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. 

Events this year take place in Boston's Historic Downtown district, Downtown Crossing, and East Boston, and include several fun new activities.

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 3, and USS Constitution Turn-Around cruises on July 4:

Boston Harborfest dates back to 1981, so the 2021 celebration marks the 40th anniversary of this gala summer event.

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

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

July 1:  Harborfest Kick-Off

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

11am - Faneuil Hall Tours

11am - 6pm - 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!

11:30am @ "The Steps" in Downtown Crossing (the stairs on the plaza at Washington and Franklin Streets in Downtown Crossing) - Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey kicks off the 4-day festival with a short welcome speech.  The 215th Army Band will provide live music.  Look for roving historical re-enactors and USS Constitution staff plus live mucical and other performances nearby.

12 noon, 2pm, 4pm, 5:30pm, 6pm - Local musicians perform music across all genres from a stage at The Steps in Downtown Crossing

1pm - Through Me to You Puppetry perform performs a show for children at The Steps

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

July 2:  Art, Music, Entertainers, Reenactors, & Fashion

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

11am - Faneuil Hall Tours

11am - 6pm - DTX Arts Market @ Summer Street Plaza

12 noon - 6pm @ The Steps - Musical performances from the stage, historical re-enactors and costumed entertainers and performers, a puppet show, and a fashion show sponsored by Macy's

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

July 3:  Fireworks, Cars, Boats, Entertainment, & Music

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

11am - 2pm - Classic Car Showcase on Summer Street

12 noon - 8pm @ The Steps - Performers, re-enactors, entertainers, and musical performances

9:15 - 9:30 - Fireworks over Boston's Inner Harbor

Watch from along the waterfront or get a close-up view from these cruises:


July 4:   Boston's 254th July 4th Parade and Reading of the Declaration of Independence

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. 

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 - 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:

 


Boston Pops July 4th Concert and Fireworks

Boston Pops Concert and Fireworks
July 4th Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade - Photo by Jay Connor and courtesy of Boston4 Productions

The legendary Boston Pops Concert and July 4th Fireworks usually takes place each year, but was virtual last year due to the pandemic.  A decision about this year's celebration is expected in the next few days.

Find out more about the concert and fireworks


July 4: USS Constitution Turn-Around Cruise 2021

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:

Fun Boston Harbor Cruises To Do Right Now:

Starting in November:

  • Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise - Sip hot chocolate and treats as you listen to jazzy holiday favorites on this festive cruise - Book now
  • Holiday Brunch Cruise - See historic sights and panoramic views around Boston Harbor with friends and family as you enjoy this relaxing cruise with brunch, hot chocolate, and holiday cheer - Book now
  • Holiday Sunset Cruise - Watch passing landmarks as soft music plays in the background and the sunset displays brilliant colors behind Boston's city skyline - Find out more
  • An Irish Christmas Carol Cruise - Get into the holiday spirit on the Northern Lights as you raise your glass and toast the holidays with festive holiday music playing in the background on this popular Harbor cruise - Book 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.  


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

These events require small admission fees which support the upkeep of these historic Freedom Trail sites.  (Check before going to make sure they're open - some sites may still be closed due to the pandemic.)

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:  https://oldnorth.com

King's Chapel 

King's Chapel's History Program offers a variety of interesting programs and tours.  Find out more:  http://www.kings-chapel.org/history--tours.html

They also offer outstanding short (about 35 minutes long) concerts every Tuesday at 12:15pm throughout the year.  See the schedule:  http://www.kings-chapel.org/tuesday-recitals.html


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:  www.revolutionaryboston.org/revboston/events/upcoming

Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park

Boston Public Market 

Massachusetts State House:  www.sec.state.ma.us/trs/trsidx.htm

Paul Revere House:  www.paulreverehouse.org

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

Old North Church:  http://oldnorth.com/

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

USS Constitution:  www.navy.mil/local/constitution

USS Constitution Museum:  www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org




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