rousing, raucous show follows the unlikely camaraderie between Charlie, hapless inheritor of an English shoe factory, and Lola, a towering drag queen whose high-heeled sequined boots might be the key to saving the business. It’s a kicky affair that leaves audiences inspired. www.boston.broadway.com

The St Anthony’s Feast parade

The St Anthony’s Feast parade

Saint Anthony’s Feast (28 to 30 August)
All summer Boston’s Italian-American neighbourhood, the North End, hosts feasts and processions that draw an audience of thousands to honour this community’s cultural and religious heritage — while also attracting agnostic tourists for whom the only idol of worship is a slice from famed Regina Pizzeria. (Amen to extra cheese!) Saint Anthony’s is the series’ pinnacle, featuring live entertainment in cobblestone streets, over 100 pushcart vendors serving up everything from arancini to zeppole, games and more. Pure spectacle. www.stanthonysfeast.com

South End Open Market (every Sunday)
The city’s hip, artsy South End hosts this Sunday street fair where New England artisans turn neighbourhood lots into a sea of white tents, vending everything from homemade soaps to handmade jewellery, home decor, and gourmet groceries. Peruse art galleries in pedestrians-only Thayer Street, and nosh on inventive eats from the fleet of funky food trucks idling nearby. Bonus: it’s nestled amid some of the city’s best brunch spots. www.newenglandopenmarkets.com

Boston Public Market (all month long)
Boston: still making history. It’s opening month for the only locally sourced, permanent year-round market of its kind in the United States, a sprawling 28,000-square-foot set-up hosts 200 small businesses — including dozens of New England farmers — selling everything from fresh fish to flowers to small-batch foods. There’s even The Kitchen, an expo space for demos, family activities, and more. A great opportunity to experience the flavours and fragrances of New England. www.bostonpublicmarket.org

Madonna, Tokyo, 1987, by Herb Ritts, on show at the MFA

Madonna, Tokyo, 1987, by Herb Ritts, on show at the MFA

Bar Boulud (all year-round)
If you prefer your New England ingredients indoors, then head to the chic but unfussy bistro and wine bar at Mandarin Oriental, Boston. Celebrated chef Daniel Boulud brings his light touch to classic brasserie food while honouring his Boston home with locally-inspired dishes and charcuterie from renowned Parisian charcutier Gilles Verot. The setting, atmosphere and menu are the perfect way to celebrate summer in the city. www.mandarinoriental.com/boston

Herb Ritts (all month long)
Influential artist and photographer Herb Ritts captured some of the most indelible images of fashion models and global superstars that dominated the Eighties and Nineties, from Madonna to Naomi Campbell. Now the Museum of Fine Arts, which has the world’s largest holding of Ritts’ photographs, revisits the artist with a new show exploring his bold, dramatic imagery – including music videos — that capture the collision of celebrity, art, and commerce. www.mfa.org

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