A Guide to Fourth of July Festivities
Concerts, reenactments, and where to see fireworks
The most explosive (literally) holiday of the year is here again. The Fourth of July in Boston is jam-packed with dazzling fireworks, critically acclaimed musical guests, historical tours, whale watching cruises, and more.
Since 1974, the Boston Pops have lent their considerable musical talent to accompany a stunning display of fireworks, howitzer cannons, and church bells along the Charles River. As longtime Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler (Hon.’51) warned at the time, “All hell could break loose.” In the best sense of the word, he was right.
Today, the annual concert and fireworks display draws hundreds of thousands of people to the banks of the Charles for one of the nation’s biggest and most celebrated Fourth of July celebrations—with millions more across the country watching the event on television. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city for the holiday, this is an event not to be missed.
Along with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, the 31st Boston Harborfest is in full swing, showcasing Boston’s rich heritage with a wide range of daily events. And there’s lots more to do as well, so break out the sunscreen, bring some water, and enjoy all that the city has to offer this July 4.
Following is a guide to celebrating America’s birthday, Boston-style.
Tuesday, July 3
In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years
A new exhibition at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years highlights Kennedy’s 1964 oral history interview with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger. Sealed for 47 years, her interview was finally published in September 2011, and is now available (along with photographs, documents, and artifacts) for all to experience. The famously private first lady recorded the series of interviews just months after the assassination of her husband. In the conversations, visitors can hear Kennedy share her unique impressions of world leaders and events, her role as first lady, and her life as a wife and mother in the White House.
In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years is on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston. The museum is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 with student ID and $12 for adults. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Park St., transfer to the Red Line towards Ashmont, and get off at JFK/UMass. There is a free shuttle bus to the museum every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. until closing. Take the buses marked “JFK.”
Hop aboard the Voyager III for a view of some sea creatures you won’t see at the New England Aquarium. This high-speed boat travels to whale feeding grounds 30 miles east of Boston for an aquatic adventure. While taking in the beautiful view, passengers can interact with naturalists and educators onboard, spot whales, dolphins, sea birds, and other marine life, and enjoy the boat’s full-service snack and concession bars.
Whale watching cruises leave at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from the New England Aquarium dock, One Central Wharf, Boston, and last three to four hours. Admission is $44.95 for adults and $34.95 for children. Tickets can be purchased here. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center, transfer to the Blue Line, and get off at the Aquarium stop.
Pirates & Patriots
The Freedom Trail Foundation’s newest tour, Pirates & Patriots, immerses participants in a world of riots, revolution, slavery, and piracy along Boston’s shores. The tour begins at Long Wharf with a visit to 18th- and 19th-century buildings, proceeds to the harbor, where visitors will hear fascinating tales of John Hancock’s smuggling and the hanging of pirates Jack Quelch and William Fly, and ends at Griffith’s Warf, site of the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Pirates & Patriots runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. The tour begins at the ArtsBoston booth, a freestanding kiosk on the south side of Faneuil Hall, near the Samuel Adams statue. Admission is $11 for students and $13 for adults. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center and walk to Congress Street.
Town Hall Blues Band
In an installment in Boston Harborfest’s free concert series, the Town Hall Blues Band is slated to play a lively variety of rock, blues, and jazz.
Town Hall Blues Band will perform Tuesday, July 3, from noon to 3 p.m. on City Hall Plaza, One City Hall Square, Boston. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center.
Boston Tea Party Reenactment
Set sail on Boston Harbor and relive history. Participants will join John Hancock and his Privateers as they climb aboard the Liberty Clipper and raid British warships, fire cannons, listen to Sam Adams protest against the tea tax, and help the Sons of Liberty throw chests of tea overboard.
The Boston Tea Party Reenactment is Tuesday, July 3, from noon to 2 p.m. on the Liberty Clipper, 67 Long Wharf, Boston. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased here. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center, transfer to the Blue Line, and get off at the Aquarium stop.
Boston Pops Concert
Although there won’t be any fireworks accompanying this concert, you can listen to the Boston Pops perform a run-through of their Fourth of July concert, including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Best of all, the crowds won’t be nearly as bad as they will on Wednesday evening.
The Boston Pops will perform Tuesday, July 3, at 8:20 p.m. at the Hatch Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way, Boston. Attendees can enter the Oval (the lawn/seating area in front of the Hatch Shell) beginning at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public, so you may want to arrive early. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to the Red Line towards Alewife, and get off at the Charles/MGH stop.
Wednesday, July 4
Flag-Raising Ceremony & Parade
Kick off the most patriotic day of the year by attending the flag-raising ceremony at City Hall Plaza. From there, a parade proceeds to the Granary Burial Ground, where wreaths are laid on the graves of some of America’s most noted patriots, before ending at the Old State House.
The flag-raising ceremony and parade is on Wednesday, July 4, at 9 a.m. at City Hall Plaza, One City Hall Square, Boston. It is free and open to the public. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center.
Declaration of Independence Reading
After following the parade to the Old State House, stick around for a reading of the Declaration of Independence and be reminded of our country’s historic beginnings. The address will be read from the balcony just as it was on July 18, 1776, when Bostonians heard it for the first time.
The Declaration of Independence reading is on Wednesday, July 4, at 10 a.m. at the Old State House, 206 Washington St., Boston. It is free and open to the public. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Government Center and walk to Washington Street.
Direct your eyes toward the skies at noon as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and 24 military aircraft fly over the city in commemoration of Independence Day.
The aircraft fly-over is from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4. It will take place above Boston Harbor and the Charles River.
The 39th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
Celebrate the Fourth with the Boston Pops, Grammy- and Academy Award–winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, and an unforgettable fireworks display. Watch as Hudson performs some of her biggest hits alongside one of the world’s top orchestras at the Hatch Shell, and get ready for one explosive night sky. Thousands of pounds of fireworks will be launched above the Charles River as the Pops play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, confetti rains down, and church bells ring across the city. This year’s concert will once again be hosted by BU alum and Emmy-winning actor Michael Chiklis (CFA’86).
Note: Be prepared for tremendous crowds. If you plan on watching from the Oval, which opens at 9 a.m. and is usually full by 2 p.m., arrive as early as possible. Bring a picnic basket or cooler, cards or games to pass the time, sunscreen, bug spray, a camera, blankets or foldable chairs, and, most important, American flags.
Don’t bring grills, alcoholic beverages, sharp objects, or pets (unless they’re service animals), as they’re not allowed. There will be a bag check for anyone entering the Oval.
The 39th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular begins at 8 p.m. and the National Anthem and fly-over take place at 8:20 p.m. The orchestra will play the 1812 Overture, complete with fireworks, at 9:30 p.m. The main fireworks display kicks off at 10:35 p.m. The event takes place on Wednesday, July 4, at the Hatch Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way, Boston. Take the MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to the Red Line towards Alewife, and get off at the Charles/MGH stop. The MBTA will provide extra bus and subway service on July 4, and all buses and trains will be free to the public after 10:30 p.m. More information on the event can be found here.
Other places to watch the fireworks
Don’t want to get caught in the massive crowds at the Esplanade? Below are some suggestions for places where you can have a terrific view of the pyrotechnics display without having to contend with quite as many people.
Mass Ave Bridge or Longfellow Bridge
Get a front row seat for the fireworks on one of these two bridges spanning the river between Boston and Cambridge. You’ll be close to the action, and have a beautiful view of the fireworks reflecting on the river. Both bridges will be closed to cars.
Along the Charles River, Cambridge
For a top-notch view of the fireworks, simply walk across the Mass Ave Bridge to Cambridge, hang a right, and line Memorial Drive. Spectators will be able to hear the music, and the crowd will be smaller.
Larz Anderson Park
23 Newton St., Brookline
Families should consider setting up camp at this beautiful park. There’s more room for games and picnics, and it offers a wonderful view of the fireworks from its high vantage point.
Oakley Country Club
401 Belmont St., Watertown
Park at the entrance of this country club and score a great view of the display. Grab a seat at one of the highest points of the golf course, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Information on other fireworks displays in nearby towns is available here.
Tom Vellner can be reached at email@example.com.+ Comments