Crowds will not be gathering on the Esplanade with picnic blankets and snacks to witness the Fourth of July fireworks this year. In fact, there will be no public fireworks displays in Massachusetts through the month, according to the Massachusetts fire marshal. Some spots on Cape Cod, including Hyannis, West Dennis, and Yarmouth, have rescheduled their fireworks spectaculars for September and beyond.
That leaves people to find other ways to celebrate Independence Day in the midst of a pandemic.
Of course, you can still grill, drink, and celebrate (in small groups, of course); wear red, white, and blue; and bask in the sun with your mask on. For anyone looking for other ideas, here’s a list of alternative activities for this very unusual Fourth of July.
Boston Pops ‘Salute to our Heroes’
Tune in to the Boston Pops virtual “Salute to our Heroes” concert to get a taste of what a normal July Fourth could’ve been like. The orchestra usually plays at the bandstand hours before the fireworks, but they’ve switched up the program to accommodate the times.
Conductor Keith Lockhart will play piano along Renese King in one of many performances, which feature Melissa Etheridge, Andy Grammer, Rhiannon Giddens, Arlo Guthrie, Queen Latifah, Leslie Odom Jr., Rita Moreno, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. US youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman will also make an appearance. Each performance was pre-taped at the bandstand.
The streamed event will also include some expected Independence Day traditions, like a patriotic sing-along, an appearance from the US Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus, and performance of the 1812 Overture. Viewers can post pictures and videos of their celebrations on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #greatamericanpicnic and tag @BostonPops for the chance to win prizes.
The night will end with a “retrospective fireworks extravaganza,” according to the release.
The celebration will air on television, radio, and online. Audiences can watch the special on Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, and Boston’s WHDH-TV starting at 8 p.m.
USS Constitution virtual celebrations
The USS Constitution Museum will stream special programming on its Facebook page on July Fourth. This includes a 21-gun salute, trivia contest, wall climbing demonstration, and special ship tour with historian Carl Herzog.
“While visitors can’t visit USS Constitution or the USS Constitution Museum this Fourth of July, we can bring virtual celebrations and activities to them,” museum president and chief executive Anne Grimes Rand said in a statement.
The museum is also selling Alka-Seltzer Cannon Kits, which families can purchase online, retrieve by curbside pickup, and then use to create their own at-home miniature cannon. Other entertainment — including recorded videos of USS Constitution cruises and an online cannon game — is widely available on the museum’s Independence Day webpage (www.usscm.org/july4).
July Fourth PBS special
Actor and producer John Stamos will host this year’s 40th anniversary presentation of “A Capitol Fourth.” The national, 90-minute pretaped TV special will feature performances from locations across the country and highlights from the show’s history. (It is traditionally held on the West Lawn of the US Capitol.)
The night’s roster includes Grammy winner Patti LaBelle, country artist Lauren Alaina, Broadway performer extraordinaire Kelli O’Hara, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty, and many more. Members of the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jack Everly, will also play throughout the show. In addition, the program features a tribute to first responders, medical workers, and essential workers putting their lives at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fireworks and a rendition of the 1812 Overture will end the night.
“A Capitol Fourth” will air on PBS starting at 8 p.m.
James Taylor at Fenway Park
In lieu of James Taylor’s canceled June 21 concert, the singer-songwriter will livestream his 2015 Fenway Park performance on July Fourth, which includes an appearance from blues singer Bonnie Raitt. The free stream is being held in support of the Red Sox Foundation and a new Live Nation initiative, “Crew Nation,” that helps concert venues keep the lights on during the pandemic.
Bristol, R.I., July Fourth parade
The traditional Fourth of July parade in Bristol, R.I., the oldest such celebration in the country, will instead be a 45-minute vehicle procession this year from Hope Street to High Street. People are discouraged from bringing blankets and chairs, arriving too early, and gathering in packed crowds. The Rhode Island Health Department recommends that people who watch the parade socially distance and wear masks. Public bathrooms will be closed.
The procession begins at 8:30 a.m. from the corner of Chestnut and Hope streets.
For its first ever virtual July Fourth celebration, the National Archives is bringing a slew of activities to American homes. The day’s events include a prerecorded “discussion” with Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, John Dunlap, and more (registration is required). The event ends with a streamed version of the Declaration of Independence traditional reading ceremony, hosted and narrated by Soledad O’Brien.
Events begin at 11 a.m. at www.archivesjuly4.org. The reading ceremony is at 4 p.m.
City of Everett July 2 celebration
Everett is holding a socially distanced event — complete with a drive-in viewing of “The Sandlot” — two days before Independence Day in Rivergreen Park. Prior to the show, people will be able to take pictures with patriotic superheroes and characters. The city is also providing free popcorn and drinks for all attendees. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m.
One of the safe, socially distanced activities you can take part in this July Fourth is seeing a drive-in movie. While lounging in your car, see “The Jungle Book,” “Stars Wars,” “Ghostbusters,” or “Deadpool” at the Mendon Twin Drive-in. The Leicester Drive-in will be playing “Back to the Future” and “Jaws,” and moviegoers at the Northfield Drive-in can enjoy “Spaceballs” and “Three Amigos.”
Diti Kohli can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.