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Staying in Boston for July 4th? Here are some free and cheap things you can do outside

A view of Boston from inside the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.
A view of Boston from inside the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File 2018/Globe Staff

As the weather forecast for the Fourth of July holds sunny skies and highs in the 80s, it makes sense that Bostonians are looking to flock to Cape Cod, Maine, and the coast to enjoy the beach on a rare summer day off.

But for those of us who plan to stay in Boston, there are just as many ways to enjoy the sunshine outdoors — without dropping a load of money.

Here’s a list of ways to revel in the rays in the city for the holiday.

Go on a free bike ride. On Thursday, Bluebikes — the bike-share program formerly known as Hubway — are free. It might be a bit tough to traverse the Esplanade with all the security, but there are lots of bike paths around Greater Boston. Or you could simply use the bikes to get from place to place on a day when the city’s roads are bound to be a bit emptier than usual. To get the free bikes, use the code “BlueCross4” in the Bluebikes app to unlock unlimited two-hour trips all day long.

Grab a cold one at a beer garden. Several popular beer gardens, including Night Shift’s Owl’s Nest on the Esplanade and Trillium’s beer garden on the Greenway, are planning to be open for the July Fourth holiday.

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Owl’s Nest, which is a short walk from the festivities at the Hatch Shell, will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3 (though the 5 p.m. time depends on nearby bomb sweeps and security checks), and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, a representative said.

“Night Shift is partnering with BSO (Boston Symphony Orchestra) to make it as smooth an event as possible,” a rep said. “There’s added security throughout the entire Esplanade area including additional State Police. We are staffing up and will do everything possible to keep beers flowing and people happy.”

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Meanwhile, Trillium on the Rose Kennedy Greenway across from Rowes Wharf will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, a representative said. On July 4, there will also be a livestream of the Hatch Shell concert and fireworks at Trillium on the Greenway.

Both gardens allow outside food in.

(A word to the wise: The popular City Winery wine garden in Dewey Square near South Station is closed on July Fourth, according to a representative.)

A swan boat at Boston Public Garden.
A swan boat at Boston Public Garden.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF/File

Take a swan boat ride and stroll through the Public Garden. It’s almost like a rite of passage: taking a leisurely ride through the Public Garden’s lagoon on the swan boats. Rides are only $4 for adults ($3.50 for seniors, $2.50 for kids 2-15 years old, and free for babies), and last about 15 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the dock with either cash or credit card.

After the boat ride, spread out a blanket, pop open a picnic basket (DeLucas’s on Charles Street has provisions if you don’t want to carry food around all day), and just soak in the rays while you people-watch.

The swings at the Lawn on D in South Boston.
The swings at the Lawn on D in South Boston. JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF/File

Hang out on the swings at Lawn on D. A hotspot with millennials and families alike, the Lawn on D in South Boston will be open and free to the public from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the bar opens at noon. There’ll also be live music from DJ Patterson Proper from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to the event calendar.

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Side note: Pets are not allowed, unless it’s a service animal, and you’re not allowed to smoke at the park. You are allowed, however, to bring a lawn chair or blanket.

Check out the Boston Pops show at the Hatch Shell. OK, so you’re not planning to stick around for the July Fourth craziness. Fair enough. But if you still want to catch Queen Latifah and the Boston Pops’ performance, the free “practice” performance Wednesday night on the Esplanade will still include the whole lineup of musical guests (which, in addition to Latifah, includes Arlo Guthrie, The Texas Tenors, and Amanda Mena) without the July Fourth craziness.

Gates open around 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the concert goes from 8:30 p.m. through 10 p.m. Concertgoers can bring blankets, beach chairs, and small coolers, but backpacks, weapons, alcohol, and glass are not allowed. (One thing to mention: If you’re looking for a fireworks fix, though, this ain’t it, as the display is only set to take place Thursday.)

If you’re brave enough to face the crowds on July Fourth, here’s a handy guide on what you need to know.


Know of a free or inexpensive activity going on in Boston on July Fourth? E-mail tips to jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.

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