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A guide to celebrating the Fourth of July in Boston

Fireworks explode over the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the 2018 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in Boston.Michael Dwyer/AP/file

Fourth of July weekend is here, and there are many ways to celebrate in Boston. Firework displays have returned, festivals abound, and with the return of the Boston Pops to the Charles River Esplanade for the first time in three years, it’s finally feeling like a holiday weekend people can plan for.

Here’s a guide to celebrating the Fourth of July in the heart of the city, and some tips on what to expect.

Boston Harborfest: July 1-4

Kick off the holiday weekend with the return of Boston Harborfest, a four-day celebration that begins Friday and runs through Monday. The annual summer tradition honors Boston’s maritime and revolutionary history with numerous free activities and events.


The festival begins on Friday at noon at Downtown Crossing with free live performances. It continues with historic reenactments, tours along the Freedom Trail, and festival offshoots like the Chowderfest on Saturday (see the full schedule here).

The Boston Harborfest fireworks on Saturday will no doubt draw a crowd. Set to start around 9:15 p.m. over Long Wharf on Boston’s Inner Harbor, the Harborfest fireworks bring a spectacular display visible from almost anywhere in the city. Head to Christopher Columbus Park for a pre-fireworks concert, featuring local talent, patriotic songs, and children’s activities. The pre-fireworks event runs from 6 to 9 p.m.

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular: July 4

Celebrate the Fourth on the actual Fourth with the iconic Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, returning to the Hatch Shell at the Charles River Esplanade for the first time since 2019. The event is free, and admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The concert starts at 8 p.m., and the Boston Pops will take the stage under the direction of conductor Keith Lockhart. Joining the orchestra this year will be singer Chaka Khan, Javier Colon of “The Voice,” and Tony and Grammy winner Heather Headley. The Pops will also be joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums, and the Honor Guard of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment.


The concert will also feature a “special moment” in honor of the late philanthropist David Mugar, who helped the Pops redefine its July Fourth celebration.

The Oval will open at noon on July 4. Spectators will be required to pass through screening entrances and will receive a wristband that must be worn at all times to ensure access in and out of the secured areas, according to the BSO website. There will be restrooms and an accessible entrance.

Spectators should know prohibited items include backpacks, coolers on wheels, glass container and cans, and alcoholic beverages. Guests can bring pop-up tents (with no sides), blankets or tarps, folding beach chairs, and smaller coolers with straps. For the full list of what is and isn’t allowed, visit the BSO website. For the journey home, the subways and commuter rail will be free after 9:45 p.m., according to an MBTA spokesperson.

And if you’d rather enjoy the show from the comfort of your couch, the “Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular,” which runs until 11 p.m., will be broadcast on Bloomberg TV and radio as well as on WHDH-TV Channel 7.

Independence Day Parade: July 4

A short parade will step off from City Hall Plaza and pass the Granary Burial Ground on July 4 at 9 a.m. as part of the city’s 246th Independence Day Celebration. The parade continues through Downtown Crossing to the Old State House where the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company will continue its tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence from the balcony. Spectators can watch the parade along the route and in Downtown Crossing.


Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.