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 June 30 and run through July 4. 

Events this year take place primarily in Boston's Downtown Crossing and Christopher Columbus Park this year, and include a spectacular 15-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor on July 1.

Some Harborfest events are free, including music and other live performances at "The Steps" (Washington and Franklin Street in Downtown Crossing), Chowderfest, watching the fireworks from the shore, 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 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. 

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

June 30 - Friday:  Arts & Crafts Market, 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!

12 noon - 1 pm - 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

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

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

11am - 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 - 2pm and 4:30 - 7pm in Downtown Crossing (Washington Street & intersecting streets) - Music by Downtown Boston Brass and the Downtown Mediterranean Trio

12 noon - 2pm @ "The Steps" (Washington & Franklin Streets) in Downtown Crossing - Puppet Show on The Steps

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

2pm - 4pm - Macy's Fashion Show at The Steps

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

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 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

July 2 - Sunday:  Music & 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

1pm - 5pm - Harborfest Concert at Christopher Columbus Park

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 - 7pm - Live musical performances and entertainment throughout Downtown Crossing by a variety of groups

2pm - 4pm - Chowderfest! - Sample chowders from your favorite restaurants and cast your vote for the #1 best!  Takes place at Downtown Crossing between Winter and Bromfield Streets.  Free

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 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 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.

TBA - Annual Oration - Faneuil Hall (4 South Market Street) - Time to be confirmed

TBA - 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.

Time TBA - Middlesex County Volunteers Play Fifes & Drums - Throughout Downtown Crossing

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 (to be confirmed)

11am - Faneuil Hall Tours (to be confirmed)

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:

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

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.  (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


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.