You may already be familiar with the biggest free Hatch Shell event - the spectacular Boston Pops Independence Day Concert followed by fireworks held every year on July 4th.
But you may not know about all other free concerts ranging from pop to classical, family-friendly movies, shows, festivals, and celebrations on Boston's most unique outdoor performance stage on the Esplanade overlooking the Charles River.
If you're visiting Boston between April and October when most Hatch Shell events take place, you'll find interesting activities scheduled every weekend and also on week nights, especially during the summer months.
Except for the July 4th Pops concert and fireworks show over the Charles River, most visitors don't know about these Hatch Shell events. Maybe because they're free, they don't get much publicity. However, they're well-attended and much loved by Boston locals. If you're a visitor, they're a fun way to spend a warm summer evening and experience "real" Boston culture.
Top photo: Landmarks Orchestra concert at the Hatch Shell, (c) Boston Discovery Guide
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Hatch Shell Events Schedule - Top 4 Events
Independence Day Boston Pops Concerts
On July 3 and July 4, the Boston Pops present their famous Independence Day Concerts with Tchaikovsky's exciting 1812 Overture complete with cannon fire as the finale.
Although speakers along both sides of the Charles River broadcast the concert, the most coveted seats on the 4th are on the grassy lawn known as "The Oval" in front of the Hatch Shell. (Competition to get in for the dress rehearsal on the 3rd is much more relaxed.) Admission takes place on an first-come, first-served basis and is free, so competition for a spot is fierce, with lines forming many hours before the gates open.
Spectacular fireworks over the Charles River follow the July 4th concert.
Find out more about the Boston Pops concert, how to score a spot in The Oval, and best places to watch the fireworks
Free Friday Flicks Movie Series
Heading to the Hatch Shell on warm summer evenings for Free Friday Flicks is a long-time summer tradition in Boston. The family-friendly PG and PG-13 films attract thousands of viewers who enjoy the movies as well as the cool breezes from the Charles River.
WBZ NewsRadio Boston 1030 sponsors the event, which kicks off with games and free giveaways at 6pm.
So bring a blanket and a picnic dinner, and get ready to enjoy fun movies under the stars - a truly magical Boston summer experience!
Movies begin at sundown. Friday nights in June, July, August.
Find out more and get the weekly schedule
Landmarks Orchestra Summer Concerts at the Hatch Shell
The renowned Boston Landmarks Orchestra conducted by Christopher Wilkins presents mostly classical music with special guests such as the Boston Lyric Opera and Longwood Symphony Orchestra.
Wednesday nights during July & August. Most concerts start at 7pm and last about 2 hours.
Find out more and get the weekly schedule
GroundBeat: Free Riverfront Music Series
From June through September, GroundBeat showcases a wide range of music by local non-profits, plus food trucks and games. Most events take place on Monday evenings, usually one per month.
Check the schedule on esplanade.org
Hatch Shell Essentials: What You Need to Know
- Hatch Shell's "real" name: Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell
- Reason for existence: Built in 1928 to shelter the Boston Pops Orchestra during their outdoor concerts
- First Pops conductor to conduct here: Arthur Fiedler, who used it for the July 4, 1929 Independence Day Concert
- Became permanent: 1941, when the art deco-style structure you see today was built
- Hatch Shell dimensions: 40 feet high and 110 feet wide (160 feet if you include the stairs at the base)
- Most striking details: The inlaid wood lining the interior, and the names of composers written in bronze across the front
- Most unusual feature: The U.S. Army Cannon next to the Hatch Shell, used in the 1812 Overture at the end of the Boston Pops Fourth of July concerts
- Bonus Boston scavenger hunt question: Find a statue of the conductor of the first concert at the Hatch Shell Find the answer
Where to Stay near the Hatch Shell
The Hatch Shell's location on the Boston Esplanade puts it close to the desirable Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods, where you'll find lots of top hotels at all price points.
For the ultimate convenience, stay in one of the upscale hotels located within easy walking distance of the Fiedler Footbridge, such as the The Newbury Boston in Back Bay or Liberty Hotel near Beacon Hill. Nearby, enjoy chef-owned restaurants, Victorian mansions (Back Bay) and Federal-style mansion (Beacon Hill), and easy access to famous Boston historic attractions along the Freedom Trail.
Boston Hotel Map
How to Get to the Hatch Shell
The Hatch Shell's location on the Boston Esplanade means you must cross the 6-lane Storrow Drive in order to get to it.
Fortunately, footbridges over the highway allow you to do this safely.
The two footbridges closest to the Hatch Shell include:
- Arthur Fiedler Footbridge (shown in photo, with Hatch Shell at far right) across from Back Bay - Go to the corner of Beacon and Arlington Streets next to the Public Garden, cross Beacon Street, continue slightly to your left (you'll see a street sign for Mugar Way), and walk toward the river. Savor the expansive views as you walk across the dramatically curving footbridge over Storrow Drive. Closest T station: Green Line/Arlington
- Charles Street Footbridge across from Beacon Hill - Go to the corner of Charles Street and Cambridge Street, and you'll easily see the footbridge. Closest T station: Red Line/Charles-MGH
Boston Tips: Attending a Hatch Shell Performance
Tip #1: There's nothing more wonderful than attending an evening performance at the Hatch Shell, partly because you'll enjoy cool breezes from the river. But count on temperatures at least 10 degrees cooler than in the city - so bring a sweater or light jacket.
Tip #2: During the day, there's not much shade - so slather on the sunscreen and bring a water bottle and hat.
Tip #3: Seating is on "the Oval," the grassy lawn in front of the stage. Bring a blanket or low folding chairs for comfortable seating.
Tip #4: Bring a picnic if you want - but remember that alcohol is not allowed on the Esplanade. Depending on the event, security can be strict and any unsealed water bottles or other drinks containers may be confiscated.
Tip #5: The Hatch Shell keeps the performers dry (usually) - but you're unsheltered. If the weather looks at all iffy, bring an umbrella. Hatch Shell events have been rescheduled or even cancelled due to severe thunderstorms.
More to See & Do in Boston
More Articles about Boston Parks
- Find about more about July 4th celebrations at the Hatch Shell
- What to do & see on Boston's Greenway
- Find out more things to do & see on the Esplanade
- Take a self-guided Greenway Tour
- Top attractions on Boston Common, North America's oldest park
- Explore the Victorian-era Public Garden
- Self-guided walking tour through Boston Common & other areas on a rainy day