Boston Fireworks and Pops Concert - July 4th - Online for 2020
Find Out about Celebrating July 4th in Boston with Fireworks & Music
During normal years, dazzling July 4th fireworks over Boston's Charles River light up the sky for half a million spectators after the annual Boston Pops concert in the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade overlooking the water.
Although this year is not normal due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration will take place online, so that everyone can stay safe and healthy while enjoying music and entertainment.
Boston's July 4th Celebration 2020 - Flyover, Concert, Fireworks: What to Expect
To celebrate America's birthday on July 4th, Boston will be the first site in a military flyover by the Thunderbirds commemorating the American Revolution. The flyover begins about 4pm as the planes arrive from the east, fly over the USS Constitution in Charlestown, and then continue across central Boston and Fenway Park before departiing.
In the evening, the Boston Pops will present a fantastic 3-hour Independence Day concert online with a huge lineup of special guest performances from recent years including Rhiannon Giddens, Leslie Odom Jr, Arlo Gutherie, Andy Grammer, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and more, followed by a pre-recorded fireworks display.
The show's theme this year is "A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heroes," and it celebrates the everyday heroes among us. Keith Lockhart will host the show, along with other special guests.
Rita Moreno and Amanda Gorman will provide narration and poetry. The show also includes newly created virtual performance pieces by Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops members joined by the Middlesex County Volunteer Fifes and Drums.
The show starts at 8pm on Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg.com, and Boston's Channel 7 WHDH - so grab your favorite brew and snacks, and get ready to enjoy this special experience.
Enjoy this year's celebration as we all stay safe and healthy!
Photo credit: July 4th fireworks over Boston Harbor, photographed from near MIT by Sayamindu Dasgupta
Boston's July 4 Festivities during a "Normal" Year
The following information discribes Boston's "normal" July 4th celebrations. We're leaving it up for anyone who might be planning a visit next year and wants to know what to expect.
If you're traveling to Boston for this national patriotic holiday, plan for a memorable evening at the free Boston Pops concert and Fireworks Spectacular located on the Esplanade along the banks of the Charles. Both are part of the city's multi-day Harborfest, the biggest Independence Day celebration in the country.
Why does Boston have such a large Independence Day celebration? This is where the fight for American liberty began, and July 4th is a very special occasion here.
From our Patriots Day holiday in April to the Freedom Trail through the city to reenactors dressed in Colonial attire, Boston commemorates its revolutionary heritage all year, but around July 4th, celebratory pride escalates to such a degree that you'll see patriotism on steroids. Don't miss this exciting experience!
Boston Insider Tip: Book in Advance
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!
Television, Mobile, Live Stream, & Radio Broadcasts
Can't attend Boston's July 4th concert and fireworks in person? Join millions of folks across the country in watching or listening to the festivities through one of these options:
Television - Bloomberg Television or listen to it on Bloomberg radio (106.1 FM, 1330 AM, 1450 AM, and 92.9-HD2 in Boston and Newburyport; also on SiriusXM satellite subscription radio on Channel 119)
Live Streaming - Bloomberg.com, Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and BostonPopsJuly4th.org
Mobile - Get the Bloomberg Radio app at https://www.bloombergapps.com
https://www.bloombergapps.com/ - Listen on Bloomberg's stations in 106.1 FM,1330 AM, 1450 AM, 92.9-HD2 (Boston and Newburyport), 99.1WPLM-FM (Plymouth, MA and Boston's South Shore, Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and portions of northern Rhode Island), and SiriusXM channel 119 (national)
Note: All times are ET (Eastern Timezone), and all dates/times are subject to change (which does occasionally happen for weather-related reasons - Boston's July thunderstorms can be fierce!)
When: Saturday, July 2 at 6pm-10pm
Where: Long Wharf, Boston Downtown Waterfront, and Christopher Columbus Park, North End (next to Long Wharf Marriott) Cost: Free
In addition to the fireworks over the Charles River on July 4th, there's another Boston fireworks show this year over the Inner Harbor as part of the Harborfest celebration. The Inner Harbor will glow with lights as sailors decorate their boats for a festive Parade of Lights, followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the harbor.
Enjoy the views along the Downtown Waterfront and Seaport shorelines - or treat yourself to front-row seats on these special Parade of Lights/Fireworks harbor cruises:
Both Boston Pops concerts start at 8pm, and both are free.
If you want to be able to actually see (vs just hear) the concert, you need to be within the Oval - the grassy area in front of the Hatch Shell where the musicians play.
If you want to try to see the fireworks from the Oval - not a great viewing spot because of all the trees along the river - the right side (facing the stage) is best.
A few days before the concerts, a temporary fence gets installed around the Oval to prevent overcrowding, which means space inside is limited.
Entrances to the secured areas (the Oval and the Esplanade's Island/Lagoon) open at 5pm on July 3rd, and 9am on the 4th.
In order to get a seat in the Oval on July 4th, you need to arrive as early as possible. The area usually fills up soon after the entrances open at 9am on the 4th. People tend to line up well before 9am. How early? The truly dedicated arrive by 6am - or earlier.
Security checkpoints are between the Clarendon Footbridge to the Lagoon and the Berkeley Footbridge; easiest access to the checkpoint is by way of Berkeley Street. Keep in mind that there is no access east of Berkeley Street.
Once you gain entrance, you'll be given a wristband. This allows you to move in and out of the secured areas 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 in order to get back in - 6:30 is safer, and it is always possible that for crowd-control purposes, accesss to the secured areas may be closed even earlier.
Additionally - depending on the crowds, Public Safety may close off access to the secured area even earlier - so check with them before you leave just as a precaution.
Getting a seat in the Oval on the 3rd is much less competitive. Remember, only the concert takes place on this day - no fireworks. Even so, the area typically fills up on July 3rd by 7pm or earlier.
As you enter the Oval, your bag will be checked for banned items (alcoholic beverages, blankets larger than 10 feet by 10 feet, glass containers, open water bottles and any other open containers capable of holding alcohol, and sharp pointy metal objects like knitting needles, silverware, can openers, and of course, knives).
If you're considering smuggling in booze ... be aware that 1) it is forbidden and 2) security cameras line the Esplanade.
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. Somewhere between 4:30 - 6:30pm, areas near the Oval not blocked by trees get packed. Farther down the river, many people stake out their viewing spots by early afternoon, and by 6:30-7:30pm, these areas also are totally packed. The Cambridge side tends to be comparatively less crowded - but crowds here are still very dense.
Recorded music starts to be broadcast along the river at 12 noon in Boston, and at 6pm in Cambridge, so the riverbanks turn into a celebratory party.
Keep in mind that Boston Harborfest with 100+ events also takes place during this period - so if you want to do both and are in Boston for only 1 day, you may have to make some tough choices.
Best Places to View the Fireworks from Boston and Cambridge
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 are launched from barges between the Longfellow and Mass Ave Bridges, but they shoot so high up in the sky that you can see them for miles around.
As a generalization, 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 (but 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 BU Bridge, 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. The Mass Ave and Longfellow Bridges are closed to viewers, although they will be open to pedestrians earlier in the day.
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. Plus, it's a beautiful spot and usually gets cool breezes on even the hottest July day.
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. The whole point is to relax and have fun!
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.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts controlls food and beverage concessions, and the City of Boston regulates merchandise concession prices, so they're usually fairly reasonable. 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.
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!)
For the ultimate experience, charter a boat. Here are cruise and boat companies offering charters:
Elite Private Yachts - 800-700-0735
Cruise Boston Yacht Charters - 617-621-3001
Liberty Fleet - 617-742-0333
Mass Bay Lines - 617-542-8000
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 Hotels 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.
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.
Will Rain - Or Thunderstorms - Stop the Fireworks?
Light rain isn't an issue, but yes, thunderstorms can pose a problem for the concert and fireworks.
In the event of lightening or strong wind, personnel must be evacuated from the barges in the river where the fireworks are launched, and 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 for 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.
Boston Insider Tip: What Happens When a Severe Storm Strikes on July 4th
Fortunately, severe storms do not often happen at the right time to disrupt the concert or fireworks.
However, strong lightening near the Esplanade did in fact cause an interruption in the Pops concert several years ago. Following safety protocol, many spectators and orchestra members evacuated to the Storrow Drive tunnels (closed to vehicular traffic earlier in the day) for safety. Next, a drenching downpour sent most other spectators scrambling for shelter until the rain stopped. In this particular case, the fireworks began more or less on time - and were more spectacular than ever.
Worst case (which recently happened) when bad weather is predicted in advance ... the July 4th celebration may be moved up to the 3rd.
Postponing the event to July 5th is much less likely, as most performers have other commitments and can't reschedule.
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.
Public transportation (subway, buses, trolleys, trains, commuter rail) will be free after 9:30pm on July 4th. Transportation services will operate on a Saturday or Sunday schedule for most of the day, although subways will start rush-hour service at 2pm. Bicycles will be prohibited on all subway lines throughout July 4th, and on inbound commuter-rail trains from 10am-6am, and on outbound trains after 4pm on July 4th.
More people than cars will fill the streets, making driving even more difficult than usual. Many streets near the Esplanade including Memorial Drive and Storrow Drive are closed to traffic, and those that remain open will be gridlocked after the fireworks end.
Closest T stations for Pops concerts and Boston fireworks:
Boston - Green Line/Arlington or Red Line/Charles-MGH
Cambridge - Red Line/Kendall-MIT
The Longfellow Bridge is currently closed to vehicles due to construction. Although pedestrian traffic will be allowed until 9pm, at that point it will be closed until the end of the fireworks and no fireworks viewing will be allowed.
Also, no viewing will be allowed from the Mass Ave Bridge.
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 (a.k. a. Frances Appleton) 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.
Essentials: Boston Pops Concert and July 4th Fireworks
What to bring:
Something to sit on (but blankets cannot be larger than 10' x 10', and chairs should be foldable beach-style)
Small pop-up tents are allowed (10' x 10' max) but must come down at 6pm
Plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and perhaps a long-sleeved shirt and hat
Water bottles for everyone in your group; liquids must be in sealed clear plastic containers which cannot be larger than 2 liters
Umbrellas and possibly waterproof ponchos, if there is the slightest chance of rain; sweaters if there is any chance of the temperature dropping
Cameras, binoculars, small American flags
A book, cards, games - anything to pass the time, 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 (cash only)
What NOT to bring:
Backpacks are no longer allowed in the Oval or in the island/lagoon area; all personal items must be in clear plastic bags
Bicycles are also banned from the Oval and island/lagoon area - they're ok elsewhere, but you cannot leave them unattended or locked to fences, poles, or anything else
If you bring silverware for dining, it must be plastic - no metal or glass containers
No grills for cooking are allowed anywhere on the Esplanade
No coolers on wheels, so if you bring a cooler, you must be able to carry it with a shoulder strap or handle
No sharp objects, including knitting needles, can openers, metal utensils, metal tent spikes, knives
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
Can't come to the concert in person? You can see the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular broadcast on Bloomberg Television, or listen to it on Bloomberg's flagship Boston station at 1200 AM / 94.5 FM HD2. It will also be streamed live on Bloomberg.com and on the Bloomberg mobile app.
Business/financial news and information publisher Bloomberg (founded by Boston native Michael Bloomberg) is a major sponsor, along with Boston-based asset manager Eaton Vance, and also the event's media sponsor.
Need a Boston Hotel?
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More to Do in Boston in July
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Boston Harborfest - A week-long Fourth of July Festival (believed to be the largest patriotic celebration in the U.S.) that celebrates the colonial and maritime heritage of historic Boston, sometimes called the "cradle of the American Revolution." More Harborfest details
Freedom Trail - July 4th is a great time to walk along the Freedom Trail. You're sure to encounter lots of the Boston Harborfest activities as well as lots of costumed guides along the way.