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Celebrating July 4 the Boston Way

A guide to concerts, historical tours, and a fabulous fireworks display

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Updated at 12:25 p.m on July 4: The Red Sox-Orioles game scheduled for July 4th at Fenway Park has been postponed because of weather. The two teams are now scheduled to play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, July 5.

Updated at 9:25 am on July 4: The flag raising ceremony and parade scheduled to take place at 9 am at City Hall Plaza and the Granary Burial ground have been cancelled. The dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence will take place indoors at Faneuil Hall beginning at 10 a.m. on July 4.

America is about to turn 238, and no one knows how to celebrate the nation’s birthday quite the way Bostonians do. This Fourth of July weekend you can find Revolutionary War–era reenactments, citywide scavenger hunts, and rousing musical performances.

The advance of Hurricane Arthur—which is expected to douse Boston and the surrounding area with heavy rain and winds up to 30 mph on Friday—has thrown something of a monkey wrench into this year’s festivities, forcing much of the city to mark the holiday a day early. The city’s biggest event—the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, featuring a concert by the Boston Pops followed by a dazzling display of fireworks, howitzers, and church bells, has been moved from tomorrow, Friday, July 4, to tonight, Thursday, July 3, weather permitting.

BU Today will provide updates of delays or cancellations of other events as they become available.

The 33rd annual Boston Harborfest is already underway, with a number of daily events that showcase Boston’s heritage as the Cradle of Liberty. And that only begins to describe what’s going on this weekend. So pack your sunscreen (and umbrella), gather your friends, and get ready for the biggest, loudest, and most patriotic birthday party you’ve ever been to.

Following is a guide to some of the best events Boston has to offer this holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 3

Boston by Land and Water: Charles River Sightseeing Tour

This 60-minute sightseeing cruise along the Charles River is a fine way to kick off your Independence Day weekend. The captain and crew narrate the tour, which highlights cultural and historical landmarks around Boston and Cambridge, including Beacon Hill, Esplanade Park, the Back Bay, Boston University, MIT, and Harvard.

Charles River Boat Tours are offered daily starting at 10 a.m. The last boat leaves at 4:15 p.m. Check-in begins 10 minutes prior to departure. See a full schedule here. A 60-minute tour costs $15 for adults; $13 for students, seniors, and members of the armed forces; and $8 for children under 12. Tickets are available online [http://www.charlesriverboat.com/tickets], and advance reservations are recommended. Tours depart from Lechmere Canal Park at the CambridgeSide Galleria Mall. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Lechmere, and it is about a four-minute walk to the dock.

Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy

The JFK Library and Museum is exhibiting rare Superman comic book art from a 1963 collaboration between the White House and DC Comics titled Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy. Photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

In 1963, the Kennedy administration collaborated with National Periodical Publications (now DC Comics) to create a Superman comic book that would promote the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. In the story, JFK calls on Superman to persuade the country to eat better, exercise more, and get stronger. The project—titled Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy—was set aside after Kennedy’s assassination, but was resurrected with President Lyndon Johnson’s encouragement. Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy was published in 1964 as a tribute to the slain commander-in-chief.

This never-before-exhibited artwork, created by legendary comic book artist Al Plastino, is just one of many interesting exhibitions on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy is on view at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston, through September 1. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and students with a valid college ID, $10 for children 13 to 17, and free for members and children 12 and under. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to a Red Line train towards Braintree or Ashmont, and get off at JFK/UMass. A free shuttle bus marked JFK runs to the museum every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. until closing.

Blues Barge Thursdays: James Montgomery

Every Thursday night during the summer, the Boston Harbor Hotel features a free outdoor concert by a prominent blues musician. Tonight’s Summer in the City concert performance is by James Montgomery (CAS’71). What better way to kick off the holiday than listening to some great blues as the sun sets over Boston Harbor.

James Montgomery performs tonight at dusk at the Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, free and open to the public. Sunset is at 8:24 p.m.; arrive early to get a good seat. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, it’s about a 13-minute walk to the hotel.

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, Esplanade, Charles River

The sun sets on the Esplanade as the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular begins. Photo by Flickr contributor Leonardo DaSilva

41st Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

The Fourth of July is arguably the biggest party Boston hosts each year. In addition to an incredible fireworks display, with 16,000 individual pyrotechnics, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is preceded by a free Boston Pops concert, led by conductor Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04). Tonight’s concert will include special performances by singer-actress Megan Hilty (Sean Saves the World, Smash), Julia Udine and Ben Jacoby, the stars of the touring company of The Phantom of the Opera, now playing at the Boston Opera House, the Boston Children’s Chorus, and the legendary Beach Boys, whose good vibrations will undoubtedly help the 500,000-strong audience have some “fun, fun, fun.” As the fireworks and howitzers explode and church bells ring across the city, the Pops, in keeping with tradition, will conclude the concert with a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture to the backdrop of a don’t-miss fireworks display.

Note: Be prepared for massive crowds. The Oval, the grassy area directly in front of the Hatch Shell, opens to the public at 5 p.m. and is expected to fill up quickly. Security is extremely tight and rules are strictly enforced. Do not bring coolers on wheels, backpacks, glass containers, grills, sharp objects, cans, premixed beverages, bicycles, or pets (other than service animals). All personal items must be carried in clear bags and are subject to inspection. Find a complete list of allowable items here.

The 41st Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular concert, held at the Hatch Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way, Boston, begins at 8:00 p.m., with fireworks at 10:30 p.m.; the event is free and open to the public. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to a Red Line train towards Alewife, and get off at the Charles/MGH stop. The MBTA will provide extra bus and subway service on July 3; all buses and trains will be free after 9:30 p.m., and extended late-night service will be available on all subway lines and key bus routes from 1 a.m. until approximately 2:30 a.m. More information on the event can be found here.

Other places to watch the fireworks
If you want to avoid the crowds and the daylong seat-saving that watching the fireworks at the Esplanade entail, below are some suggestions for nearby locations that offer a good view of the pyrotechnics display.

BU Bridge

Spanning the Charles River, this bridge offers a front-row seat for the fireworks, with the added bonus of seeing the colors reflected on the water.

Along the Charles River, Cambridge

For an unbeatable view of the fireworks, walk across the Mass. Ave bridge to the banks of the Charles River along Cambridge’s Memorial Drive. For a more novel approach, consider renting a boat and watching from the water. Note: boats will not be allowed between the Mass. Ave. Bridge and the fireworks barges which have been moved closer to the bridge this year. Boaters must be east of the safety zone and west of the Mass. Ave. bridge. More guidelines for boaters are available here.

Larz Anderson Park
23 Newton St., Brookline

A perfect spot for families, this 64-acre park—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—offers plenty of room for games and picnics, and its high vantage point offers a terrific view of the fireworks.

By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line D trolley to Reservoir, switch a number 51 bus and get off at Clyde Street, then walk for five minutes.

Information on other fireworks displays in nearby towns is available here.

Friday, July 4

Flag-Raising Ceremony and Parade and Dramatic Reading of the Declaration of Independence

Get the birthday celebration rolling with a patriotic flag-raising ceremony at City Hall Plaza. From there, join the parade to the Granary Burial Ground, where wreaths will be laid on the graves of some of Boston’s most prominent patriots, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, as well as Phillis Wheatley, believed to be the nation’s first African American poet. The event ends at the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence will be read, commemorating the events of July 18, 1776, when Colonel Thomas Crafts, a member of the Sons of Liberty and a Boston Tea Party participant, stood on the balcony of the Old State House and read the newly signed Declaration of Independence to the citizens of Boston.

The flag-raising ceremony and parade start at 9 a.m. at the flagpole on City Hall Plaza, One City Hall Square, Boston. It is free and open to the public. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street. From there, it is about a five-minute walk. The Declaration of Independence reading is at 10 a.m. on the balcony of the Old State House, 206 Washington St., Boston. It is free and open to the public. From Park Street, walk seven minutes to the corner of State and Washington Streets.

Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park

What could be more patriotic than watching the game that’s been called America’s pastime in the country’s oldest baseball stadium, Fenway Park, when the Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles? Add a Fenway frank and some Cracker Jack for the full experience. Only a small number of tickets are still available, so if you can’t score a seat inside the park, watch the game in one of Kenmore Square’s bars, like Cask ’n Flagon or Boston Beer Works. It’s the next best thing to being there.

The Red Sox–Orioles game begins at 1:35 p.m. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to the Kenmore station. From there, it is about a five-minute walk. A limited number of tickets is available, so plan ahead. Ticket information can be found here. For the latest information about rain delays or cancellation due to weather, check out the Red Sox twitter account @RedSox.

Classic Movie Fridays: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

As part of its Summer in the City Entertainment Series, the Boston Harbor Hotel hosts free Friday night screenings of classic movies. Tonight’s 4th of July offering is Frank Capra’s 1939 classic Oscar winner Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, about an idealistic young senator (Jimmy Stewart) who stands up to political corruption. The film will screen on the hotel’s terrace at dusk. Take in the magnificent waterfront views before the movie starts.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington screens tonight at dusk at the Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, free and open to the public. Sunset is at 8:24 p.m.; arrive early to get a good seat. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, it’s about a 13-minute walk to the hotel.

Saturday, July 5

The Uncharted Revolution

Join Boston Uncharted for a citywide American Revolution–themed scavenger hunt that asks the question: which side will you fight on? Choose either the Patriots or the Loyalists and work to find clues and solve ciphers and puzzles designed to lead you through famous Boston landmarks. Participants receive team T-shirts, a map of Revolutionary-era Boston, and that day’s edition of the Massachusetts Spy (the 18th-century Boston-based newspaper that was pro-Patriot), among other giveaways.

The Uncharted Revolution Scavenger Hunt begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 5, and Sunday, July 6. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance here. The hunt begins at Boston Common—the Patriot Team meets at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument and the Loyalist Team at the Fox Hill plaque. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street.

Tours of the Freedom Trail: Meetings, Mobs, and Martyrs

There would be nothing to celebrate this weekend without the bravery of the Bostonians who stood up against British taxation, oppressive policies, and other forms of tyranny. Assert your independence (and show your Boston pride) by walking the Freedom Trail, where National Park Service rangers will guide you on a 60-minute walk that focuses on notable locations of Patriot resistance, among them Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s home, the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old South Meeting House.

The Meetings, Mobs, and Martyrs tour begins inside the Faneuil Hall Visitor Center, One Faneuil Hall Square, Boston. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, it is about a six-minute walk to Faneuil Hall. Tours begin on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Tickets are first-come, first-served up to 30 minutes before the tour begins. Tours are limited to 30 people, so plan on arriving early.

U.S.S. Constitution warship, Boston

The U.S.S. Constitution is America’s oldest commissioned warship and tours are free and open to the public. Photo by Flickr contributor DVIDSHUB

Tour of the USS Constitution

The USS Constitution—better known as Old Ironsides—was launched in 1797 and is the world’s oldest commissioned warship. Now berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the wood-hulled Navy frigate earned its nickname during the War of 1812, when it captured five British warships. Designated a “museum ship” in 1907, the USS Constitution is open for free public tours year-round. But, don’t wait too long to visit, because in early 2015, the ship will enter dry dock to undergo three years of scheduled restoration work.

The USS Constitution is at the Charlestown Navy Yard, One Constitution Road, Charlestown. During the summer, the USS Constitution is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with free guided tours every half hour. Arrive at least 15 minutes before a tour for a mandatory security screening. Anyone 18 or older must show a valid photo ID to board the ship. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to North Station. From there, it is about an 11-minute walk to the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts contains one of only four surviving copies of Britain’s original Magna Carta, the 1215 document that inspired the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Along with the Magna Carta, the MFA is also showcasing portraits, marble busts, and historical documents related to some of the Founding Fathers, presidents, and abolitionists from Massachusetts, as well as the “Sons of Liberty Bowl,” made by Paul Revere in 1768.

The special exhibition The Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, through September 1. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Admission is free for members and BU students with a valid college ID, $25 for adults, $23 for students and seniors, and free for children six and under, and free to the public on Wednesday evenings. Children ages 7 through 17 are admitted for free on weekdays after 3 p.m., weekends, and Boston public school holidays, otherwise admission is $10. Tickets can be purchased in advance here. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line E trolley or the number 39 bus to the Museum of Fine Arts stop or an Orange Line train or bus routes 8, 47, or CT2 to the Ruggles stop.

Sunday, July 6

Bells and Bones Tour, King’s Chapel

Learn about early American burial practices during a tour of the King’s Chapel crypt, which is more than 250 years old. Then climb up to the bell tower to see the 2,437-pound bell cast by Paul Revere in 1816, after the original bell cracked. History has it that Revere proclaimed it “the sweetest bell I ever made.”

The Bells and Bones Tours take place at King’s Chapel, 58 Tremont St., Boston. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street and walk about three minutes. Tours are given by request, every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance reservations are not required. Purchase tickets, $8 for a full 40-minute tour of both crypt and bell tower and $5 for a 20-minute tour of either crypt or bell tower, in the chapel vestibule. To take the tour, you must be at least 10 years old and physically able to climb steep stairs. Children ages 10 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Boston Tall Ship Sunday Brunch Sail

Looking for a unique brunch experience? The Boston Tall Ship Sunday Brunch Sail offers a one-of-a-kind cruise of Boston Harbor while serving a brunch of fresh fruit, quiche, pastry, coffee, and more aboard the schooner Liberty Clipper.

Boston Tall Ship Sunday Brunch Sail is every Sunday from June through September, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made here. Tickets are $45 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. The ship is docked next to the New England Aquarium, 67 Long Wharf, Boston. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, it is about an 11-minute walk to the wharf.

The Dark Side of Boston

This guided tour by Boston by Foot offers up a look at the city’s darker history. You’ll learn about outbreaks of smallpox that threatened the city, as well as the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918; the Molasses Flood of 1919, which claimed 21 lives when a molasses tank exploded in Boston’s North End; the famous Brink’s Robbery of 1950; and other true stories of crime, disease, and death. Walking along the North End’s narrow streets and alleys at sunset makes for a fun and thrilling way to conclude the holiday weekend.

The 90-minute Dark Side of Boston tour starts at 6 p.m. at the corner of Hanover and Cross Streets at the Tony DeMarco Boxer Statue in Boston’s North End. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, it is about a three-minute walk to the statue. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children 6 to 12. Purchase tickets here or with cash from your tour guide.

Samantha Pickette can be reached at pickette@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Celebrating July 4 the Boston Way

  • Jen on 07.03.2014 at 9:33 am

    FYI – You can’t watch fireworks from the Mass Ave bridge, and it closes to pedestrians at 6pm.

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