Boston Harborfest, one of the largest Independence Day festival in the United States, celebrates Boston's Colonial, Revolutionary War, and maritime history and heritage.

Festivities include a spectacular 15-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor on July 1, entertainers, historical reenactments, live music, Freedom Trail site tours and events, the annual USS Constitution turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor, a reading of the Declartion of Independence, and an artisan market, plus a lot more!

Festivities begin on June 30 and run through July 4.  Events take place primarily in Boston's Downtown Crossing and Christopher Columbus Park this year.

Some Harborfest events are free, including four non-stop days of music and other live performances at "The Steps" (Washington and Franklin Street in Downtown Crossing), Chowderfest, the fireworks show, and appearances by costumed historical reenactors. 

Other events are fee-based, including tours of some of the participating Freedom Trail sites (typically about $15 per person), Fireworks cruises on July 1 and 4, and USS Constitution Turn-Around cruises on July 4:

Boston Harborfest dates back to 1981, and the 2023 celebration will be a gala summer event.

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. 

No other city celebrates Independence Day like Boston!  Don't miss this exciting only-in-Boston experience!

Top photo: Harborfest fireworks over Boston Harbor, (c) Boston Discovery Guide

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Highlights:  Boston's Harborfest - Free Activities

Colonial reenactors during Boston's Harborfest
Walking up Washington Street toward Harborfest in Boston's Downtown Crossing

June 30, Friday - Arts & Crafts Market, Live Performances, & Harborfest Kick-Off

11am - 5:30pm - DTX Arts Market @ Summer Street Plaza (the pedestrian-only area between Macy's and Roche Brothers in Downtown Crossing) - Local artisans offer their creations for sale; if you're visiting Boston, an original work of art by a Boston artist could be your special souvenir from this special event!

11:30 am - 6pm - Live Entertainment, including music by local groups as well as the Army Fife Band, a puppet show (12:30), and costumed historical reenactors

Colonial reenactors during Boston's Harborfest
Reenactors wearing 18th century Colonial and British costumes

12 noon - 1 pm - Boston city officials kick off the 4-day festival with a short welcome speech.   Look for roving historical re-enactors and USS Constitution staff plus live musical and other performances nearby

12 noon - 7pm - Democracy Brewing & Distraction Brewing join up to host a 3-day beer garden on Summer St Plaza (next to 14 Summer St)


July 1, Saturday - Harborfest FIreworks, Concert, Performances, Fashion Show

The Steps in Boston's Downtown Crossing
Musicians at "The Steps" in Boston's Downtown Crossing (Washington & Franklin Streets)

11am - 5:30pm - DTX Arts Market @ Downtown Crossing - Local artisans offer art and crafts

11:30 - 7pm - Local musicians perform music across all genres from a stage at The Steps in Downtown Crossing while costumed re-enactors engage with visitors

12 noon - 7pm - Beer Garden - Democracy Brewing & Distraction Brewing join up to host a 3-day beer garden on Summer Street Plaza (next to 14 Summer Street)

12:30 @ "The Steps" (Washington & Franklin Streets) in Downtown Crossing - Puppet show 

Fife and Drum band playing on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing
Fife and Drum band playing on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing

1pm-4pm - Middlesex County Volunteers Play Fifes & Drums - Throughout DTX (Downtown Crossing)

2pm - 3pm - Macy's Fashion Show at the store (450 Washington Street) - Check out the latest summer fashion trends at this immersive experience with lights and music

4pm - 6pm - Kids Activities - Christopher Columbus Park (200 Atlantic Ave), free

6pm - 9pm - Pre-Fireworks Concert - Christopher Columbus Park (200 Atlantic Ave)

Fife and Drum band playing on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing
Fireworks over Boston Harbor, photographed from a cruise boat in the Harbor

9:15 - 9:30pm -  Harborfest Fireworks - Launched from a barge at Long Wharf (which is between Columbus Park & the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel - You'll be able to view the fireworks from just about everywhere along Boston's Inner Harbor waterfront, including East Boston, much of Charlestown's waterfront, the North End, the Downtown Waterfront, Seaport, the South Boston Waterfront, and even Castle Island


July 2 - Sunday:  Music, Beer Garden, & Entertainment

12 noon - 7pm - Live musical performances and entertainment throughout Downtown Crossing by a variety of groups, including DJ Bruno in front of Macy's from 3-6pm, a puppet show at 12:30,

12 noon - 7pm - Beer Garden - Democracy Brewing & Distraction Brewing join up to host a 3-day beer garden on Summer Street Plaza (next to 14 Summer Street)

1pm - 5pm - Harborfest Concert, free kids activities, artisan market, and fife and drum music at Christopher Columbus Park

Colonial reenactors during Boston's Harborfest
Colonial re-enactors performing the Redcoats' Changing of the Guard Ceremony near the Boston Massacre site during a previous Harborfest

2pm - 5pm - Free Carousel Rides at the Carousel on the Greenway, near the Marriott Long Wharf Hotes


July 3:  Music, Entertainment, Beer Garden, Chowderfest!

12 noon - 7pm - Live musical performances and entertainment throughout Downtown Crossing by a variety of groups; puppet show at 12:30

12 noon - 7pm - Beer Garden - Democracy Brewing & Distraction Brewing join up to host a 3-day beer garden on Summer Street Plaza (next to 14 Summer Street)

2pm - 4pm - Chowderfest! - Sample chowders from your favorite restaurants!  Takes place at Downtown Crossing between Winter and Bromfield Streets.  Free (while supplies last)


July 4:   Boston's July 4th Parade, Reading of the Declaration of Independence, & Boston Pops Concert & Fireworks

Boston Harborfest activities
Reenactor portraying Crispus Attucks, first Colonist killed by the British troops during the Boston Massacre, who was laid to rest in Granary Burying Ground

9am -10am - City of Boston's 247th Independence Day Celebration on City Hall Plaza followed by a ceremonial parade to the Granary Burying Ground where wreathes will be laid on the graves of the Patriots buried there. 

You can watch the parade along the route and in Downtown Crossing.

After the wreath-laying ceremony, the parade continues through Downtown Crossing to the Old State House, where the current Captain Commanding of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company will do the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence at 10am from the Old State House balcony - exactly where it was first read to Boston citizens on July 18, 1776.

10am - 4:30pm - Middlesex County Volunteers Play Fifes & Drums - At Long Wharf

10am - Freedom Trail sites such as Old North Church, Paul Revere's House, Old State House, USS Constitution, and Old South Meeting House will offer tours

11am - 4pm - Huzzah! Salute to Service Block Party at the USS Constitution & USS Constitution Museum - Live music, lawn games, mini-golf, and more

11:30am - USS Constitution's annual turn-around sail through Boston Harbor and by Fort Independence, complete with a 21-gun salute.  Watch from Charlestown as the ship departs the Navy Yard, or along Boston's Inner Harbor shoreline (including Castle Island).

For a special experience, join of these Turn-Around cruises:

12 noon - 2pm and 4:30 - 6:30 - Strolling musicians (Downtown Boston Brass) - Throughout Downtown Crossing

1:30pm - 3:30pm - A Day of Unity - Reading of Frederick Douglass' speech supporting emancipation, “What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July," with a backdrop of African drums, dance, and gospel music.  There will also be a marketplace and a free ice cream social to round out the afternoon at The Franklin Steps, Downtown Crossing.

7pm - 11pm - Boston Pops July 4th Concert & Fireworks Show

More July 4th Fireworks in Winthrop

Winthrop (northeast of Boston, to the east of Logan Airport) puts on a wonderful fireworks show on Independence Day.  For a memorable experiece, you can view the display from one of these special cruises:


Boston Pops July 4th Concert and Fireworks

The legendary Boston Pops Concert and July 4th Fireworks Show takes place on July 4th between 7pm and 11pm at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade and the Charles River

Find out more about the Boston Pops concert and the spectacular half-hour fireworks show, including best places to watch it


July 4: USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise 2023

USS Constitution in Boston Harbor
USS Constitution doing her turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor on July 4th - Photo credit: Journalist 2nd Class Todd Stevens, US Navy photo, public domain

The USS Constitution makes her annual turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor each Fourth of July to celebrate our nation's independence. 

The magnificent 204 foot-long wood-hulled ship which first launched in 1797 and is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world will sail out to Fort Independence on Castle Island, exchange a 21-gun salute, and then turn around and head back into the Inner Harbor and exchange cannon fire with Boston's Coast Guard Base in the North End.

Departure from Charlestown Navy Yard's Pier One takes place at 10:45am (time to be confirmed) and she returns to her Navy Yard berth across from the USS Constitution Museum at 2pm.  (time to be confirmed)

Best Places to Watch the USS Constitution Turn-Around

Points along Bosto Harbor or Castle Island, or from one of these Turn-Around Cruise in the Harbor:

The USS Constitution will also be open for free tours during Harborfest, as well as throughout the summer. 


More To Do during Harborfest 

Freedom Trail History & Sightseeing Tours

Reenactor portraying Paul Revere
Quincy Market in Boston's historic Faneuil Marketplace

July 4th is the perfect time to explore Boston's historic Freedom Trail. 

You can explore on your own or join one of the popular tours led by costumed historical re-enactors.  

Find out more


Boston Harbor Cruises

Boston sailing and yacht cruises
 

Tour Boston by boat - the best way to see the city!  

Check out these fun sightseeing, music, and entertainment Boston Harbor cruises on the Yacht Northern Lights and Schooner Adirondack III:

Popular Cruises on the Northern Lights:

  • Brunch Cruise on the Northern Lights - Savor a delicious 3-course brunch on this relaxing sightseeing cruise around Boston Harbor
  • Boston Harbor Cruise on Northern Lights - Soak up Boston's unique sites and rich history on this comfortable sightseeing cruise around the Harbor - perfect friends and family experience!  Food and beverages available for purchase at the bar
  • Northern Lights Sunset Cruise - Grab a refreshments from the bar and then relax as you watch the sun set on this sail around the Harbor, just in time to catch the USS Constitution fire its cannons as the sun dips down past the horizon
  • Evening Jazz Cruise on Northern Lights - End your weekend on the perfect note by grooving to live jazz as you watch the ever-changing sunset colors as the sun sets behind Boston's city skyline

Sailing on the Adirondack III

  • Adirondack III Day Sail - Enjoy cool breezes and the afternoon sun on this relaxing sightseeing sail around Boston Harbor and the Inner Harbor Islands - Starts May 3
  • Adirondack III Sunset Sail - Relax as the setting sun turns the sky brilliant colors - Starts May 3
  • Adirondack III 90-Minute Mimosa Day Sail - Soak up the sun on this afternoon sail through the Inner Harbor and Harbor Islands with drinks available for purchase at the bar - Starts July 1

Book Your July 4th Cruises Now!


Where to Stay during Boston's Harborfest

Many of the city's most popular hotels will become fully booked during the Harborfest period and rates will reflect summer peaks - but there are always good options whwen you know where to look. 

Here's some information to help you get started:

Hotels for Harborfest activities

Inexpensive Boston hotels

Conveniently located hotels outside the city

Newest Boston hotels  

You will find the best rates if you book early and stay flexible about the location, especially since Boston is a very walkable city and has decent public transportation.  

If your primary focus for Independence Day celebrations will be the Boston Pops Concert on the Esplanade and the huge fireworks show on the Charles River on July 4th, also check out:

Best hotels for Boston's July 4th concert & fireworks

And also keep in mind:  Boston is a very compact city, so you can easily walk from one area to another, as long as you stay somewhere in the Downtown/Back Bay central Boston area.


More Things to Do and See in Boston

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More Events & Tours at Historic Sites

Colonial reenactors during Boston's Harborfest
Faneuil Hall, on the Freedom Trail

Many of these historic Freedom Trail venues require small admission fees which support their upkeep. 

Most of these sites will be open for visitors during Harborfest from June 30 - July 4, although some close for the weekend.

USS Constitution

USS Constitution at dusk, with Bunker Hill Monument in the background
USS Constitution at dusk, with Bunker Hill Monument in the background

The Navy's USS Constitution (Charlestown Navy Yard) on Boston's Freedom Trail is the world's oldest commissioned warship that's still afloat. 

In addition to making annual turn-around cruises in Boston Harbor and doing nightly cannon salutes at dusk, "Old Ironsides," as the ship became known after its performance during the War of 1812, offers free tours throughout the year from Wednesday - Sunday, 10am to 4pm. 

The ship will also be open on July 4th.  Even if you don't want to tour, it's fun to see from the outside, plus Navy personnel are usually available to answer your questions. 

Free admission

More about the USS Constitution

USS Constitution Museum

Want to learn more about the USS Constitution? 

Head to the USS Constitution Museum across from the ship, where you can find fascinating details and exhibitions devoted to the ship's 200+ year history and those who served aboard her.

Although you'll discover lots of interesting information about the ship and her battles, perhaps even more interesting are exhibits about those who served on her.  Particularly fascinating (and only slightly grisly) are those about 19th century on-board medical care.

Fee for admission.  More information

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill

The gold-domed Massachusets State House, perched high on Beacon Street overlooking the Common, contains a fascinating mix of gorgeous architecture, art (some very good, some depicting interesting moments in history, and some quite meh), and plenty of history. 

You can take one of the free tours, but or explore on your own.  

Free admission (after a quick bag check for security).  Open Mondays - Fridays, 10am - 4pm (closed on state holidays such as July 4th)

Find out more about what you'll see

Old North Church

Visit Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate Shop (21 Unity Street, Boston's North End, inside the Clough House by Old North Church) where costumed Colonial reenactors will show you how chocolate was made during the 18th century.  

See Old North Church's photography exhibit commemorating bravery and action.  

More information

King's Chapel 

Freedom Trail site King's Chapel offers self-guided tours of the chapel and guided tours of the chapel and the crypt

Open 10am - 5pm on June 30, July 1, July 3; 1:30pm-5pm on July 2, and 10am-11:15am plus 1:30pm-5pm on July 4.  You can enter free all weekend for a self-guided tour, although donations are greatly appreciated. 

Fee-based tours of the crypt and/or the bell tower will be available all weekend, and you can purchase tickets at the door.

King's Chapel also offers outstanding short (about 35 minutes long) concerts every Tuesday at 12:15pm throughout the year (but not on July 4). 

Admission is by a suggested donation of $5, with proceeds given to the performers.

See the schedule

More about King's Chapel

If you visit King's Chapel, also stop by the 17th century King's Chapel Burying Ground next door.  It's the final resting place of many of the first generation Puritan settlers of the Shawmut Peninsula (today's Boston).



Essentials: Boston Harborfest




Boston Insider Tips for Harborfest

  • Slather yourself with sunscreen
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Get a Boston Discount Card to get discounts on events and admission fees
  • Make hotel reservations as early as possible to get the best rates; Boston gets crowded during early July because the July 4th holiday events attract many visitors to the city


Other Historical Venues for Visiting throughout the Summer

In addition to the attractions listed, these Boston attractions and organizations also offer lots of interesting things to see, do , and experience.

Check their websites to find out about the days/hours when they're open, special exhibitions and events, and more:

Old State House:  www.revolutionaryboston.org/revboston/events/upcoming

Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park

Boston Public Market 

Paul Revere House:  www.paulreverehouse.org

Faneuil Hall:  www.nps.gov/bost/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm

Freedom Trail Foundation:  www.thefreedomtrail.org

Boston by Foot:  www.bostonbyfoot.org/

Museum of African-American History:  www.afroammuseum.org

Otis House - www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/otis-house

Bunker Hill Monument and Museum:  www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/bhm.htm





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