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Things to do in Greater Boston this summer

Your seasonal calendar of events, music, theater, and more.

A rendering of the “New Horizon” balloon by multimedia artist Doug Aitken. The balloon will travel around Massachusetts, the centerpiece of a project that includes music, discussions, and tethered flights, launching at Long Point Wildlife Refuge on Martha’s Vineyard on July 12.Doug Aitken


Boston Harborfest / July 1-7

The birthplace of the American Revolution throws a huge party to celebrate Independence Day, with activities such as walking tours, whale watching, harbor cruises, and fireworks. Chowderfest (July 2) purports to determine the city’s best clam-based soup — the defending champ is Waterline, in the Boston Marriott Long Wharf — and a flag-raising ceremony and parade kick off July 4 observances and festivities. Ticket prices vary; many events free. 617-439-7700; bostonharborfest.com

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular / July 3-4

Queen Latifah and Arlo Guthrie headline the beloved annual 4th of July concert, traditionally preceded by a daylong picnic at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade and followed by an earth-shaking fireworks show. Memorial Drive and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway will also be equipped with screens for viewing and hearing the show without the all-day wait. If you like your crowds (slightly) smaller and don’t mind missing the fireworks, Wednesday’s pyrotechnic-free performance is for you. Free. 617-266-1200; bostonpopsjuly4th.com

Boston JerkFest / July 5-6


The flavors of Jamaica spice up the Haley House Bakery Café in Roxbury for this indoor-outdoor celebration of Caribbean food and music. Friday’s Wine & Brew Tasting is a 21-plus event with unlimited alcohol samples and a cocktail competition. Each of Saturday’s two sessions features a cook-off and kids’ activities. Food vendors will be on-site at all three sessions. Tasting $40; festival $20, $15 in advance; under 13 free; packages available. 617-395-7680; bostonjerkfest.com

TOP PICK: “New Horizon”

July 12-28

Look! Up in the sky! It’s . . . a hot-air balloon with a mirrored surface, on a road-trip-like journey around Massachusetts. Designed by multimedia artist Doug Aitken as part of The Trustees’ Art & the Landscape series, the balloon is the centerpiece of “happenings” and experiences — including music, discussions, and tethered flights — where it sets down. The project launches at Long Point Wildlife Refuge on Martha’s Vineyard before floating to Plymouth, Lincoln (one of two destinations with family-oriented programming), Ipswich, and other locations, ending at Field Farm in Williamstown. Happenings from $40; spontaneous appearances free. thetrustees.org


Open Newbury Street / July 14, August 11, and September 15

Enjoy the Back Bay’s retail backbone without the usual traffic and jaywalking during Open Newbury Street. The wildly popular event, spread over three Sundays, sees cars banned and pop-up vendors on the asphalt along with crowds of shoppers, snackers, and diners strolling from Arlington Street to Massachusetts Avenue. Free. 617-266-1991; newburystboston.com

Festival Betances / July 20-21

Latina artists take center stage at the 51st annual festival, a celebration of Latin music, dance, food, art, and more. The party kicks off with a parade and includes the crowd-pleasing greased pole competition. New England’s Latinx community and friends fill Plaza Betances at Villa Victoria in the South End. Free. 617-927-1707; ibaboston.org

Hilltown 6 Pottery Tour & Sale / July 27-28

Follow the online map for a driving tour of eight Western Massachusetts studios showing and selling pieces of functional fine art by the nine resident and 12 guest potters. Stop at any location for demonstrations, studio tours, and local food. Free. hilltown6.com

Boston GreenFest / August 16-18

In its first year on and near the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the 12th annual Boston GreenFest has a theme befitting its New England Aquarium-adjacent location: “Connecting Land and Sea.” Eco-friendly vendors and exhibitors, live music and dance performances, a fashion show, gardening classes, and more activities target everyone from committed environmentalists to curious passersby. Free. 617-477-4840; bostongreenfest.org



Food Truck Safari / June 29

Franklin Park Zoo stays open late to welcome a fleet of food trucks with music and kid-friendly activities. Visitors also have the run of the exhibits, including “Wicked BIG Bugs,” with animatronic creatures including an 8-foot-tall tarantula, an 8-foot-wide Madagascan sunset moth, and other creepy/cute critters. $21.95, ages 2-12 $14.95, under 2 free. 617-541-5466; zoonewengland.org

Barnstable County Fair / July 22-28

Take a break from the beach and check out an old-fashioned country fair at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in East Falmouth. Watch a demolition derby, cruise the agriculture and craft exhibits, turn the kids loose on the carnival rides, and get up close to farm animals. Scheduled musical performers include Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone, the Spin Doctors, and up-and-coming country artist Tyler Rich. $12, seniors $9, ages 6-11 $5, under 6 free; passes available. capecodfairgrounds.com

August Moon Festival / August 11

The streets of Boston’s Chinatown overflow with color and people for the August Moon Festival. Expect to see lion dancing and martial-arts demonstrations, hear traditional music, and taste a wide variety of foods, including the festival’s most notable treat — mooncakes. Free. 617-542-2574; ccbaboston.org


Butterfly and Caterpillar Weekend / August 17-18

Flutter over to the Museum of Science to learn about metamorphosis and migration, meet caterpillars, and participate in hands-on activities. Pick up some seeds to plant to attract butterflies to your own home. $29, seniors $25, ages 3-11 $24, under 3 free. 617-723-2500; mos.org


Watertown Film Festival / June 27-28

A perfect municipality for a film festival about water is Watertown, and an even-more-perfect venue is the Plumbing Museum. The program includes short films all about H2O — from the story of a pregnant mother on a desperate search for hydration to a look at the safety of swimming in the Charles River — and its cultural, social, and economic importance in society and everyday life. Free. 617-926-2111; theplumbingmuseum.org

Davis Museum Summer Film Series / June 27-August 8

Wellesley College’s campus museum welcomes movie fans with ice cream, popcorn, and outdoor film screenings every other Thursday. This year’s theme is cutting-edge technology, embodied by Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time (2018), time-travel classic Back to the Future (1985), Pixar blockbuster WALL-E (2008), and Bruce Willis vehicle (that was a thing in 1997) The Fifth Element. Free. 781-283-2051; wellesley.edu

Fido Fest / August 3

Are you and your dog tired of only seeing humans on screen? It’s ruff. Bring your furry friend to Spy Pond Field in Arlington for a walk-up dog pageant and a screening of dog videos submitted by local residents. Free. acmi.tv/fidofest


Dark Waters: All-Night Movie Marathon / August 31-September 1

The Harvard Film Archive’s annual overnight event features five cinematic waterborne and water-adjacent adventures. The marathon opens with The African Queen (1952) and wraps up with The Poseidon Adventure (1972). $12. 617-495-4700; library.harvard.edu/libraries/film-archive


6th Annual Salsa Squared / July 26

Bring your dancing shoes and a partner, or find one in the crowd on Brattle Street in Harvard Square. Follow the lead of the dance instructor helping participants get in the groove or follow your own muse as a DJ spins Latin music. Local restaurants will have food and drink for sale, and 21-plus revelers can check out the beer garden, which also serves sangria. Free. 617-491-3434; harvardsquare.com

New England Dance Festival / August 1-4

Step, twirl, dip, or shimmy your way to the Boston Marriott Newton hotel and be ready to move. Workshops taught by professional instructors share the schedule with country, swing, and ballroom dancing for fun and in competitions. Spectators $20/day, competitors $20-$90; passes and early-purchase discounts available. 401-736-0110; nedancefestival.com

Giselle / September 19-29

The death-defying love story of betrayal, madness, and redemption opens Boston Ballet’s season. Ballet master Larissa Ponomarenko stages the classic ballet, drawing on her experience as one of the company’s most beloved ballerinas. From $37. 617-695-6955; bostonballet.org


The 39 Steps / July 5-28

The Gloucester Stage Company presents Patrick Barlow’s entertaining take on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 espionage thriller (and John Buchan’s 1915 novel). Four actors play all of the parts in the action-packed story of a bored Londoner thrown into a spy chase across the Scottish moors. $48, seniors $43, students $15. 978-281-4433; gloucesterstage.com

Measure for Measure / August 9-25

Bring your attention — and maybe a picnic, blanket, and lawn chair — to Shakespeare’s drama about vice and virtue, deception and disguise. The “problem play” incorporates serious issues and comic elements. The Brown Box Theatre Project production plays Christian Herter Park in Allston, Atlantic Wharf in downtown Boston, and other locations around Massachusetts. Free. 443-808-1215; brownboxtheatre.org

Little Shop of Horrors / August 30-October 6

The Lyric Stage Company season opens with Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s musical interpretation of Roger Corman’s 1960 cult classic film. The story of a song-belting, flesh-eating plant with ulterior motives was Menken and Ashman’s breakout hit before they gained Disney fame with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Rachel Bertone directs and choreographs. From $25. 617-585-5678; lyricstage.com


Jackson Browne / July 2

The iconic 1970s singer- songwriter brings his tuneful soft rock to the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion. The set list emphasizes his eponymous debut album (1972) and 2002’s The Naked Ride Home. From $35. 800-653-8000; livenation.com

Jazz on the Porch / July 7-September 29

Sunday afternoons on Spectacle Island groove to the sounds of Berklee College of Music student ensembles. The island is a 30-minute ferry ride from Long Wharf in Boston. Concerts free; ferry $19.95, seniors $14.95, kids 3-11 $12.95, under 3 free. 617-223-8666; bostonharborislands.org

Jazz in the Park / July 9-30

On July Tuesdays, contemporary jazz musicians from around the world selected by the North End Music & Performing Arts Center showcase a range of styles on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway at North and Cross streets. Free. 617-227-2270; nempacboston.org

Brad Paisley / July 27

The country superstar swings into the Xfinity Center in Mansfield on a tour of North America and Europe. “Whiskey Lullaby,” “She’s Everything,” and “Remind Me” are some of the fan favorites on the set list. Chris Lane and Riley Green open. From $30.25. 800-653-8000; livenation.com

Maggie Rogers / July 30

“Discovered” by Pharrell Williams in a master class when she was a senior at New York University, singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers visits Mass MoCA on an international tour in support of her 2019 album Heard It in a Past Life. Singer-songwriter Natalie Prass opens. $39-$65. 413-662-2111; massmoca.org


“Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design” / June 26-September 22

Responses to minimalism included the 1970s Pattern & Decoration movement, led by artists including Miriam Schapiro, Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, and Valerie Jaudon. Those four and some 40 other artists created the 60-plus works in this exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art. $15, seniors $13, students $10, under 18 free. 617-478-3100; icaboston.org

“Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection” / July 20-January 20, 2020

Best known for illustrating Scandinavian folk tales, stories by the Brothers Grimm, and fellow Dane Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, Kay Nielsen gained fame in the turn-of-the-20th-century “golden age of illustration.” Forty-plus works make up this Museum of Fine Arts exhibition. A companion show, “Make Believe,” focuses on five contemporary photographers whose work is inspired by fairy tales. $25, seniors and students $23, ages 7-17 $10, under 7 free. 617-267-9300; mfa.org

“Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869-1880” / August 3-December 1

This exhibition focuses on Winslow Homer’s transformation from a printmaker and illustrator into one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century. During this period, the Boston native turned from commercial art and journalism to the seascapes that helped make his reputation. The show, of 50 works from 40-plus museums and collections, is exclusive to the Cape Ann Museum. $12, seniors and students $10, under 18 free. 978-283-0455; capeannmuseum.org

Vivian Suter / August 21-December 31

Painter Vivian Suter, who lives and works in Panajachel, Guatemala, draws inspiration from the outdoors. She’s known for lush earth tones with pops of red, deployed in bold lines and abstract shapes on raw, unstretched canvas, which she moves between indoors and outdoors. Her first Boston exhibition, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, consists entirely of suspended canvases. $15, students $10, 17 and under free. 617-478-3100; icaboston.org

“Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect” / September 20-January 5, 2020

Trained as an architect, Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) knew a thing or two about building — and even knew how to keep a house standing after he divided it in two, a trick captured on film (Splitting, 1974). He was also known for his commentary on socioeconomic divides, which he incorporated into his art. Films, photographs, prints, drawings, and sculptures make up this exhibition at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. Free. 781-736-3434; brandeis.edu/rose

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