It’s time to celebrate Independence Day — and we’re not talking Will Smith and some aliens. From fireworks to puppy parties in a beer garden to knee-buckling sundaes, here’s your ultimate guide to Fourth of July celebrations in Boston.
41st BOSTON HARBORFEST
Kick off the weekend with the annual Boston Harborfest. Some highlights:
- The fun starts June 30 at 11:30 a.m. at Downtown Crossing with roving historical reenactors, the Massachusetts 215th Army Band, “ceremonial cake-cutting,” giveaways, puppets, live tunes lasting through the evening, and more according to the website.
- July 1 highlights include a pre-fireworks concert at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, with " local talent” from 6-9 p.m, and fireworks at 9:15 p.m., launching from Long Wharf.
- Head to a waterfront concert and artisan market on July 2, with live music on Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park and Rose Kennedy Greenway from 1-5 p.m.
- Foodies, it’s Chowderfest July 3. Grab a bowl and spoon and savor that creamy goodness from various local restaurants. 2 p.m., Washington Street, Downtown Crossing.
- The actual holiday brings Huzzah! Salute to Service Block Party, from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. According to billing, the USS Constitution will pass Fort Independence in South Boston at 11:30 a.m. for a 21-gun salute. Then it’s time for live music, lawn games, mini-golf, and more. Find details on all of the above and a full schedule at bostonharborfest.com
The Anchor — a waterfront beer garden/public gathering spot in Charlestown — hosts a weeklong Dockfest starting July 1, according to their Facebook post. Events include: live music and fireworks viewing July 1; comedy show July 2; and a Patriotic Succulent Paint Party (intriguing), live aerialist performances, DJ, and fireworks viewing on July 4. 1 Shipyard Park, Boston. theanchorboston.com
On the holiday proper, it’s the City of Boston’s 247th Independence Day Celebration. A ”brief ceremonial parade” steps off from City Hall at 9 a.m., proceeding toward Granary Burying Ground for a wreath-laying on patriot graves, continuing to the Old State House for a reading of the Declaration of Independence at 10 a.m., according to Harborfest’s website. Parade viewing along the route and at Downtown Crossing.
At 1:30 p.m., hear a reading of Frederick Douglass’s powerful 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” at the Franklin Steps against a backdrop of African drums, dance, and gospel music. Plus a marketplace and free ice cream social, according to Harborfest billing.
EN VOGUE, BOSTON POPS, A “HAMILTON” STAR, PLUS FIREWORKS
July 4 in Boston means Boston Pops x Fireworks on the Charles River Esplanade — a near 93-year tradition. Keith Lockhart conducts. Party like it’s 1989 with this year’s headliners: seven-time Grammy nominees R&B/soul group En Vogue. (You’re already singing “Never Gonna Get It,” aren’t you?) Other special guests include Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez (“Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” “Wicked,” and, fun-fact, Silvia on “Only Murders in the Building”) and country duo LOCASH. Oooh and aaah in person or via Channel 7, from 8-11 p.m. Details at www.bso.org/boston-pops-fireworks-spectacular.
What to know about the July 4 concert and fireworks at the Hatch Shell.
BIRD’S EYE-VIEW OF FIREWORKS
You might watch Boston’s fireworks explode and fizz from 750 feet in the air at View Boston, an observatory on the top floors of the Prudential Tower. The 21+ viewing party admission ticket includes access to the top two floors from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, two drink tickets, access to floor bars, and indoor and outdoor viewing options. $75. 800 Boylston St. viewboston.com
MORE AAAHS AND OOOHS
Outside Boston, find dozens of fireworks displays from Braintree to Orleans to Agawam’s Six Flags. The state compiled a list of shows, and there are way too many happening this weekend to mention ‘em all here. Suffice to say, you can watch fireworks every night from June 29 to July 4. Find the list at www.mass.gov/service-details/leave-fireworks-to-the-professionals.
I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM FOR THE FOURTH
Since 1776, July Fourth has been a traditional day for ice cream cones when John Hancock was brave enough to take the first big scoop. (Or something like that.) Either way, it’s tradition in 2023. A few suggestions:
Emack & Bolio’s, a Willy Wonka-like flavor factory with various locations, including on Newbury Street. Flavors change often, but par for the course: S’moreo, Space Cake, or Beantown Buzz — espresso ice cream, cookie crunch, and chocolate-covered espresso beans. 290 Newbury St. emackandbolios.com
Vegans, try small-batch plant-based FoMu ice cream, with various Boston locations and flavors like brownie brownie batter, birthday cake, peanut butter chocolate cookie made with local Teddie peanut butter, along with treats like gluten-free strawberry shortcake popsicles, and thick ice cream sandwiches. fomuicecream.com
The Globe Magazine recently found a few gems, including a whimsical fish-shaped Japanese cake, “taiyaki,” piped full of ice cream — in favors like matcha, strawberry, and hojicha (a type of green tea — topped with syrup, matcha powder, or rainbow-colored mochi. It’s called a Taiyaki Ice Cream Cone. Snag (and Instagram) one at Taiyaki NYC. Pair with mochi doughnut. 119 Seaport Blvd., Suite B, Boston, and 6 Church St., Cambridge. taiyakinyc.com
Close your eyes and spoon these up. This is what your childhood Fourth of July tastes like.
Or you and the beast can get decked in your red-white-and-blue best for Boston’s Patriotic Poochapalooza at Downtown Crossing July 2 from noon to 3 p.m. Dogs and humans “are encouraged to dress up in patriotic spirit to impress the public and compete for prizes,” according to billing. Judging begins at 1 p.m. with prizes for “Most Patriotic,” “Best in Show,” “Best Team,” “Most Creative.” Grand-prize-winner scores a stay at the Omni Parker House. Plus free face-painting and caricatures, and treats via JB’s Doggie Delight Truck. Search for “poochapalooza” at downtownboston.org.
CHEERS TO THE FOURTH
As you might imagine, Boston is packed with restaurants and bars offering Fourth fun. Just two highlights:
Toast early with beers on a rooftop: Sam Adams Downtown Boston Taproom hosts rooftop parties June 30 and July 1. Free admission. 60 State St. samadamsbostontaproom.com
Faneuil Hall — which hosts free historical tours July 2 and 3 at 10 a.m. — is also home to Ned Devine’s Irish Pub Independence Day Bash July 3 from 9 p.m.-midnight. Expect DJ, drinks, and “patriotic goodies and giveaways” according to billing. Free until 10 p.m., then $10 admission. neddevinesboston.com
GO FOURTH AND GRILL
The turkey dinner is to Thanksgiving what the backyard barbecue is to the Fourth. Skip the packaged hot dogs and Auntie May’s bland potato salad. (Ummm, looks delicious, Auntie May…) and visit the Globe’s Food section at www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/recipes for some epic Fourth of July recipes, from lobster rolls and slow-cooked pulled pork (“flavorful, meltingly tender meat, perfect for making sandwiches, tacos, or enchiladas”) to Sheryl Julian’s recipes for fish chowder, easy one-bowl cornbread, grilled veggies (“Vegetable platters should look like flower gardens”) and strawberry shortcake.
Globe Magazine offers the “Secret to a Perfect Burger” — from garlic-rosemary burgers with taleggio sauce to parmesan and herb turkey burgers. Or blue cheese and bacon burgers and kale slaw with radishes and orange honey dressing. (Or just a great cheeseburger.)
For more tasty ideas, go to www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/recipes.
Now go forth and Fourth, Boston.