The Boston Pops July 4th Concert and Fireworks Spectacular, America's best Independence Day celebration attracts more than a million spectators who gather along the banks of the Charles River to listen to the rousing music.

A lineup of special guests joins the Pops for the concert, which takes place at Boston's historical Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, a lush river-side park.

Musical selections include a few traditional pieces but otherwise vary each year until the concert's dramatic signature finale: Tchaikovsky's explosive 1812 Overture, ending with dramatic drumrolls and real cannon fire while church bells ring throughout the city.

Then, just as the smoke from the cannons begins to fade from the air, a dazzling fireworks show lights up the sky.

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.   Don't miss it!

Photo credit:  July 4th fireworks over Boston Harbor, photographed from near MIT by Sayamindu Dasgupta

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Boston Pops July 4th Concert Lineup for 2023

July 4th Boston Pops Concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade
The Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, site of the Boston Pops July 4th Concert

Get ready to enjoy a spectacular guest lineup for this year's July 4th concert as they join the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with conductor Keith Lockhart and guest conductor John Williams, along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums:  (2023 guests to be updated soon)

  • Chaka Kahn, singer/songwriter, 10-time Grammy Award winner, and 7-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee with numerous gold and platinum singles and albums
  • Heather Headley, singer/songwriter/actor and winner of Tony and Grammy awards, with Broadway roles from The Lion King to Aida to The Color Purple, currently appearances in Netflix's Sweet Magnolias, and #1 hits on Dance and R&B charts
  • Javier Colon, singer/songwriter renowned for his blend of pop, rock, R&B, and acoustic soul
  • Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums
  • Tanglewood Festival Chorus
  • Honor Guard of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment
  • Romaine Bostick and Kelly Leinz from Bloomberg TV will host the show along with backstage and crowd reporting by Janet Wu and Joe Shortsleeve from Bloomberg's Boston News Bureau

The concert will also feature quintessential favorites favorites such as "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."  

A special inclusion this year will be the Ukraninian National Anthem, which will be dedicated to the people on Ukraine in honor of their courage and their fight to keep their country free and independent.  The Pops will also play number of iconic pieces by Stephen Sondheim, in tribute to the composer who passed away last year.

If you're traveling to Boston for this national patriotic holiday, plan for a memorable evening watching the free Fireworks Spectacular over the Charles River after the concert. 

Both the concert and the fireworks are a part of Boston's big Harborfest, which takes place each year during early July.  Harborfest hosts its own gala 45-minute fireworks show over the Inner Harbor on July 2 this year, and also includes the ever-popular Chowderfest where Boston restaurants and bars compete to determine who makes the best clam chowder.

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 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 Fireworks Spectacular & Pops Concert Schedule 

Boston fireworks, seen with the golden dome of the Massachusetts Statehouse in the foreground
Boston fireworks, seen from behind the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House

July 4 (Concert & Fireworks)

  • 12 noon - The "Oval," the grassy area in front of the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade opens
  • 8pm - Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular and Bloomberg/WBZ-TV local broadcast begins
  • 8pm - Boston Pops Concert and show begins with the National Anthem.
  • 10:30pm (approximately) - Soon after the concert ends, the Boston fireworks begin to be launched from a barge on the Charles River.  The show lasts about 30 minutes and concludes at 11pm

With thousands of fireworks being set off, you can see why everyone calls the show "spectacular"! 

Concert viewing screens and sound towers will be set up on the Boston and Cambridge sides of the river, and an additional screen is expected to be set up on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

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

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

Depending on where you stay, you might even be able to watch the fireworks from your hotel room or roof deck.


July 4th Fireworks Cruises

Boston Fireworks


Hotels near July 4th Fireworks



When Should You Arrive on the Esplanade on July 4?

On a typical July 4th in Boston, over a million people gather along both sides of the Charles River to watch the Pops Concert and the Fireworks show.  Getting a good spot involves some strategizing and lots of planning. 

Best Time to Arrive for the Pops Concert

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. 

And, if you hope to see the fireworks from the Oval - which is not the greatest viewing spot because of all the leafy trees along the river - the right side (facing the stage) will give you the best views.

A few days before the concert, a temporary fence gets installed around the Oval to prevent overcrowding, which means space inside is limited. 

Entrances to the secured areas (the Oval plus the Esplanade's adjacent Island/Lagoon) open at noon on the 4th. 

In order to get into the secured areas on July 4th, you need to arrive as early as possible. Pre-pandemic, the areas opened at 9am and filled up immediately with fans who had been in line since 6am or earlier.

So to get in this year, how soon should you line up before the noon opening?  Based on previous years, at least three hours before the opening - maybe even earlier.

Typically, security checkpoints are located between the Clarendon Footbridge to the Lagoon and the Berkeley Footbridge; easiest access to the checkpoint is by way of Berkeley, Clarendon, and Dartmouth Streets off of Storrow Drive (which will be closed to traffic).

Once you gain entrance, you'll be given a wristband.  This allows you to move in and out of the secured area 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 into the Oval - 6:30 is safer, and 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.

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.

Best Time to Arrive for the July 4th Fireworks

Although early arrival isn't quite so crucial for the fireworks, many of the prime spots along the Charles, 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.


Allowed & Prohibited Items on the Esplanade

For safety reasons, including possible emergency evacuation, special rules will be in place on July 4th for allowed and prohibited items on the Esplanade, and will be strictly enforced.

Allowed items:  Pop-up tents or canopies with no sides and maximum size 10'x10', blankets or tarps no bigger than 10'x10', folding or beach chairs, coolers that you carry in with a single handle or shoulder strap (ie, no wheels), non-alcoholic beverages in clear sealed containers no bigger than 2 liters, and personal items in clear bags.  Any small clutch bags or purses will be inspected, and then you must take them in inside a clear bag.

Key prohibited items to note:  No backpacks, shopping bags, or other non-clear bags or containers will be allowed.  No bicycles will be allowed through the checkpoints into the Oval or Island/Lagoon areas.  You can bring your bike onto the rest of the Esplanade, but must not leave it unattended. Any bikes attached or locked to security fences, poles, trees, or other structures may be removed by security.

Additional prohibited items:  Alcoholic beverages, blankets, tents, or pop-ups larger than 10 feet by 10 feet, firearms, weapons, sharp objects (including knitting needles, can openers, knives, etc), glass containers, non-clear containers, cans, pre-mixed beverages, unsealed water bottles and any other open containers capable of holding alcohol, sealed clear plasstic containers bigger than 2 liters, grills, drones. 

Considering smuggling in booze?  Be aware that 1) it is forbidden and 2) security cameras line the Esplanade.

More about July 4th on Boston's Esplanade

You'll be happy to know that 350 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.


Best Places to View the July 4th Fireworks from Boston and Cambridge

Waiting on the Boston bank of the Charles River to see the fireworks
Waiting on the Boston side of the Charles River in late afternoon to see the fireworks during a "normal year

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 because 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.

Charles River
View of the Charles River, Back Bay, and Cambridge - If you look closely, you can see the rounded arch of the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, where the concert takes place; fireworks are launched nearby in the river

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. 

Boston fireworks
Boston July 4th fireworks

Fourth of July Fireworks Viewing Cruises

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

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!) 

Private Charters

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
Fireworks in Boston on July 4th
Spectators watching fireworks from the Boston side of the river

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.

Boston and Cambridge hotels for viewing the July 4th fireworks


Will Rain - Or Thunderstorms - Stop the Fireworks?

Light rain isn't an issue, but yes, thunderstorms can pose a show-stopping 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 river banks as well.

In regard to the possibility of a last-minute cancellation of the show due to weather conditions, a spokesperson 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 also happened a few years ago) 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

Waiting for fireworks to begin on the Cambridge side of the Charles River
Waiting on the Cambridge side of the Charles River for Boston's big fireworks show to begin
Photo courtesy of Lizard10939

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.  Commuter rails will wait for 30 minutes after the fireworks to give spectators time to board.

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 Boston fireworks:

  • Boston - Green Line/Arlington or Boylston; Red Line/Park Street

More to Do on July 4th:  Boston Cruises



Television, Mobile, Live Stream, & Radio Broadcasts of Boston's July 4th Show

Boston Pops Concert in the Hatch Shell
Boston Pops July 4th Concert in the Hatch Shell
Photo by Jay Connor, courtesy of Boston 4 Productions

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 (DISH: 203, DirecTV: 353, RCN: 325, 672); Comcast subscribers within the Greater Boston area can find Bloomberg Television on channels 45, 757, or 844; outside of the area, check local listings.  The show will also be simulcast on Boston's WHDH-TV
  • Radio - Listen to the show on Bloomberg radio (106.1 FM / 1330 AM / 1450 AM / 92.9-HD2 in Boston and Newburyport, and by expanded coverage this year on 99.1 WPLM-FM (Plymouth, MA) covering Boston's South Shore, Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and portions of Rhode Island.  Nationally, tune in on SiriusXM Channel 119) and online at bloombergradio.com; on mobile, on the Bloomberg and iHeartRadio apps

Note:  All times are ET (Eastern Time zone), and all dates/times are subject to change (which does occasionally happen for weather-related reasons - Boston's July thunderstorms can be fierce!)


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