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Fourth of July Freebies

Hundreds of ways to celebrate the holiday and dozens of ways to learn history

The city of Boston's free Fourth of July celebrations start this weekend. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

There may be no such thing as a free lunch — or a free dinner cruise or even a free chowderfest — but there are more than 100 events in Boston this Fourth of July weekend that cost absolutely nothing. Most of them are part of the Boston Harborfest 2007, which runs from June 28 through July 4.

Over those seven days, nine bands and singers perform at City Hall Plaza and other locations, offering music ranging from swing to contemporary, fife-and-drum to beach party hits. As a warm-up to Wednesday’s traditional fireworks celebration, a Lights and Laser show, enhanced with music and dance, takes place over Faneuil Hall Marketplace at 9:30 p.m. each night, June 28 through July 4.

Visitors can explore Boston’s heritage through a variety of tours. The State House tour, What’s Under the Golden Dome? is a 30- to 45-minute look at the House and Senate chambers, led by docents who discuss history, architecture, and even the state insect, the ladybug. A tour of Fort Independence, a granite pentagonal fort on Castle Island, South Boston, describes the role this National Historic Landmark played in American history. Other tours lead visitors through the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), and the 18th Century Garden at the Old North Church. On June 30, the Constitution hosts its annual sunset parade, with 19th-century reenactments and music, gun exercises, and the “Old Ironsides” colors ceremony.

From July 1 through 4, the Constitution presents “I Shall Ever Be Under Obligation to You: Wounded Sailors and Widowed Pensioners of the War of 1812,” a free interactive theatrical performance that runs every hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On July 4, events start with a 9 a.m. flag-raising and parade at City Hall Plaza. At 10 a.m., at the Old State House balcony, actors will reenact the public reading of the Declaration of Independence that took place on July 18, 1776. 

On the evenings of July 3 and 4, attention moves to the Charles River. At 8:30 p.m. on the third, the first of two Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra concerts takes place at the Hatch Shell. On the Fourth, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, hosted by Craig Ferguson, comedian and host of CBS’s The Late Late Show, presents comedy and music. Rock and roll icon John Mellencamp joins conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops to perform Mellencamp’s hit songs and the Pops version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The 102nd Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force will perform its final flyover, and of course, the night culminates in the city’s largest and most complex pyrotechnic display to date.

For a complete list of dates and times for Harborfest events, click here.

Many nearby towns also run Independence Day celebrations with free events. Local festivities include a petting zoo, gun salutes, carnival rides, parades, fireworks, and concerts.

Rebecca McNamara can be reached at ramc@bu.edu.