Boston Harborfest, the largest Independence Day festival in the United States, celebrates Boston's colonial, Revolutionary War, and maritime history and heritage with fireworks over the Boston's Inner Harbor, entertainers, historical reenactments, live music, Freedom Trail site tours, the annual USS Constitution turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor, an arts market, and a classical car show, plus a lot more!

Festivities begin on July 1 and run through July 4. 

Harborfest began in 1981.  Events this year take place primarily in Boston's Historic Downtown district and Downtown Crossing this year and include a spectacular 45-minute fireworks display over the Inner Harbor.

Some Harborfest events are free, including music and other live performances at "The Steps" (Washington and Franklin Street in Downtown Crossing) and appearances by costumed historical reenactors. 

Other events are fee-based, including tours of some of the participating Freedom Trail sites (typically $15 per person), Fireworks cruises on July 2 and 3, and USS Constitution Turn-Around cruises on July 4:

Boston Harborfest dates back to 1981, and the 2023 celebration looks like 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. 

Harborfest is the nation's biggest Independence Day celebration.  Don't miss this exciting experience!

Top photo:  Reenactors on Boston's Marshall Street, part of the Blackstone Block Historic District in one of the oldest parts of the city

Highlights:  Boston's Harborfest - Free Activities

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

July 1:  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!

11am - 8pm - Local musicians perform music across all genres from a stage at The Steps in Downtown Crossing

12 noon - 12:30pm @ "The Steps" in Downtown Crossing (the stairs on the plaza at Washington and Franklin Streets in Downtown Crossing) - The 215th Army Band performs patriotic tunes

12 noon - 12:30pm - Boston Officials kick off the 4-day festival with a short welcome speech.   Look for roving historical re-enactors and USS Constitution staff plus live mucical and other performances nearby

12 noon - 2pm and 5pm - 7pm - The DownTown Mediterranean Trio will stroll around Downtown Crossing as they play music

1pm-4pm - Middlesex County Volunteers perform with fifes and drums throughout the Downtown Crossing area

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

July 2:  Fireworks, Concert, Chowderfest, Parade of Lights, Classic Car Showcase

11am - 5:30pm - Classic Car Showcase on Summer Street - a "must see" if you love old cars

11am - 5:30pm - DTX Arts Market @ Summer Street Plaza - Local artisans offer their creations for sale

12 noon - 2pm - Chowderfest! - Takes place at Downtown Crossing

12 noon - 7pm - Live musical performances and entertainment by a variety of groups

6pm - 9pm - Pre-Fireworks Concert at Christopher Columbus Park

8pm - 9:30pm - Parade of Lights - Long Wharf (on the Downtown Boston Harbor)

9pm - 9:45 - Harborfest Fireworks - Spectacular display of fireworks launched from Long Wharf - You'll be able to view the fireworks from just about everywhere along the waterfront around Boston's Inner Harbor, including East Boston, much of Charlestown's waterfront, the North End, the Downtown Waterfront, Seaport, the South Boston Waterfront, and even Castle Island

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

July 3:  Music, Entertainment, & a Pooch Parade

12 noon - 3pm - Pooch Parade - Downtown Crossing

12 noon - 6pm - Live musical performances and entertainment by a variety of groups

July 4:   Boston's 246th July 4th Parade, Reading of the Declaration of Independence, & (to be confirmed) 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 - Join a flag-raising ceremony on City Hall Plaza followed by a parade to the Granary Burying Ground where wreathes will be laid on the graves of the Patriots buried there.  You can view 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 its traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony - exactly where it was first read to Boston citizens on July 18, 1776.

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 - Faneuil Hall Tours

11:30am (time to be confirmed) - USS Constitution's annual turn-around sail through Boston Harbor.  Watch from the Boston Harbor shoreline (including Castle Island) or from one of these Turn-Around cruises:

More July 4th Fireworks - 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 takes place on July 4th (to be confirmed). 

Please note:  At this time, the Boston Pops Concert appears to be pre-recorded, and while the fireworks appear on the official Boston Harborfest schedule, no details are available and there has been conflicting information.  So stay tuned ...

Find out more about the concert and fireworks

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

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. 

Best places to watch:  points along the 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:

Fall Foliage Cruises (through November 6)

Popular Cruises on the Northern Lights:

  • 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
  • Sunday 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 (Oct 23, 30)

Holiday Cruises

Gift Card

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.  

More Things to Do and See in Boston


More Events & Tours at Historic Sites

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

These events require small admission fees which support the upkeep of these historic Freedom Trail sites. 

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 info:

King's Chapel 

King's Chapel's History Program offers a variety of interesting programs and tours.  Find out more:

They also offer outstanding short (about 35 minutes long) concerts every Tuesday at 12:15pm throughout the year.  See the schedule:

Essentials: Boston Harborfest

Boston Harbor cruises during 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

More Events at Harborfest Venues

Many of the attractions listed below offer events during Harborfest and throughout the summer.  Check their websites to find out more:

Old State House:

Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park

Boston Public Market 

Massachusetts State House:

Paul Revere House:

Faneuil Hall:

Old North Church:

Freedom Trail Foundation:

Boston by Foot:

Museum of African-American History:

Otis House -

Bunker Hill Monument and Museum:

USS Constitution:

USS Constitution Museum:

Need a Boston Hotel or Apartment?

Use this handy map from to find the perfect place to stay.  Just enter your dates to find what's available, see the best rates, and make your reservations.