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!
Boston Pops July 4th Concert in the Hatch Shell
Photo by Jay Connor, courtesy of B4 Productions
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
The Boston Pops show on July 4th begins at 8:30pm 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 - but for the first time this year, there will be a webcast of the Boston Pops and the Fireworks Spectacular streaming live on www.cbsboston.com and www.bostonpopsjuly4th.org.
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!
At 10:30pm, 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.
Both Boston Pops concerts start at 8:30pm, 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 5pm 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 7pm 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 becomes a celebratory 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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Another fun option:
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!
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.
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:
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
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.”
Worst case ... the July 4th celebration may be moved up to the 3rd (this happened last year), or postponed.
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.
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 9:30pm on the 4th - this year, since July 4 is on a Friday, there will be late night service along with key bus routes between the hours of 1am 2:30am.
Closest T stations for Pops concerts and Boston fireworks:
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.
Waiting for the Boston fireworks to begin
Photo courtesy of Lizard10939
Here's what you should bring:
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.
Click below to see questions asked by others
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: …
Boston Pops Concert July 4th - Best Time to Arrive?
Four of us are coming up from Virginia to see the Boston Pops concert on July 4th. We need to know a few things: 1) What time would be reasonable …
Best hotels for Fireworks and Boston Pops Concert on July 4th
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 …
Boston Weather for July 4th Fireworks Not rated yet
What if it rains?...Would Boston's July 4th fireworks be cancelled? - Thanks, Wendy Susan's reply: Hi Wendy - Weather is the big question …
Can you see the fireworks from Castle Island? Not rated yet
Can you see the fireworks from Castle Island? - Thanks, Sarah Susan's reply: Because the fireworks go up so high in the sky, you'll be able …
Blue Angels Fly Over Time - July 4th in Boston Not rated yet
What time is the fly-over by the Blue Angels on July 4th? - Thanks, Jeff Susan's reply: Hi Jeff - The fly over by the Blue Angels and 24 …
Are Boston's fireworks on both July 3 & July 4? Not rated yet
Do the fireworks take place in Boston on both July 3 & July 4? - Thanks, Brian Susan's reply: Hi Brian - No, although the Boston Pops concert …
Boston Hotel for 4th of July Fireworks and Concert Not rated yet
Is there a good Boston hotel to stay in where you can both hear the concert and see the fireworks on July 4th? Although you can see the fireworks …
Boston Hotel with Rooftop Seating for 4th of July Fireworks Not rated yet
I have read of a hotel(s) that offer rooftop seating for the Boston Pops 4th of July concert. Supposedly you can hear well and see the fireworks display. …
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
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.
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