Boston Fireworks 2014
Plus Boston Pops July 4th Concert

Celebrate July 4th in Boston with fireworks and concerts

Boston fireworks in the Charles River next to the Esplanade - photo credit Kunal Mukherjee
July 4th fireworks over Boston
Photo by Kunal Mukherjee

Spectacular Boston fireworks for July 4th light up the sky over the Charles River for half a million spectators watching this beloved annual event. 

If you're traveling to Boston for this national patriotic holiday, consider spending a memorable evening at the free Boston Pops Concerts and FIreworks Spectacular located on the Esplanade along the banks of the Charles River.

After all, Boston is where the fight for American liberty began.  Saying that July 4th is a very special occasion here is an understatement. 

The city is always proud of its revolutionary heritage, but around July 4th, celebratory pride escalates to such a degree that you'll experience patriotism on steroids. 

Boston Insider Tip:  If you're visiting Boston for this special holiday, please know that the closest hotels near the fireworks and concert book up early and prices for remaining rooms soar as high as the fireworks closer to the date - so don't wait to make your reservations!





Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops concert in the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.    Copyright 2005 Garret A. Wollman, used with permission under the GNU Free Document License
Boston Pops July 4th Concert in the Hatch Shell
Photo by Jay Connor, courtesy of B4 Productions

 

Boston Pops July 4th 2014 Pops Concerts

The Boston Pops Concert and Fireworks Spectacular, America's best Independence Day celebration, takes place on July 3rd and 4th on the Esplanade next to the Charles River.  

Concerts in the historic Hatch Shell on both days feature Conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. 

The concert on the 4th also features a terrific lineup of special guests - last year's lineup included performances by Grammy-winner Susan Tedeschi from Norwell, singer/songwriter Howie Day from Brewer, Maine, instrumentalist/vocalist Ellis Hall from Roxbury, and Ayla Brown from Wrentham, and you can expect similarlarly great performers this year.

The Boston Pops show on July 4th, like the show on the 3rd, begins at 7:30pm with the National Anthem and flyover. 

CBS Boston's WBZ-TV begins its local broadcast of the show begins at 7pm, half an hour before the concert.  Unfortunately, the show is no longer nationally broadcast - so to see it, you'll need to come to Boston!

The music is terrific, and then comes the finale - Tchaikovsky's explosive 1812 Overture, ending with dramatic drumrolls and real cannon fire, while church bells ring throughout the city. 

Check out this video of the Pops' rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, followed by a fly-over of fighter jets from Hanscom Air Force Base, to get a sense of the excitement of being there!



Boston July 4th Fireworks Schedule 2014

At 9:30pm, soon after the concert on July 4 concludes, the Boston fireworks begin to be launched from 7 barges in the middle of the Charles River.  With 10,000 fireworks being set off, you can see why everyone calls the show "spectacular"!

Find yourself a comfortable spot on either side of the river, and enjoy this special Boston patriotic event.

The skies light up with dazzling pyrotechnics reaching as high as 1,500 feet.

Depending on where you stay, you may even be able to watch the fireworks from your hotel room or roof deck - check out these hotels for Boston Fireworks Spectacular.

Boston fireworks, seen with the golden dome of the Massachusetts Statehouse in the foreground; copyright 2008 Stephen Orsillo
Boston fireworks, seen from behind the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House
Photo copyright Stephen Orsillo

 

Top Hotels near July 4th Fireworks & Pops Concert

Ritz Carlton Boston Common near July 4th fireworks

Taj Hotel Boston near July 4th fireworks Liberty Hotel, near Boston's July 4th fireworks Back Bay Hilton, near July 4th fireworks

More hotels close to Boston's July 4th fireworks



Best Times to Arrive for the Concerts & Fireworks

Both Boston Pops concerts start at 7:30pm, and both are free.  The enormous display of fireworks begins after the end of the concert on the 4th.

If you want to be able to actually see the concert, you need to be within what's called the "Oval" - a grassy area in front of the Hatch Shell where the musicians play. 

A few days before the concerts, a temporary fence gets installed around the Oval to prevent overcrowding, which means there's only limited space. 

Although the Oval may sound like the ideal place to sit, there's a down side: you may not be able to see the fireworks well because of all the trees surrounding this area.

If you want to sit in the Oval, you need to enter through one of three entrances.  Your bag will be checked for banned items (alcoholic beverages, blankets larger than 5 feet by 7 feet, glass containers, open water bottles and any other open containers capable of holding alcohol, and sharp pointy objects like knitting needles, can openers, and of course, knives).  If you're thinking about smuggling in booze ... be aware that security cameras line the Esplanade.

Entrances to the Oval open at 4pm on the 3rd, and 9am on the 4th.  In order to get a seat in the Oval, you need to arrive as early as possible. The area usually fills up by 7pm or earlier on the 3rd, and soon after the entrances open at 9am on the 4th.  Especially on the 4th, people tend to line up well before 9am.  How early?  The truly dedicated arrive by 6am - or earlier.

Once you gain entrance, you'll be given a wristband.  This allows you to move in and out of the Oval throughout the day.  However, if you want to maintain a particular spot on the Oval, you should leave one person in your group behind to guard it.  You must be back by 6pm at the latest.

Most of the area behind the Hatch Shell, extending back to about Revere Street in Beacon Hill, is used as a staging area for equipment and is closed off to pedestrians.

Although early arrival isn't quite so crucial for the fireworks, many of the prime spots along the river, especially on the Boston side and on the bridges, begin to fill up by late morning or early afternoon, depending on the weather.  The Cambridge side tends to be less crowded.  Recorded music starts to be broadcast along the river at 12 noon in Boston, and at 6pm in Cambridge, so it's kind of a party.

Keep in mind that Boston Harborfest with 200+ events also takes place during this period - so if you want to do both, you may have to make some tough choices!

 

Best Places to View the Boston Fireworks

If watching the fireworks is your main objective, you'll find plenty of great spots along the 3-mile long Boston Esplanade as well as on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. 

The fireworks event takes place between the Longfellow and Mass Ave Bridges, but the fireworks shoot so high up in the sky that you can see them for miles around. 

People waiting on the bank of the Charles River for Boston fireworks to begin / Boston Fireworks - www.boston-discovery-guide.com
Waiting for fireworks on the Charles River near MIT on the Cambridge side
Photo courtesy of Sayamindu Dasgupta

In my experience, great viewing sites are more plentiful on the Cambridge side, partly because it has fewer trees and partly it attracts smaller crowds.  You'll be able to hear the concert, just not see it, from both sides of the river as it is broadcast from approximately 36 sound towers placed throughout the area. 

Several viewing spots beyond the river banks to consider:  the Mass Ave (Harvard Bridge), BU, and Longfellow Bridges, the grassy lawn in front of MIT on the Cambridge side of the river, and the top of Bunker Hill in Charlestown.  To get a prime spot in any of these locations, you'll need to arrive several hours early.

Castle Island is also a popular viewing spot because even though the view of the Boston fireworks will be slightly obstructed (you're 3 miles away with a good-sized chunk of downtown Boston between you and the launch site), if you get there early enough, you can also see fireworks from a couple of other nearby towns.

What's important to remember, though, is that Boston's fireworks make a huge display, totally lighting up the sky.  As long as you're not behind a tall building blocking the view, you're going to be able to see the show easily from many Boston and Cambridge locations, so it's not worth obsessing about finding the "perfect" spot.

If you want to splurge, though, Top of the Hub is the place to be - just be sure to call far in advance for reservations.

People waiting on the bank of the Charles River for Boston fireworks to begin / Boston Fireworks - www.boston-discovery-guide.com
This is the view of the Charles River from Top of the Hub.  See the 2 small white sailboats
in the middle of the river?   That's the approximate location of the fireworks barge.

You'll be happy to know that plenty of portable toilets are located throughout the Boston and Cambridge areas along the river during this event. 

You'll also see lots of concession stands selling food, non-alcoholic drinks, and souvenirs such as t-shirts, including lots of Boston Strong t-shirts. 

The City of Boston regulates concession prices, so they're usually fairly reasonable, and vendors donate all merchandise profits to help fund the concert and fireworks event.

 

Fourth of July Fireworks Boston Harbor Cruises

Many people feel the best place to view the fireworks is on the water.

For the ultimate fireworks viewing experience on July 4th, go on one of the special Fireworks Cruises in Boston Harbor.  Times, lengths, and prices vary, but most of these cruises last from 6pm-11:30pm. 

Here are the cruise and boat charter companies offering these special trips (some include dinner too) - contact them individually to find out options, availability, prices, departure points, and times:

  • Boston Seaport Boat Charters - 617-261-6633
  • Boston Yacht Charters - 617-268-1234
  • Liberty Clipper 617-742-0333
  • Massachusetts Bay Lines - 617-542-8000
  • Odyssey Cruises and Spirit of Boston - 866-307-2469

Another fun option:  

  • Rent a canoe and watch the fireworks from the music.  For more information, contact Charles River Canoe and Kayak, 617-965-5110; website  (Boston Insider tip:  Once you're sure you want to do this, reserve your canoe as soon as possible to avoid disappointment!)

Do note - if you're in a canoe or small boat on the water and you see lightening or hear thunder, head to shore immediately! 

 

Best Boston Hotels with Fireworks Views

If you're staying in a Boston hotel for July 4th, keep in mind that several offer spectacular views - although you need to request a room with a river view on a higher floor when making your reservations, and confirm the view.  Public spaces in many of these hotels may also offer terrific views.

Essentials:  Boston for Watching Fireworks

Boston hotels with views of the fireworks:  Click the hotel name to check for best rates.  To be sure of getting a room with a view, be sure to call the hotel directly to check availability. 

Boston hotels within easy walking distance to spots to view the fireworks:

More about Boston and Cambridge hotels for viewing the July 4th fireworks

When else can you see fireworks in Boston?  If you miss the fireworks on July 4th, visit Boston for New Year's Eve and enjoy fireworks as part of the First Night Boston celebration

Questions?  Check out answers to what others have asked - or ask your own question here

 

Will Rain - Or Thunderstorms - Stop the Fireworks?

Light rain isn't a problem, but yes, thunderstorms could pose a problem for the fireworks.  In the event of lightening or strong wind, personnel would need to be evacuated from the barges in the river where the fireworks are launched, and the lightening could pose a danger for the crowds of spectators along the riverbanks as well.

In regard to the possibility of a last-minute cancellation of the show due to weather conditions, a spokesperson for Boston 4th Productions, coordinator of the show, has been quoted as saying, "We will consult with our weather forecasters and a team of public safety officials before any decision is made.. . . . As always, the main thing is public safety. We are not going to endanger the public.”

As anyone from Boston or elsewhere in New England knows, our July weather can be tricky...cloudless blue skies one moment can morph into a dramatic thunderstorm the next. 

What happens when a storm strikes:  Strong lightening near the Esplanade did in fact cause an interruption in the Pops concert several years ago.  Many spectators and orchestra members evacuated to the Storrow Drive tunnels (closed to vehicular traffic earlier in the day) for safety.   Then a drenching downpour sent many others scrambling for shelter before the rain stopped.  Surprisingly, the fireworks began more or less on time - and were more spectacular than ever.


 

Public transportation: Getting to the concerts and fireworks

The best way to get to the Pops concert and Boston fireworks show is by public transportation and walking, as parking is very limited in the area and crowds will be dense.  More people than cars will be filling the streets, making driving even more difficult than usual.

Bonus: you can travel free on the T after 10pm on the 4th - but do remember that the T stops running (depending on the line) between 12:30am and 1am.

Closest T stations for Pops concerts and Boston fireworks:

  • Boston - Green Line/Arlington or Red Line/Charles-MGH
  • Cambridge - Red Line/Kendall-MIT

Closed footbridge alert: If you're planning to watch from the Esplanade (Boston side of the river), you will not be able to use either the Fiedler Footbridge or the Charles Street Footbridge to cross Storrow Drive as they are blocked off on these days. 

Instead, cross over to the Esplanade using the Dartmouth, Fairfield, or Mass Ave Footbridges.

Photo of people waiting by the Charles River for Boston fireworks to begin
Waiting for the Boston fireworks to begin
Photo courtesy of Lizard10939

Insider tips for Boston Pops Concert and July 4th fireworks

Here's what you should bring:

  • Something to sit on
  • Plenty of sunscreen and perhaps a long-sleeved shirt and hat
  • Water bottles for everyone in your group
  • Umbrellas, if there's any chance of rain
  • A book to read, since you'll probably arrive early in order to get a good spot
  • If you're arriving very early, bring something to eat unless you want to buy it from the concessions

 

Details and directions for the concert & fireworks

Location: 

  • Boston Pops Concert:  Hatch Shell, just to the east of the Fiedler Footbridge which crosses Storrow Drive from Arlington Street
  • Boston Fireworks:  Easily viewed from both sides of the Charles River between the Longfellow and Mass Ave Bridges

More information:  Check the Boston Event Calendar for July, as well as the July 4th website.

Any questions about Boston's July 4th Fireworks or the Boston Pops Concert?

First, take a look at all the questions (and answers) below in case your question has already been answered.

If it hasn't, then please ask, and I'll do my best to answer.

Or, if you'd like to share your photos or story about the July 4th Fireworks or Boston Pops concert, you can also do that here.

- Susan

Enter your question topic, such as "Which Boston hotels have the best view of the July 4th fireworks?"

Related questions from other visitors

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How to Hear the July 4th Boston Pops Concert and See Fireworks from a Boat 
Is there any charter boat option that allows you to listen to the July 4th Boston Pops Concert AND see the fireworks? Thanks! Susan's reply:

Can Boston's July 4th fireworks be seen from the Queen Mary 2? 
We will be in port at in Boston on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship on July 4th, and we are wondering if the Independence Day fireworks can be seen from where …

River View of Boston July 4th Fireworks 
How can I see the fireworks from the Charles River? Are there any boats that take paying guests? Thanks in advance for your help! Susan's response:

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Can you recommend some hotels that are within walking distance of the fireworks and the Pops Concert? 3 star and above--Thanks! Susan's

Recorded music for the Fireworks Display 2011 Finale 
HELP!!! Can you PLEASE tell me WHERE I can find a list of the songs and performers used in the recorded music portion of the fireworks display 2011....especially...WHO …

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Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops concert in the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.    Copyright 2005 Garret A. Wollman, used with permission under the GNU Free Document License
Boston Pops concert in the Hatch Shell, with fireworks barge in the Charles River (on the left)
Photo by Jay Connor, courtesy of B4 Productions

 

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Additional Photo Credits

Panoramic view of fireworks over Boston Harbor - photo by Kunal Mukherjee, via the Creative Commons license.  Taken from on top of the Green Building on the MIT campus in Cambridge.

Photos of the Pops concert by Jay Connor are courtesy of B4 Productions.

Waiting for fireworks near the Charles River- photo by Sayamindu Dasgupta, via the Creative Commons license.  Taken across from the MIT campus in on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.