Every year on Patriots Day, locals and visitors congregate around the historic point-to-point course to watch the Boston Marathon.

The race works its way from the rural town of Hopkinton to downtown Boston at Copley Square. Runners push through 26.2 miles and pass by landmarks like the Newton Fire Station, Boston College, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and the iconic Citgo sign near Kenmore Square.

For the best views, however, spectators should stake out spots carefully—and early. After all, the annual marathon attracts some 500,000 viewers every year.

Scream Tunnel

Wellesley College students are famous for transforming the Mile 13 marker into a very, very loud section of the marathon. Join the motivational shouting—and high-fives, kisses and hollers—just as the runners cross the halfway mark.

Heartbreak Hill

The final of four hills in Newton—rising between miles 20 and 21—has earned its reputation as a heartbreaker for runners. Head here to cheer on participants when they most need an inspiration boost.  But if you’re not a fan of crowds, get a vantage point from one of the three earlier inclines in town.

Coolidge Corner

After watching marathoners pass Mile 24 on Beacon Street (before they head toward the instantly recognizable Citgo sign), grab a draft at the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse. This Brookline sports bar will show the marathon live on the TV screens, so you don’t miss a moment while you decompress.

Eastern Standard

Show up at 7:00 a.m. for an al fresco seat on the patio. It’s not only one of the best bars in Boston, but it’s also a perfect perch to watch runners cross the 25.2-mile mark. Order a whiskey smash or a plate of Island Creek oysters. Eastern Standard: 528 Commonwealth Ave.; 617-532-9100

Copley Square

Nothing beats the energy at the finish line. While you might not be able to access the VIP-only grandstand seating, there’s no better place to be than Boylston Street. Arrive early to watch the top runners complete the final mile.