Boats in Boston Harbor - Just a glimps of Harborfest
Boston Harborfest, the largest Independence Day festival in the United States, showcases over 200 events during its 6 days, including fireworks, entertainers, historical reenactments, music, Harbor cruises, walking tours, and Chowderfest - plus a lot more!
Almost 3 million people from all over the world come to Boston for the festival.
Although the best-known Harborfest celebrations are the Boston Pops Concerts and July 4th Fireworks, you'll also find over 200 other events packed into the festival's 6 days.
Special highlights involve the annual Boston Harbor appearance on July 4th of War of 1812 veteran tall ship "Old Ironsides," U.S.S. Constitution and everyone's favorite food event, Chowderfest.
Festivities begin on July 2, run through July 7th, and take place in central Boston neighborhoods including Historic Downtown, the Downtown Waterfront, Boston Common, Charlestown, the South Boston Waterfront, the North End, and even the Boston Harbor Islands National Park.
Some Harborfest events are free, while the rest range from inexpensive to pricey.
If you need a convenient place to stay, check out our recommendations for Boston hotels for Harborfest, based on location.
Boston Harborfest dates back to 1981, so the 2013 celebration marks the 32nd anniversary.
You'll see lots of Colonial attire worn by reenactors during Harborfest
I took this photo near Union Oyster House - you can see part of Haymarket in the background
Here are highlights of key events you'll find each day at Boston Harborfest. Keep in mind that this is just a sampling - you'll get to choose from over 200 different daily events, cruises, tours, concerts, and celebrations.
Main event: Opening Ceremony, 12 noon - 12:30pm - West End of Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Early 19th Century Gun Drills, 12 noon-12:30pm, 2pm-2:30pm - USS Constitution, Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown - watch the full sequence of a Naval gun drill using a 24-pound long gun. Note: Multiple events will take place in the Navy Yard all afternoon. Find out more about visiting the USS Constitution
Music at the Marketplace - 12:30pm - 2pm - West end of Faneuil Hall
Guided tours of the Massachusetts State House Grounds & Outdoor Statues, 12 noon-12:45pm - Meet at 2nd floor tour desk in the State House. Free, but reservations requested: 617-727-3676
Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party, 12 noon-12:45pm - Reenactment at the Old South Meeting House (617-482-6439). Admission $1-$6
What's Under the Golden Dome?, 12 noon-12:45pm - Meet at 2nd floor tour desk - tour of the Massachusetts State House. Free; 617-727-3676
Puritans, Patriots, and Pirates, 12 noon-3pm - Meet at King's Chapel, tour the Burial Ground, and hear about Puritan traditions, Patriots, and local Pirates. Donations appreciated.
Freedom Trail Tours, 12 noon-4pm - Meet at Boston Common Visitor's Center (139 Tremont St) for a walking tour of the Freedom Trail led by a Colonial guide/reenactor. Admission $7-$13.
Blockade! 1813, 12 noon-4pm - USS Constitution Museum in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown (617-426-1812) - Learn about how sailors kept up their fighting skills during the Seige of Boston. Admission by donation.
Tour of Otis House, 12 noon-4:30pm - Tour the elegant mansion (141 Cambridge St, 617-994-5920) where Harrison Gray Otis, a Congressman, Senator, and the 3rd Mayor of Boston, lived with his wife and children. Admission $4-$8.
Tall Ships Sailing aboard the Liberty Schooners, 12 noon-5pm; 6pm-8pm; 8:30pm-10:30pm - Sail Boston Harbor on the majestic Liberty Clipper and Liberty Star (617-742-0333) - board at Central Wharf next to the New England Aquarium. Admission $19-$35. (8:30 cruises feature singing, music, and libations under the stars, and are 21+) Make reservations at: www.libertyfleet.com
Scavenger Hunt at the Old South Meeting House, where the Tea Party began - 12 noon-5pm (617-482-6439) - Fun for all ages, plus prizes! Admission $1-$6.
Tour Boston by Land and Water - 12noon - 10pm:
A Paul Revere Walking Tour - 2pm - 3:30pm, Paul Revere House in Boston's North End - Guided walking tour of Revere's neighborhood with a private tour of the Old North Church bell chamber; admission is $10 adults, $6 children (5-17)
Bells and Bones - 1:30pm-3:30pm, King's Chapel, corner of Tremont and School Streets, Historic Downtown - Tour the King's Chapel Burying Ground (Boston's oldest graveyard) and crypt, and learn about Colonial burial practices; visit the Revere bell in the tower; admission $7, ages 10+
Main event: Children's Day at Harborfest - 10am - 3pm, City Hall Plaza - Children's Day activities include jugglers, face painting, and the Music Fun Band
Town Hall Blues Band - 4pm - 7pm, City Hall Plaza - Dance to a wide variety of classical and original rock and blues
The Adams Family . . . in Boston - 6pm - 7:30pm (617-367-2345) - Meet at the Boston Massacre marker on the east side of the Old State House, and join Boston by Foot for this fascinating walking tour featuring reenactors portraying John and Abigail Adams, and 3 generations of their descendents. Admission $12
Many more daily events - see previous days
Boston Pops Concert on the Esplanade
Many Daily events - see previous days
Independence Day Flag Raising Ceremony and Parade - 9am-10am, starts at City Hall Plaza, goes to the Granary Burying Ground on the Freedom Trail, and then to the Old State House
USS Constitution 21-Gun Salute in Boston Harbor, 11am-1pm - Watch this annual turn-around cruise by "Old Ironsides" from the Charlestown Navy Yard to Castle Island (good viewing spot) with a 21-cannon salute to the Nation at 12:05pm.
Cruise boats offering Turnaround cruises (from 9:30am-2:30pm):
Reading of the Declaration of Independence - 10am-10:30am - Reenactment of the first reading from the Old State House, just as it was on July 18, 1776.
Tours of Fort Independence at Castle Island - 1pm-4pm (617-727-5290)
Patriotic Concert at City Hall Plaza (617-227-1528) - 2pm-4pm
Clambake on Spectacle Island - 6pm-9pm, Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area (617-770-0040) - Enjoy an authentic New England clambake with lobsters by Summer Shack on the beach; $75-$80; reservations required
Fireworks Cruises cruises (from 6pm-11:30pm - cruise times, lengths, and prices vary; reservations required):
Dinner Cruise of the Harbor - 7:30pm-11pm, Spirit of Boston - Dinner and music; reservations required; admission about $92
Boston Pops Concert and July 4th Fireworks, 7:30pm-10pm on the Esplanade
Tall Ship BBQ and Fireworks Cruise, 9pm-11:30pm – Aboard the Liberty Clipper and Liberty Star (617-742-0333) - departs from Central Wharf at the New England
Aquarium; Admission $125; reservations required
Many more daily events - see previous days
Daily events - see previous days
Main event: Everyone's favorite . . . Chowderfest - 11am-6pm, City Hall Plaza - Sample New England clam chowder from the area's best restaurants, and vote for your favorite. Over 2,000 gallons of chowder get served each year - that's a lot of "chowdah." Admission $8-$11
Dozens of other cruises, tours, and events at Freedom Trail sites
Daily events - see previous days
Whiskers, Flippers, and Fun at the free outdoor Seal Exhibit at New England Aquarium Plaza - open all day
Early 19th Century Gun Drills - 2pm - 2:30pm - USS Constitution, Charlestown Navy Yard - Full sequence of a naval gun drill using a 24-pound long gun
Historic Boston Pubs - (21+), 5:30pm - 7pm - Get tickets (admission $43) at the BosTix booth at Faneuil Hall Marketplace - Visit the real headquarters of the American Revolution - Tour 4 historic Boston pubs
Fun historical tours by Boston on Foot
Boston Harbor Islands - Explorations, hikes, and even kayaking led by Park Rangers, and jazz from noon-4pm on July 3rd on Spectacle Island
Boston Harbor Cruises of all sorts - dinner cruises, tall ship cruises, fireworks cruises, and more - basically, every cruise ship offers special cruises during the 6 days of Boston Harborfest
Massachusetts State House - Beacon at Park Street on Beacon Hill - Free tours of State House and gardens at various times - Call 617-727-3676 for reservations
. . . and many, many more fun Boston Harborfest events!
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